Thursday, April 25, 2019

What is Hagazussa?

I have only seen the trailer for Hagazussa: A Heathen's Curse, opening this weekend at the Vancity Theatre - and while my curiosity is very much piqued, the film does sound demanding, to be totally honest. I have succumbed a little, these last years, to the land of Netflix and series binges, watching amped-up, intense, addictive cinema as a rule, since it provides a common ground for me and Erika - who finds it much easier to join me in, say, The Walking Dead than she does in film noir or Bergman or Italian neorealism. (Even her own series choices, like Outlander, are kinda surprisingly brutal at times, with protracted floggings and gay rapes and other things I wasn't expecting from the series equivalent of a chick flick). Films described as "a slow burn" (as Hagazussa has been) can tend to induce napping, and while this is more a judgment on me than on the cinema itself - because I napped through the last Tarkovsky I attempted - it does make me a bit concerned when setting out to see something that clearly requires some mental energy to process...

...But the word is coming in on Hagazussa, and it sounds pretty fucking interesting. It has been identified by genre as "folk horror." Sight & Sound described it as a "medieval, feminized Eraserhead." Michele Galgana at Screen Anarchy acknowledges that it is a "hard watch" but also adds, "for those who seek out films that hurt, you won't be disappointed." Dennis Harvey at Variety describes it as The Witch by way of early Herzog, calling Hagazussa a "frequently ravishing film, as attuned to the mysticism of landscapes as prime Herzog," which "grows more and more hallucinogenic, the climactic events rendered only more so by the seemingly spellbound heroine’s unwise consumption of a forest mushroom." He draws parallels with Mandy in just how hallucinogenic the film is. (I didn't like Mandy much, but not because it was trippy!). Noel Murray at the Los Angeles times describes the film as being "like a series of beguiling paintings and photographs from an old history book, each suggesting something inexplicable, which the viewer has to puzzle out, since the subjects are long dead." While I don't know or follow any of those critics (and don't think having a critical consensus on a film actually means very much - I mean, I just watched and enjoyed The Happytime Murders, now on Netflix, and the consensus on that was a vicious dogpile), it's somewhat promising that 93% of critics represented at Rotten Tomatoes are saying good things about the film. 

...But that's all I can say, not having seen the film (yet). For more, I'll direct you to the Vancity Theatre's website. The film opens this Friday, running somewhat late, after a film (Diane) with a lead role for Mary Kay Place (who I have liked since the days of The Big Chill, but have seldom seen well-used) and Rafiki, a Kenyan lesbian romance that caused some controversy in its home country... both of which sound pretty interesting in their own rights, but I think it's Hagazussa: A Heathen's Curse for me. 

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