Friday, August 31, 2018

Perdita, Perdita

This week on the 7 Minutes With (Do Some Damage) podcast I'm recommending a double bill of writer/director Ryan Prows' feature debut Lowlife and Álex de la Iglesia's Perdita Durango. Both are gonzo pulp crime flicks full of over the top awfulness and humor. Lowlife feels a bit like a multi-focal Robert Altman ensemble packed with weirdos criss-crossing on their way down the drain. Any of the characters could've supported their own feature, but instead we get a collection of stories that all end in the same spot.

When I talk about people who write interconnected stories one of my favorites is Barry Gifford whose Sailor & Lula chronicles are among my favorite fictional universes populated with characters as sweet and depraved as any you'd care to name. Said universe is probably most widely known through the David Lynch film Wild at Heart, based on the first novel in the series. The next volume, Sailor's Holiday, includes a chapter/novella called 59 Degrees and Raining: The Story of Perdita Durango (also released in paperback as Perdita Durango). If you've seen the Lynch film, Perdita Durango is the character played by Isabella Rossellini and as fucking cool and great as she is, she's a far cry from the heat and ferocity brought to the same character by Rosie Perez in the Álex de la Iglesia film adaptation, Perdita Durango (also released in a different cut as Dance With the Devil).
Perez is a force of nature in the role and she's only half of the screen. The other half belongs to Javier Bardem's Romeo - a psycho killer, bank robber, carny con-man and when the two of them get together it results in combustion.

Both Lowlife and Perdita Durango approach crime material with a good dose of gonzo energy and if you've seen other Iglesia pictures (like The Last Circus or Witching & Bitching... pretty much anything except The Oxford Murders - what was up with that?) then you know what I'm talking about. They're not going to be for everybody, but they're going to be delicious little discoveries for some of you.

Outside of say... Pulp Fiction or the Sin City flicks, I'm having difficulty thinking of other specifically crime movies that do the whole interwoven narratives ensemble thing, but I'd love suggestions if you've got any. I just love well-done fare like that. I like to watch it, I like to read it, I like to write it. You know who else does?  Steve Weddle. On the episode I didn't miss the opportunity to mention his own contribution to the field, Country Hardball, but he y'know edited it out... so it sounds like I'm making him the butt of a joke rather than making him the butt of a joke and actually plugging his book. You should all go read his book.

Another book you might consider reading?

The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong. It's the first English-language translation by the author who is a best seller in Korea - land of the kick-ass crime flick. It's the first Korean crime fiction I've read and thanks to Minsoo Kang and Steph Cha I got the opportunity to write about it for The Los Angeles Review of Books.

It was kind of perfect for me because it's about a weirdo without a social life who's obsessed with movies...and might be a matricidal psychopath. Anyway, it gave me the chance to talk about movies a lot in a book review.

Films like The Bucket List, American Ultra and especially City of God figure into the actual plot of The Good Son while I used the opportunity to talk about other flicks the book reminded me of like Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Cure and David Lynch's Lost Highway, but considering the subject matter and Korean setting, I think Bong Joon-Ho's Mother is the film begging to be talked about alongside The Good Son (which I've seen compared to Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley as well).

Lastly, be sure to mark October 20 on your calendars and make plans to attend N@B-Pumpkin Spice Ed. It'll be your chance to hear N@B favorites Shaw L. Coney, Fred Venturini and Josh Woods return as well as first timers Seth Ferranti, Sarah Jilek, Kenny Kinds, Jessica Leonard and Kea Wilson. See you then.

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