As we reach the midway point of the Festival, I'm beginning to have trouble remembering what day it is, what time it is or even where I am. That can't be good, right?
This may be my favourite documentary of the Festival thus far. It's the sadly moving tale of Mark Hogencamp, who ten years ago was an alcoholic who got the living crap beaten out of him by five teenagers. He ended up with massive brain damage and memories missing. A talented sketch artist (we see some of his work on what appear to be war comics) before the attack, he has a very unique form of personal therapy. He began his own town. Of dolls.
Marwencol is the small town, the new world, created by Mark in the wake of the attack. It is a WWII era Belgian village, populated by Barbie dolls and large G.I. Joe figures. A number of the residents are the alter-egos of various friends and family members of Mark. He uses the village to work on his fine motor skills and also to work through the trauma of the attack.
Mark seems like a gentle, creative man who no longer needs or wants to drink (perhaps the one upside to the attack. And it is always mentioned as the attack) who occasionally has trouble distinguishing Marwencol from reality. In Marwencol he controls events - his alter ego can be captured and tortured by the SS, but then saved by three gun-toting women - so it's little wonder he feels safer there. He's constantly telling the story and taking photos, really beautiful photos, to help him tell it.
It's a pretty moving tale. If you want to check out more: www.marwencol.com
This tale of a (severely) dysfunctional Belgian family, the Strobbes, living in a small village in the 80’s didn’t really do anything for me. I guess you could call it a coming of age tale. And there are moments of non-PC hilarity, but for the most part it is rather depressing.
Gunther lives with his dad and three uncles at his grandmother’s place. All four brothers are such incredible fuck-ups, none of them can afford to have their own place. They're a tight-knit family, possibly because they don't have anyone else, willing to defend Strobbe honour at the drop of a hat. Unless, like the sister, you marry out of the family and no longer call yourself a Strobbe. Then they don't care if your husband beats you. They're misanthropic and misogynistic and there's not a charmer among them.
The film dragged particularly in the middle and the overall pace never managed to keep me engaged. Things seem to wander between Gunther's childhood in this house to adult Gunther, but never in any sort of order or purpose.
It's an... ok film. An average coming-of-age story with a portrait of a very fucked up family. Nothing of it stayed with me after I walked out of the cinema (that could be in part to the amount of films I've seen).
Majestically, heroically awful. As opposed to the atrocious Birdemic, The Room is watchably bad cinema. Writer/director/producer/star Tommy Wiseau is like an alien combination of van Damme and Schwarzenegger... in a dramatic role. He has some of the same bizarre watchfulness as Arnie, and a weird unplaceable accent. He flicks his long black hair around, mangling language and giving us way too many shots of his bare ass.
There are many, many unexplained events in The Room, and they all add to it's bizarre charm. Well, maybe not charm, as there is some truly horrendous (not so) subtextual messages about women, but... something. Where Birdemic was a really bad film made by someone who seemed to have never watched an actual movie, The Room seems to have been made by Martians who have watched too many films (and soap operas) but fail to understand how real people actually interact.
If you get the chance to watch The Room at a cinema, preferably with a lively audience, I recommend it. There'll be spoon throwing, yelling at the screen and a good time had by all. The Paramount are due to be showing it once a month for the next few months. Get along.