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HOUSE: The festival program notes use the word “bewildering” about this 1977 Japanese film (just released in the U.S. last year) about a gaggle of schoolgirls who go to visit one girl’s aunt’s house in the country. Strange things happen when they arrive, but Nobuhiko Obayahshi’s film is wonderfully strange from the get-go, with its 1970s afterschool-special soundtrack, essentializing nicknames (Kung Fu, Melody, Fantasy; each girl has a key trait and is named for it), surreal cinematography, kooky effects and loopy tendencies. A friend warned me (alas, too late) to read as little as possible about House before seeing it — and not to miss it. This is cult film central: Bloody, bizarre, eerie, funny and inventive, it mashes together bits of everything, occasionally looks ridiculous, and is utterly unforgettable, talking severed heads and all. Daisuke Miyao introduces the screening of House at 9:30 pm Thursday, May 6, at the Bijou.
HUMPDAY: Don’t pass up this chance to see Lynn Shelton’s hilariously awkward comedy in the extra-awkward company of strangers. Sharp and believable, Humpday is like a bizarro-world counterpart to Old Joy in that it’s the story of two reconnecting old friends, both feeling a little constrained by the world’s perceptions of them. Ben (Mark Duplass) is happily married to Anna (Alycia Delmore); they’ve bought a house and are thinking about a kid when Ben’s old friend Andrew (Joshua Leonard) turns up on the doorstep. Andrew is a wanderer, bearded and out of sync with “normal” life, and Ben kind of wants to keep up with him for a while — which is, kinda sorta, how they wind up agreeing to make a porno for The Stranger’s Humpfest. Together.
Humpday isn’t a bromance, and it avoids most of the obvious pitfalls by deftly handling Anna’s response. The situation leaves Ben and Andrew alone to hash out their own relationship and how it relates to the conflict between how they see themselves and how they think others see them. Shelton’s smart script gradually transforms a low-key, simply shot buddy comedy into an examination of identity and the pressures of friendship. The director presents her film at 1 pm Saturday, May 8, at the Bijou.