Obselidia, Cigarette Girl and Chase the Slut among highlights of final stretch at EIFF

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This article is from 2010.

Obselidia, Cigarette Girl and Chase the Slut among highlights of final stretch at EIFF

On Wednesday night I had the pleasure of spending a few minutes talking with Diane Bell, director of Obselidia. She’s very enthusiastic, lapsing into her native Scottish dialect in moments of extreme excitement, and talking in what she describes as her ‘mongrel’ accent the rest of the time – a result of living in Japan, Australia, Germany, the states and numerous other places throughout her life.

‘”Obselidia” is the story of a guy who’s writing an encyclopaedia of obsolete things, and as a result he thinks everything good in the world is disappearing. He goes to Death Valley to meet this scientist who’s predicting the end of the world, and on the way there meets this woman, a black-and-white silent movie projectionist, who tries to convince him that nothing’s obsolete if someone loves it. It’s kind of an eco-love story; a subtle climate change movie masquerading as a love story.’

The shoot included ten days shooting on location in Death Valley, where temperatures easily reached 115 degrees fahrenheit in the shade, horseflies the size of your fist bit through clothes, and the nearest mobile phone signal was 50 miles away. ‘We had a satellite phone, but even with that, you had to drive three miles off. That’s where all the cast and crew stayed – I camped out on location, which was a wonderful experience.’ Diane’s attitude is refreshing in this techno-centric age. ‘It was great just to unplug for more than a week; I guess it sort of ties in with the movie, that nostalgia for older, simpler times. I totally buy into that – I mean, I have an iPad, but I still go to second hand bookstores, y’know?’

After chatting a little longer about further pressures of shooting in the desert – including military flyovers with sonic booms that echo for ten minutes, and sun-tanned actors messing up the continuity – I reluctantly bade adieu, in order to get plenty of rest in preparation for my meeting with the formidable Mike McCarthy, director of the gloriously trashy Cigarette Girl. The film is set in a near-future dystopia where smokers are confined to ghettos. ‘The cigarettes are just a symbol in the movie,’ says McCarthy, in an extremely conspiratorial Memphis drawl. ‘Really, it’s about quitting something, and then the thing that replaces it is far worse than the thing that you left behind.’ The film is populated with stylish, sexy, graphic novel-style personalities, including naive underage smoker the Runaway, shady gangster The Prophet and the mysterious Cowboy who lurks as a ghostly reminder of Cigarette’s Girl’s past misdeeds. ‘I got one question from someone in the audience – “Why are all these people despicable?” I’m like, “Well, they’re just friends of mine!” Really, it’s just a noir, so everyone has to be despicable, and has to die. If you get killed in a noir, you probably had it coming.’

The central role of Cigarette Girl is played the long-legged, corset-and-fishnets-wearing Cori Dials, whose presence in the movie has earned McCarthy comparisons to America’s finest proponent of exploitation cinema, Russ Meyer. ‘Well, this is more than just a one-dimensional worshipping of boobs – there’s not even any nudity in Cigarette Girl!’ says McCarthy, sounding slightly disappointed. ‘Cori, as beautiful as she is, she’s not as big as Chesty Morgan, let’s say, or one of those burlesque queens. She’s more legs and ass and things of that sort. There is a certain fetishising of the female body, and if you wanna label that "Russ Meyer"...’ Mike smiles, but then continues in a more scholarly tone. ‘In a Russ Meyer movie, the American culture that you worshipped, you took for granted because it was happening right then. Now, it’s more of a deified item: physical shapes, cars, women. The things that have influenced the world most have been things like American muscle cars and Bettie Page haircuts. In that respect then, yeah, I’m very Russ Meyer, if Russ Meyer is the label you wanna put on this entire lexicon of iconography.’ Well-spoken and with a glint in his eye, I’d happily spend hours talking with Mike about the relative merits of boobs and burritos, but unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and we go our separate ways.

My final appointment of the day has a bittersweet tinge to it: I finally get to have a Q&A session with Ryan Denmark and Vanessa Claire Smith, two of the lovely folks behind snarky comedy Chase The Slut, who I’d previously had the pleasure of meeting at the Opening Gala after-party. Unfortunately, by this point they’d already left town, but they very kindly agreed to field some questions by email about the film, which follows Chase, a young woman with a certain reputation who is dared by her rich friend Tibb to seduce a member of local religious cult the Disciples of Noah.

‘They were based on these two brothers I knew in Louisiana,’ says Vanessa, who both wrote the movie and starred in it as the eponymous Chase. ‘This particular family belonged to a very conservative Presbyterian sect that believed in home-schooling their kids; believed that boys were never to be alone with girls; and that when they were old enough, there would be an official church-sanctioned courtship. Naturally, the archaicness of this religion piqued my curiosities, and I became a bit fascinated with the boys – so much as to befriend everyone. I didn't go as far as Chase did, but I guess this script is really just me playing the "what if" game. In order to conceal the identity of the church, and to not point fingers at any one religion, I came up with my own. I thought if there can be a sect of Christianity that can handle snakes based on just one verse in the bible, why not create a sect that worshipped the Noah story? And thus, the Disciples of Noah were born. Which, in my opinion, isn't any sillier than what some other sects believe.’

Using the words ‘Christianity’ and ‘silly’ so close together can be a risky move – just ask Kevin Smith, who experienced major religious backlash upon the release of his Catholic-baiting ‘Dogma’ in 1999. However, director Ryan doesn’t seem especially worried. ‘Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. I don't think we present the religious lifestyle as 100% negative. The detached secular parenting that Tibb and Chase were raised with certainly didn't yield wondrous results. However, I would argue, and I think the film does, that sheltering and raising your children in ignorance of the realities of sex and adult relationships leaves them unprepared and unprotected when they inevitably rebel.’ Without giving the ending away, I asked Ryan if we were likely to hear more from Chase in the future. ‘I think Chase’s story is complete... but I'd be onboard with a [minor character] GOTH GUY SPINOFF!’

We live in hope.

This article is from 2010.

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