Sad Is the New Funny

Amusing movies about depressed young men are in at the Los Angeles Film Festival

In other news involving horror movies that aren't scary, Russia apparently hasn't yet received the news that the "J-horror" films as a trend are over, hence Dead Daughters, a rip-off of The Ring/Ringu in which the ghosts of three drowned girls will kill you three days after you encounter their last victim. There's a Hollywood remake in the works, because a remake of a ripoff of a dead trend is just what we need.

Build a Ship, Sail to Sadnessplays like Borat crossed with The Brown Bunny, minus any nudity. Got that? Now imagine the worst visual quality imaginable—the movie was actually shot on Hi-8 and transferred to 16mm, but it looks like it was shot on VHS and left unplayed in a closet for ten years. This is deliberate, but ugly as hell, and a major gamble with jaded audiences.

Magnus Aronson, apparently a Scandinavian musician in real life, is Vincent, a young man traveling through small mountain towns in Scotland trying to sell the locals on the idea of a mobile disco, which he thinks will be a cure for loneliness. The locals are real, and in their tight-knit community don't feel lonely at all, so they don't get it at all. Vincent also treats us to some of his absurdly pathos-laden songs, which were apparently the original inspiration for the movie. Writer-director Laurin Federlein claims he originally intended to make a tragic, moving piece about finding beauty in the pathetic, but Magnus took it in a whole other direction. Despite the apparent ugliness and sloppiness of the piece, there's a real gem of inspiration at the core, and the character of Vincent is wonderful.

Also somewhat Borat-inspired is Great Wall of Sound, a movie about "music producers" who hold auditions for their record label that are a total scam. Though most of the film is scripted, the bulk of the auditions are real—ads were placed, bands were heard, and the two lead actors tried to hustle them and get them to sign. Afterwards, told what was up, the musicians pretty much got it and agreed to be in the movie anyway. What's striking is that they could just as easily all be character actors, since they hit the same acting tone as the actual cast.

And to show that film festivals aren't all about artsiness and depression—Dynamite Warrior, from Thailand, is an old-school styled kung-fu flick in which the main character happens to be a master of high-yield fireworks, occasionally even riding around on one, Wile E. Coyote style. Nothing too deep there, just cool stuff.

For more detailed reports from the LAFF, check out Luke Y. Thompson blog posts at blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/.

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