One hundred and five minutes of spontaneous talk from a homosexual named Jeffrey Strouth, seated in the back of a 1957 Cadillac in Columbus, Ohio, may sound like thin fare for a feature, but Reno Dakota’s 1992 movie–a tribute to his wild and uninhibited friend, who subsequently died of AIDS–kept me mesmerized and entertained. Recounting various episodes in his difficult life–bouts with his alcoholic and abusive father; being kept at age 14 by a 400-pound drag queen; hitchhiking to Hollywood with a campy boyfriend, a tiny dog, and a caged bird; numerous tragicomic scrapes with the police; and much, much else involving sex and drugs–Strouth often calls to mind some of the comic gross-outs of William Burroughs (whom he openly imitates at one point) and the picaresque hard-luck stories of Nelson Algren, not to mention the road adventures of Kerouac. This has more of the flavor of an epic American narrative than most conventional features, and it certainly offers a more comprehensive look at our national life. Music Box, Saturday and Sunday, July 31 and August 1.
This is the first documentary feature about gentrification I’m aware of, and it’s an uncommonly good one–made by School of the Art Institute graduate Nora Jacobson over eight years in Hoboken, New Jersey, in the neighborhood where she still lives. Alert and lucid without a trace of sentimentality, she focuses on a number of related events, including the torching of rent-controlled buildings (and subsequent condo conversions), and interviews local residents, landlords, developers, activists, and others about what’s going on. This is an eye-opener. (1992) Jacobson will attend both screenings. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, July 17, 7:45, and Sunday, July 18, 6:00, 443-3737.
New highs (or lows) in free-flowing gore and nonstop, torrential splatter are reached in this modest-budget comic horror extravaganza from New Zealand by Peter Jackson, originally and more appropriately known as Braindead. The standard-issue plot, with all the usual steals from Psycho and Night of the Living Dead, emanates from the poisonous bite of a rat monkey from Sumatra in a Wellington zoo circa 1957. Yet the only meaningful bill of fare here is deliberately stomach-turning showstoppers involving dismemberment, disfigurement, disembowelment, countless gallons of spewing blood and bile, and related gross-outs–more the stuff of animated cartoons than live action. Ordinarily I don’t care for this kind of thing at all, but something must be said for the endless reserves of giddy energy and the general absence of the calculated mean spiritedness of more prestigious directors like Spielberg and Renny Harlin (perhaps because this is so clearly meant to be silly). I was also charmed quite a bit by Diana Penalver as the Spanish heroine. This clearly isn’t for everyone, but the preview audience had a ball; with Timothy Balme, Elizabeth Moody, and Ian Watkin; cowritten by Jackson, Stephen Sinclair, and Frances Walsh. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, July 16 through 22.