July 13th, 2009 16:04:00
Produced with Northwest Film Forum's Start-to-Finish program, this is David Russo's first feature, and it's a shame Russo couldn't be here in person for his International Premiere, because Fantasia audiences are going to eat this film up. Like last year's WRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY, it's that one film in the festival that stands alone in its own unclassifiable subgenre, and sweetens everything else around it like the discovery of a missing ingredient.
The film is set in a brown-collar subculture we rarely see on film - namely, the janitorial service - which one character romanticizes as derived from the literal meaning "guardians of the gateways". This is an early hint to the surreal trajectory the film will take, despite the fact that at first glance the obnoxious ensemble cast recalls something out of DC CAB, Gary Burns'WAYDOWNTOWN or CLERKS with philosophical ponderings replacing pop-culture ones. IMMACULATE CONCEPTION is a heady film, and the cast provides an inviting entryway that allows the audience to embrace the film's bizarre universe.
Dory (Marshall Allman) is an IT guy who has a meltdown at his office job and consequently finds himself out of work - and unlikely to get work in his field again anytime soon. In his desperation he applies for a position with a night-shift janitorial company amidst a tight-knit group of anti-establishment misfits led by the hyperactive sage OC (Vince Vieluf). He is just starting to settle into his new life of toilet-scrubbing when his world is suddenly shaken, stirred and cracked wide open by some mysterious cookies. That's right - cookies.
The cookies in question are not quite FDA-approved, and contain an experimental ingredient that makes them self-heating, and, as it turns out, quite addictive. A product-testing company in their building (headed up by Natasha Lyonne of SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS), who have been charged with monitoring the effects of the ingredient, selects the janitorial crew as unwitting guinea pigs. As they become hooked on the cookies, they start experiencing cramps and intestinal discomfort, polarized mood swings, hallucinations (many of them beautifully animated by David Russo himself), and most unexpectedly - pregnancy. Well, unexpected in that it's only men who become pregnant. Not with a human baby, but with some kind of intestinal fauna that acts as the catalyst for a humbling change in the 'mother'. Think of Zulawski's POSSESSION without all the bad juju. As Isabelle Adjani says in POSSESSION: "I suffer, I believe, I am, but at the same time I know there's a third possibility like cancer or madness. But cancer or madness contort reality. The possibility I'm talking about pierces reality." While IMMACULATE CONCEPTION has the lysergic sensibility of a drug film, the third possibility here also pierces reality : despite the visions and delusions, the pregnancy itself is not imaginary. As with POSSESSION, the third possibility is divinity.
But just as the film plays with concepts of divinity (the main character Dory tries out every religion searching for the perfect spirituality) it also addresses issues of reality vs. non-reality (via the hallucinations), and private reality vs. public reality. Private reality and public reality become blurred as toilets - a private retreat to most people - become one's public reality. As such, the film features rampant toilet humour, from the janitors' collection of technicolour 'blow-out' photos (recalling the gastrointestinal explosions of Jim Muro/Roy Frumkesâ€™ STREET TRASH) to OC's Duchamp-inspired art exhibit, which includes a fountain made of urinal cakes, toilet mounds and paper towers - all paid for with an $8500 grant. This may be the cheapest dig in the film - the art world and its misguided funding bodies are easy targets for mockery - but it's clear that OC feels an obligation to waste the establishment's money. After all, he and his crew are all societal rejects in some way, all made to be invisible in order to maintain the affluence of another class of people. They were never absorbed into the big machine, but operate outside of it with all the other dicey stuff like madness, drugs, mysticism, and gender-bending.
Mitch Davis hit it on the money when he wrote in his program notes that IMMACULATE CONCEPTION could very well be the REPO MAN of our generation. As to whether or not the film will have the same shelf life is another matter, but THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF LITTLE DIZZLE is a film equally impossible to categorize, that crosses over into multiple similar subgenres: the subculture of an undesirable job; a punk sensibility; an addictive substance; a sinister organization; an extraterrestrial lifeform. A perfect cult movie cocktail.
- Kier-La Janisse
The IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF LITTLE DIZZLE plays Monday July 13 at 10:00pm in the Hall Theatre.
See full film details, description, trailer etc HERE.