For the uninitiated, Fantastic Fest is a film festival Drafthouse films puts on every year, one dedicated to all things weird and funky and cool. Instead of yacht parties and soirees, there’s breakfast tacos and boxing. You can drink beer in the theaters, and they even put yours truly on a jury, so you know they’re crazy. Basically, it’s the kind of festival you get when the people running the show care more about the movies than the celebs n’ glamour. Think beards, tattoos, novelty T-shirts — Austin, Texas.
Here are some of the films I saw the first few days, in ascending order.
Directed by Lee Sang-woo. 94 Minutes. South Korea.
Programmer Todd Brown introduced Dirty Romance by saying director Sang-woo Lee’s last film, Trash (the third in his “bad family” trilogy, following Mother is a Whore and Father is a Dog, per the Fantastic Fest program), had “a lot of penis,” and that Sang-woo had used himself as the penis double, which should give us some idea of the kind of film we were about to see.
Sure enough, Dirty Romance was certainly a nasty sex obsessed little piece of filth (he said with a certain reverence). Chul-joong lives with his sister, Mi-Joong, who is mentally and physically disabled, mostly incapable of leaving her bedroom floor, but fully capable of screaming. Mi-joong is in love with Chul-joong’s friend, Chang-gi, who Chul-joong strongarms into fulfilling Mi-joong’s sexual urges. Chang-gi’s mother, incidentally, is also mentally disabled, so Chang-gi keeps her lovingly chained up by an ankle like a dog in her apartment. (This is quite humane compared to the treatment she receives at the hands of her other son, Chang-gi’s recently-released-from-prison rapist brother.) Deok-ho, the son of a Chinese restaurant owner, is also mentally disabled, and in love with Mi-joong. They’re all poor and preying on each other. Love triangles, drunken sex with the disabled, rape, murder, and mentally disabled people shrieking with mouths full of noodles ensue. (I am not exaggerating; in fact I’m omitting). Call it The Rules Of Mentally Challenged Attraction.
I assume Sang-woo Lee crafted these plot points mostly as a way to get a reaction out of people, and as a fan of punk albums and Irvine Welsh novels, I get it. I appreciate it. But at a certain point, it becomes like listening to an entire G.G. Allin boxed set — lots of smeared feces, not a ton of melody. Anyway, if you really enjoy the sound of mentally challenged people screaming, and you can’t make it to CPAC, this is the movie for you. It’s certainly a singular experience.