As I’ve previously mentioned one of my absolutely favorite things about living where I do is that I can walk to see Joe Swanberg show off a secret film, and when I heard he was bringing his secret screenings back this year, I absolutely glowed and immediately bought a solo ticket.
I’ve been to a lot of film fests and special film events. Normally they’re all dudebros and posturing and bullshit and I want nothing to do with it but watch the film and walk out and grab a drink elsewhere and think for a while.
That’s not Swanberg’s Secret Screenings at the Davis Theater. I don’t know anyone there, but it has a communal atmosphere. We’re all there to be delighted, enthralled, disgusted, or even disappointed, but to revel in the experience!
And wow, what a gloriously stupid experience this was.
When I walked into the theater, I’d overheard Swanberg saying ‘…yeah, it’s not as brutal as the last film. It’s lighter!’ because he’s there, doing the work, still handing out flyers for his events like a 16-year-old, and I love it.
A FOLDED OCEAN is an absolutely brutal body horror short film from the FX artist of EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE, which can be boiled down to absolution and lust, and what can come from that.
Then it took a good hour for them to figure out how to project the actual secret screening! And everyone was so patient, and reached out to everyone and talked to everyone in an extremely mindful way! I normally have my nose stuck in a book, which is 100% visually coding for: do not talk to me, but people did, and I did not mind it!
(They ended up handing out free beers to everyone — and everyone already had free beers with their tickets — and when I accepted one, they asked: do you want a second one? I indulge, but I don’t double-fist because that’s crass and stupid, so I said no, and my theatrical neighbor sarcastically quipped: ‘Do you want a six pack?’ and I couldn’t help but snort-laugh.)
SMOKING CAUSES COUGHING is essentially an anthology series — the trailer will try to fool you but the superhero schtick is just the framing device. It’s penned and directed by one person: Quentin Dupieux, of RUBBER and DEERSKIN fame. I will admit: I didn’t become a fan of his until DEERSKIN. That was the moment when I was like: okay, he’s graduated to penning proper narratives instead of self-indulgent experimental, navel-gazing works.
SMOKING CAUSES COUGHING is his best work yet, and most effective. The first story was so effective that my mind has blacked it out — not because of the free beers, but because it fucked me up. Do not go into this thinking it’ll be a fun lark, because it is not, but it’s a well-told weaving of stories, akin to THE COMPANY OF WOLVES. It’s affecting, occasionally funny, but often traumatic.