Show this to anyone who thinks cinephiles can't have fun! Peter Strickland blurs the line between art and entertainment as he does between agony and ecstasy, between original inspiration and retro pastiche, between honesty and novelty with In Fabric, his most gleefully enjoyable work to date. This is corny B-movie slasher as arthouse specialty pick, exploitation with all the creases ironed out and replaced by probing self-reflection, reflecting keenly upon a most outrageous of horror premises: the dress... that kills!
Strickland pitches this feature not on the ambiguous intersection between reality and fantasy but at the other end of the curve altogether, where the two extremes meet in a deliberately overt juxtaposition of clashing perspectives. Mirrored images collide with split screens, interiors (and what few exteriors there are) have the cramped, dimly lit aesthetic of grim British soap operas, and blatant absurdity descends down to satirize every last aspect of this silliness, even as it contributes directly toward it. There's utterly no point to any of what Strickland bundles into this movie, which finds some new manner of surprising its viewer at every turn, yet maintains a stylistic consistency through this baffling collage of oddity upon oddity. This is good and true fun spun from serious artistry, and I shall forever more be referring to every major incident as 'a dramatic affliction'.
Us cinephiles continue to enjoy ourselves within the oeuvre of Guy Maddin, insofar as it is possible to enjoy oneself when using the word 'oeuvre'. He is now collaborating regularly with brothers Evan and Galen Johnson, and their latest production is the short film Accidence, a Rear Window-esque single take of an apartment block exterior, with all the myriad details of life on the balconies and through the windows. It's like a maxi-miniature, a remarkable work of production design and of choreography and directorial ingenuity - the dozen or so individual narratives bound around for a while, fairly aimlessly save for one crucial strand, whose particular peculiarities eventually coalesce into identifiable form in a joke that's pure Maddin, or maybe it's pure Maddin/Johnson/Johnson. The impossibility of keeping up with everything that the directors have here devised is part of that grand joke, making Accidence the perfect title to play on appropriate loop.
If Accidence is a quirky little treat, The Green Fog is a majestic big one (as a feature, however, it's extremely short, at only just over an hour in duration). It plays like an outsider's view on an alien's version of Vertigo, and the Hitchcock references here are far bolder than in Accidence. Indeed, this is often a direct remake of Vertigo, albeit with sporadic recreations only and some humorous digressions. A green fog spreads across San Francisco, extracting from the oft-photographed city a new take on its most famous screen presentation, with clips from other San Francisco-set visual media standing in for scenes and sequences from the original. We get museums and paintings, a flower shop, churches and bell towers, the obligatory steeply-inclined avenues, and all manner of duplicitous transformations.
We also get Karl Malden as a clown, Rock Hudson analyzing an NSYNC music video, and the joys of several solid minutes of Chuck Norris' permanently bemused expression. So The Green Fog wilfully abandons whatever logic it might have tried to follow in recreating an existing narrative - why should it, when the collective imaginations of its three directors are so bountiful as to have conceived of such an audacious project, and are thus so capable of delivering more than what would inevitably amount to less? Vertigo is rightly a classic, so The Green Fog pursues its own, ridiculous route toward similar status. And with this much panache, you'd have to be a real killjoy not to love every second of these directors' journey along that route. You'd have to be one of those cinephiles who just can't have fun!
All three movies are screening currently at the BFI London Film Festival. Accidence and The Green Fog are showing together, while In Fabric screens In Competition!