by Erika Bromley and Patrick Bromley
Patrick: My pick for this week puts the “B movie” in the letter B. It’s the super low-budget Canuxploitation oddity Beyond the Seventh Door, which I picked up at the Severin booth last summer at Flashback Weekend. It’s a movie I remember Elric talking about on an old episode of Shock Waves, so I’ve been looking forward to checking it out. It did/did not disappoint?
Erika: Oh it did NOT disappoint. Or, wait...am I understanding the question?
Beyond the Seventh Door started, and my immediate reaction was, “Anyone can make a movie, and I love that! Follow your dreams. Put it together. Make a movie!” Followed by, “Wait, why haven’t I made a movie? I have a basic camera, I live near buildings. I know people! I know words!”
Patrick: You do know words. You have the best words.
I know we both got excited when it started and the main actor’s name is Lazar Rockwood, and in many ways he lives up to that moniker, though not in the way we were expecting. He’s a denim-clad human snake monster with a mullet and an impenetrable accent, which I don’t want to criticize except to say that we couldn’t understand most of his dialogue (the way it was recorded didn’t help matters). I felt guilty not understanding him, but one of the joys of watching this with you was hearing you speculate as to what he might have said. It was a lot of “Earn more sessions by sleeving.”
Erika: You know, sometimes these characters had ten seconds before they were leaving (see what I did there? #nerd)… the rooms they were locked in! Because this movie has something in common with the first film we discussed as a part of our first “Shelf Life” piece, 31: the characters are trapped in a house/castle, and their only chance at survival is figuring out how to escape before time is up! Did you plan that, P?
Patrick: I only wish I was that clever. I knew nothing about the movie except that we owned it and that it started with B. Oh, and that it was like 75 minutes long, which definitely held some appeal.
There was ALWAYS ten seconds before a character left a room. And before they spoke. And after. This is a movie in which it seems like all events take place in real time. More than one character removes a screw from a wall and we get to watch the whole thing start to finish. I just kept asking you “How is this a movie?” At the same time, I had a ton of fun watching it with you, so I’m not complaining. And I don’t think either one of us will be forgetting Lazar anytime soon, mostly because he’s my new style icon. What do you think of my headband?
I noticed that Beyond the Seventh Door features a lot of long takes of Rockwood’s character being frustrated (and surprised?) when a door closed behind him and Beck’s character, making them trapped in a new chamber… almost the same as the old chamber… yet this is how it happened every time, so I couldn’t understand why he would have that same reaction (loudly sighing, pounding on the door or wall, throwing his hands up in frustration) again and again. And the way out was not by going back, so what did it matter? He wasted precious time brooding that could have been used to plan the next escape is what I’m saying. Precious time! Luckily we got to see all of his reactions in REAL precious time!
Patrick: Don’t forget the constant sniffing. And swallowing. Is “Lazar” slavik for “sinus infection?”
Erika: Speaking of what we get to see, I was legitimately mad that we didn’t get to see (SPOILER ALERT) the love scene. At all. Nothing. This movie screams for a little love on screen, doesn’t it? Is that just me? Maybe don’t answer that.
Patrick: World ain’t ready to watch Lazar rock wood. What’s your Letter B pick?
Erika: For my pick, I headed over to the Criterion section of our shelves (one of the prettiest sections, I must say). I grabbed Louis Malle’s Black Moon because it stood out as a title I had not seen, and the black and white cover art piqued my interest. I didn’t know much about it other than it included surrealist images and was made in the 1970s. And that it was loosely about a young woman escaping a gender war and ending up “lost” in a countryside mansion. Who knew we were in for such an experience. This was a first-time viewing for you, too. What were your first impressions?
Erika: Exactly. As we were watching, I kept thinking about all the things a film student could study from Black Moon: pacing, atmosphere, angles, using animals in film, Cathryn Harrison’s performance, absence of dialogue, faking a unicorn…
Patrick: That was fake?
Erika: I read somewhere that Malle filmed this at his own family estate in the countryside of France, and that he was somewhat influenced by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. This film certainly does have a similar surrealist panorama but with less spectacle -- no cute cheshire cats, not much dialogue, and not much of a story. I don’t think we learn anything by the end of the film, which is absolutely not a complaint (I am not someone who wants every story to be wrapped up in a neat, little bow at the end, and I don’t need stories to always teach a lesson), yet it didn’t seem to leave me with any feeling other than wondering what Malle’s ideas were related to the numerous breastfeeding scenes (unicorn included). There are other ways to show metaphors for giving life… I think? I kid. Mostly. I admired Cathryn Harrison’s performance - I thought she made everything seem very easy and natural, and her face is able to express a range of emotions without really changing at all, which is pretty terrific. The movie did leave me with the feeling that it was a deeply personal exercise in filmmaking for Malle, and I enjoyed studying it even if I don’t think I will return to it. Does that make sense?
Erika: Add that to our Bromley Glossary. If anyone reading has a favorite Malle film we should watch, I’d love to hear about it! Lacombe, Lucien was a big hit for him just before Black Moon, right? He had quite a career spanning decades (and he made a few documentaries, which you know I’d love to discover). I really know him best from Pretty Baby with Brooke Shields, My Dinner with Andre, and Vanya on 42nd Street (which I have not seen, but JULIANNE MOORE). Malle marathon?
Patrick: I've only ever seen Atlantic City, which I would say we could watch but it starts with an A, so we won't get back around to it for another 25 weeks. Think you can wait that long?