FanTasia Festival (Day Eleven) – ‘Debbie does FanTasia’

In todays edition of FanTasia Festival 2004, you will hear about a film entitled Thundercrack!, which gives the disgusting Pink Flamingos a run for its money along with a film Dom’s calls “sheer poetry”, Blueberry. Read on for Dominic F. Marceau’s full report from Day Eleven FanTasia…

DAY ELEVEN – July 18th, 2004
By: Dominic F. Marceau
Today’s episode: “Debbie does FanTasia”

I knew that tonight’s crop of cinematic oddities was going to be on the “out there” side of things, so I put on “The Residents” classic album “Third Reich & Roll” as I drove to Concordia University. I figured that if I was going to get my head messed up, might as well start early!

Speaking of early, I was up to my usual tricks when I got there an hour before our first presentation was about to start. Since I had time to kill, I decided to visit the makeshift DVD store that “Archambault” has put up on Concordia’s second floor. What a neat idea! Do you like the types of movies shown at FanTasia? Well, some of them are for sale up there! You will definitely find a cure for your Genre Cinema Blues! Being rather on the poor side these days (I’m doing this for free, you know!), I just looked at the “menu” and made my way back down to the main lobby to wait for the doors to open. Well, wait I did. The screening was delayed, a rarity at the FanTasia festival, so I struck a conversation with the guy behind me. His name was Jason and he was covering the festival for CJLO Radio here in Montreal. My first conversation with a fellow reporter! Finally, someone who feels my pain! We talked about “The Devil’s Rejects” and how awesome it should be, and how we were pleased by this year’s festival. Finally, after a delay of half an hour, we were let in, along with the hundreds of people waiting outside in the rain, to see this eagerly awaited film: Jan Kounen’s Blueberry.

For any one who’s seen this man’s previous film, the absolutely insane “Dobermann”, this new one was a priority. It sure was for me. To go from a techno-fuled, hyper-violent caper film, to an existential western film piqued our curiosity. We had nothing but the best expectations. In my case, I sure wasn’t dissapointed. A young man from Louisiana migrates west to a small town where he falls for a prostitute. Then, a mean old cowboy, the always-perfect Michael Madsen, kills her and scars him for life. He is left for dead to rot away in the California desert. But a tribe of Indians finds him, covered in snakes, and takes him to safety. He is slowly rehabilitated and grows up to become the deputy of this town, as played by the tragically miscast Vincent Cassel. When the promise of a mountainful of gold attracts a handful of men old cowboys, including our pal Mike Madsen, the deputy must uphold the law, and fight the demons that inhabit his soul.

First off, what a sight! This film is sheer poetry under a layer of dust. If you thought Sam Raimi had reinvented the way westerns are shot with “The quick and the dead”, well, you’re in for a surprise. Here, Kounen utilizes every camera trick, every special effect, every subtle, and not so subtle, nuance to tell his story. He had to because, let’s be honest for a second. We’ve seen this story before. But never told like this. Not since Jim Jarmusch’s damn-near-perfect “Dead Man” has a western amazed me as much. It provokes you to rethink your purpose in life and tells you it’s Ok to fight for one’s salvation. And now for the bad stuff. This film would have been on my top ten list for this year if it had had a different actor play the part of the deputy. Alas, this is not the case. Vincent Cassel is the most pathetic excuse for a western star I have ever seen! This French actor, usually very effective (“La Haine” anyone?), does a pitiful job at faking an old west accent. Ok. It’s stated that he comes from Louisiana, I’ll buy that. But all he does is come off sounding like a baaaaaaaad Elvis Presley impersonator from France! I couldn’t help but giggle my ass off every time he said, “How-dee, Part-e-ner”! It completely took me out of the film, which is a shame because there’s a lot of really great things in there…

Speaking of great things, I ran across the street to the De Sève Theatre for the showing of the infamous Thundercrack! As I sat down, I noticed that they were playing the classic “Talking Heads ’77” album, which is a personal favorite. Well, that’s as great as it got. Here’s the “story” in a nutshell: A few horny men and women are forced to take refuge in an old house whose owner is whacked out of her mind and has many secrets. There, they will have sex with each other and discover facets of their past. That’s about it. Call the Academy!

Ok. Now, I’ve been a fascinated with porno films from the Seventies ever since I saw Paul Thomas Anderson’s brilliant “Boogie Nights”. Some of them are truly great films (Henri Paris’ “The Opening of Misty Beethoven”), while others are good for a chuckle (John Holmes as everybody’s favorite Private “Dick” in the “Johnny Wadd” films). Well, “Thundercrack!” is neither. Every lewd sexual act is committed is this celluloid atrocity. There isn’t one iota of sensuality in this film. The grainy, 16mm, black and white photography gives it an underground, almost stag-film looking, quality. But, all in all, it’s just a bunch of people on the low rung of the burgeoning porno industry of the early Seventies that smoked a lot of dope and decided to do something that would “push the envelope”. Well, the envelope was indeed pushed. But this alone does not make a good film! Now, I should have guessed that something wasn’t right when I noticed that all of the male characters had moustaches. But I must tell you: there’s only so much Goddamn gay porn that this straight reporter can handle! Oh yeah. When I said every lewd sexual act, I meant EVERY lewd act! I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty open-minded. Sex on film has its place. But to see these depraved individuals who f*ck anything that moves, and I do mean ANYTHING, is trash. Period. This film was the cinematic equivalent of a tetanus shot. Nothing pleasant about it at all! (Don’t say I never did anything for you!) The promise of the “first porno-horror hybrid” had this reporter salivating like Oprah at an all-you-can-eat buffet. What I got was nowhere near my expectations. If Radley Metzger (The great “Score!”) and Ted V. Michaels (The not so great “Astro-Zombies”) had sex, got piss drunk on cheap white wine, and decided to do a pornographic remake of “Spider Baby”; it would look something like “Thundercrack!” But Radley Metzger is way too talented a director to unleash such a beast onto the world.

Speaking of beasts, the only horror aspect of the film is that one of its main characters has un-simulated sex with a gorilla! Well, it wasn’t a real gorilla. Does that make it a simulated gorilla? (My head hurts!) And a two hour forty minute porn film? Come on! I’ll take the 55-minute “Deep Throat” back-to-back three times over this turkey any day!

And Linda Lovelace is prettier than ANY gorilla I’ve ever seen!

Cut to credits.

Source: Dominic F. Marceau- FanTasia Festival