2013 Berlin Film Festival Day 8: Interior. Leather Bar.
I have some very unfortunate news; the general theater audience that I have been ranting and raving about over the past few posts has let me down. Let me clarify this. Remember the first time you saw Fonzie jump the shark, and then the episode ended with no one getting eaten? That is a comparable sense of disappointment that I experienced in the audience during my latest screening. I’m not sure where they came from, or if this was an anomaly of jerks that just happened to all attend the screening, or what, but it was a very telling moment; and this moment actually served to enhance my experience of the film I had just seen.
I attended a sort of double feature. Or more accurately put, a simultaneous screening of a long short and a short feature–the films being Chiralia and Die Wiedergänger respectively and both being German films. Chiralia only drew a few impatient grumbles, proving to be somewhat experimental, but beautifully shot telling a story that depicts the same event of a child nearly drowning three times, but in parallel universes and done such that you never know that the universes have changed. I only came to this conclusion after learning that the writer and director had a Ph.D in Physics. The film was certainly very difficult to decipher.
The second film was extremely experimental, narrating a story that didn’t even come close to matching the images presented. This is where everything went to hell in the theater. The film was only 60 minutes, but nearly half the theater emptied before the lights turned back on. People just couldn’t handle it. I’m ok with this, I suppose. If you are willing to pay full price for a ticket and then leave before the end that is your prerogative. What I was not ok with, was the behavior during the Q and A with the crew after the film. People boo’d. People accused the team of a lack of vision. One man had the audacity to actually tell the director that he wanted to take a poll to find out how many other people in the theater thought the film was “complete shit.”
I’ve expressed my own opinion during this coverage about experimental film. I do have a hard time with it, but I also seriously respect it as an art form and this response was uncalled for; not to mention completely rude. My end opinion? The audience behavior told me perhaps more about the people than all my travels to date. Though I hate to generalize the world on this one international audience, I think such a conclusion can be made; and it is in the audience reaction that I truly experienced something from the film. Many people, when confronted with something they do not understand, will simply turn and run away. Others will stand up and declare it “complete shit.” And many who may have the opposite opinion as the popular group will simply remain silent in their seats. As for me, I might not understand it, but I trust the artist and his personal vision. On the festival level, I trust my programmers when they select such a piece and deem it worthy of presentation. Die Wiedergänger ended up being a living piece of art, and I would like to urge people to take some time and have patience with what they do not understand.
Interior: Leather Bar.
On the topic of experimental film comes James Franco’s third project to be presented at Berlinale–though in one of the press conferences he couldn’t help but note he had submitted four, and one was “deemed not worthy.” I think we can all imagine his tone as he expressed this. Interior: Leather Bar is not what you expect it to be. Initially billed as a recreation of lost footage from the Al Pachino film Cruising, Interior: Leather Bar was assumed to be an artistic rendition of the scene, or of the creation of the scene, as well as a statement against censorship. Rather, what we have is more of a quasi-documentary/mocumentary/behind-the-scenes film about a personal project of Franco working on recreating the making of the scene. Essentially, it isn’t entirely clear what the approach is, since we do not know if Franco was honestly working to recreate the scene from Cruising, if the film we get is scripted, or if it just a display of the artistic process.
Interior: Leather Bar is extremely raw, and in this way makes a good stance against censorship. Be prepared to see a good amount of explicit sexual content, and if this makes you uncomfortable, I would say do your best to bear it because the film is exceptionally intriguing. For me, the most interesting part of the film was hearing the varying reasons the extras had to try and be in the footage Franco was supposedly working to recreate. Some were there to try and get an “in” with Franco, others were there just for the subject matter, and some truly believed in Franco’s project. The dialog between all characters in the film is very poignant. From Franco trying to come to terms with what it is he is trying to do, to the individuals “getting to know each other” a bit right before jumping into a scene of hardcore, leather clad sex.
The film for me was really a look at the artistic process, and the emotions and struggles we go through to bring our visions to life. There are moments of tremendous doubt, but Franco pulls through with the help of his friends who believe in him and what he is doing. It makes a statement about the need to surround ourselves with those who want the best for us, and will be the voice of support when we are ready to give up. Whatever Franco was trying to accomplish with this project, I would say he was successful. I really enjoyed it, and found myself really wishing it was longer than 60 minutes. The method of shooting the film interested me on a journalistic level, and this is certainly not your average film. The real reason behind how this film came together may always remain a mystery to me, but I am fine with that. I think it is best to not know sometimes and just trust the vision of the art.
James Franco at a press conference for his film Interior: Leather Bar
COMING UP: With the festival coming to an end, I am enjoying the time I now have to relax a bit. I have seen nearly all of the bigger name films I was hoping to see, and am now branching out a little bit more–attending a few screenings at random just to get a look at some films that I may never have another chance to see. The awards will be occurring soon, and I am really anxious to see the jury’s impression of the films that have been screened throughout the week.