Tag Archives: The Cannibals (Os Canibais)

Arias with Your Mouth Full: Legendary Lew Interviews Michael Smith on Manoel de Oliveira’s “The Cannibals”

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This Saturday night at midnight, indie filmmaker and instructor Michael Smith will present Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira’s very rarely seen and incredibly strange opera, The Cannibals (Os Canibais), for Facets Night School. Straddling between the two cinematic worlds of art house finesse and grind house excess (think Marco Ferreri’s La Grande Bouffe), The Cannibals promises to blow your mind (if you don’t blow your chunks in the process).

LL:  The Cannibals has been rarely shown in The United States. Could you tell us a little about the film?

MS:  The Cannibals is one of the very best films of Manoel de Oliveira who iscannibals3 one of the world’s greatest living directors. Oliveira is best known in America not for any specific films but rather for having a freakishly long career. He directed his first film in 1931 (in what was still the silent era in his native Portugal) and he is currently in pre-production on a new film at the age of 104. But the movies themselves, which are made in conscious opposition to Hollywood conventions and have not been widely distributed in America, are great: they tend to be rigorous, deliberately paced literary or theatrical adaptations centered on the theme of doomed love. I think The Cannibals is an ideal introduction to Oliveira’s work because it shows off his playful side: it’s funny, surreal and very subversive. It shows the strong influence of Luis Bunuel.

LL: How is The Cannibals a bridge between art house cinema and midnight movies?

MS: I would describe it as a midnight movie disguised as an art film. I think it was brilliant of Oliveira to tell this particular story as an opera. It’s an adaptation of a 19th century novel but he hired a contemporary composer, Joao Paes, to write an original operatic score and libretto. Literally every line of dialogue in the movie is sung and the score is excellent. However, the film becomes weirder and weirder as it goes along until it reaches the climax, which is totally insane. I think Oliveira chose to work with the form of opera because no other artistic medium is so closely identified with the upper class — the true subject of his satire. He’s making fun of his target audience! Without giving anything away, I would say he wanted to cloak his movie in the semblance of respectability and “high art” in order to deliver a kind of sucker punch at the end. I almost want to compare The Cannibals to Takashi Miike’s Audition in terms of how it works. (If you’ve seen that film you know that it lulls you into a state of near-boredom before presenting a mind-fuck of an ending that is effective precisely because of what comes before.) I also hasten to add that it’s not necessary to understand anything about opera to appreciate this film. I myself know little about opera.

LL: Were there any other operas commissioned directly to cinema?

MS: I’m not aware of any. It’s very rare to have any kind of musical film in which all of the dialogue is sung. Les Miserables is an obvious example but that’s, of course, an adaptation of a well-known musical play and had a built-in fanbase. The only other film I can think of that comes close to fitting the bill is The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Jacques Demy commissioned Michel Legrand to write the original score and Demy himself wrote the dialogue, all of which is sung, but the style of the music is not that of an opera. So I think Oliveira’s achievement is singular and highly innovative.

LL: What do you wish to accomplish by presenting The Cannibals to a crowd accustomed to exploitation, sexploitation and violent trashy films?

 MS: I’m glad that you asked. I hope to broaden viewers’ horizons as to what their perceptions of a midnight movie is. The Cannibals is not exploitative or trashy and yet, in a lot of ways, it’s far weirder than many of the movies to which those labels are often attached. This film is so odd, in fact, that I myself don’t even know how to fully process it! This is also a big part of the reason why I want to show it: presenting it to an audience will hopefully inspire everyone present to work together in making sense of it in our discussion afterwards.

My thanks to Michael Smith for the interview. You can read his posts on the blog White City Cinema. It’s definitely worth your time.
Come feast your eyes and ears on The Cannibals at Facets Night School.
Saturday night April 27, 2013 at midnight
Facets Multimedia
1517 W Fullerton
Chicago, IL 60614
Admission: $5, FREE for Facets members! Become one here.
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Facets Night School Masters Series Poster Revealed

FacetsNightSchoolMastersThe poster for Facets Night School’s Master Series has now been released. Nice work by Demetra Materis!

You can find details for the lectures and screenings here or here.

Facets Multimedia Presents Facets Night School: The Master Series

FacetsNightFacets Night School, the long-running series of midnight lectures, screenings and general craziness, is back and The Underground Multiplex has  got the early word! They have a great line-up coming, so you’ll definitely want to hear from these master presenters as they host screenings of some of the craziest and most diverse entertainment this side of the galaxy. Talking chimps on 35mm! Drug crazed beauties! Cannibals! Warring beauty queens and battling sweaty strongmen! Vicious hungry cats and insanely overwrought same-sex melodrama! You want it, you got it at this hearty session of Facets Night School.

Here’s the series:

Saturday, March 30
Jason Coffman presents:
Carnival Magic in 35mm!

“This long-forgotten classic of the chimp-sploitation genre is probably the weirdest, most inappropriate kids film ever made.” -Brisbane International Film Festival

Al Adamson was a legend of low-budget filmmaking. From 1961 to 1983, Adamson cranked out B (and often C-Z) movies like Satan’s Sadists, Dracula Vs. Frankenstein, Naughty Stewardesses, Black Samurai, Nurse Sherri, and Cinderella 2000. After a career making pictures for grindhouses and drive-ins, Adamson’s last two films were “kids’ movies.” One of these, Carnival Magic, disappeared shortly after its initial release. Long thought lost, a print of Carnival Magic was discovered in 2009, some 14 years after Adamson’s death. At long last, paracinephiles could get a look at Adamson’s legendarily bizarre attempt to make a movie for children. Unsurprisingly, it’s immediately obvious that Adamson had no idea how to do that. In the film, Markov the Magnificent (Don Stewart) is a small-time magician with a secret: he actually has magical powers. He also has a sidekick named Alex, a talking chimp. Markov reluctantly joins a struggling circus, and together he and Alex become the show’s biggest stars. At first it seems like Markov and Alex may save the circus from bankruptcy, but the show’s alcoholic lion tamer–angry at having his spotlight stolen by a talking monkey–cooks up a scheme to sell Alex to an animal research laboratory. Jason Coffman will present Carnival Magic from a 35mm print courtesy of the Chicago Cinema Society Film Archive, along with a discussion of Adamson’s career and trailers for the director’s other films.

Jason Coffman is a programmer and co-director of the Chicago Cinema Society. He is also a film writer, sometime filmmaker, and a regular contributor to FilmMonthly.com and Fine Print Magazine. His writing has also appeared in Horrorhound magazine and Cashiers du Cinemart. Coffman previously presented Spider Baby and The Sleeper at Facets Night School. 

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Saturday, April 6
Jef Burnham presents:
Puritanical Peplum Panic: Hercules, Samson & Ulysses as Religious Battle Crossover

“Do you think it easy to fight against someone who believes he was sent here by his God?” -Aldo Giuffre as Seren, the Philistine King

By 1963, when he filmed Hercules, Samson & Ulysses (1963), director Pietro Francisci was no stranger to sword-and-sandal pictures, otherwise known as peplum. He also helmed 1958’s Hercules and 1959’s Hercules Unchained, both of which featured memorable performances by Steve Reeves as the Greek demigod. Although Reeves did not reprise his role in Hercules, Samson & Ulysses, Francisci compensates for the legendary muscleman’s absence by pitting Hercules’s greased-up Grecian girth against Samson’s bronzed biblical biceps! Join Jef Burnham as he explores the film’s relationship to the concept of the film franchise “battle crossover,” dating back to Universal’s classic horror films like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943). He will also tease out the ramifications of depicting two muscle-bound representatives of ancient religions battling it out for theological supremacy.

Jef Burnham is a media scholar and film critic. He holds a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, where he currently serves as a member of the Adjunct Faculty in Cinema Studies. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com. In addition to his film criticism, Jef authored a chapter of Open Court’s Sherlock Holmes and Philosophy and has co-authored a chapter of Scarecrow Press’s forthcoming collection of essays entitled, Reading Mystery Science Theater 3000. He previously presented Yor, The Hunter From the Future and Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare at Facets Night School. 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/356116424504235/


Saturday, April 13
Dominick Mayer presents:
Knockoff Henchmen, Helicopter Seduction, and a Night of a 1000 Cats

“I would like to keep you forever…in a crystal cage.” -Hugo

In 1972, exploitation filmmaker Rene Cardona Jr. cranked out a cheapie horror film about Hugo (Hugo Stiglitz), a billionaire playboy who uses his suave charms, stalker-ish manners, and opulent wealth to seduce women into his home, where unspeakable, cat-related horrors await them. Somewhere along the line, a full half hour disappeared from the Spanish version before it reached the U.S. as Blood Feast (not to be confused with the Herschell Gordon Lewis cult classic). However, purists know the film’s true name: Night of a Thousand Cats (La Noche de los Mil Gatos). Dominick Mayer will examine the film’s shadowy origins, its place in the pantheon of Mexploitation cinema, and how this little-known bargain-bin curio may be deserving of a cult following of its own.

Dominick Mayer is a graduate student in Media & Cinema studies at DePaul University. He is also the features editor and head film critic for HEAVEmedia, a Chicago-based music and culture website. He is (as the session name would suggest) a regular at Facets Night School, having previously presented on Black Dynamite, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, and Myra Breckinridge, among others. You can commonly find him at various movie theaters or professional wrestling events in the greater Chicagoland area.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/345650938874309/

Saturday, April 20
Chris Damen presents:
Who’s Bad: Lila Leeds’s One Bad Career Move In She Shoulda Said No!

“The story of a good girl gone very, very bad.” -Poster tagline

Sam Newfield’s 1949 anti-marijuana film She Shoulda Said ‘No’! is your typical drug exploitation piece with all the warnings and dangers, but has a very unique backstory. Lead actress Lila Leeds was actually arrested with Robert Mitchum for smoking marijuana. While Mitchum got off almost scot-free, Leeds was forced to make this career-killer. This lecture will cover the sad career of Lila Leeds, and will provide a short survey of the anti-marijuana film genre.

Chris Damen is an avid traveler and a local stand-up comic. In October of 2012, he became the head producer of Facets Night School. He has previously presented eight films a Facets Night School, including Pulgasari, Barfly, and Nekromantik.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/172598782887328/

Saturday, April 27
Michael Smith presents:
Eat the Rich: Manoel de Oliveira’s Unlikely Cannibals Musical

Imagine an unholy mash-up of Luis Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel and Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and you will have some idea of what is in store at this rare screening of one of the all-time great Portuguese films.

The Cannibals (Os Canibais) is one of the best but unfortunately least-known feature films by the prolific Portuguese master Manoel de Oliveira. Made in 1988 when the still-active writer/director was a comparatively youthful 79 years old, this delightful work of anti-bourgeois Surrealism is a kind of freakish filmed opera in which every line of savage satire is sung. Adapted from a novel by Álvaro Carvalhal, the plot concerns Marguerite (Oliveira’s favorite leading lady Leonor Silveira), a high-society woman who marries a wealthy Viscount (Oliveira’s favorite leading man Luis Miguel Cintra) over the objections of her jealous ex-lover, Don Juan (Diogo Doria). On their wedding night, the Viscount reveals to Marguerite his darkest secret, which leads to a devilish, uproariously funny climax that must be seen to be believed. Adding a layer of self-reflexive fun is an omniscient, singing narrator (Oliveira Lopes); at one point, he hilariously complains about the protagonists’ use of the “sententious language of poor melodrama” in the previous scene. This rare screening of The Cannibals will be shown via digital projection of a European import DVD. The film has never received an official home video release in North America.

Michael Smith is an independent filmmaker whose most recent short films, At Last, Okemah!! (2009) and The Catastrophe (2011), have won multiple awards at film festivals across the United States. Since 2009, he has taught film history and aesthetics at Chicago-area colleges including Oakton Community College, the College of Lake County, and Harold Washington College. His first book, Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the U.S. Film Industry, a non-fiction account of early film production in Chicago, will be released by KWS Publishers, Inc. in late 2013. He is also the creator and sole author of the film studies blog WhiteCityCinema.com. He has previously taught many Facets Night School sessions including, most recently, “Drilling Into The Slumber Party Massacre.”

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/536765539678518/

Saturday, May 4
Lauren Whalen presents:
Girls, Guns and Glitter, Don’cha Know: Drop Dead Gorgeous and the Wild World of Mock Doc

“I shoved your tap shoes in my panties before I was blown out of the house. You go find the guy who cut ’em off.” –Annette Atkins (Ellen Barkin)

Before Kirsten Dunst met Sam Raimi and Denise Richards met Charlie Sheen, they went head-to-head in this darkly funny mockumentary. In Mount Rose, Minnesota, boys go to prison and girls compete in the American Teen Princess pageant. Sweet Amber (Dunst) dreams of escaping her trailer park and becoming the next Diane Sawyer, while nasty Becky Ann (Richards) has perfect teeth and the stage mother from hell (Kirstie Alley), a firearm-toting former American Teen Princess who’ll knock down (or knock off) anyone in her baby’s way. Directed by Michael Patrick Jann (of comedy collective The State), Drop Dead Gorgeous mixes slapstick and satire, straddles the fine line between irreverent and offensive, and has a killer supporting cast (Allison Janney, Ellen Barkin, Brittany Murphy, and Amy Adams in her film debut). Join Lauren Whalen as she explores the mockumentary subgenre, the art of parody, and Drop Dead Gorgeous’ premonition of a Toddlers & Tiaras-saturated culture. High heels optional.

Lauren Whalen spent ten years with Facets as an intern, volunteer, and full-time employee. She writes for Chicago Theater Beat and The Film Yap. Lauren’s previous Night School presentations involved destructive bunnies (Donnie Darko), messed-up lesbian dreams (Mulholland Dr.), and teenage drug rings (Brick). She is also a burlesque enthusiast, who unapologetically loves glitter, and is eternally grateful to her mother for never letting her do pageants.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/162632507223776/

Saturday, May 11
Legendary Lew (!) presents:
The Ben & Arthur Interactive Cinematic Experience, or Can a Cult Movie Sensation Be Created?

“I don’t make sense, you don’t make sense. I make sense. That’s who makes sense!” — Tammy Sheets  (Julie Belknap) in Ben & Arthur

“If Tommy Wiseau’s The Room is the over-wrought, melodramatic and self-pitying heterosexual camp classic of choice, then Sam Mraovich’s Ben & Arthur is its gay equivalent…This is a cult sensation waiting to be born.” –Rotten Tomatoes

In recent years, the internet and social media have helped create massive, rabid followings for cinematic “failures,” such as Troll 2 and The Room. Both films hovered in obscurity for years at the nadir of IMDb’s worst-film list until enthusiastic audiences resuscitated them with interaction styles first adopted by Rocky Horror Picture Show viewers. It’s high time the incredible film Ben & Arthur gets its second chance. Disappearing characters, horrendously mixed audio, palm trees in Vermont, passenger flights on FedEx planes, on-screen lighting tripods, cardboard crucifixes, card table “desks,” and cell phones, cell phones ,and more cell phones—Ben and Arthur has it all, including a blatant rip-off of a crucial scene in De Palma’s Scarface. Discovered by a film producer while working in a Pennsylvania Burger King, the multi-talented Sam Mraovich hails from Steubenville, OH. At age 22, Mraovich made the move to Hollywood and began production, direction, etc. on his gay marriage rights magnum opus, Ben & Arthur. Today, he is double-licensed as real estate agent and hair stylist in California. To date, this much-discussed cult film is his only directorial release. Lew Ojeda will discuss the history of these interactive films and how newly-discovered ones can help independent theaters attract moviegoers in current tough economic times.
Note: For the interactive screening experience of Ben & Arthur, you’ll want to remember to bring your cell phone, a newspaper, sugar packets and a stuffed toy cat or dog.

Special guest, film auteurd extraordinaire Ernie Tarté, will be on hand to help introduce the film and launch the evening with handheld mirrors and lilac kisses.

Lew Ojeda is the co-founder of The Underground Multiplex and host of the podcast Mediatrocities, celebrating weirdness in movies, music, and television. His production/direction credits include Rochester, NY’s landmark LGBT television show, The Word is Out, and his film reviews have appeared in The Empty Closet and Shock Cinema. As part of Facets for over a decade, Ojeda has previously presented Lady Terminator, Fuego, The Story of Riki-Oh, Seytan, Eat the Rich, Sisters of No Mercy 3D, and many others at Facets Night School.

Screenings will be on Saturdays nights at midnight from March 30-May 11
Facets Multimedia
1517 W Fullerton
Chicago, IL
Admission: $5, FREE for Facets members.
Check out Facets Multimedia: www.facets.org