Thursday, October 18, 2018

In short: Fury of the Demon (2016)

Original title: La rage du Démon

This is another entry into the fake documentary arm of the POV horror subgenre. Fabien Delage’s film follows the traces of a curious incident: a couple of years ago, an American movie collector with a rather Poe-affine name showed a mysterious old silent movie called “La rage du Démon” to a select group of movie biz people. Somehow, the screening caused a minor riot, with several of its viewers still suffering from psychological aftereffects today. Rumours and suppositions suggest the very same film has caused comparable troubles at least two times before; other rumours and suppositions say it was directed by the father of at least the fantastic arm of cinema, the great Georges Méliès.

The documentary follows the film’s tracks through interviews with actual – mostly French – film critics, enthusiasts and directors. It turns out it may not have been made by Méliès at all, but by an occultist he shortly associated with, but what the film does, where it is now, and how it affects its viewers the way it does stays unclear.

If there’s an easier way to get me to like your film than by making it a documentary about a film that never actually existed, I don’t know what it is. Fury is a particularly great example of the fake documentary form in any case, always feeling as if it were shot about a real subject. The only thing – apart from the truth – standing between the film and complete authenticity is that not everyone Delage has roped into the project is a terribly great actor. But then, not everyone talking to the camera in real documentaries is a hundred percent convincing either.

Apart from the lovely idea, the film particularly recommends itself by the sure-handed way its history of the mystery film is constructed and talked about. Most of the tales about its subject the film digs out are very well integrated into actual film history – and into how much of the early history of the art is lost to us – so not little of what we hear in the interviews on screen would actually be the sort of thing we’d encounter in a documentary about a real lost film, adding a pleasant degree of plausibility to the fun, outré parts of the story.

It’s also quite a joy to watch how much some of the film people in front of the camera get into the whole thing – the late Jean-Jacques Bernard is particularly wonderful – going off into the somewhat starry eyed art talk that seems so typical of French film critics once they get going. There’s a joy of invention as well as a palpable love of film running through all of what Delage presents, so I can’t at all imagine anyone who loves movies as much as the people who made this not getting a bit of a kick out of Fury of the Demon.

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