A few of the best — and the rest — from Indiefest

Pub date February 6, 2007
SectionFilm FeaturesSectionFilm Review

Green Mind, Metal Bats (Kumakiri Kazuyoshi, Japan, 2006). Never mind Ichiro and his ballsy ilk — Japan has always had an inferiority complex when it comes to America’s favorite pastime. So it fits like a glove when director Kumakiri collides baseball and the impressionable skulls of a few budding players in order to sort out the damage done to his small-town losers. The supposed Japanese son of Babe Ruth overlooks the action like a winged It’s a Wonderful Life angel in the outfield as a bamboozled, naïfish convenience store clerk obsessively practices his batting — that is, until a booze-swilling, baseball-loving vixen smashes her way into his life and puts his metal bat to criminal use. Just call him Ichi the Swinger. With a delicate touch and gentle hilarity that recall Takeshi Kitano’s underrated life–as–a–ball game comedy Boiling Point, Kumakiri studs his Frank Capra–esque meditation with toothsome cameos and telling details from Japan’s burby underbelly, never losing his obvious affection for the sport that has driven his characters so exquisitely bonkers. (Kimberly Chun)

Sat/10, 7 p.m., Roxie; Mon/12, 9:30 p.m., Roxie; Feb. 15, 7 p.m., California

S&Man (J.T. Petty, US, 2006). Petty’s documentary S&Man is a satisfyingly unsettling investigation into why we watch horror films or, rather, why we watch the horrific. In particular, he examines the world of underground horror films, a newer generation of low-budget, DVD nasties that take depictions of sadistic, often sexualized violence to new extremes of punishing verisimilitude. As horror scholar and talking head Carol Clover notes at one point, it’s a postslasher world: the question now is not "When is she gonna get it?" but "How and for how long?" The answers given by the filmmakers whom Petty follows range from Bill Zebub’s silly tits-and-blood fests (see his Jesus Christ: Serial Rapist) to Fred Vogel’s infamous August Underground series of Marquis de Sade–like dispatches from a serial killer’s basement. But Petty skillfully trips us on our own voyeuristic compulsion to know with the stalker-snuff DVDs’ insecure and palpably creepy Erik Rost (the titular S-M man) — and the mounting insinuation that they are not fakes. By the documentary’s chilling final act we are wholly implicated: hog-tied by our desire to look, we are forced to watch, with no disavowal in sight. (Matt Sussman)

Sat/10, 11:45 p.m., Roxie; Feb. 18, 9:30 p.m., Victoria

Unholy Women (Amemiya Keita, Suzuki Takuji, and Toyoshima Keisuke, Japan, 2006). Now that Hollywood has sucked J-horror dry with its remakes of The Ring and The Grudge (blockbusters that had already spawned numerous East Asian spin-offs and remakes upon their initial releases), ghostly children and stringy female wraiths with bulging eyes are no longer creepy; they’re clichés. Too bad no one passed on the news to two of the three filmmakers contributing to this horror omnibus. Suzuki’s "Steel" is the gem here: it presents an awkward teen’s weird and bloody courtship of his boss’s sister, who literally might have a few screws loose. With her upper body covered by a sack (we never see what lies beneath), the sister aptly illustrates horror’s long-running figuration of the monstrous feminine; another cliché that Unholy Women, with its undead and suffocating mothers, disappointingly traffics in. (Sussman)

Mon/12, 9:30 p.m., California; Feb. 14, 9:30 p.m., Roxie; Feb. 17, 11:45 p.m., Roxie