Tuesday, November 24, 2009
SLIFF 2009 Coverage Part 1
Title: Edgar Allen Poe’s Ligeia
Director: John Shirley
A professor of Romantic poetry with a happy carefree relationship finds himself entranced by a dark and mysterious student, with the odd name of Ligeia, who is conducting shady experiments on the nature of mortality in the university labs. Half hypnotized, half seduced, the hero is soon married to Ligeia and ensconced in a Ukrainian castle where he becomes aware of her paranormal efforts to cheat the grave.
In the great tradition of Poe adaptations (such as Roger Corman’s low-budget classics), this film shares only a few superficial ideas with the original story and largely plays up the sensational aspects (in this case the sex appeal, rather than the gore or terror). Also according to Poe-adaptation tradition, neither myself nor my friends could resist seeing this film, especially considering its Friday the 13th timeslot. I enjoyed seeing my alma mater used for quite a bit of the film’s first half and was most impressed by the remarkable cinematography and lighting. I was perhaps overly pleased by the campy screenplay and playful trashiness, which didn’t particularly resonate with some of my fellow viewers, but I thought it made for a rather entertaining, if uninspired, diversion.
Title: Terribly Happy
Director: Henrik Ruben Genz
Genz’s Danish comedy-thriller, set in a boggy rustic village with a wealth of secrets and infused with noir and western influences, was probably the most fun film I saw at this year’s festival. A city cop with a history of anger management issues is sent to replace the sheriff of a small soggy Jutland town as a form of provisional punishment. The place is quiet; clearly too quiet. Our hero hardly comes across his first report, a seemingly cut-and-dry case of domestic abuse, before he is sinking inexorably into a mire of moral compromise and corruption.
Playing like a Danish Coen brothers film, but with a voice of its own, “Terribly Happy” is a brilliant example of how you can blend genres and still make a thoughtful film with local color. The oft-visited bog where the evidence of innumerable secrets and crimes are sucked into oblivion, offers a deliciously morbid backdrop to the action while serving as a perfect metaphor for the hero’s reluctant integration into the community. The humor and awkwardness keep the film from being even the slightest bit depressing, while the frequent and unexpected plots convolutions make the deliberate pacing feel lively and tense.