Ginger Nuts of Horror
So... yeah. That was a film. Or at least, I think it was. It was certainly film-shaped. But where to begin actually describing it?
Tabloid Vivant is certainly unlike anything I've ever seen before, and bearing in mind we have a little corner of the website here specialising in the weird that's no mean feat in and of itself. It's, in a sense, a rumination on the power of art and the strong statement it can make about the human condition. It's also a completely out there psycho-thriller shot with a knowing and wry style that does little to take away from the darker undertones it presents. It's uncomfortable to watch in many places, for all manner of reasons, but equally it's kind of hard to look away....
The film follows art critic Sarah Speed and artist Max Klinkau as they enter into an uneasy relationship that is as much founded on physicality as it is on anything else. They seem to barely even like each other at time, but she is determined to write an article about his work and what Max calls his new 'painting system'. They go to a faraway cabin in the woods to work on the new piece, with Max to pain Sarah using this new technique, which is explained at length in a scene that rather lost me. But when the work truly starts, the film begins to get interesting and as Sarah finally has the chance to take in Max's latest work, she realises its significance and her world is very much rocked – the images are somehow capturing real life in a way that is very fluid and malleable, depicted interestingly as a visual throughout. As Max and Sarah dive deeper into the rabbit hole of this earth-shattering new style, their health – both mental and physical – begins to degenerate and the very art of creation becomes one that might just destroy the both of them.
I've often said here at the site that I love a film that has originality and energy – Curtain being a prime example – even if it has other flaws. Tabloid Vivant is no masterpiece, because while it does possess something unique in its presentation and style it does remain a movie with flaws. The start of the movie feels very slow, and it's only really about halfway that things really start to pop here. It does take a bit of persistence to get through the early running. Both of our leads – effectively the only characters in the film – are pretty obnoxious and difficult to like, being pretentious and spoiled individuals. Although maybe that's part of the point this movie is trying to make about art? The music throughout feels too self-conscious, too loud, too obtrusive. Things at times threaten to become very dark indeed, but never really go down as dark an avenue as they might – the opening montage (which I can't really ascertain the relevance of) suggests we're due for something a bit more extreme than we get delivered. There can also be a habit for rather pointless visual effects that look flashy but don't honestly help things along at all.
So yes, there's very much good and bad here; you could argue that Tabloid Vivant epitomises the best and worst of independent cinema. It's lively, it's different and it's imaginative – it's certainly a film that never would have found itself a home in the Hollywood system. But in places it feels indulgent, overlong and sometimes slow-moving – you could probably have sharpened things up here with a slight cut to running time.
What this one is – without a doubt – is interesting, and worth a watch if you like your movies challenging, complex and different. I expect it's also the kind of movie that could very much divide audiences – you could watch this with ten other people and it's very likely some will love it and some will hate it. For me, as you might be able to tell, I am kind of on the fence about this one, so I'll award this one a likeable 6.5/10. It might not be a masterpiece, but it's certainly not a fraud either.
Come on in, the water's revolting...
Film Gutter Volume 1 is the full collection of 2015 reviews and interviews from Ginger Nuts of Horror's popular Film Gutter series, looking at some of the most bizarre, grotesque and disturbing horror features ever made. With over 50 movie reviews plus interviews with directors and actors including Tom Six, Dieter Laser, Matthew A Brown Jimmy Weber and Phil Stevens. Film Gutter Volume 1 also takes in a host of exclusive content, including the much-requested 'most disturbing movies' list!