AFI Review: Day 7

Our reviews of Beyond the Black Rainbow, Snowtown and Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan in the controversial sex drama Shame!

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

The last batch of movies I saw at AFI Fest.


BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW6 out of 10 – I’m always happy to catch a Fantastic Fest movie I missed, and it’s especially nice to see measured, abstract images in a local theater. Beyond the Black Rainbow definitely brought the weird to Hollywood. It looks like ‘70s sci-fi with sparse settings that are just a little off. It’s just weird enough, not in your face but characters speak in unnatural rhythms and just linger on things a little too long. A synthesized keyboard score adds to a sense of uneasiness. There’s an authority figure (Michael Rogers) talking at a silent girl (Eva Allen), bouncing back and forth between him and her non reactions. I don’t know what it means and I don’t care. I’m in Tree of Life mode. Just experience it. There were a few walkouts but that’s better than I Melt With You. I noticed five people sleeping in the general vicinity of my seat in the theater, so that’s more telling. It could be long and slow to get through but I needed my fix of weird. It gets gooey, there’s a glowing triangle and smoke. I don’t know how Panos Cosmatos built or found some of the sets he used. It ends with a suspenseful chase so you get something a little bit linear.


SHAME6 out of 10Shame is the Leaving Las Vegas of sex addiction. Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is pretty relentless about taking every opportunity to copulate or jerk off. It’s a great performance vehicle if not much more than reveling in the depths of addiction. I joke that Fassbender is so good looking and real sex addicts have to struggle to get their fix, but I know that’s not the point. It’s a disease. Fassbender grosses it up as much as he can contort that beautiful face of his. Director Steve McQueen shoots it beautifully with long single takes and tracking shots across New York City streets, and he lets extras walk in front of the shot and block the foreground action like they would in real life. The film has no answers, and barely even asks questions. It’s just characters and behavior. Carey Mulligan also captures the desperation of Brandon’s needy sister.


SNOWTOWN4 out of 10 – Here’s another Fantastic Fest holdover, although I think I managed to catch all the best ones while I was in Austin. Headhunters played AFI also. This one is well done, I guess, but very unpleasant to watch. It’s a stark portrait of homophobia and incest, so good times. This family is really F’ed up and then they do really bad things. The film doesn’t pull punches and it’s important to expose these crimes especially in other parts of the world, but this is Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer territory.