By Alan Scherstuhl
By Amy Nicholson
By Charles Taylor
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Brian Feinzimer
By CAROLINA DEL BUSTO
By AMY NICHOLSON
By Amy Nicholson
UC Irvine's ongoing, bafflingly titled Haunted Agencies film series showcases weird, difficult, potentially life-changing films that send you staggering out into the street afterward with your eyeballs rolling around in your head. Any one would probably be enough to make you restless and grumpy for days, but they're presenting them in double bills over the next eight days. We strongly advise against taking in the entire series without first consulting your physician.
If you happen to pick up this issue the day it hits the streets (Thursday, Nov. 9), you still have time to catch Blow Up, Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 thriller—once uber-stylish but now hilariously Austin Powers-esque—set in a now long-gone "swinging" London. It screens with The Crying Game, Neil Jordan's quietly amazing 1992 political/gender-bender thriller. On Friday we get into the real freakery, with David Cronenberg's 1991 film version of William S. Burroughs's epic, perverse and hallucinatory novel, Naked Lunch, starring Peter Weller, a talking asshole typewriter bug monster, and the Mugwumps. Oh, Christ, the Mugwumps. The film's an absolute mind-rape, and while your eyeballs are still sore they'll hit you with Gozu, a largely improvised, dreamlike, 2003 gangster picture from Japanese cult director Takashi Miike.
You get the weekend off (I'd suggest lots of sleep and extra proteins) and then the unwholesome fun continues Monday with another oddball Japanese gangster pic, Seijun Suzuki's 1967 Branded to Kill. It began as a conventional mob movie, but Suzuki deviated so much from the planned storyline (giving the film's anti-hero a rice fetish, for example) that the studio terminated his contract and he didn't work again for more than a decade. The film went on to become a cult fave, and years later a vindicated Suzuki actually directed a sequel, Pistol Opera, in 2001. It screens with Vikram Jayanti's 2003 Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine, a documentary about chess champion Garry Kasparov's 1997 match against the IMB computer Deep Blue. Pretty tame fare, relatively speaking. . . . Perhaps we should consider this film the festival's Marilyn Munster?
Tuesday we get our weird on with Harmony Korine's uncompromisingly peculiar 1999 Julien Donkey-Boy, featuring a white-trash horror show that would give Jerry Springer a stroke. The film's ghastly happenings are fiction, up to a point, although there is a lengthy section in which Ewan Bremner wanders the streets in character as the schizophrenic Julien, interacting with unsuspecting passersby. As if the whole enterprise wasn't already assaultive enough, legendary madman director Werner Herzog (Fitzcerraldo) is on-hand as Julien's nasty pop. It screens with Takashi Miike's Happiness of the Katakuris, a 2001 horror musical thing that feels like Miike ate nine completely different movies and then threw them all up in glorious Technicolor.
Wednesday we've got Francis Ford Coppola's brilliant 1974 thriller The Conversation, starring Gene Hackman as Harry Caul, an earnest but largely incompetent professional eavesdropper. The film is particularly remarkable for having been made so soon after Watergate, asking its audience to find sympathy for one of the era's most despised devils, the phone-tapping, bug-planting snoop. And though his job's repugnant, Harry's such a hopeless mope we can't help but pity him. It screens with Michael Haneke's 2005 Cache, a memorable puzzler about the chaos that descends upon a successful French family when they start receiving mysterious videotapes that reveal unwelcome truths about the past.
The show rocks on next Thursday, Nov. 16, with Nicolas Roeg's 1973 Don't Look Now, a genuinely nightmarish affair starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie as a grieving couple who glimpse their dead daughter on the streets of Venice. Then that bully Haneke is back to gut-punch you again with 2000's Code Unknown, a busy tale of Parisian racial tensions.
Next Friday, Nov. 17, the series concludes with two French freak-outs. Tsai Ming-liang's 2001 Taiwanese-French co-production What Time Is It There? follows a street vendor whose encounter with a girl on her way to Paris leaves him strangely obsessed with French time. It's paired with Notre Music, a rather aggressively French, 2004 film from Jean-Luc Godard. By the time the evening's done, you'll be feeling positively French-fried. Go home, sleep it off, and wake up Saturday to watch whatever mindless crap is on TV. You've earned it.
HAUNTED AGENCIES SCREENS AT THE UNIVERSITY ART GALLERY, 712 ARTS PLAZA, IRVINE, (949) 824-9854; WWW.UCIGALLERY.COM. THURS., NOV. 9: BLOW UP, 5 P.M.; THE CRYING GAME, 7 P.M.; FRI.: NAKED LUNCH, 5 P.M.; GOZU, 7 P.M.; MON.: BRANDED TO KILL, 5 P.M.; GAME OVER: KASPAROV AND THE MACHINE, 6:40 P.M.; TUES.: JULIEN DONKEY-BOY, 5 P.M.; HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS, 7:50 P.M.; WED.: THE CONVERSATION, 5 P.M.; CACHE, 7:10 P.M.; THURS., NOV. 16: DON'T LOOK NOW, 5 P.M.; CODE UNKNOWN, 7 P.M.; FRI., NOV. 17: WHAT TIME IS IT THERE? 5 P.M.; NOTRE MUSIC, 7:10 P.M. FREE.
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