Saturday, April 2, 2011

In short: Savage Water (1978 or 1979)

A veritable horde of tourists is off to a rafting tour of the Grand Canyon. Racist stereotypes of the more peculiar sort (Arab men don't kiss their women, because they prefer putting them to work? Never heard that one before) are among them. There's lot of informative talking about the dangers of rafting. Even more wild philosophising about things like the End of the World™, the owner of the Grand Canyon (can't be the US government, because god never made out a sales contract), and other fascinating themes take place. People raft. People cook. Life is slow.

Well, until a series of accidents begins that may start out harmless, but soon enough sees people dead. It seems as if there is a killer amongst our heroes.

Today, a strange and fickle fate led me to watch the second and final film directed by Paul Kener, whose earlier epic Wendigo I had the dubious luck to suffer through about two years ago. Kener's second movie builds on the director's special talent of creating moments of intense boredom out of a nearly documentarian interest in the quotidian. But the boredom here is of an even higher quality than it was in Wendigo. Effortlessly, it reaches a point where the film is so boring that it's becoming quite seductive to just let the scenes of people talking nonsense while Mother Nature looks on impassively on nothing happening at all wash over you and produce a pleasant feeling of numbness. If a viewer is susceptible to this sort of charms - for better or worse, I am - Savage Water is a perfect relaxant, the kind of thing to put on, mildly stare at, or ignore, when anything emotionally or intellectually more demanding would be a drag.

If you're not built to go into your cult movies as if they were especially slow and empty dreams, there will probably not be too much else in Savage Waters to hold your interest. Though the technical aspects of the film are pretty bad, they never are bad in a way that's built to please through their ineptness. There's obviously a small, inexperienced team without money behind the camera, and nobody believing in ending scenes at some point in the editing room, but they are doing their best; that their best isn't very good is no surprise, yet also not very exciting.

The same goes for the acting. Sure, everybody's pretty bad, but (again) just not in an interesting way. Dialogue is badly memorized, its meaning pretty obviously not understood by the people saying it, the actors stutter - it's the usual stuff. Some of the dialogue these poor people have to get through is quite funny, though; there's a lot (a lot) of post-hippie backyard philosophising going on. It's in equal parts boring (obviously), inane (obviously), and hilarious (obviously). Funny as the talking is, it might not be enough to satisfy the more discerning friend of bad movies.

But me, I'm a bit in love with Savage Waters. Something about its atmosphere, its non-pacing, or perhaps its sheer single-minded will to exist for no good reason at all, gets to me and produces that warm, fuzzy feeling only a very special artefact of a very peculiar past can evoke.


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