Michael Bergeron
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Film Facts 5.13.16

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There are some weeks where it seems like literally all the good films are opening exclusively at an AlamoDrafthouse nearby. Currently there are two AD locations in Houston – one in Katy and their flagship theatre in Vintage Park in North Houston.

Hold your breath because soon there will be a Sugarland location later this year, as well as a Montrose location (West Dallas at Dunlavy) penciled in for 2017.

Arriving at the AlamoDrafthouse Vintage Park this weekend are a couple of highly recommended specialty films: Men & Chicken and Belladonna of Sadness.

An animated film from Japan, circa 1973, Belladonna of Sadness will appeal to a (not surprisingly) wide range of genre fans. Is BOS an erotic tapestry, a one-of-a-kind collage née animation extravaganza that wants to pull your socks off, an occult tale of mystery, or perhaps a serious-as-shit art house flick that redefines the way you look at medieval drama? Regarding the latter there have recent films that have taken period drama to extremes like the recent The Witch, or Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England (2013), and BOS is no exception.

bella1-650x472Belladonna of Silence revolves around a woman accused of witchcraft, seduced by the devil, and how she cuts an unworldly deal to keep her head above societal norms while maintaining her relation with her incubus. All of this takes place with Japanese dialogue alternating female baby-voice murmurs and manly deep-rumble vocals subtitled into English.

The animation style resembles watercolor drawings that are scrolled across the field of vision sometimes to phantasmagoric levels of effect. Many of the sequences are of an adult nature that puts a similar film of that era, Fritz the Cat (a film that was rated X in its day but is now tamely referred to as unrated cartoon), to shame. The musical soundtrack conjures up a very psychedelic type of rock mood music that perfectly fits the time period when the film was made.

Please be advised that Belladonna of Silence is almost like a museum experience. Like the time I was at The Getty in LA and I was looking at an exhibit of ancient galleries. The movie proper rolls left to right like a scroll and out of the middle of nowhere starts a series of camera movements that focus your attention to a specific detail on the scroll. There’s a lot going on in Belladonna of Sadness whether it’s the conflict between good and evil or the ingeniously designed erotic imagery.

men-and-chicken-mads-mikkelsenMads Mikkelsen headlines the obtuse Men & Chicken. Two brothers descend upon their ancestral home in a bizarre trip through generations of unkempt humans. This Danish film has many funny moments but they are not the kind of events you laugh at so much as you recognize the absurdity of existence and inwardly smile.

Elias (Mikkelsen) and Gabriel are watching a videotape of their father’s last living message. Just as the tape ends he informs the brothers that he isn’t their biological father. A trip ensues to a small island community where the men believe their father resides. One revelation after another destroys their belief system as it turns out their paterfamilias sired multiple sons, each with a different mother. Naturally none of the brothers looks, or acts, even remotely alike.

The title comes from some rather bizarre series of stem cell and biologically warped experiments that the father conducted. Elias also has a compulsion of beat off constantly, or in the parlance of the characters, choke his chicken.

— Michael Bergeron