My review of this entertaining and enlightening documentary film Hail Satan? is over at Flickering Myth now.
I do hope it gets a decent international release for outside the US. Anyway, my review is also below…
The division between church and state, and religion and politics, is seen by many as a key cornerstone in the foundation of democracy. When you have government policies and state decisions influenced by religious affiliations, there’s bound to be confusion and room for abuse of power. The need to keep the distinctions between the two concepts absolutely clear is at the heart of this entertaining and provocative documentary.
Focusing on the non-theistic religious and activist group The Satanic Temple (TST) as they strive towards a greater understanding of their work and promotion of advocacy for social justice and religious freedoms, Hail Satan? brings an energetic intelligence to questions of identity and society. Probing far deeper into America’s history of belief and religious freedoms than might have been expected, the film presents TST’s arguments as a pretty rational approach to take.
Central to TST’s modus operandi is the use of high-impact pranks to make a serious political point. Constructing a large scale statue of the deity Baphomet and placing it on the steps of an Oklahoma Government building just next to a Christian monument to the Ten Commandments is a stunt the film hinges on visually.
Pointing out the ridiculousness of a State building effectively promoting Christianity, the action creates real debate and a recognition of religious freedoms. As the film documents, rather than sharing space with Baphomet, the state is forced to remove the Bible touting marker from the area.
In the production notes, director Penny Lane (Nuts!, Our Nixon) admits that she came to the project supposing Satanists to being a bunch of devil-worshiping fanatics intent on doing evil. During the course of the film, she and the audience discover that the group have been successful mainly because they connect people to the source of community without undue fear of judgement.
The main guide through this amusingly chaotic tale of protest and activism is the group’s co-founder and spokesperson Lucien Greaves. Greaves comes across as someone fond of a dark joke, while also being completely sincere in the TST’s activities. He presents the fundamentals of what Satanism means to him with a discussion of the groups’s Seven Tenets; a thoroughly modern and socially conscious set of directives to consider.
A wickedly entertaining and memorable feature doc, Hail Satan? is a smart look at the nature of belief and how long held notions can be challenged and, as was the case with the filmmaker and probably many audiences, completely reversed.
Magnolia Pictures will release Hail Satan? in theaters on April 17th, 2019 (NY) and April 19th, 2019 (LA).
MyFrenchFilmFestival is online now and features lots of interesting stuff from the Francophone world (ie, not only France but the whole French speaking world).
Here are a couple of my reviews over at Flickering Myth…
The superb psychological thriller Into the Forest
It’s a pretty interesting idea to have a whole film festival exclusively online, and it probably points towards the future. Much as I love cinemas, I guess it’s pretty good to see new and original exclusives at home sometimes too…
MyFrenchFilmFestival is available across the world on multiple streaming platforms. For more information
visit the official site here.
My review of nu-giallo mindbender is over at Flickering Myth…
Saw these posters outside an arts Kino here in Berlin a few days ago and it brought a smile… top film! My review of this deeply odd piece is here…
My review of the excellent martial arts thriller ‘The Raid’ from writer/director Gareth Evans is over at Flickering Myth now…
To paraphrase former war leader and whisky fan Winston Churchill, writer/director Peter Strickland’s impressive second film Berberian Sound Studio is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma – and the chances are a stiff drink will be appreciated after exposure to the wayward elements of this unsettling and masterful film.
Chronicling the dreamlike journey of the inexperienced and sheltered Gilderoy (the inscrutable Toby Jones), the film throws the mild-mannered sound engineer from Dorking, Surrey into the chaotic world of 1970s Italian giallo film production. Gilderoy is quickly confronted with one flamboyant character after another, as he struggles to come to terms with the language and exuberant personalities working on the post-production of witchcraft and murder film The Equestrian Vortex. Gradually Gilderoy begins to find the whole project genuinely unnerving, as the horror soundtrack of battered fruit and veg mixed with female screams starts to take its toll on his fragile psyche. The Englishman is left battling for his senses in the wildly intoxicating and claustrophobic world of the studio…
Berberian Sound Studio is undoubtedly informed by a deep love of giallo films and, even more evidently, a fannish devotion to the mystical and weird soundtracks concocted by the likes of Ennio Morricone and the band Goblin. What it is not however, is a film specifically about giallo. While it takes the post-production studio as its primary setting, the film is largely concerned with just what is going on in Gilderoy’s head. As hints become apparent that he may not be as normal as he first seems – and that his relationship with his mother especially appears somewhat troubled to say the least – the film’s focus on the 70s horror film processes is like an obsessive impulse, a slavish quirk of opportunity and a further clue to the central characters mental frailty.
In what is the film’s most stunning scene, a dreaming (we assume) Gilderoy is woken by scratching and hammering at his door. Woozily getting up to the strains of demonic organ music, he opens the door to find no one there but himself inside a movie theatre. Staring around in a profoundly agitated state, the picture of the cinema peels away from its cigarette marks, leaving a countryside scene of Box Hill in the Surrey countryside running, complete with BBC English voiceover – exactly the sort of nature documentary Gilderoy is attuned to working on. As a cinematic tour de force it is an incredibly effective visual realization of the intensity of the character’s internal conflicts; and for its audacious deployment Strickland deserves full praise.
A haunting piece that manages to mix enough humour, scares and philosophical questions into its 94 minutes than most do with nearly double that length, Berberian Sound Studio is a film to savour.