Aug 20, 2010

Schoof


Before I review Schoof, I think I'll take some time and address the peculiar genius of its creator. For well over ten years, Giuseppe Andrews has engaged and enraged audiences fortunate enough to stumble upon his microbudget masterpieces. With casts consisting of the denizens of his trailer park home, a video camera, and a budget of no more than a thousand dollars a picture, Andrews has managed to carve out a niche for himself in the post-post-meta, cynical landscape of contemporary cinema. What his films lack in polish or "good taste" is easily trumped by the vitality of his writing and the defiance of his imagery. The sight of a nude elderly man in a hotel room rubbing pork rinds on his penis while simulating sex with an imaginary partner ("Period Piece") might sound like an exercise in shock value, but filmed from Andrews sympathetic perspective it is instead an inspiring "fuck you" to anyone that would rather deal with issues like aging, mental illness, elderly sexuality or the consumption of meat from a safe distance. His dialogue-lewd limericks haltingly delivered by his stable of (brilliant) non-actors akin to a stable of teenage boys in an acid-induced stream-of-consciousness free-for-all is among the funniest you will ever hear. Instantly quotable, rib-tickling gems litter his films. Better still, the lack of condescension that characterizes his work. Like John Waters, you get the sense that Andrews loves his stable of derelicts, junkies, and freaks, and his films are a testament to that love as opposed to a freak show like, say, Gummo which, while not without aesthetic merit, certainly seems to laugh at and not with its white trash subjects.



With this in mind, it is particularly saddening that Andrews recently announced his retirement from the world of film. In an e-mail and website statement chock full of strange new age sentiment, Giuseppe revealed that he is foregoing cinema to concentrate on making music. And while his music is fun and has its moments (if you're familiar with his films, you've heard your share of it), what the fuck?! When again will we have a maverick who finds beauty in the deep-set facial lines of Vietnam Ron or who can wring never-ending hilarity from grown men eating each others farts in a way that doesn't make one feel like a complete idiot? Who can end a film called "Who Flung Poo?" on such a note of pathos that my ex-girlfriend's lip quivered in sympathy?


"gods/goddesses,

i have never talked much about my movie making experience,and the times i have for the most part hide what they were really about.Film (like all other mediums) is an artistic tool for soul-lessons,this medium in particular allows the artist to record visually the outer-life...there in lies the difficulty with it since true answers are found inside.The artist is born yearning to express to others the inner-life even if he or she doesn't realize it when they begin to explore their gifts.I became very frustrated with trying to make film exude what music can do so easily that it would be a waste of time to keep pursuing it.This exiting of the film medium is not sad for me,it is joyous! I'm glad to not be stifled any longer from what i can share with you through music about our inner-life,the outer is obviously a huge part of cinema (even for the greats) and you run into all it's lies,nonsense and agony time and time again (along with it's massive beauty too of course but the other hoops get old.) My soul learned what it needed from this medium and i am grateful for the experience,i beat every addiction,confusion and ignorance through it,and most importantly learned music from it! My greatest joys making the films were when scenes i created gave one of the actors a heightened experience that took them away from their pain,lonliness,& fears for a moment..for me that's why they're important.

i love you,
giuseppe"

Anyways, Schoof, while not the best of the auteur's work, marks a major breakthrough in terms of style and ambition. An extraterrestrial curse called "schoof" has descended upon the town. Characters are driven to obsessively jump over Christmas trees, hallucinate attacks from giant hamsters, and sexually molest dolls on live television. As this is going down, two "weekend" cowboys must dispose of the body of a woman who overdoses in their hotel room, whose spirit in turn appears to her ex-boyfriend at the grave of the baby she forced him to abort with the wire coat-hanger he carries on him at all times. Along the way, we are treated to musical sequences, "special effects" sequences, and one of the more charming dildo-naming/reconciliation scenes ever committed to celluloid.



While an outright description of the plot might make Schoof sound like a surefire winner, it is hurt by slack editing and a dearth of memorable dialogue. Whereas a classic like Period Piece or Who Flung Poo barrages the viewer with line after line of scatological delirium and use multiple storylines to keep the momentum going at full speed, Schoof relies far too much on being 'weird' as opposed to 'funny' and the multiple storylines don't connect in a thematically satisfying way. Period Piece, for example, consisted of many different storylines, the result of the film in fact being many shorter works combined (hence the title- a piece consisting of different works from that period in his career), but somehow manages to gel together in such a way that it never really feels like the mix-and-match job it in fact is, as all of the tangents and fragments add up to a cohesive statement about love and sex. Schoof, on the other hand, feels a little too loose for its own good. Sometimes takes drag on a little bit past where they would in a superior film, draining much of the charm from the stilted delivery. The dialogue suffers as there is more effort expended on surreal, nonsensical statements fueled by the schoof curse than on the poetic potty-mouthed diatribes of past classics. Furthermore, I for one was excited from the description to see Andrews work within the confines of a genre film, but for the most part it feels not unlike his other work, only with the addition of some sci-fi asides to set up the surreal goings-on.



What does work? Marybeth Spychalski, Andrews' main squeeze in real life, makes for an appealing narrator and is all kinds of a babe. The low-rent special effects, be it the cut-and-paste "giant hamster", the radioactive shrimp tempura, or an alien battle that creatively uses sound to create an otherworldly vibe, are great fun. Best of all, the movie ends on a musical note that is no doubt indicative of the direction Andrews would soon take in eschewing film in favor of his musical ambitions, as the entire cast join hands to sing the extraterrestrials into submission. It is inspiring, uplifting, and a great end to a so-so flick. Even at his most uneven, Giuseppe Andrews is a talent to be reckoned with. One can only hope his sabbatical from film is short-lived, as filmmakers this intense, inspired, and completely free of obvious influences are increasingly hard to come by in this age of remakes, homages, and ironic distancing.



-Jon-Christian

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