The Sydney Film Festival ended today, and there are still many exceptional works to cover. But I’ve monopolized the Reverse Blog too much, so I’m clearing the decks, dispatching the very nadir of what I’ve seen before turning my attention to a couple of the best. The following aren’t well intentioned failures or films that don’t quite hit the mark; they are aggressively inept or just plain reprehensible. This bunch is beneath the breadth and depth of full consideration, so like HOVA shutting down in “Takeover,” they’ll only get half a line.
A layabout teen flick grafted onto an extreme sports video results in something like a lurching, scarcely competent boys’ Blue Crush in a blue-collar town. Pretty vacuous young things grow up in the titular Australian coastal city, are given oh-so-very little to say, and have no earthly idea how to say it. Surfing’s the only way out of these wastrel streets; when they surf, they surf hard. The baddies, when they come around, surf even harder.
Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, once the setting for what Glauber Rocha called the “aesthetics of hunger,” or Black Narcissus’s liminal poetry, is now ground zero for a fascist, frat boy SWAT fantasy. José Padilha doesn’t merely celebrate violence, he gets off on it, letting the elite squad and drug dealers torture and massacre each other into oblivion. (My favourite: a man stuffed into a cylinder of tires, doused in gasoline, and lit on fire. No: bloody plastic bag strangling, repeated three times just to make sure the horror sinks in.) The leader’s a sadist, but it’s okay, because he loves his wife and kid.
Suburban mouse returns from the big smoke after a ten-year absence motivated by his insane mum’s suicide. Character traits of a pretentious dick: he now wears silk suits, sells luxury pens, drinks only pinot, and hates his old life & friends (who are homespun salt-of-the earth folk). Textbook tragedy: Dad, who “built this house with my own bare hands,” gets blind drunk, forces new wifey to wear the old one’s red dress (oh—they’re sisters), and frets over his catatonic son, who’s also on the brink of suicide. It’s like Aussie cinema Mad-Libs.
Apparently the British have discovered exploitation too. Soft-core screwing aboard a luxury yacht goes awry, so a group of nubile holidaymakers start stabbing each other—with a knife! with an outboard motor!—until only one’s left standing. This flick is named after a sexual manoeuvre: doggy-style sex climaxes with the girl being punched in the back of the neck just as the guy blows his wad. “Why not quit cold turkey?” the waif asks the sex addict. “Because I prefer hot pussy,” he retorts. You stay classy and direct many more like this, Olly Blackburn. -JAMES CRAWFORD