Way back when the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) was in town, I discovered a movie playing that, based on the description on the VIFF website, sounded very cool. It’s was called Sufferrosa and it was billed as a neo-film noir where the audience got to choose what happened in the film (such as what characters to follow and what paths they take). To top it all off, the director would be there in person to answer any questions we may have about the film. I headed downtown with a couple of friends to see it and we excitedly debated what would happen as we stood in a long line of equally excited patrons. We were all expecting an interesting, enjoyable, and unique cinematic experience and although I suppose Sufferrosa met some of those expectations (it was definitely… different, but more on that later) it was a total letdown for all but a few of the people in the theatre. Those who did seem to enjoy it I’m assuming were some combination of super pretentious, faking it, and aware of what they were in for. Below is my description of what happened and why it was colossal disappointment.
It starts off with the director standing up in front of the theatre and telling everybody that the whole movie is available online for free (after we’d all just $15 for the privilege of seeing it now) and that he would be choosing everything that happened, instead of the audience participation suggested by the website. So, already I’m pretty irritated and the movie hasn’t even begun.
The curtains rise and the prologue begins where the protagonist describes his new case where he has to find a missing woman in some island facility. This is the only time we’ll hear his voice and the last time we’ll get any semblance of a plot. In the next scene he is dumped into the basement of the facility and we are treated to some creepy imagery of his jittery fingers. Now comes the first choice: click on this one random spot on the screen, or click on this other random spot on the screen. It’s a tough call, but eventually he goes with option B. I was expecting the choices to be more along the lines of do you save the girl or fight the villain, but instead they are completely arbitrary and don’t seem to have any bearing on anything.
Look at all the choices!
To be fair, sometimes the choices make a little more sense like do you continue walking down this hallway or do I open this door and listen to some person tell me there life story that in no way advances the plot or solves the mystery. Actually, come to think of it there really isn’t any mystery which is odd for a movie purporting to be a neo-film noir. As far as I can tell you just keep walking down the hallway until you reach the end and then congratulations; the mystery is solved! Apparently there are alternate endings so I suppose going off on those tangents must have some effect, but I can only assume these effects are as arbitrary as the choices.
Pictured: not important
There are quite a few side characters who will all tell you about their lives and the treatment provided at the facility that makes women young and beautiful again. Some of their stories can be interesting or funny, but most are just bizarre like everything else. It doesn’t help that they all look creepy, say creepy things, and also move creepy. That last one might sound weird, but you’re just going to have to believe me. Every character has a five second loop that plays over and over again where they’re doing such exciting things as breathing or swaying back and forth while staring into the camera. In fact, there’s so much sitting around doing nothing that I’d say Sufferrosa barely qualifies as a motion picture. Then there’s the naked, bent over, geisha girl robots. They’re pretty cool.
This isn’t to say the movie was entirely bad. As I mentioned earlier, some of the characters were entertaining and the film also had interesting things to say on how we conceive female beauty. The best parts were when you listened to the recordings (kind of like in Bioshock) of an investigative journalist uncovering the bizarre and horrifying treatments and experiments going on at the facility. There was actually a suspenseful and gripping story going on there that made me want to know more and find out what happened in the end. That’s what the movie should have been instead of all this artsy fartsy bullshit. If the director had given his entire movie a story with some structure like in the recordings then I think it would have been a lot better without detracting from the social commentary.
So, a lot less of this would be nice
The film ended with the protagonist leaving the island all of a sudden with no explanation as to why. I turned around to notice one of my friends had fallen asleep, the other was really creeped out, and a good three quarters of the audience had left. We stayed for about ten minutes of the Q:A session where people asked pretentious questions and the director gave equally pretentious and nonsensical answers before realizing that we didn’t give a fuck and left. I suppose the director would say that we didn’t get it, that we didn’t understand, and that our underdeveloped minds should stick to Transformers, and if that’s what he has to tell himself before he goes to bed to convince himself that his work matters then so be it. I want nothing more to do with his bullshit.
I do not much care for this man.
I was thinking of providing the link to the Sufferrosa website, but ultimately decided not to because trust me when I say you don’t want to see it. If you still don’t believe me then just google “Sufferrosa” and will probably be the first hit. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Bonus points to Joanna because it’s her birthday. Happy birthday Joanna!