MEEK AT THE MOVIES : Indie DIY – Two Far-flung Visions on the Cheap

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^ young dalliance : Michael Cera and Gaby Hoffman

For the second time this summer we find Michael Cera behaving badly in a bathroom. In “This is the End” he was effete and self-centered as he was orally pleasured by two nubile ingénues. Here, in “Crystal Fairy,” as an American in Chile on a quest for the ultimate peyote, his Jamie has some flushing complications after a number two. Normally this would be a conundrum for most, but Jamie happens to be stoned and hanging out with a few of his Chilean hommies, so what’s a little stink among friends?

The head-trip objective runs its narrative arc fairly straight up with a few scatological sprinkles and some moronic lunacy along the way. In most every scene, Jamie’s shrieking hubris consumes the screen, and it doesn’t help he can’t speak Spanish. As far as the project’s origins, you can almost see director Sebastián Silva cooking it up with Cera after coming down from an altered state: “Hey man, all we need is an investor or your Indie famous mug on Kickstarter.” One-time child star Gaby Hoffman checks in as the title character continually at odds with Jamie. She’s a true free-spirit, resoundingly exemplified as she drinks cocktails with the boys in the buff. Jamie, who sees her as an interloper raining on his parade, tells her to cover up, but no one else cares. So goes the movie. She’s tuned in, in touch and can speak the language, he’s just an ugly American. That’s the trip.

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^ Anwar Congo : garrote that man

“The Act of Killing” isn’t a documentary in the conventional sense, not even. Its director, Joshua Oppenheimer has described the film as a “documentary of the imagination,” which is deftly more to the point. What Oppenheimer has done is quite ingenious. The film within a film tautly sheds light on the Indonesian death squads of the ’60s (sanctioned by the nascent government that was passively green-lighted by Western powers) without being a chronicle. Back then, Anwar Congo, who looks slightly like Nelson Mandela, was a petty hood scalping movie tickets until the power shift made him the leader of a militia group that operated with autonomy, little accountability and assumed impunity. He killed thousands, mostly by garrote as he grimly demonstrates for the camera, but Oppenheimer isn’t interested in recreation or testimony, he’s after the soul of a killer and gives Congo a camera to make a movie that encapsulates his legacy.

What Congo comes up with are staged, grand military invasions replete with jeeps, gun turrets mounted, rolling into a jungle village — and surreal nightmare sequences in which he plays the victim. The production values are low, and there is plenty of baroque imagery, like the siren-esque women singing alongside a misty waterfall, the ample overuse of studio blood, and – almost in every sequence — a chubby former executioner in drag. Oppenheimer inter-cuts it starkly with some revelations from Congo and TV footage from back when Congo was revered as a national hero. The journey is amazing, but at some point Oppenheimer becomes too much of a bystander and the wonderment becomes inert. Looming questions never get answered, but you still leave with a pit in your stomach and an itch to google Anwar Congo and the whole bloody chapter on the South Pacific isle.

Crystal Fairy – 2.5 STARS

The Act of Killing – 3 STARS

—- Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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