Friday, April 12, 2024

Weekend Screen Scene: The Greatest Hits, The Beast, Sasquatch Sunset

If you've gone through a heartbreak, and are of a certain age, there's a good chance you've made a mix-tape, or mix CD, or playlist, of all the songs you associate with that heartbreak. It's a kind of audible time capsule. Listening to those mixes can bring back the good and the bad memories, and are, in a sense, a sort of time travel.

The Greatest Hits, which is now streaming on Hulu, takes that concept, and makes it literal. Lucy Boynton stars as Harriet, a young woman in L.A. who is trying to get over the loss of her boyfriend, but is having a hard time of it because whenever she hears certain songs she associates with Max (David Corenswet), she is transported back in time to when they first heard the song together. But nothing she can do in the past seems to change the outcome of tragedy. Then a new man (Justin H. Min) enters her life....

The movie is brisk, and wastes no time setting up the concept, and while it's dealing with some heavy themes of loss and trauma, it's still fun, as many time travel movies can be. If I have any complaint it's that very few of the "transporting" songs, aside from a good Roxy Music needle drop, are memorable, but that just may be my Gen-X sensibilities speaking.

Bertrand Bonello's The Beast is another unique science fiction take on love and trauma, starring Léa Seydoux and George MacKay as star-crossed lovers in the years 1910, 2014, and 2044. In all of her "lives" Gabrielle (Seydoux) has interactions with a man (MacKay) who is sometimes a potential lover, and in others, a possible foe.

In 2044, Gabrielle (Seydoux) agrees to a procedure that "purifies" her DNA, relieving her of the trauma of her past lives so that her current life will be free of "strong feelings." She agrees to this, ostensibly as part of a job requirement. 

And it was just as I was writing this that I realized it all sounds very Scientology, though I am pretty sure that is not writer and director Bertrand Bonello's intent here, as it also seems to be critical of the Buddhist concept of past lives as well. In many ways, it feels very Lynchian, and Bonello fills the film with some remarkable imagery. Seydoux and MacKay inhabit all of their past and present lives with a sense of longing and the inevitability of that "beast" known as fate. I'm not sure I completely understood it, but it definitely left me thinking about it for days.

Sasquatch Sunset is like a nature documentary but with all the gross stuff kept in - screwing, puking, crapping, and pissing. The film follows a family of Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) in the densely forested hills of Northern California. The nameless Sasquatch (Sasquatches?) are an alpha male (Nathan Zellner), a female (Riley Keough), a beta male (Jesse Eisenberg), and an adolescent (Christophe Zajac-Denek). We watch as they sit in fields and munch on leaves, set up shelters, mate, frolic with fellow woodsy creatures...and get high as hell on things like fermented berries and magic mushrooms.

As the film is essentially a silent one, with no dialogue, there is a lot of physical humor, and some surprising moments of pathos. Riley Keough gives the best performance behind the (very good) prosthetics, using just her eyes, and sometimes, a complete lack of expression, to elicit both laughs and tears. But there's a reason your average nature show or doc is only an hour long - they can get a bit monotonous, and at 90 minutes, Sasquatch Sunset feels stretched thin. I definitely appreciated it (the final image is perfection), but came away wanting less instead of more.

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