Friday, April 13, 2012

BIFFF Day #5 (Tuesday, 4/10)

No scheduled interviews or close encounters with celebs today, which meant that I got to actually sleep in for once. Of course, having stayed up the night before until 6am getting caught up on reviews and such more or less used up whatever credit I’d hoped to earn from the later wake-up bell. As Gert often says, “It’s the BIFFF!” i.e. any normalcy or daily routine need not apply because you ain’t gonna get it. I don’t think there has been a period in my life where I have been up past 3am every night for a week’s time. In everyday life, I’m a farm boy who’s up with the sun – this whole crashing just before dawn and waking up at noon is completely foreign to me. (You see what I did there?)

20 films in, I have also started to accumulate a list of the various BIFFF traditions that hold sway with every new cinematic unspooling. The festival crowd’s robust energy is intoxicating and contagious, their fervent passion usually elevating the viewing experience tenfold. However, for those like myself who are not really fans of “audience participation cinema,” this can take some getting used to. But if you can’t beat ‘em, you gotta join ‘em, because you can’t fight this particular ocean.

Stephane Everaert (or as I’ve dubbed him, “the face of the BIFFF”) is a congenial fellow who comes on stage before each film to introduce the upcoming feature. Being a non-Francophone, I have no idea what he’s saying most of the time (unless I’m lucky enough to have the generous interpreting skills of Roxane or Alexandra by my side), but it’s evident he’s good at the job – his delivery is professional yet offhand, enthusiastic yet respectful, and he knows how to wind the crowd up as well as temper their sometimes overwhelming energy. If a filmmaker or guest is on hand, Stephane will bring them out to meet their public and answer a question or two beforehand. Then it’s time, with the audience chanting loudly, for “la chanson.”

You see, it has become a time-honored tradition for each guest who hits the vaunted stage to regale the masses with crooning, and the many-headed are quite insistent on this point. In fact, if spirits are too high or the guest is too low in energy, the cries for “une chanson” will drown out any chitter chatter patter and their urgent chanting will not cease until they’ve been satisfied. It’s an interesting custom, but one that unifies all nations and creeds, which would seem to be in keeping with the spirit of an international film festival. Every guest thus far seems more than happy to oblige, and occasionally someone goes the extra mile, such as this night when Carre Blanc star Julie Gayet also performed a spontaneous semi-striptease to the crowd’s frenzied delight.

Ah, Brussels.

For your reading pleasure, here are some of the more popular bons mots or fameuses expressions popularized by the BIFFF crowd (many thanks to Gert and Roxane for the translation assistance):

Screen action: A sexy woman (or occasionally, man) comes onscreen
BIFFF: “She's a slut.”

Screen action: Someone enters or calls into a dark room, downstairs, upstairs, etc.
BIFFF: Woooooo-ooooooh! Wooooo-oooooh! (as though trying to get someone’s attention)

Screen action: A phone rings or someone answers a phone
BIFFF: "Wassuuuuuuuuup?" (yes, it’s still alive)

Screen action: A benign creature/object (rabbits, fluffy pillows, babies) appears onscreen
BIFFF: Scream wildly in terror

Screen action: A moon appears onscreen
BIFFF: Howl like a wolf

Screen action: Characters kiss, look like they want to, or even just look at each other
BIFFF: Insane kissing noises

Screen action: Opening credits
BIFFF: Applaud very, very quickly at every name

Screen action: BIFFF promotional trailer (shown before each film) ends
BIFFF: "Taa-taa ta-ta-taa! Tuer encore! Jamais plus!" ("Taa-taa ta-ta-taa! Kill again! Nevermore!”) (Don’t worry, I don’t get it either, although the "nevermore" I'm assuming refers to the Golden and Silver Raven awards that are handed out…)

Screen action: Onscreen reminder to turn off cameras, recording devices or cell phones in the theater
BIFFF: "On s' en fout!" ("We don't care!")

Screen action: A character leaves a door open
BIFFF: "La porte!" (“The door!”)

Screen action: A character is about to go somewhere he/she shouldn't
BIFFF: "N'y vas pas!" (“Don't do it!” or “Don't go there!”)

Screen action: Any character sings
BIFFF: Synchronized clapping

Theater action: People entering or exiting the row during the film
BIFFF: "Assis!" ("Sit down!")

Screen action:  Hot guy/girl comes on screen
BIFFF:  "à poil!" - ("Get naked!")

Screen action:  Someone asks where someone or something is
BIFFF:  "Dans ton cul!"  ("In your ass!")

Screen action:  Anyone gets naked and/or sexual
BIFFF:  "ça c'est un bon film." ("This is a good film.")

Theater action:  Some smart (and unfunny) viewer won't stop making comments
BIFFF:   "Ta gueule!" ("Shut up!")

Screen action:  Nothing is on screen, i.e. blank or dark, usually between the introduction and the opening credits
BIFFF:  "Quel suspense!"  ("Such suspense!")

Theater action:  Stephane finishes his introduction and walks off stage
BIFFF:  "Quel talent!"  ("Such a talent!")

Screen action:  Someone lights a cigarette
BIFFF:  Entire theater starts coughing uncontrollably (ironic, considering how many BIFFFers light up as soon as they step outside)

Screen action:  Picture is out of focus (intentionally, i.e. an artistic decision on someone's part)
BIFFF:  "C'est flou!"  ("Focus!!!!" - literally "It is blurry!")

Screen action:  Any time something sounds/looks suspicious (which is most of the time)
BIFFF:  "It's a trap!" (said in English, a la Admiral Ackbar from Return of the Jedi)

There’s plenty more, but that should give you an idea of how wacky things can get. That said, audience participation rises or falls in accordance with a film’s genuine entertainment value, i.e., if you’re pleasing them, they don’t feel the need to entertain themselves. As mentioned in earlier posts, this sometimes feels like an unfair barometer for a slower or quieter effort, but it is what it is.

Speaking of films…

Invasion of Alien Bikini (2011) (1st viewing)d. Oh, Young-doo (South Korea)
Wild sci-fi romp about a self-appointed vigilante who finds himself canoodling with a sexy extraterrestrial bombshell eager to mate. Funny, goofy and bloody in just the right amounts.

Mural (2011) (1st viewing) d. Chan, Gordon (Hong Kong)
Fantasy film about a trio of young eligible bachelors who magically transport through a painting into another dimension, one peopled almost entirely by women. Not bad at all, but I felt as though it took itself a little too seriously for the slight material, and perhaps too leisurely paced. (Then again, it could just be that I was tired and desiring a more energetic flick to keep me awake.)

Tormented (2011) (1st viewing) d. Shimizu, Takashi (Japan)
The director of both Ju: On and its U.S. counterpart The Grudge checks in with a tepid J-horror effort that, in spite of its intriguing storyline, submarines itself with leaden pacing and the use of (sigh) a guy in a giant fluffy bunny costume as a intended object of fear. Really, Takashi? Really? My reaction was a near-violent negative one, mostly because I expected much, much more from a master of the genre.

Carre Blanc (2011) (1st viewing) d. Léonetti, Jean-Baptiste (Belgium/France)
Full disclosure: No English subtitles, so I may have missed some of the finer points of this dystopian effort about a young boy trained from an early age to be a behavioral instructor for a mysterious governmental organization. Even so, it held my attention with its tense scenes of violence and, as the adult version of the lad, Sami Bouajila’s commanding screen presence is well put to use as the inscrutable tool of the machine.

Eliminate Archie Cookson (2011) (1st viewing) d. Holder, Robin (UK)
Pleasing and occasionally bloody diversion about Paul Rhys’ mild-mannered surveillance technician (i.e., he listens to wiretap recordings) who find himself on the hit list after he receives a mysterious pair of audio reels in the post. Couple this with his marital problems and the fact that his assassin turns out to be an old family friend (a show-stealing Paul Ritter), and the results are a clever, if somewhat leisurely paced, comedy thriller.

Father's Day (2011) (2nd viewing) d. Astron-6 (Canada)
Armed with $10K and a f*ckload of chutzpah, the five-man team that compose Canadian artistic collective Astron-6 churn out one of the sickest, depraved, hilarious and outside-the-box innovative horror/exploitation films in recent memory. Papa-plundering serial killers are but the crest of this creative volcano, delightfully and deliberately offensive at nearly every level. This was the one I was the most excited about seeing with the midnight festival crowd and it (and they) did not disappoint.

2012 Totals to date: 147 films, 126 1st time views, 75 horror, 33 cinema

Pick of the Day: Father’s Day

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