I was zonked Friday night after finishing my shift but I went to meet a friend and congratulate him on his birthday and the premiere of his movie at the festival. I was going home, I wanted to go home, I needed to go home. I ran into one of the festival programmers. "Are you staying for Gandu?" she said. "Oh... I don't know," I said. "You have to. It will fuck your head in the best possible way." "Fuck," I said. "Now I have to go."
Gandu is crazy. It's hero is a 20-year-old named Gandu (which means, according to the film, Loser, Fucker, Stupid, and Moron). He determinedly lives in his own world in a way that reminds me of a Wes Anderson character. The walls of his room are covered in his scribbled lyrics, he has his own gang symbol that he tags all over town, but no gang. No one can tell him anything to change his mind, which is funny because he doesn't have a mind to change. The style of the film reminds me of a souped-up American independent from the 80's. It lives in the cheap aesthetic of handheld black and white, but it breaks out of that style as it progresses into fantasy, meta-fiction, sub-plots so brief and tangential they're like stinging feedback bursts from a busted-out amplifier, color sequences, and musical numbers.
You could almost call the film a punk-rock musical, and not in a Rock And Roll High School kind of way (though I love that movie), but in a dramatized listening to Black Flag or Minor Threat early album in a musty basement. The story is often interrupted jarringly with a cut to Gandu singing crazy lyrics like, "I shine my teeth with borrowed meat." It's sort a stream of consciousness movie, a stream of noisy, distorted, fucked consciousness. It's a movie that spins around drunkenly like a lopsided top, but never falls.
Karate-Robo Zaborgar played last night's midnight show. I had a discussion with a friend early in the night about seeing it. "I saw the trailer," he said. "I don't want to see that." I said, "I know. It looks like a Power Rangers movie, but they programmed it and I've liked almost everything I've seen at the festival." "That's true," he said. He still went home and I saw it by myself.
Fuckin' A. That was a good movie. The experience that I hope for when I walk into a movie theater, that is what that movie was. The movie was, in a word: free. Now, Gandu was free, other movies I've seen at the festival were free, but they were either arthouse movies or documentaries. Karate-Robo Zaborgar is a free action-adventure movie and that is a rare bird. The narrative gets on the floor and does it. It's a comedy and a funny one and it is the opposite of realistic, but it cares about its characters more than most of the movies I've seen this week, or ever. The fact that it does care, that you know characters as ludicrous as Miss Borg, Zaborgar, and the League of Smiles are going to get a fair shake dramatically, is what grounds the movie through its out-of-control mine-cart plot.
The film starts as a simple story of good and evil that could be a children's cartoon and then curves into a story of love, betrayal, and loss without ever slowing down its explosions or jokes. When the hero Diamen turns on the police and his robot (and motorcycle and best friend) Zaborgar develops free will for the first time in order to fight him, the joke is how compelling it is. In the second half, when the film takes a twist on par with Psycho's in it's surprise and effectiveness, I said to myself, I think audibly, "Yes." The special effects are awesome, not because they are realistic, which they aren't, but because the filmmakers didn't give a shit that they weren't realistic. They look cool and they facilitate the movie to do anything it wants at any time, which is exactly what it needs to do.
Bravo, Film Fest programmers. I am going to kiss all of you.