Monday, September 28, 2015

NYFF53 Day 4: Any and Everything Goes in ‘The Forbidden Room’; ‘Mountains May Depart,’ or When Capitalism First Knocked in China

A scene from "The Forbidden Room." Photo from "The Forbidden Room" Facebook page.

MAN, what a trip!

“The Forbidden Room” from Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson is a mind-numbing ride through a fragmented world of absurd silliness. It premieres tonight at the 53rd New York Film Festival.

“The Forbidden Room” is also wonderfully coherent in an incoherent way. A patchwork of old, discarded silent and sound films as well as other found objects, it veers wildly and widely from men trapped underwater in a submarine to a woman captured by a bunch of savage men.

The damsel’s salvation, it initially appears, is in the hands of lumberjacks. It is perhaps the lumberjack leader who turns up out of nowhere in the aforementioned submarine.

Think of “The Forbidden Room” as stream-of-consciousness writing.

Elsewhere, a man illustrates how to bathe. A young woman is gifted a homely, two-headed Janus by her intended. She is not pleased. And other oddities ...

“It thrills me to get cheap-ass effects up there that other people might embrace,” co-director GM almost cooed during a press conference after a press and industry screening of the film. “The Forbidden Room” came about, GM, gave the room to know, as a proof that a film can be created from the flotsam and jetsam of the Internet.

The directors have made a treasure out of their foraging and trashing about. “The Forbidden Room” is a piece of brilliant, controlled chaos.

Also today, in its U.S. premiere, is Jia Zhangke’s “Mountains May Depart.”

It is China 1999. The Internet is arriving. Mobile phones, too. The Chinese are enjoying new-found freedoms. Dancing to their own tune and generally expressing themselves in heretofore unseen ways.

Capitalism is coming. Many are embracing this new god. Those who don’t are left behind – sometimes forgotten. But capitalism has a cost, of course. Much can be lost in the quest for Dollar.

“Mountains May Depart” makes these points in mainly subtle, but sure ways. It is a cautionary tale about discarding one’s past and identity for an uncertain future.

Visit to learn more about the 53rd New York Film Festival, including showtimes and venues.

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