I haven’t posted much in a while. I alluded to the reasons here, in the post which so far represents the unintentional culmination of my October horror column (which I still hope to resurrect in some form before years’ end. This damn optimism will never die!)
The point is, sometimes life gets in the way. And sometimes life refuses to get out of the way. And occasionally, life mercilessly pummels your face in.
So I haven’t been posting here much this month, but when I’m not around these parts I can be found over at Daily Grindhouse — here are my recent pieces on VIGILANTE, GET CARTER, HIT MAN, GREMLINS 2, END OF WATCH, DREDD, LAWLESS, and DRIVE ANGRY — so please check them out.
And I’ve certainly been thinking plenty. I’ve got enough thoughts stored up for several volumes worth of reviews and essays. There’s a lot of writing to come from me.
But one thing I’ve been thinking about is a particular movie I watched last year. I added VIVA RIVA! to my 2011 top ten list without any idea that a year later, it might have any parallel to my own life. Quick synopsis: A gasoline shortage in the Congo leads to violence and distress. Quick synopsis of the past month: A gasoline shortage in the Tri-State Area leads to violence and distress. I’m not saying we had it worse here than they have it in a third-world country. I’m only saying that it feels a lot less foreign to me. Hurricane Sandy gave us a small taste of what is commonplace in many places in the rest of the world. Having seen neighbors getting into screaming matches and fistfights over a tank of gas, I’ve had my perspective shifted just a little bit. It wasn’t scary to me, though it was to some (understandably). It was just weird. Strip away a few modern-day conveniences and you start to learn some harsh truths — and surprising virtues — about people.
Anyway here’s the trailer, and then what I wrote in 2011:
VIVA RIVA! (Congo, released in U.S. in 2011)
What It’s About:
In a community where gasoline is a precious commodity, a devil-may-care rogue thief (Patsha Bey Mukuna) rips off a gas shipment from some very bad men, then runs into trouble when he falls for a local gangster’s girlfriend (Manie Malone.)
Why I Love It:
Because it’s electric.
Before I get to what makes this film so thrilling on a cultural level, let me start out by promising that it’s a solid crime film no matter what part of the world it’s from. The plot relies on familiar noir tropes – the femme fatale, the murderous nemesis, the doomed hero – but where the story lacks in originality, the film more than makes up for it in atmosphere and intensity.
This is a low-budget movie shot entirely practically in a real community using primarily local talent, which gives the movie an added urgency and veracity. This isn’t some ROAD WARRIOR future where gangs battle over gasoline — this is really happening in the world right now. Imagine that; imagine the gasoline we Americans so take for granted being the currency that believably powers criminal enterprise in crowded, poverty-stricken villages.
But even amidst all that urgency and desperate verisimilitude, there’s also a harsh beauty to this movie. The nightlife in Kinshasa feels vivid and seeped in detail and danger, and the sexuality in this movie has a fierceness and forthrightness rarely seen in European cinema, let alone puritanical American movies. If there were rankings based on 2011′s most assertive (and acrobatic) cunnilingus scenes, this movie would have that position licked.
But it’s not just honest sex that makes this film so intriguing. VIVA RIVA! serves as nothing less than the ignition of a nation’s film industry. On the DVD, director Djo Tunda Wa Munga talks about how he specifically designed the film’s plot to be familiar and genre-based because there aren’t a whole lot of Congolese films out there, and he wanted this one to be as accessible as possible in order to gather the international appetite for more films from the Congo. With VIVA RIVA!, we’re seeing an entire film industry start from the ground up, and that’s an exciting thing to watch.
Is It On Netflix Instant?: Yes!
And find me, instantly, on Twitter: @jonnyabomb