Last Screening (2011)

SEPTEMBER 24, 2011


The nice thing about hosting HMAD screenings is that I pick the movies and thus really like them (well, maybe not Terror Train - that movie does NOT work in a theater at midnight), so I don't have to worry about coming up with Q&A questions for a movie I wasn't all that in love with. But after some scheduling snafus resulted in the moderator having to bail on Last Screening (French: Dernière Séance), the great Scott Weinberg needed an emergency substitute, and thus I agreed to help him out even though I hadn't seen the flick.

Also the Q&A was with the actor. While I have nothing against actors, I find it very difficult to come up with questions for them; I'm just not interested much in their process and that sort of stuff. Even when I interviewed Chevy Chase - my damn hero - I had trouble coming up with more than 1-2 generic questions. And to make matters worse, the actor, Pascal Cervo, was French and had a translator, which meant my usual dry humor approach wouldn't work.

Oh and then I didn't love the movie.

It wasn't terrible or anything, but it really had nothing to it beyond the two line synopsis: a lonely manager of a failing repertory cinema spends his nights killing random women and taking their ears as a trophy. What he does with the ears is revealed at the halfway mark, and WHY he does it near the end, but neither answer is particularly interesting. And it's also shockingly conflict-free; at one point there is a witness to one of his murders, and later the guy shows up at the theater and gives him the "I know it was you" look, but nothing comes of it. What could have been a cool little tense subplot is just abandoned, which is a big problem in a narrative that is already too slim.

I was also a bit miffed that the writeup described it as a Giallo - it was not even slightly like one other than the fact that most of the victims were female. As Ryan Rotten pointed out, a Giallo has mystery to it, whereas this had none. And not even the director could defend that the kill scenes were stylish - most of them were off-screen entirely, and only one (in a car after a long take) had any real spark to it.

What keeps it entertaining is the surprisingly sweet budding romance between Julian and Manon, an equally shy actress who falls asleep in the theater one night and thus comes back to see the film again, sparking his interest in the process. The actors either really were nervous around each other or just had a terrific ability to convey that sort of "chemistry", and since my favorite film of the festival to that point was the rom-com You Said What?, I actually wouldn't have minded if the killing part of the plot was abandoned and they just focused on the far more interesting romance - apparently I was "in the mood".

Also, the idea of setting a film around a repertory cinema is awesome to me, and unlike Midnight Movie or others I've seen, they depict the reality of such places quite well. A subplot about the owner wanting to sell the place and turn it into a store hit home (the New Bev nearly fell victim to that very thing until Quentin saved the day), and there's also a character named Mr. Paul that reminded me of New Bev patron saint Clu Gulager, a film lover who frequents the theater and sticks around to talk about it once it's done. It adds a very welcome layer of authenticity to the film that I very much appreciated, though I was a bit puzzled by the theater's seeming lack of a concession stand.

But the fact that it kept dropping story points drove me nuts. I mentioned the witness, but in addition to that is the fact that Manon apparently has a boyfriend at one point, but he's never mentioned again. There's a very vague sequence where he watches some hookers, one of whom is apparently beaten up by a potential john, before killing one and then staring at traffic from an overpass for what seems like five minutes (we spend a lot of the film staring at Julian's back). And his method of taking care of the "theater is closing" subplot doesn't really make any sense if you think about it - does this place simply not follow through when its employees fail to show up the next day?

It did succeed at creating a sympathetic killer with an actor that I was not familiar with (on screen or off! I didn't meet him until the movie had ended), something that is not always easy. A movie like Theatre Of Blood might not work if not for the fact that we as moviegoers love Vincent Price and thus can side with him for killing a bunch of critics just because they gave him a bad review. But apart from the fact that Cervo resembled a young Dudley Moore, I had no attachment to this guy whatsoever, yet I was hoping he'd get his shit together right until the end.

However, I wanted a little more meat on the bone. Good performances and a unique setting for the main thrust of the story can't make up for the fact that they were seemingly using a "Guy you sort of love is also a killer" template and forgot to put in their own stuff. Thus, it sort of became the world's longest short film, where describing the basic plot is unfortunately just the same as providing a complete synopsis.

What say you?


Post a Comment

Movie & TV Show Preview Widget