A WTF Triple Bill

Sometimes it's time to step away from the mainstream and dip your toe in the, er, sidestream of films that exist in a strange world of celluloid make-believe, where nothing is certain or obvious, and confusion reigns. These films are collectively known as WTF? films, ones that leave the viewer bewildered, frustrated, and feeling rather stupid because they didn't know what was going on. To help us on our foray into this odd world, we've invited along three special guest reviewers, who have been asked to rate the films by facial expressions on a scale from 1 to Renee Zellweger's new face. Prepare to be befuddled.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010) is a Thai film about Uncle Boonmee (Thanapat Saisaymar), who is dying and has decided to spend his final days in a forest retreat with some close acquaintances. There, some odd occurrences take place as he contemplates his life and the lives he has lived before. It won the Palme d'Or in Cannes in 2010, but is it any good? Well, define good. By good, do you mean an spiritual, art-house film with pretty photography, but no real plot? A film with elusive ruminations on life and reincarnation? A film with periodic appearances by hairy, red-eyed monkey spirits? A film that follows a buffalo on a walk through a forest?  A film with an erotic encounter under a waterfall between a princess and a talking catfish? Yes? Then I suppose you could call this good. Otherwise, you might find yourself a little perplexed or even bored. Maybe in the next life, I'll appreciate it more. 
Our special Asian correspondent Jackie Chan has this to say:

If you have never seen the TV series Twin Peaks, then the prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (David Lynch, 1992) will make as much sense as a bottle of garmonbozia. Unfortunately for the film, even if you have seen the series, this doesn't really have a lot to offer either, least of all clarity on the final days of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), or related mysterious events which took place prior to the series time-frame. If it were possible to decouple it from the Twin Peaks cult, it could charitably be viewed as a unique exploration of the disturbing secret that lies at the centre of Laura Palmer's story, with some arresting, unsettling sequences, especially towards the end and whenever BOB turns up.

Of course, such a decoupling is impossible. Part of the attraction of the series was that Laura's disturbing secrets were only hinted at, leaving the audience to imagine her activities as details of her double life emerged during the investigation of her death. In explicitly revealing the events leading up to her demise, the film reduces the mysterious, intriguing figure whose ghost haunted the entire plot of the series to little more than a mixed-up high school hussy. This cheapening of the character, more than anything, proved unforgivable for Twin Peaks fans, including myself. Compounding this is the absence of several key series characters, reduced screen-time for Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and a distinct lack of the dark humour which counter-balanced the dark heart of the series. Bottom line, it's not worth bothering with, but don't let that put you off watching (or re-watching) the series, particularly Season 1, which remains one of the most outstanding things ever shown on TV. Let's hope the 25th anniversary doesn't repeat the mistakes of the film.
Our special guest reviewer Ted Theodore Logan has this to say...

If you Google the Mexican film El Topo (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1970), the results page will list images and details about the film, including mention of David Silva in the cast, which is rather amusingly accompanied by a picture of Man City footballer David Silva in his Spanish strip. It is perhaps a measure of how trippy El Topo is that for a second I considered this information might be correct.

In truth, I always suspected a film described as a 'Biblical Acid Western' and a cult 'midnight movie' was likely to be hard to get a handle on, and so it proves. Plot-wise, it's a reasonably straightforward film of two halves. In the first half, a mysterious gunslinger, El Topo (Jodorowsky), takes on several rivals, only to be betrayed and left for dead. In the second half, he is reborn as a redemptive figure who tries to help the bunch of outcasts who saved his life. However, when you throw in El Topo's naked son, some gratuitous sex and nudity, dead donkeys, a grave of rabbits, bees, deformed characters and religious allegories, things get somewhat complicated. 

On reflection, I think the mistake I made here is in thinking the film should make any sense. Jodorowsky himself has intimated it's not meant to be symbolic of anything in particular, so trying to work it out is a rather pointless. Ultimately, it's just too weird to be enjoyable, despite some striking sequences, plus there's an uneasy sense of exploitation in its use of disabled and disfigured performers. Still, Jodorowsky proves himself an impressively equal opportunities advocate when it comes to the violence, which is meted out to men, women, children, and furry animals, regardless of colour, age, creed, disability or sexual preference. It was a big hit on original release with David Lynch, John Lennon, Bob Dylan and Dennis Hopper, to name but a few, but they were all stoned out of their heads, so don't read too much into that.
Our special religious correspondent Jesus says:

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