Sunday, April 27, 2008

Priceless Zombie Strippers!!

Ok. After 10 days of independent and artistic cinema during the Atlanta Film Festival, I dove back into the pool, as it were at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, for a "double feature". On the surface, the only thing these two films have in common is a "money for sex" plot. But,... well, that is the only thing they have in common.

ZOMBIE STRIPPERS (dir. Jay Lee, US, 2008, 84 mins.) I LAUGHED until I CHOKED!! I haven't had this much fun in a theater since... I don't know?!! Yes, I saw it at the 11:30 AM matinee, with only one other person in the room. But we both were snickering through out and during the climatic battle, I THINK he was laughing as hard as I was! Director Jay Lee has adapted, well, actually lifted some of the dialogue from Eugene Ionesco's RHINOCEROS for his screenplay of transfiguring strippers and the price they pay for conforming for success. Jenna Jameson is the lead dancer, who while waiting to go on in her private dressing room, reads Nietzsche and shares her philosophy with the innocent newcomer, Jennifer Holland. The other women in the troupe are HARD CORE and in their own way, just as hysterical! Jeannette Sousa performs "Berenge" literally as the character from the Ionesco would be played. They all work at "Club Rhino", which is managed by "Ian Essko", played by Robert Englund, in an exceptionally campy performance. (Popping up in a "cameo" is Tito Ortiz, Jameson's current boyfriend.) Perhaps it is the Ionesco influence, but this campy little film does not pull any political punches along the way. It's got gags! Zombies! A ridiculous number of pole dances! BUCKETS of blood! Existential polemics!! I LOVED IT!!

On the other end of the "sex industry scale", there is PRICELESS (HORS DE PRIX) (dir. Pierre Salvadori, France, 2007, 104 mins.). Audrey Tautou (AMELIE) completely sheds her typecast innocent demeanor to portray a world weary gold digger, who actually hops from "potential husbands" so much, that she is in reality, an exceptionally high priced escort. This is the one little detail that the film shies away from. Her character never actually claims to be, nor is directly implicated as being anything more than a "gold digger", though it is quite clear what she is. During one of her "hops" she meets a bartender (played by an exceptionally, physically awkward, Gad Elmaleh), who is immediately stricken by her and poses as a potential suitor. Only a little bit of farcical hilarity ensues, before the screenplay completely shifts gears for the second act. Though it shares a lot with BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, it is a bit unclear in the emotional conflict between our two lead characters. This seems to be mostly due to the ambiguity that Tautou expresses through out ninety-nine percent of the film. Once she reaches her emotional climax, everything plays out fairly predictably, which is a bit of a let down. Other than that, it looks great! The settings and Tautou's gowns just WREAK with money and the pacing feels the whole of its two hours. It would seem it exist only to stretch Tautou and break her out of her "girl next door" mold, which it does.

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