The Calgary Underground Film Festival kicks off a week of cinematic goodness with tonight’s screening of Abe Forsythe’s zombie comedy Little Monsters and MMC! couldn’t be happier! CUFF 2019 looks stacked with great titles sure to satisfy cinephiles looking to scratch hard to reach places. Eccentric documentaries, up and coming indie mavericks, art house genre masterpieces, and all around weirdness are waiting to be discovered at Calgary’s Globe Cinema this week. MMC! has seen almost half of CUFF’s programmed features already and so we are happy to point the way for those looking to navigate this great roster of titles.
Knife + Heart (Yann Gonzalez)
I’m not sure how many times MMC! can keep waving the flag for Yann Gonzalez’s Knife + Heart. It was our favourite film at the 2018 Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival and landed at #17 on MMC!‘s top 20 films of 2018. This sex-positive, queer riff on Italian giallo cinema is lushly sleazy in all the right ways, beautifully merging art cinema sophistication and exploitation sinema salaciousness. Set in the Parisian gay porn industry of 1979, Vanessa Paradis impresses as a third-tier production company’s matriarchal head struggling with the murders of her cast by a leather masked killer. Gonzalez makes no half-steps in Knife + Heart and viewers are rewarded with outlandish porn scenes, wild physical deformities, truly phallic murder weapons, and even a bizarre bear attack. This is a film that perfectly walks the line between creating a pastiche that respects its precedent and revising a familiar genre to reflect the diversity of people and stories that demand representation today. Knife + Heart should not be missed!
In Fabric (Peter Strickland)
Without question, MMC! is on the Peter Strickland bandwagon, being a big fan of his previous films Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke of Burgundy, and so it brought great joy to find his latest movie among our favourite films at the 2019 Chattanooga Film Festival. Strickland seems to be having even more fun than usual with In Fabric, creating a cheeky play on Dario Argento’s Three Mothers with this story of a department store witches’ coven and a killer dress. There is true creepiness and horror to be found in the film, but also an uncannily funny, almost campy, portrait of consumer culture and corporate ideology. In Fabric is strange, idiosyncratic work, but those ready for Strickland’s tongue-in-cheek brand of horror and psychodrama will no doubt find a unique and rewarding cinematic experience.
Who Let The Dogs Out (Brent Hodge)
It might be hard to imagine that a documentary devoted to the Baha Men’s 2000 hit “Who Let The Dogs Out” could sustain a six-minute film, let alone a 62 minute documentary but Brent Hodge’s survey of Ben Sisto’s eight year exploration of the song and its unusual history is enthralling. Sisto acts as the movie’s adorably scruffy sleuth engaged in a globe-trotting adventure through studios and courtrooms to find the origin of the track’s exhaustingly ubiquitous catchphrase. Who Let The Dogs Out is a sure crowd-pleaser, mining gold out of a tropical-flavoured piece of pop culture junk food. Just be prepared to have that ear worm in your head for weeks after – “woof, woof, woof, woof, woof.”
Violence Voyager (Ujicha)
Ujicha’s Violence Voyager was one of our favourite reasons to attend the 2018 Buried Alive Film Festival and it’s a great reason to attend to the 2019 CUFF. The film follows Bobby and Akkun, two boys who visit a mysterious amusement park and are attacked by strange robot creatures controlled by the park’s malevolent builder. A boy’s adventure story spiked with Cronenbergian body horror, Violence Voyager is made all the more unsettling by being filmed in “gekimation,” a false animation technique that relies on illustrated paper figures and backgrounds that “act out” the film’s story. The result is an unusual, uncanny tone that recalls the hushed tension found in the PBS children’s series Cover to Cover, one that runs in strange compliment to the transgressive Japanese weirdness at the core of Ujicha’s film. CUFF attendees looking for something singular that can’t be unseen should make their way to Violence Voyager.
Mutant Blast (Fernando Alle)
Those looking for some straightforward z—bie schlock should consider Troma’s sci-fi/splatstick extravaganza, Mutant Blast. Fernando Alle’s film pairs an elite female soldier with an aimless and hung over man, with the pair traversing Portugal’s countryside in hopes of finding sanctuary from roving z—bies and evil mutants. Mutant Blast is pretty standard fare save for the welcome insertion of some Minoru Kawasaki-esque anthropomorphic silliness. For those who get that reference (and have a soft spot for titles like Executive Koala, The Calamari Wrestler, and Crab Goalkeeper), Mutant Blast is a secret treasure.
F*** You All: The Uwe Boll Story (Sean Patrick Shaul)
Every cinephile has a special place in their hearts for movies about movies and so a feature-length documentary about cinema’s most hated director, Uwe Boll, is sure to either tantalize or destroy that weakness. Sean Patrick Shaul’s film, F*** You All: The Uwe Boll Story, falls well short of absolving Boll’s filmography of its cinematic crimes, but its evenhanded treatment of the director and the goodwill expressed by the numerous collaborators interviewed humanize the outwardly unlikable filmmaker, even allowing some forgiveness for his capriciousness, his abuses, and his systemic squandering of talent. For his part, Boll seems only partially delusional about his talents and in no way mindless about the imperfections of a career that produced BloodRayne, Postal, House of the Dead, and Blubberella (although he does seems surprisingly comfortable with having beaten the living daylights out of a few of his critics). Still, F** You All also reveals an unconventional auteur whose unique place in cinema was borne in part from an uncommon and precarious degree of financial and industrial independence, one exposed by changes in the film market and its distribution processes. Shaul’s portrait is interesting and insightful, one that may not make you like Boll’s films more but that might lessen the condemnation for their maker.
CUFF is also full of some great titles MMC! has yet to see. Claire Denis’ English language debut, the formidably body-conscious sci-fi experience High Life, looks astounding; Luke Lorentzen’s Midnight Family, about a family-run private ambulance in Mexico City, looks gripping; and Alex Ross Perry’s Her Smell looks like Elizabeth Moss in full Riot Grrrl glory; plus MMC! loves old iconoclasts and so Ryan White’s Ask Dr. Ruth, a documentary portrait on Dr. Ruth Westheimer, is a must see. For more MMC! coverage of the 2019 Calgary Underground Film Festival, check out our Letterboxd list for the Fest, or, better yet, get out and see some of those films! Passes and screenings are selling out!