- Product Rating -

Art House Asshole : Felt

| July 22, 2016

You know how when you’re wanting to go to the movie theater and you look up all the films that are showing and there are alway at least three that you’ve never heard of, let alone have any interest in seeing? Well, good news! I’ve seen those movies. I spend most of my theater experiences in art house theaters watching those movies that you’ve never heard of and then never watch. Yeah, I’m that hipster asshole. My goal with this is to spread information out about these films, that way you can decide one of the following. “That actually sounds pretty cool! I want to see that now!” or “Man, I’m glad I decided to go see the new superhero movie!”. So without further ado, here is my article and review of Felt.

I’m not a fan of Lars Von Trier. As far as I know, he has nothing to do with this film, but I say this as something that might help this review later on. Felt is not a pleasant film. Before watching the film, you should know some facts surrounding the film. The film was directed by Jason Banker who is primarily a cinematographer, this being his second narrative feature. It is co-written by Amy Everson, who also stars as the lead in the film. If you aren’t aware of who Amy Everson is, she is a contemporary artist who specializes in rape culture, with many of her pieces of artwork dealing with genitalia in various different forms, such as felt. Yeah, this is one of those films.

All things considered, I was not expecting much from this film. Critics have been pretty split on the film, and from what I read I was expecting to fall under the “hate it” category. To my pleasant surprise, I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. But it was pretty okay. Not the complete disaster I was expecting. But I was able to find a lot I did like about the film. Let’s start with those, that way I can ease you into some of the more messed up parts of the film.

Firstly, let’s talk about the director. Earlier I said that he is primarily a cinematographer. I’ve found that the first three films that are directed by a cinematographer end up looking absolutely gorgeous but lack story and character elements that are needed more so.  So needless to say, this film looks absolutely gorgeous. It wasn’t as bad as something like Meadowland directed by Reed Morano, but it did have its downfalls in terms of development, such as the pacing being painfully slow in parts.

Though the film is directed by Jason Banker, the person you are going to walk away talking about is Amy Everson. I feel like this is one of those cases where Everson probably had a lot of control over the direction as well but gave the formal title to Banker. Everson’s art is shocking, to say the least. This film is based on her art project called “Felt”, which consists of pictures of male genitals in various different scenarios. These scenarios consist of being mounted on a wall like a deer head, being hung on a fishhook, and being transformed into a little baby Hitler. Again, this is one of those kinds of films.

The film follows Amy Everson’s semi-autobiographical character, named Amy. Amy is an artist who recently became a rape victim. The film follows her as she attempts to move on from the incident through her art, where she dressed up in a felt onesie and becomes a “superhero” alter-ego. The biggest surprise is Amy Everson’s acting ability. For someone who hasn’t acted before and has served as primarily an Art Director on music videos, she has a god given talent. Some critics have gone to say that the acting is so authentic that it feels like a documentary, something that I can definitely agree with. Now, with the film coming from Everson’s own life experiences this should make a little sense, but it is hard to describe how free and genuine she is in the film. That is one-hundred percent the biggest highlight of the film.

The first problem with the film is the pacing. The fantastic acting and gorgeous cinematography only carried the film for the first twenty minutes or so before I started checking my watch. The charm wears off very quickly leaving you just waiting for the film to end, even with it’s short run time of 80 minutes. Halfway through the film, it seemed to me that they had run out of things to say and were just dragging it along until it hits the soonest point in which they could put the ending. The film feels like it would make a fantastic short film, but wanted to be a feature film so badly that they crammed in a lot of stuff that honestly served no purpose other than to bore the audience.

The writing has no massive problems on the surface. I often think that writing and acting go hand and hand. You can’t have one be good without the other being good as well. And the acting in the film is great enough that I never noticed any lines that I thought were out of place or unnatural. This being said, I also want to make it clear that the film is very sex driven. I would say that 80 percent of the lines in this film revolve around sex and genitals. Not in a “this is so sexy and cool” kind of way, but in a “this is sad and crossing a line” kind of way. This is obviously what the film is going for, I just want to mention that this is far from a feel good sex romp.

The film is a super art house film that is what most movie goers hate. I’ve tried to explain the film the best I can, but I think it is hard to fully grasp without seeing the film for yourself. Do not think, however, that I am recommending this film. I am not recommending this film on a blanket slate, if everything I mentioned above sounds like something you might be interested in, go on and check it out. The next paragraph is going to deal with the ending and the final scene, which has my biggest problem. So if you want to see the film, don’t read the next paragraph. If you have no interest in the film but are interested in the biggest problem in the film, keep reading.

The overall message has been debated by critics and fans. Some saying that the ending undermines the message and completely goes against everything the film is trying to say. I disagree. The film’s message, in my mind, is that rape is a horrible thing that will destroy a person both physically and emotionally for a very long time if not the rest of their lives. The film ends with Amy losing her mind with her boyfriend, killing him, and cutting off his penis before attaching it to herself. The ending sticks with that message. The film never made Amy out to be a good person. It made her out to be a broken person. So in the end when she brutally murders and cuts off a guy’s penis, this happens because of the fact that she is so broken and is obsessed with the male genitalia and it’s symbol for power, that it has lead to this. This isn’t my problem with the scene. The problem is that it happens so suddenly, that you have to come to the conclusion that I came to at the end of the credits because it gives you no time to think. The editing is choppy and intrusive. This is the only time where the acting is weaker than the rest of the film. It seems almost as if they always wanted this ending, but ran out of money and had to shoot and finish the scene as quickly as possible. It just feels sloppy. The bigger issue at hand though is the cutting off of the penis. I don’t have anything against this. In Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist, there is both a penis cutting scene and a labia cutting scene. It can work really well, such as in Antichrist. The problem is that Trier did is so well in 2009, that every extreme symbolism director has his or her own version of it at this point. I never thought I would say this, but genital mutilation is a cliché at this point. And if you don’t knock it out of the park, it just feels like something that I have to watch at least twice a year. And with all of the things mentioned before, the genital mutilation part of the scene feels just as rushed and sloppy as the rest. This might not be a problem if this wasn’t the climax and emotional selling point of the film.

Overall, I can’t recommend this film. There is a lot that it does right, but there is also a lot that it does wrong. And with the intense subject matter and explicit scenes in the film, I can’t bring myself to recommend this even to the biggest of art house fans. It wasn’t extremely terrible, but that isn’t really an excuse.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.

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