IFC Films is trying to reinvent the way independent movies are shown through its "In Theaters and On-Demand" promotion, which offers pay-per-view access to many films while they are playing in theaters (the service is available locally through Cox Communications).
It's a novel idea that might seem like it's competing against itself, but not really. Many of these films are art-house titles that — unless you follow film religiously — you may know nothing about.
It's a great boost in exposure for these films, many of which will play theatrically only in large markets such as New York, Los Angeles or Chicago.
I recently watched some buzzed-about titles (at $6.99 each for a 24-hour "rental") that I thought I wouldn't see until they came out on DVD. It was like having a film festival in my living room. Too bad I don't have red carpet.
I was excited to see " Enter the Void" as one of the offerings. Even though the film made waves at the Sundance, Cannes and Toronto film festivals, it has sharply divided critics, and I can see why.
The film is by acclaimed director Gasper Noe, whose 2002 film "Irreversible" was a riveting though disturbing look at one woman's horrific night in Paris. It was a fascinating study in style — the film was told in reverse chronological order with several impressively executed long takes.
"Enter the Void" is even more stylistically ambitious with psychedelic visuals, and follows a teenage drug dealer named Oscar who is killed in Japan then reappears as a ghost — in a way — to watch over his sister.
We also flash to Oscar's past, sort of like his life is flashing before his eyes before he dies.
The film also forces us to figure out that we are looking through Oscar's eyes — the camera is basically the protagonist (there are some ingenious shots of "us" looking into a mirror). But after Oscar dies, the camera hovers over everything (as if "we" are now a ghost).
It's an interesting concept, but it becomes tedious. The story becomes secondary to style. And the film eventually becomes a symbolic meditation on reincarnation.
"Void" is daring for its cinematography and direction (and graphic sex), but it gets too bizarre for me. I'll sit in the corner with the other critics who are scratching their heads, wondering what all the fuss is about. (I give the film (Wingdings 171)).
I also watched " Valhalla Rising," which played at the Toronto and Venice film festivals and is a visually stunning, eerily quiet, graphically violent Viking tale that takes place in 1,000 A.D. It follows a man aptly known as One Eye, a mute warrior with supernatural abilities who befriends a boy slave who can read his thoughts. They join a group of religious warriors on a Viking vessel and explore the New World.
It's a steadily paced, atmospheric journey. The film is more about tone and sense of place than action, though there are striking fight sequences, and the cinematography is beautiful. It's a good film, though some may find it strange. ((Wingdings 171))
And I watched " The Killer Inside Me" (which is now also available on DVD), mostly because director Michael Winterbottom has done interesting work in the past ("A Mighty Heart," "9 Songs," "24 Hour Party People"), and the film played at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals.
And because star Casey Affleck has been getting raves for his performance as a small-town Texas deputy sheriff who is secretly a psychotic killer.
Again, it's brutally violent (I don't seek these films out, I swear), but the narrative gets redundant. And though Affleck does deliver a fine performance, his character's motivations become silly. We're never offered any reasoning for his psychotic behavior. ((Wingdings 171) 1/2)
There are several other titles available. Go to www.ifcfilms.com for more information.