Monday, August 31, 2015

Recommended Reading: 41 Strange and 24 Images

The collection of horror stories 41 Strange is a short and fun read. The 41 stories range in length from one to a few pages and, similarly to Creepshow, through these brief horrific stories emerges dire situations, characters and worlds. They’re fun and eerie: In Staircase Man a new tenant slowly becomes the apartment’s monster under the stairs, in Qlugg Wiqq a fugitive gets the breath of death after a voice alteration operation, the Murderess Mattress is like The Cat Came Back but with a murdering mattress, in The Shortcut there’s a weird turkey epidemic and virtual reality call girls, in Strickland Domain the visitors of a Jurassic Park-like theme park are killed by a fungal bacteria, in Cannibal Diner cannibals come to dine, and Monkeys is a play on the premise of Planet of the Apes. The authors Diane Doniol-Valcroze, daughter of Jacques Doniol-Valcroze (Cahiers du Cinéma), and Arthur K. Flam have already made low-budget horror films and these short stories share a cinematic quality, as they are reminiscent of the films of Joe Dante, David Cronenberg and John Carpenter, while the writing style recalls the horror writing of Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. The Shakespeare Macbeth quote that opens the book, “Your face, my thane, is as a book where men May read strange matters…”, and its Hieronymus Bosch cover art contribute to the book’s artistic and intellectual premise: Through these nightmare stories there is something about our present that is being told. Many of the individual stories in 41 Strange, or the anthology in whole, would make for a compelling cinematic adaption.

 The new 24 Images has on its cover a beautiful picture of Monica Vitti (Red Desert) with the title Revoir Antonioni on its center. But the real centerpiece of the issue is its dossier, Cinéma Québécois – Vents Contraires. It’s a voice of dissent of their domestic film production and its manifold essays illustrate film criticism’s potential to shout out towards one’s national cinema. The chief editor Marie-Claude Loiselle provides the tone to the different pieces in the editorial and essay Comment Sortir du Cadre?, “We were waiting to have the necessary distance to situate these films and trends, which hadn’t really offered us any really stimulating perspectives.” Loiselle continues, “The most vivifying aspect of cinema is its side of not falling prey to our ambivalent times, but instead, to resist with vigor and rage.” The essays on Québécois cinema include: Alexandre Fontaine Rousseau’s take-down of Xavier Dolan Culte de la personnalité, “If his mise en scene is calculated to please the most amount of people, his poppy posture is constantly contradicted by his condescending attitude that breathes throughout the film. This is his imposture.” Philippe Gajan in his essay La Trilogie de L’Alinénation looks a the legacy of the silent revolution and Gilles Groulx (Le chat dans le sac) on the recent student protests and three contemporary Québécois films, Laurentie, Le torrent and Corbo. Richard Brouillette in his essay Une Certaine Tendance du Cinéma Québécois, similarly to essay by Truffaut which it references, attacks their recent auteur films for shallow psychologizing and apolitical formalism, which Loiselle picks up on and takes further, especially through a contrast with two recent Greek documentaries found on (Ici rien, La pierre triste). Bruno Dequen in his essay, En Terrains Trop Connus?, highlights the marketability and clichés of some of their recent films, and in contrast prefers Matthew Rankin’s Mynarski Chute Mortelle and Jean-Marc E. Roy and Philippe Daid Gagné’s Bleu Tonnere. And to finish it off Simon Galiero interviews Olivier Godin. It’s only – and major ! – omission is that Québec’s greatest director Jean-Marc Vallée’s name is not once mentioned in the whole dossier! If his recent American films – with the most recent Demolition shortly premiering in Toronto – provide a counterpoint to some of the miserable films that 24 Images describes it is that he needed to cross borders to make the most out of the medium. But he’s still Québécois at heart, as can attest anyone that has ever met him, and with his landmark film C.R.A.Z.Y. and his early work in commercials (especially his dairy ones) his work is deeply rooted in family, society and country. He’s definitively theirs, ours, and the world’s greatest director!


Unknown said...

It’s only – and major ! – omission is that Québec’s greatest director Jean-Marc Vallée’s name is not once mentioned in the whole dossier!

Unknown said...

Comments are working much better than I remember them.

Unknown said...

Great interesting post. The Cannibal Diner story sounds creepy.