Saturday, December 15, 2012

Ballsywood: "Gandu" (2012)

"Gandu" is a hardcore and fast paced experimental look at the life of a young aspiring rapper growing up in India.

Anubrata is Gandu (slang Hindi for "asshole") who lives with his youngish-looking mother (Kamalika), who makes a living sleeping with the owner of the local internet cafe, Das Babu (Shilajit). Gandu doesn't work, and hangs around the cafe and back streets of his hometown, constantly playing a lottery and losing. He literally runs into ricksha driver/Bruce Lee worshipper Ricksha (Joyraj), and the two become friends. The duo begins dabbling in drugs, and the film takes a bizarre turn into the downward spiral that is Gandu's life. The director even makes a cameo appearance in the film, playing a director of a film entitled "Gandu"...

While the film is light on plot, "Gandu" is heavy with showy editing and enough bells and whistles to keep the viewer interested. Q turns many film cliches on their ears. The film's credits are placed at an odd point in the running time. The black and white photography gives way to blinding, saturated color toward the end, and this does feature some very un-Bollywood hardcore sex scenes. Even the subtitles are played with, brilliantly. I am not a fan of rap or hip-hop by any stretch of the imagination, but Gandu's angry and explosive raps are very good, and Q films them in such a way that I appreciated both the use of the songs as characterization, as well as the songs themselves.

My one major drawback with the film is the almost nonexistent plot. Watching a character descend into a drug induced life has been done before, and while Q brings all sort of new ideas to his film technically, he comes up short with any sort of character arc. Some of the main plot points that occur are telegraphed undeliberately, and I got the feeling that I was having a bait and switch being pulled on me.

That being said, not many out there can say they have seen a film like "Gandu" before. The drug hallucination scenes are simple and creepy. The cast is excellent, with Anubrata anchoring everything well. His Gandu is not nobly angry, and not unlikable. He is a confused, pained young man who I eventually came to care about. The supporting cast is all good, and the setting is gritty and unexotic, losing the viewer in this dark world. Much has been made of the film's hardcore sex scenes, but this is one of the few films I have seen where they actually add to the entire experience. They are not erotic. They play realistically, although you wonder where the hallucinations end and the sex and success begin.

Throughout "Gandu" I kept thinking back to Abel Ferrara's body of work. This film is grim and fascinating, and not one you will soon forget. (* * * *) out of five stars.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Gut Check: "Gut" (2012)

"Gut" is an uneasy little film mixing elements of both "The Ring" and "The Human Centipede", and turning in a nifty ninety minute exercise in creepiness.

Dan (Nicholas Wilder) and Tom (Jason Vail) are lifelong friends who now work in an anonymous office doing anonymous office work. Tom is a family man, married to Lily (Sarah Schoofs), and has a cute daughter. Single nerd Dan is stuck in adolescence, obsessed with horror films, and his friendship with Tom is all he has going for him. While the film opens with an act of violence being perpetrated by Tom, we are not sure what is happening until the film's climax. Director Elias then uses his editing skills to give us a realistic peek into the lives of these two men. Dan orders a DVD from an underground video website. The disc is disturbing, showing what looks like an autopsy being performed on a living person. Dan is enthralled with the disc, and invites Tom to watch it, too. Tom already seems to be devolving in a midlife crisis, and the video begins changing both men. They can't stop thinking about it, and Tom withdraws into his own little world while Dan starts getting a bit of confidence, asking out diner waitress Sally (Angie Bullaro).

Tom begs Dan to get rid of the discs, but Dan only comes up with more of them, and the two begin a codependent relationship centering around their bloodlust and disdain for what they are watching. Eventually, one of the victims on a disc turns out to be a person in their lives, and the entire cast is suddenly in mortal danger.

Writer/director/editor Elias does a great job setting the mood early on in the film. I was reminded of David Lynch watching this, each shot has a quality to it that makes the viewer squirm, whether it be something innocent like the daughter's bedroom, or the cold clinical autopsy violence. The cinematography looks drab (in a good way), and the low budget allows the film makers to make use of believable locations that feel like real homes, not a "decorated" set.

Wilder and Vail are fantastic. I believed their friendship, we don't always attract people in our lives who are exactly like us. Schoofs, and Bullaro, play supporting love interest roles nicely. The musical score is also creepy, almost industrial and noisy as the film progresses. The gore effects are also good, without overwhelming the viewer with blood and guts. A few scenes drag here and there, and the ending can be read a few ways. The cast is small, and this intimacy forces the viewer to focus on the two central characters in the film. The roles require quite a bit of nudity and sexuality that never feels exploitative, although sometimes Elias' use of F-bombs feels a little forced.

Gut" is one unsettling film, perfect for late night viewing by horror fans. As a fan of weird underground stuff that most people shun, is it wrong of me to associate with some of this a little too much? I recommend "Gut." (* * * *) out of five stars.