Saturday 11 June 2016

Jerome Indie Film & Music Festival - Day Three

I'm posting daily coverage of the Jerome Indie Film & Music Festival at Apocalypse Later Now! this year. Here are some rough notes for Saturday 11th (Day 3) to help guide what you might want to look out for once they're widely released.

Jerome is a quirky affair and what we saw today highlights that well.

Faye's Redemption (2016)

We kicked off with an early screening of Faye's Redemption in the Clark Memorial Clubhouse in Clarkdale. It's the new feature from George O'Barts, creator of the legendary Pizza Shop: The Movie. I couldn't help but watch with that in mind, even though it's a completely different film. The good news is that the former is certainly a better film than the latter. The bad news is that it's a heck of a lot less fun.

For all the faults that Pizza Shop: The Movie has, it's packed full of grossout humour and it's worthy of repeat viewings with the right drunken reprobate friends. Sure, they need to be into John Waters and Troma but all the best friends are.

Faye's Redemption has a better story and actually features some good acting (though not in the more histrionic scenes). However it's a drama not a comedy and it's a dark one whose tone just keeps getting darker. Don't expect a traditional story arc, this one throws everything at poor Faye until she understandably almost dies of alcohol abuse. And that's just the beginning! It gets more depressing from there as a collection of flashbacks flesh out her trial of a life. The title is a spoiler in itself, so I can get away with saying that there's a happy ending but it was really welcome!

There are other problems like inconsistent acting, inconsistent sound and flagrant use of stereotypes, but they're all better than Pizza Shop: The Movie, which survived mostly on where it chose to go. I applaud George's ambition to make a serious drama and he's certainly improving as a filmmaker, but I'm still more likely to go back to Pizza Shop than this.

Films on the Verde Valley Railroad

No, that's not a movie, it's an actual railroad which runs from Clarkdale to a ghost ranch called Perkinsville through amazing countryside. The Jerome Indie Film & Music Festival booked a carriage, as it did last year. We chatted away the journey out, networking with filmmakers and listening to Threefold Fate playing an acoustic set in the open air, and watched movies all the way back.

Threefold Fate rocking the Verde Valley Railroad
photo credit: Countess Chaos Creations

Sadly, the train's tour commentary couldn't be switched off again this year, even though they'd promised that it could be done. That was really annoying, as were a couple of kids screaming at the back of the carriage, but hopefully those problems can be addressed before next year's event.

Here are the films that screened on the train:

Grand Canyon is a music video by Jerome's own Puscifer. It's a better song than the other one of theirs in the festival and it's accompanied by a set of drone photography of the title landmark and what appears to be other scenic parts of Arizona. I wasn't sold on some of the staccato editing but the footage is magnificent and it's timed to the song well.

Move Me is a textbook short film, taking a single conceit and building on it throughout its running time until a surprise ending that folk should see coming but often don't. A young couple find what appears to be a mannequin in the desert, only to realise that he's a human being who only lives while being touched by another; without human contact he's motionless, apparently dead. I was really happy to see Katie Parker from Absentia in another film (and watch out for a review soon of her new feature, The Binding). She does a great job as the traditional lead and Danny Jacobs is just as good as her screen husband, but Aidan Bristow steals the show as a thoroughly believable mannequin with intermittent moments of life and a purpose we ache to discover.

Thanks for the Drugs is another music video, this time by Lundon Crow. It's animated and as trippy as the title might suggest, though I haven't figured out precisely what's happening yet. I enjoyed it but would enjoy it more if I knew what it meant.

Blood Run is a post-apocalyptic western by Michael Freeman that gets better each time I see it because of some good decision making on his part. He doesn't explain what apocalypse took us down because he doesn't care, happy to show us the detritus of civilisation and tell us that the Dead Zone on the other side of a wall is a dangerous place. He doesn't give us any background to our hero, whom he also plays, content to have him recover from an attack by raiders, realise that they stole something from him and promptly chase after them to get it back. He's believably stubborn and single-minded and it gets him into as much trouble as it gets him on the right track, but that just makes him a real hero rather than a Hollywood one. Real heroes don't kick thirty shades of ass without blinking; they just accept how hurt they're going to get doing what has to be done and do it anyway. If there's a downside, it's that it's not too surprising what was stolen from him, but that's hardly a good reason not to watch this. Fingers crossed that Freeman can finance a feature length version.

Kevin's Story was an odd choice of film to screen on the train, after half the audience had happily partaken of the bar in our carriage. It's a true story narrated to us by Kevin's father because Kevin himself can't do it himself, because he died too young, of alcohol poisoning after a housewarming party. It's well done and it hits all the right emotional notes, but it's a radio presentation with unnecessary visuals and it should have been screened at a different time.

Bingo is an animated short from the Netherlands, a much better choice for the train ride. It was odd to realise that it was actually in unsubtitled Dutch but that it really didn't matter. We could tell exactly what was going on and enjoy it all the way to the final inevitable word.

Baits & Hooks I won't comment on because it was a Russian film with tiny English subtitles that I couldn't read on the screen at hand. I think I got the drift of what was happening but ought to see it properly to comment. Note to the festival organisers: no subtitled films on the train ride!

A Western is a pointlessly generic title for a decent short film that follows a pair of outlaw brothers who have different thoughts about the status that they've found themselves in. It's a quality piece of work, well acted and well shot, especially the final few visuals, but it had a tough time closing out a set that featured shorts as strong as Move Me and Blood Run. It was trying to tell its story as the train pulled into Clarkdale but had trouble competing with the railroad's canned music and screaming kids. Those still on the train by the end should watch it again in the appropriate set to realise how capable it is in the proper surroundings.

Snow White

After dinner in Old Town Cottonwood (a place I've really come to appreciate over the last few days), we headed back to the Old Town Center for the Arts to see something truly special that I'm really happy Toni and her crew managed to put together for this year's festival.

It was a screening of the 1916 Famous Players adaptation of Snow White, the first film Walt Disney ever saw, with Marguerite Clark in the lead and Dorothy Cumming as her screen mother, Queen Brangomar. It was given live accompaniment by the amazing RPM Orchestra, who I've seen a number of times before and always appreciate. To highlight how special this was, one of the young kids right behind us proclaimed to one and all about ten seconds into the movie that, 'This is boring!', only to settle down and enjoy the rest of the movie in silence.

RPM Orchestra were as enjoyable as ever, to the degree that I often forgot that I was listening to a live accompaniment, so well did they draw me into the film. As to the film itself, it wasn't a good print (it was the Alpha Video DVD rather than the copy in Treasures from American Film Archives), but it's a quirky telling, with character designs reminiscent of early 'Wizard of Oz' shorts: the seven dwarves look like they're played by children in beards and wigs, while Witch Hex's familiar is another one inside a pantomime cat suit.

The RPM Orchestra getting ready for Snow White
photo credit: Countess Chaos Creations

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