Boston Underground Film Festival 2016: ‘Blood Of The Tribades,’ ‘MAD,’ and ‘Chasing Banksy’

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Film: Chasing Bansky
Directed by: Frank Henenlotter
Starring: Anthony Sneed

How far would you go to pilfer a piece of art? Would you steal that item for financial gain or otherwise? Chasing Banksy‘s conceit is pretty simple. Based on a true story, Brooklyn artist Anthony Sneed saw massive gains in stealing an original Banksy piece from New Orleans. His story, whether it should be told or not, is important to understand how some people react to art. In Sneed’s case, he wanted to be part of a cultural moment brought on by Banksy’s art. That kind of inclusion may sound gross to you, but it’s an interesting idea to ponder on.

The movie itself is a lot more gross than Sneed’s selfish journey, though. Director Frank Henenlotter, usually lending his eye to shlocky horror pictures like Bad Biology and Frankenhooker, takes his in-your-face talents to a story that almost requires an opposing point of view. Take Sneed’s journey for instance; he and a few friends took down pieces of a broken house to achieve that piece of art in a place that was already ravaged with kleptomania, New Orleans. The prospect of a few white people stealing a piece of art from a place recovering from tragedy through that art is incredibly disgusting. Sneed’s performance coupled with the misogyny that litters the film made this something to react fervently to. Every woman wooed and stripped naked by Sneed’s artistic philosophies as he pursues a morally interminable quest for gold.

There’s an opposing point of view to Sneed’s acts towards the end of the film where a woman yells at him for stealing such an important piece of art from New Orleans. Henenlotter even went on to say that he put that in the film to counter Sneed’s actions. Too little, too late.

GRADE: D

 


 

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Film: MAD
Directed by: Robert G. Putka
Starring: Maryann Plunkett, Eilis Cahill, Jennifer Lafleur

Nuclear families seem to be a common theme running through the films that played at BUFF this year. MAD utilizes that theme to its fullest potential while making a case for how mental illness should be treated in film today. Robert G. Putka’s first narrative feature is a lean, mean, dialogue machine that is equal parts bitingly funny and deeply sad. Putka alluded to the fact that hope in MAD may be something fleeting, something that could never last. Well, in that fleeting moment, he found magic with his three-woman ensemble.

Family matriarch Mel (Maryann Plunkett) is sent into a nervous breakdown after her divorce and ends up being admitted to the mental ward of the local hospital. Her daughters, Casey (Eilis Cahill) and Connie (Jennifer Lafleur), see the recent breakdown as another inconvenience in their own lives. Casey, floating through life and struggling to find her footing in adulthood. Connie, high-strung mom on the verge of being busted for a white collar crime. The two daughters’ inability to cope with their own issues doesn’t help their situation with their wreck of a mother, so they mentally destruct and construct in a time of change.

Cahill, Lafleur and Plunkett are all at the top of their games in MAD. It only helps that Putka’s assured direction makes the film rise above the risible projects that claim to take on mental illness but fall flat. Sure, it’s a delicate condition to portray on the screen, but one thing’s for certain: people with mental illness aren’t crazy. That preconception gets shattered in MAD early on and never again sees the light of day. The scenes between Jerry (Mark Reeb), another patient in the ward, and Mel include the heartbreaking levity that keeps on elevating the film. Misery loves company, and sometimes, humor and understanding can be the only ways to alleviate such crippling conditions like depression. You’ll be seeing Putka’s name in the future, that I’m sure of.

GRADE: B+


blood tribades

Film: Blood Of The Tribades
Directed by: Sophia Cacciola, Michael J. Epstein
Starring: Mary Widow, Chloé Cunha

Local filmmakers Michael J. Epstein and Sophia Cacciola returned to BUFF this past Sunday with their new feature, Blood Of The Tribades, a homage to horror films of old and subscribing to the gender politics of new. Their new feature revolves around men and women vampires vying for control of what’s left of Bathory, a utopian society filled with candlelit castles and rolling hills but ravaged by years and years of war.

Two vampire lovers, Fantine (Mary Widow) and Élisabeth (Chloé Cunha), are caught between warring ideologies in Bathory. One side, filled with men who pray at the altar of Bathor, the vampire god that rules all. The other side filled with women vampires being torn apart by the religious extremism brought on by the warring faction of men. Here’s the catch: Bathor will be returning soon and the almighty vampire god may not like what’s become of Bathory.

Owing to the shlocky Hammer films of old, Blood Of The Tribades finds its genre footing from the first scene. Bathsheba (played by Cacciola) takes a bit of a lusty bath as Sava (Kristofer Jenson) licks his lips before shooting her with an arrow, ending her stay in this mortal realm. What follows is a long section driven by pure sensation. Fantine and Élisabeth frolic through the lands trading glances, seeming out of place with their surrounding environment. They can feel in their bones that the men are tearing apart the land. Something drastic has to happen.

Even though everything in Blood Of The Tribades eres to the erotic side of horror, there’s always a point to the countless instances of nudity (and bloody makeouts). The men in the film can’t dictate what the women do with their bodies, so they lash out. Something that we see all too often in the news today. Aside from the politicking though, the movie is so damn fun. It takes great pleasure in playing with genre tropes and elevating religious fervor past the point of subtle. The film is also really good-looking, too! Cacciola and Epstein seem to be utilizing the tools made available to them to their fullest extents. After all, this is a local production without the benefit of millions of dollars. In a way, the low budget is what makes Blood Of The Tribades so damn charming. Progressive horror like this almost never graces the silver screen, laying the gauntlet at the feet of new and fresh voices to make their mark.

Well, the directing duo have made their mark, and it’s going to stain a few minds.

GRADE: A

Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen is that guy you can't have a conversation with without bringing up Michael Mann. He is also incapable of separating himself from his teenage angst (looking at you, Yellowcard). Read on as he tries to formulate words about movies!
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