All the production team of THE THEATRE BIZARRE received the following missive from Richard Stanley on his return from the Oldenburg Film Festival and we thought it would be nice to share:
Report from the front – Oldenburg 2011
I was sitting out the second screening of ‘THE THEATRE BIZARRE’ at Oldenburg and had just reached Karim’s segment when I heard a commotion in the foyer and became aware that something out of the ordinary was happening.
Frankly the first screening had been a bust. There was no time to test the projector and accordingly the film played at the wrong setting and in the wrong aspect ratio, soft focus and the volume down way, way low. Buddy (Giovinazzo) and Gesine (Giovinazzo-Todt) battled to try and improve the situation but the projectionist insisted that it was impossible to change the settings after the screening had commenced. Indeed the focus was so shot you would have needed 3D glasses to read the credits.
Accordingly we prepared for the second screening on Saturday night with a vengeance. Buddy and myself arrived well in advance and made certain the projection was spot on with the volume at an optimum level. Despite the late hour ( 11.30 pm ) the screening was packed with some folk forced to stand or sit in the aisles. The festival director Tortsten Neumann went out of his way to personally introduce the film and I felt pretty confident that this time we would hit the bull’s eye. Nothing however could have prepared me for just how well ‘THE THEATRE BIZARRE’ did its work that night.
We won the audience over early with jumps and laughter during (Stanley’s) ‘Mother of Toads’ followed by reassuringly hearty applause. They fell a little quiet during the first half of Buddy’s segment as if unsure which direction the film was moving in but then, once ‘I love you’ started getting decent laughs in its second act they were with us all the way. The laughs kept building with Tom Savini’s segment ‘Wet Dreams’ and having settled into the notion that the film was essentially a black comedy the viewers were left wide open for the sucker punch of Doug Buck’s ‘The Accident’. By the time Karim Hussain’s ‘Vision Stains’ came around they no longer knew what to expect, how to react or which way to turn.
There were a couple of what I took to be walk outs during the scenes of eye trauma but it was only when one of the figures stumbled in the doorway nearest to my seat that I noticed just how INTENSE the atmosphere in the auditorium had become. An individual, whom I later learned was actually one of Doug’s cousins who had come to the screening with his increasingly traumatized wife in tow, physically collapsed in the exit, body blocking the door, thus affording me a clear view of the carnage in the foyer beyond.
A second man had made it as far as the bathroom before collapsing heavily, striking his head on the way down. He was still breathing but was bleeding copiously from the nose and didn’t look good. The surviving members of Team Bizarre Doug, Buddy, Miss Scarlett (Amaris) and Gesine had opted to sit out the screening in the foyer and now found themselves dealing with what was rapidly becoming an outbreak of mass hysteria. Their first intimation that something strange was in the air came when a young German girl reeled out of the cinema during ‘Wet Dreams’, clutching her heart and yelled ‘You all are totally fucking my brain!!!’ Then she laughed and ran back inside. A few minutes later things took a more radical turn as the first man fainted in the bathroom. Doug was just taking a leak when he heard the sound of the body hit the floor.
‘Hey,’ he yelled, ducking back into the foyer. ‘Some guy just passed out in the bathroom.’
‘Yeah’, replied Miss Scarlett, who was closest to him.’And another guy passed out over there.’
She gestured at the figure sprawled in the doorway.
‘No way! There’s two?’ Then Doug paused, eyes widening as he recognized the second man. ‘Wait! That’s my cousin…’
They had just managed to get the casualties into the recovery position and were debating whether or not to call an ambulance when the noted actor and all-round figurehead of the festival, Deborah Kara Unger arrived with her mother in tow. Deborah blanched, shocked and surprised to find the foyer had become a war zone. As Gesine fetched water and cold towels Deborah’s mother weaved past me through the open door into the darkened cinema to see what all the fuss was about. Her timing couldn’t have been more severe as she was immediately confronted by Vision Stains’ graphic denouement. Deborah’s elderly mother paled as Kaniehtiio Horn chanted ‘Do it! Do it! Do it!’. Then turning on her heels she high tailed it back into the foyer.
‘And I thought you were such a nice girl…’ she muttered to Miss Scarlett as Deborah guided her unsteadily towards the nearest exit.
‘But I am…’ Miss Scarlett tailed off in mid-sentence, jaw hanging as the duo beat a hasty retreat.
‘The stories are given life,’ intoned Udo on screen behind us.’Even as the real world slips away…’
For the next 24 hours Miss Unger refused to look either Miss Scarlett or myself in the eye but there was no real harm done and by the closing party she had all but forgiven us for the wave of horror that had convulsed the audience at Cine K.
‘It was as if the air was being sucked right out of the room’, Doug’s cousin later offered by way of explanation. I’ve heard of this sort of thing happening during the first run of ‘THE EXORCIST’ back in the seventies or at the screenings of Bunuel’s ‘THE GOLDEN AGE’ and ‘THE ANDALUSIAN DOG’ (itself containing a classic early example of ‘eye trauma’) but I never expected to witness a similar reaction from sophisticated 21st century viewers. Of course this was the first time ‘THE THEATRE BIZARRE’ had played at optimum strength to a non-genre audience, which may have had something to do with it. Applause was long and loud as the end roller came on and although traumatized the folk in the cinema happily stayed put for a lengthy
+A during which, energized by the events, Team Bizarre gave what may have been our finest live performance. All in all a palpable hit and, quite frankly, one that reassures me of the awesome potential of the silver screen to serve as a kind of mind bomb to effectively blow gaping holes in the viewing public’s perception of waking ‘reality’.
Roll on Sitges is all I can say!
Montsegur September 2011