I went to visit my friend Jesper in Snohomish tonight. He made Pina Coladas and we checked out two films…

Barbara the Fair with the Silken Hair

A 1969 Soviet fairy tale, full of humor and with bizarro technicolor production design that occupies the no-man’s-land between The Wizard of Oz and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. A foolish tzar loses his son to an underwater troll, and tries the old baby-swapping gag to save his kid. Hilarity ensues. This is one of the unwittingly strangest films I’ve ever seen, and has superb camp value. Lots of stunning visuals–stunning both in that they’re very imaginative but also because they’re so frequently ugly and strange. It’s almost visual sadism, though that was clearly not the intention. The not-so-subtle message delivered in the film’s ending is pretty funny as a piece of Soviet kitsch: the tzar’s family are ugly, corrupt buffoons, but the big-hearted, good-looking peasants triumph. As Jesper said, “Red-armed simple folk save the day!”

Gen-X Cops

Hong Kong action flick produced by Jackie Chan. Three slacker police cadet washouts are recruited by an unpopular detective to investigate gang warfare. Very Mod Squad. Lots of gunplay and some good stunt scenes, with the precision and grace you’d expect from Jackie’s stunt team. The plot is nonsense, but it’s decent fun and has a couple of great insults far too crude to print here. Followed by a sequel, Gen-Y Cops, that I haven’t seen. A lot more gunplay by the heroes than I’m used to seeing Jackie do himself. It felt a bit like an attempt to marry Jackie-style stuntwork with John Woo-style gun fu.

Today I bought a copy of John Fante’s 1930s novel ASK THE DUST, about which I’ve heard a fair amount. If you’ve read my most recent movie reviews, you may remember that I saw a film that I thought was an adapation of a Fante novel but proved to be a documentary. When I found the book in a store today, I read the opening paragraph and was completely hooked. I’ve only read a few pages now but man, this guy could write to beat the band. Joe-Bob says check it out.