Remember in my last entry when I asked where the good horror movies were this year? Well, I think they ground them all up and crammed the resulting mess of a thousand repellent movies into just one: A Serbian Film (review here).
The screening went off without the histrionics of past festivals, largely due to the presence of the well spoken director (Srdjan Spasojevic), co-writer (Aleksander Radivojevic), and producer (Nikola Pantelic), who repeatedly reminded the audience that the onscreen atrocities were meant to be viewed metaphorically in light of Serbia’s violent history and that, after all, it was just a movie. Nonetheless, viewpoints were polarized, and now, even three days later, people are still talking about the film, some arguing that the metaphors are puerile and that the result is no better than your average torture porn, and maybe worse in light of the filmmakers’ hesitation to admit their true ambitions.
Personally I was sickened by the film but reluctantly have to admit that the lingering feeling was more reminiscent of Cronenberg (especially Videodrome and Crash) than it was Eli Roth. We got a chance to hang out with the sick Serbians, and as is usually the case, they couldn’t be a bunch of nicer, funnier and more open guys. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next and am convinced that any doubts about their artistic merit as filmmakers will cease when we get a chance to see their sophomore effort.
On Saturday we were lucky enough to be able to attend the single most unique event I’ve ever experienced at Fantasia — Nevermore: An Evening With Edgar Allan Poe, a one-man play starring Jeffrey Combs, written by Dennis Paoli, and directed by Stuart Gordon, all of whom where in attendance.
In the 19th century it was quite common for notable authors of the day to hold public recitals of their works, and the idea behind Nevermore (overview here) is to recreate such an evening for modern audiences. The fact that this particular performance was staged at the historic Rialto Theatre only contributed to the believability.
Speaking of believability, Jeffrey Combs is utterly fascinating to watch as he occasionally dips into his recognizably manic Herbert West mode and then resurfaces as a more sombre and bitterly egotistical Edgar Allan Poe. With only a table, chair, and lectern, Combs rules the stage as a larger than life personality. His readings of Poe’s work range from comedic (The Tell-Tale Heart) to frenzied (The Bells) to somber and spooky (The Raven). Having only really understood Poe’s work as sullen, it was illuminating to hear the humor and mania that are clearly there when read aloud with the mannerisms and intonation of the time in which it was written.
But the play is not only a reading of the work, it is also about the man. The performance has been placed towards the end of Poe’s life, after the death of his wife, when his drinking has gotten out of control. During the show Poe/Combs is constantly pulling from a flask concealed in his coat pocket. As the feigned drunkenness increases, a very real tension mounts despite the artifice. One need not be familiar with the history behind Poe’s mysterious and tragic death when watching the play as its cause will be plainly visible swaying boozily in front of you. Near the end when Combs falls off the stage, there were those in the audience who were genuinely concerned and not quite sure if the pratfall was accidental or not. The level of suspension of disbelief that this 90-minute one-man production was able to illicit is very impressive. The crowd seemed to like it, too, and gave Combs a rousing standing ovation. Here’s hoping this acting/writing/directing team do more theatrical productions together; their particular brand of humor and horror transitions very well to the stage, and it’d be neat to see them tackle a bigger production in the horror vein.
Tonight we’ll be checking out Ken Russell’s religious corruption opus The Devils, which despite being recognized as a masterpiece is still hard to see practically anywhere in the world. The fact that Russell will be on-hand to receive a lifetime achievement award should make it doubly cool. The man directed Altered States for fuck’s sakes!
“Dejan Ognjanovic (programmer) with Srdjan Spasojevic (director/co-writer), Aleksandar Radivojevic (co-writer), and Nikola Pantelic (producer) of A Serbian Film”
“Fantasia’s Mitch Davis with Jeffrey Combs, Stuart Gordon, and Dennis Paoli of Nevermore”
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