Monday, December 22, 2014

The Current Cinema 14.9

Electric Boogaloo

First and foremost, director Mark Hartley is a fanboy of the highest order, proven by his rip-roaring ode to ozploitation in "Not Quite Hollywood". I haven't seen "Machete Maidens Unleashed", but the minute I get the urge to delve into the underbelly of the Filipino film market, I'm sure it'll be the first source I crack open. Hartley's latest film, "Electric Boogaloo", charts the rise and fall of the once powerful Cannon Film company.... the production group that spawned a plethora of high voltage, emotionally simple movies on this young boy from the age of 10 to about 15. "The Last American Virgin", "Over the Top", "Missing In Action", "Death Wish 2", "American Ninja", "Cyborg"- films my friends and I snuck into the theater to see multiple times or caressed the VHS boxes on the shelves, intently conniving ways to persuade our parents to rent them. And its that connection with our youth that "Electric Boogaloo" strongly latches onto and won't let go. "Electric Boogaloo" isn't a good documentary on the most elemental level- it never raises any questions or challenges the conventions of the genre. It could easily be something produced by Cannon itself back in the day and dumped onto the Starz channel at 4am. Yet it's an insidious love letter to a certain type of film that holds a unique place in my formative film viewing years, and sometimes we have to look beyond the formal inadequacy of something and allow our ten year old self to revel in the sheer joy of not knowing any better.


Jean Marc Vallee’s film does the improbable…. it takes a well worn treatise on self exile and eventual self fulfillment and makes it feel vital and organic. A lot of this has to do with the source material by Cheryl Strayed, whose life and journey the film is based upon and performed magnificently by Reese Witherspoon. Deciding to escape her troubled life and hike 1000 miles from New Mexico to Canada, “Wild” intercuts her spontaneous and tough walk with the events that landed her in a dark place to begin with. Playing like a patchwork of flashbacks, conversations, moods, memories and sounds that ebb and flow brilliantly into a stream of conscious-like scrapbook, the film coalesces into a cathartic experience. As he proved with “Dallas Buyer’s Club”, Vallee expertly handles the material and elicits vivid portraits from even the smallest secondary roles. But even more than that, “Wild” is a moving exploration of why we sometimes need to fall off the grid and allow life to catch us somewhere below.

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