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by Bill Gibron

22 May 2009


The romantic effort - literary, cinematic, or otherwise - typically gets a raw deal, and with good reason. The story of boy meeting girl, boy wooing girl, girl accepting boy, boy and girl having fun (and perhaps something more), boy and girl breaking it off and then attempting some kind of reconciliation has been the bread and butter for filmmakers, songwriters, and novelists alike. No matter the twists and turns in the paradigm, the formula stays pretty much the same - and that’s part of the problem. Decades of derivative, similarly styled offerings have taken all the heart out of the genre. Even with the occasional narrative twist, the same old stuff happens to a very familiar group of people. Not in Giuseppe Andrews world, of course. The provocateur of the impoverished has taken the moldy old format and shown all wannabe auteurs how to bring the heart - and the humanity - back to the typical couples skate. In Our Garden is the amazing result.

Daisy is devastated. Her boyfriend recently committed suicide in their “garden” - a loving reference to the beach volleyball court where they first met. Unable to find happiness, she’s lost in a world of borderline insanity. One day, police officer Rick stops by her trailer. He is the one who found her dead lover, and hopes he can make a connection with the grieving gal. Sure enough, they become an item, which irks toupee-wearing Bill to no end. He’s the father of the man who killed himself, and he wants Daisy as well. As the suitors maneuver for her affections, our heroine is confused. She has strong feelings for both of them. Then Rick drops a personal bombshell which violates her ever-present trust issues. As Bill moves in, our former cop turns to the bottle, and then crack cocaine. All he wants is a chance to get back into Daisy’s good graces. But unless something happens to Bill, that seems unlikely.

Leave it to the man who singlehandedly rewrote the rulebook on homemade cinema as art to take one of the most tired, derivative narrative archetypes in all of prose and punk it past the point of recognition. Long rumored to be an unflappable masterpiece, In Our Garden is all that - and much, much more. It’s an elegy to love lost, a sonnet to the simple pleasures of finding someone to share your life with. It’s not afraid of the physical and clearly in touch with the spiritual. With a limited cast that includes the sensational Gayle Wells, the brilliant Bill Nowlin, and the always engaging Walt Dongo, Andrews narrows his scope, the result being something overflowing with universal truths and wholly unique insights. Though his actors frequently do little more than read off intricate litanies to scatology and sin, the words paint painful pictures we usually don’t see in such Moon/June sputum.

For Andrews, the entire process of film is about realism - and not just because he uses the actual residents of a trailer park as his creative company. No, what fuels this fascinating artist is his direct connection to what makes people truly what they are. When Daisy explains what the word “crabs” means to her, we initially balk at the disgusting sexual sleaze. But as the monologue continues, we forget the freak show sentiments and start to see the accurate feelings beneath. Andrews is truly a genius of the written word, his scripts like beat poetry set to the tune of scandalous toilet humor frat rap. He’s dirty, but outwardly so, never avoiding a random call out of body parts and positions to keep his audience engaged and entertained. Then, just as we think he can’t get any more revolting, he twists the material to expose the real human emotions underneath.

It helps that In Our Garden offers three of his best double wide DeNiros. Dongo is always reliable, his hound dog haplessness covered nicely by a desire to be direct and honest. Similarly, Nowlin (even in an obviously inebriated state) spits out his anger in tiny little balls of bristling bile. As the man who helped Andrews become the living legend he is, his presence today is sorely missed. But it’s Ms. Wells who steps up and becomes this film’s levelheaded foundation. Having to carry most of the dialogue herself (especially when her co-stars are too tanked up to talk) and also hampered with carrying the conventional parts of the narrative, she delivers a turn so devastating in its poignancy that it’s hard to believe she is merely mimicking Andrews oddball screenplay. There is real genuineness in her elf-eared effigy, something that many Hollywood romances clearly lack.

By following a recognizable story structure (there is none of the William Burroughs inspired cut and paste editing from previous outings here) and letting the characters develop organically, Andrews turns the maudlin and mushy into something quite meaningful. Even a last act rape-reenactment - a bizarre attempt by Bill to win Daisy’s affections - has a symbolic statement to make. In essence, In Our Garden is about the lasting memories of love lost, love found, and love never meant to be. Daisy is clearly longing for some companionship, but it’s unclear if either Rick or Bill can provide it. They both seem so selfish, so insular in their affections that it’s hard to balance their profane poetics with the truth. It’s only after the inevitable break-up, where Rick descends into a horrific drug-fueled Hell (including a surreal stretch with a couple of friendly dealers) that we can see who truly carried the torch.

By including moments of sexual openness, including full frontal nudity and frank reproductive discussions, In Our Garden becomes a complete deconstruction of the foibles present in interpersonal relationships. It doesn’t shy away from the dealing with all aspects of affairs - the joy and the sorrow, the tenderness and the jealousy. By taking a well honed formula and tweaking its tired tenets, he creates yet another amazing statement in his considered creative canon. For someone so prolific to be so diverse in his talent targets speaks volumes for his continued relevance within the medium. Movies about love are a dime a dozen. In Our Garden takes those sentimentalized coins and actually buys something brave and unique. It’s a great, great film.

by Bill Gibron

22 May 2009


Sex in the cinema is always so clean. Even when it’s given a patina of perversion, it’s still played mostly for mild mainstream enjoyment. No film wants to show the truth about interpersonal pyrotechnics, especially in a wholly realistic and authentic manner. Even XXX pornography cleans up the copulation with actors and actresses who fuel the fantasy of, not the facts about, f*cking. But not Giuseppe Andrews. As the king of uber-contemporary cinema, the man who has made the trailer park the last bastion for true motion picture art, screwing around needs to be dirty, disquieting, uncomfortable, and most of all, hilarious. As part of his Bathrobe Homeschool Box Set, The Date Movie delivers on such soiled, sullied dispositions. It proves that physical contact between human beings is not always pretty. In fact, most of the time, it’s downright disgusting.

Two wannabe ‘gansta’ white boys share a trailer - and a case of squirrel-influenced stomach flu. An old man channels the spirit of a horse known as Mr. Ted and writes a hate-filled tome in the steed’s name. Two meth dealers discover a rat in their lab and one adopts it as his very own pet. A young man must face the fact that his mother is a whore and his father is her pimp. A middle aged man must face the fact that his mother is dying of emphysema and losing her marbles. And what do they all have in common, aside from an addictive need to drink the latest alcohol-laced specialty beverage, Pussy Juice? Why, it’s the unending craving for sex and/or sexual fulfillment - and sometimes, not in the way “normal” people view such biological and physiological desires.

Here it is - the Giuseppe Andrews we’ve all grown to love, the Giuseppe Andrews with a pixie like spring in his cinematic step and a thesaurus of lickety lewd crude talk. This ADD inspired journey into the heart of human darkness, a Eisenstein edited romp across shit, piss, and any other bodily fluid you can think of has little or no narrative logic. As he does with his frequently feverish dream, Andrews sets up a group of compelling creeps and lets us watch as they interact, interject, and interfere with each others battered lives. Every once in a while, the implied action will stop so that someone can go off on a several page rant, complete with risqué commandments and horndog demands. Andrews is best known for these dirty word dialectics, juvenile jousts at reproductive served up as satiric stand-up riffs. That they always work is a testament to his talent both behind the camera and in front of the typewriter.

The main theme here is one of longing and desire. Indeed, what The Date Movie seems to be saying about people is that when they aren’t having sex (and there is little actual aardvarking presented here), they’re thinking about it. They’re obsessed with it, allowing its pleasures and pains to influence their entire life. If you look closely, you can see it in the hip hop hokum of the wannabes, trading barbs with ventriloquist dummies as substitutes for actual conversation. You can definitely see it in the meth heads, a lifetime of cooking and snorting drugs leading them to channel their needs elsewhere. And as usual, a very brave (and very naked) Tyree takes us through the daily ritual of a lonely lunatic who doesn’t mind pleasuring himself to anything (and EVERYTHING) he has around the house.

But Andrews also goes for the throat, showing how sex can ruin relationships and compromise trust. One of the first scenes shows a wannabe arguing with a one night stand over their child producing consummation. Later, a son argues frantically with his father over his mother’s profession. In a classic bit of toilet humor burlesque, Walt Dongo plays a husband who can’t get his wife in the sack. Of course, his nonstop flatulence doesn’t help matters much. And then there are moments of sheer heartbreak, as when Tyree picks up a photo of himself from World War II (an actual image, by the way) and the camera stares endlessly at the young face, fresh and ready to take on the world. The Date Movie is indeed centered on sex, but there are also keen insights into aging, mental wellness, and death to be discovered.

Of course, there are also controversial elements that might make the uninitiated cringe. Andrews loves to provoke, and nothing will get the dander up of pro-PC complainers quicker than his use of the N-word. While never aimed at a minority, there are plenty of times in Date Movie when the epithet is spoken - in jest, in anger, for random reactionary shock value. Similarly, full frontal nudity is present and accounted for, and Tyree is the beneficiary of Andrews imposing lens. Watching a naked octogenarian slap his inert “member” with a sticky toy will not be everyone’s cup of cinematic tea, and even for a seasoned Andrews aficionado, the fetish can be much. But this is moviemaking as reality, authentic glimpses of life along the fringes. If you can’t stand the vile visual heat, then perhaps you should get out of this auteur’s soul kitchen ASAP.

This doesn’t infer, however, that everything in Date Movie is magic. Sometimes, Andrews indulges his muse to the point where it pukes up on everything he is trying to accomplish, and as with many of his more surreal outings, a certain scatological wavelength must be maintained less you find yourself feeling filthy - and completely lost - afterward. But if you peer in between the sleazy seams, if you read between the ludicrous lines of halting human misery, you will discover a film of breathtaking insight and wit. As a roadmap to where he would eventually take his incredible talent, The Date Movie is a Hellsapoppin’ journey along life’s many perverted pathways and over its many diseased potholes. Take it for what it’s worth, and you probably will be offended. Look closer and you might just see the sickening truth staring right back at you. Sex is not all rose petals and orgasms. It’s a horrific human endeavor, and only Giuseppe Andrews has the courage to call it out and complain.

by Bill Gibron

21 May 2009


Money is much more than the root of all evil. It’s the great social destabilizer, a stigma that makes the haves seem better and the have-nots hang their heads in shame. It causes people to do things, reprehensible things, just to keep from drowning in debt, and it offers the slightest glimmer of hope for those who really haven’t a chance in Hell of ever seeing a substantial payday. The crass class distinctions created, the undeniable stress of being without and the immoral drive of having too much, sets the stage for some of our most complex and compelling stories. Giuseppe Andrews clearly agrees. His amazing masterpiece, Air Conditioning, takes a neo-realistic look at how far certain citizens will go to enjoy the simple comforts of civilization - said acts including, lying, cheating, and most horrifically, murder.

Latuga is a desperate woman living a desperate life. Divorced from fancy suit store owner Classe, she is forced to live in a small studio apartment and care for the couple’s ex-heroin addict son Puzo. The boy, obsessed with a toy barbeque pit, is always on the verge of some horrific act. In order to earn money, Latuga services her ex-husband’s needs. Most of the time, that means picking up a rifle and killing the homeless bums that hang out in front of his shop. At other instances, it’s something far more perverted. Meanwhile, Frisco and his deformed brother Defetto avoid Latuga’s gunfire while coming up with a plan to get off the street. The solution? Marry someone of means and get a free pass to a place with the ultimate in live-in luxury…air conditioning. Naturally, Frisco winds up wooing Latuga, and they are quickly wed. When Classe finds out about the situation, he’s livid. Such anger sparks Puzo into an act of violence. Fate, however, has a different plan for all of them.

Proving that he can work within a conventional storyline and with a normal, albeit slightly askew set of characters, Air Conditioning instantly becomes Giuseppe Andrews’ mainstream masterwork, and creative calling card for the future. It’s the kind of whacked out wonder that the Coen Brothers on peyote might dream up - that is, if they weren’t so busy reinventing old school Hollywood to find their own unique voice. It’s quirk without the self-conscious nod to same, idiosyncrasy with its abnormality cemented solidly within the confines of a recognizable world. Granted, Andrews is obviously channeling the Italian filmmakers of the ‘50s and ‘60s, his constant flights of Mediterranean tinged magic (language, names) proving that he knows from whence his artform muse derived, but he’s also avoiding most of said source’s trappings. Instead of playing it straight, he deviates from the norm to give us a unique and thoughtful perspective.

Again, this is a film firmly founded in character. Latuga and Puzo wouldn’t be out of place in Pasolini’s Momma Roma, their poverty row passions easily seen as both everyday and wholly individual. The links this woman will go to care for her son resonates with any familiar family dramatization. Similarly, the villainous Classe (a brilliant Walt Dongo) is like every silent screen bad guy ever conceived. All he needs is a waxed moustache, a mortgage, and the threat of foreclosure to seal the clichéd deal. But Andrews understands our knowledge of cinema’s past, and plays with the archetype to the point where this version of personified greed actually comes across as more pathetic than vile. In fact, the worst character here may be Frisco. Keeping his genetically mutated brother in a garbage can is one thing. Using the excuse of love as a means of moving up in the financial food chain is horrifying in its self-serving cruelty.

It’s eye-opening to watch Andrews work without his standard scatology safety net. Characters don’t break out into rude rhymes or rummage through their own feces. Romance is substituted for sex, and even when Classe humiliates Latuga with her own urine, it’s part of an interpersonal struggle that we can clearly understand. Indeed, if you took out all the inferred weirdness, if you removed the recognizable bows to planned peculiarity, Air Conditioning would be a downbeat, depressing experience. We would see how Latuga cares for her sons, strains for her living, and sacrifices for her small comforts, and wonder how anyone could survive. With a setting far removed from his typical trailer park mystique, the results are revelatory.

The acting here is once again of the highest level. Andrews is not an inventive director. He is a visionary, but not necessarily when it comes to set-ups, framing, and compositions. Instead, he relies on the expressive faces of his cast to carry the day, close-ups revealing personal experiences washed across every wrinkle, every bit of beard stubble, every spot of adolescent acne. Dongo is delightful, as is straight standby Miles Dougal. As Latuga, Andrews introduces us to a wonderful young woman who uses her comforting size and shape as a means of making the maternal vividly real. She carries the film through many of its narrative hurdles, and finds a way of delivering even the most outrageous dialogue in a down to earth and homespun manner. As with all in Andrews’ outsider theatrical troupe, she adds the perfectly complement to the auteur’s own skewed perspective.

And yet some will look at Air Conditioning and wonder where all the crudeness went. There are those who revel in the kind of adolescent pants-wetting that made Andrews the savior of cinema since the Trailer Town days. Those who favor his more foul-mouthed methodology will definitely find the lack of lewdness disconcerting. But if you recognize that Andrews’ main modus is to take the underserved, the fringe fighting along the edges of the standard social norm, and place them in a position of prominence and personal dignity, the missing miscreance is understandable. Not every story has to be about stool samples. There are things more disgusting than old people running around naked. Money is such a foul, filthy thing that when you have such a soiled sentiment at the center of your storyline, there’s no need for more nastiness. Air Conditioning may be a way to beat the heat, but in the hands of a pure maestro like Giuseppe Andrews, it’s also a salve for, and the scourge of, the human soul.

by Bill Gibron

19 May 2009


Addiction is a terrible thing. Not only is it damaging physically and psychologically, but it destroys aspects of one’s life that they barely have direct control over. Families suffer, as do friends, careers, and acquaintances, and while the person under the spell of their own individual affliction has no real connection to said reality, the repercussions can be powerful and last forever. Of all the filmmakers poised to make a profound statement on such a compulsion, Giuseppe Andrews would be king of the shortbus list. By utilizing a cast of trailer park residents, some of whom have their own battles with the bottle to contend with, he has an authentic source of real human misery to work with. So what does he go and do with his examination of addiction, Monkey? He makes the most literally symbolic statement on the subject ever attempted.

Apartheid has been ordered to Green Hockers Rehab Center for excessive drinking. His habit is so bad that his life has become one continuous case of the DTs. As a matter of fact, a disembodied old man with the same initials seems to be controlling his attempt at sobriety. Forced to wear a monkey around his neck to highlight his problem, said simian comes with two bags of rocks around its legs. The longer Apartheid stays, the more rocks will be removed and the less weight he will have to be subjected. Of course, DT doesn’t help. He offers disquieting visions of smiley faced stones that punch people out, remote control apes that choke people to death, and others with equally oppressive addictions of their own. As he battles with the bottle, losing most of the time, all Apartheid wants to do is get away from this abusive clinic. Little does he know that, just like Hotel California, he can check out any time he likes, but he can never, ever, ever, leave.

by Bill Gibron

17 May 2009


Until recently, David Cronenberg was known only as the king of biological horror. His brutal looks at life and the physiological foundations of fear made uncomfortable classics like Rabid, The Brood, Scanners, and Videodrome fright film masterworks. Today, he dabbles in all manner of contemporary drama, cruelty tingeing works as diverse as A History of Violence, eXistenZ, and his brilliant Russian mob movie Eastern Promises. As with any auteur, it’s interesting to look back on their entire career and trace the steps that brought their visionary style to the fore. And while many may laugh at the suggestion, the drag racing morality tale Fast Company is completely within his surreal sphere of aesthetic influence. Made in 1979, this fascinating film proves that Cronenberg could fetishize anything - from a deformed corpse to a shiny chrome engine.

When his prized dragster goes up in flames, renowned driver Lonnie “Lucky Man” Johnson appears down for the count. FastCo corporate rep Phil Adamson doesn’t want to spring for another vehicle, and besides, there’s a perfectly good automobile waiting for someone capable to pilot it to victory. Of course, this leaves funny car trainee Billy “The Kid” Brocker feeling a little unappreciated. Things get worse when Adamson demands Johnson take over the driving of the fabled asphalt fastback. Tempers flare both on and off the track, with reigning champion Gary “The Blacksmith” Black doing most of the jawing. Eventually, Adamson grows tired of Johnson’s prima donna ways, and plans of replacing him with the entire Blacksmith crew. When he discovers this, Johnson makes off with his machine, preps it for the upcoming Race of Champions, and hopes to put Adamson, Black and FastCo in their place once and for all.

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