A beautiful, funny and consistently enjoyable film from Producer/Screenwriter Jim Lair Beard and Director Steve Balderson, Occupying Ed is one of the best films I’ve seen this year, let alone at raindance film festival.
This year has seen some top quality entries into the festival, and I was lucky enough to meet two leading stars in one of the best of the best. Ed, played by the wonderful talent that is Chris Sams, is having a crisis an identity crisis, that sees him blackout and wake up days, sometimes weeks apart. If none of that was alarming enough, when Ed’s gone, Helena’s been stepping in and she’s got her own life, her own friends and gorgeous girlfriend, Nicole ( a perfectly charming and strong turn from Holly Hinton). The community love her. Maybe even prefer her.
It’s a conventional love story packaged in an entirely unique (and I honestly mean unique) way. Progressive, positive and incredibly well written and acted – a fantastic supporting cast (the camp priest, the inebriated cafe owner and the overtly playful boss are just a few of an array of incredibly memorable tertiary characters) that truly help lift the charismatic pairing of Hinton and Sams.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all laughs and metaphorical messages about societal acceptance or ones on human psychology – not everyone is on board the split personality train, Ed included. There’s his older brother Troy (John Werskey – has to grace my screen again, not only is he handsome – his scene with Sams at the end of the film is superbly delivered – and only 3 takes!) . An alpha male who practically raised Ed, clearly still sees him as his charge, and is unable to come to terms with losing his brother to a woman.
What’s also great about Occupying Ed is that Helena is but a name until the last 10 minutes of the film. Up until then she’s merely spoken of and referred fondly to. Evidence (a bra here, a lipstick stain there… ) of her presence is all we have to go on. It’s an important and brave choice; that presents a potentially complex premise narrows it down by presenting it from one perspective.
We’re allowed to really connect and sympathise with Ed, it’s also imperative that this isn’t too comical and silly – to flit between the two personas would make too much light out of problem that does actually exist, and it’s more interesting to hear about her from those who have met her, everyone but the person who shares a body with her. It’s more satisfying to witness Ed’s unravelling and subsequent acceptance of himself (Ed really does break down when memories of his mother and his unavoidable attraction to Nicole) before the elusive Helena graces us with her presence. Timing is everything. In a time where originality is a rarity in cinema, Occupying Ed couldn’t have come any sooner.
Art of Darkness
DIRECTOR(S):DAVID PARKER DOP: DAVID PARKER JAZZ VIRK RANDY HOLDER CAST: BRYAN LEWIS SAUNDERS
Artist Bryan Lewis Saunders has painted a self-portrait every single day… since 1995
10,000 self-portraits and counting, 11 of them painstakingly drawn under the influence of recreational drugs. Artist and performer Bryan Lewis Saunders is an enigma and exceptionally talented man.
In Art of Darkness we’re taken on an incredible journey of Saunders life where he discloses the childhood fears and experiences that has and still shapes the intricately mapped out world he lives in.
It’s an eloquently produced and directed film from David Parker, that confidently allows its subject to do all the work in steering the narrative. The results are mesmerising and at times terrifying. Each portrait shared comes with an impervious explanation, sometimes deep-rooted others fleeting.
Saunders self portraits aren’t just about self-preservation, they’re also about self-control. To him the his work acts as a therapeutic means to dealing with dark fantasies and desires that have blighted his past. He even invented a performance art – Stand-up tragedy – in which he recites monologues to engrossed audiences, giving another dimension to what he puts to paper. It’s fascinating listening to Saunders recall the incomparable story of his 11 day narcotic experiment and seeing the results on paper. Audiences unfamiliar with Saunders and his work will appreciate watching and listening to a man who is anything but mediocre – art of darkness
Fuku Chan of fukufuku Flats
DIRECTOR(S):YOSUKE FUJITA WRITER(S): YOSUKE FUJITA DOP: YOSHIHIRO IKEUCHI CAST:MIYUKI OSHIMA, YOSHIYOSHI ARAKAWA, ASAMI MIZUKAWA
A Japanese slacker comedy about the loveable Fuku, who is too shy to speak to women- Raindance.org
A young sleeping labourer is taking a nap on a roof, unbeknownst to him a prank is about to be played at his expense. It’s humiliation of the highest order – to have someone fart on your face in front of your co-workers, whilst you’re napping. It’s the kind of injustice one man won’t stand for, enter Fuku-Chan of Fukufuku flats as he mediates the absurd tension by… well you’ll have to see for yourself; but this is the kind of opening that more than sets up the tone for the rest of the film.
Tatsuo, or Fuku-Chan as he’s fondly referred to, is a kind young man with little worries in his life save for an adverse willingness to find love. A labourer by day and keen kite painter and flier the rest of the time means that trouble unwillingly comes to his doorstep rather than Fuku inviting it. One of those troubles literally comes to his door, in the form of a young and beautiful woman who shares a humiliating past with Fuku-Chan, and is seeking redemption.
Charming, loyal and self-deprecating Fuku-Chan begins a journey of self-discovery and acceptance with the help of new friends and old. Told through a series of surreal and comedic moments on camera from a song and dance number to an over-the-top kite-flying sequence and a particularly drawn out but funny scene in a curry-house; all are intertwined with some darker looks at sexual harassment, depression and mental illness. Like Occupying ED it balances all these themes under a strong umbrella of a love story, this time told from a quintessentially Japanese perspective, and for western audiences, that gives it a refreshing and unique edge to the myriad of romantic-comedies we insist on repackaging every year (I’m looking at you Hollywood).
Interestingly Fuku-Chan is played by well-known Japanese comedienne, Miyuki Oshima, who was approached by Director Yosuke Fujita after he’d seen her on tv and just had to have her in the film. The fact that she is a woman was no exception, only her cheery lovable face and similarly affable demeanor would do, and so he wrote the script based on the assumption that she was going to play the part – had she said no, then the film would cease to exist. This is Oshima’s role, and the fact that she’s really a woman is immediately forgotten when you become ingrained in Fuku-Chan’s story.fuku link
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