Happy Halloween from Cold Lips – your fave heathens.
Cool ghoul, Jeffrey Wengrofsky, is a native New York filmmaker – we met him at a preview screening of The Forgiveness of Judith Malina, his short film about the action theatre pioneer, with a soundtrack by James Sclavunos, Bad Seed, drummer for Nick Cave. Wengrofsky’s other shorts include The Party in Taylor Mead’s Kitchen (a cockroach-ridden kitchen interview with late Beat poet and the Warhol Superstar), Getting Out of Bed with Richard Foreman (a meditation on what popular culture does not tell us about love), and we’re most excited because he’s just scored MC5’s guitarist, Wayne Kramer, to appear in his forthcoming feature about Bailey Hiawatha, a gay proto-punk hippie, the only black White Panther: The Song of Hiawatha. He’s currently curating Secrets of the Deep: Dreams on Film, a short, surrealist film festival in NYC early next year, currently open for submissions. There’ll soon be a podcast with him on this site, and iTunes – but here he reviews the new documentary that looks into the mental illness of churches, kinda…
DELIVER US (Liberami)
As we enter Halloween season, it is, perhaps, important to reflect on the continued experience of the spiritual in the lives of so many. For us moderns, this holiday is not so much a pagan ritual as it is a triumph over religion as superstition, our native folk cultures mocked by children of the Enlightenment freed from the rites and rituals, critters and creeps, sacrifices and stories, and, to fully intellectualize it, the ideological prisms and psychological blinders, of traditional society. Pass the candy corn.
In Deliver Us (Liberami), a new documentary by Federica Di Giacomo, we walk astride a pair of Italian priests whose specialty is exorcism. Yes, that’s right, forty-four years since an adolescent Linda Blair spewed streams of pea soup across a room in glorious spasms of green pseudo-vomit, there are people still terribly concerned about being possessed by a demon and by the Devil in particular. It is not my place to tell you what is real, dear reader. For these priests and their parishioners, this is more serious than life and death, and Deliver Us relates moments more genuinely compelling than late night American televangelists and their twitching hoards of tongue-speaking donors. More than most spookytime entertainment, this film offers a possible actual glimpse of the demonic – Halloween for the hardcore.
Is Deliver Us scary? If seeing people regress into wailing, clawing beasts wrought with emotion, eyes screwed up into their heads amid the vestments, accoutrements, and sanctuaries of old Italian churches frightens you, then yes. This reviewer – who was not raised in Catholicism – found the spectacle of women and men on their knees, howling and pressing their faces into the hands and robes of priests, to be completely fascinating and mildly erotic, especially as they spasm and jolt in response to Holy Water and psychologically-powerful injunctions like: “I forgive those who have done evil to me…”
We meet various people in search of healing – a woman in a failed marriage, a young woman undergoing a sexual awakening, a one-time compulsive masturbator, a man addicted to cocaine, a failed businessman – and Di Giacomo is generous enough to let us decide if the priests are exorcists, psychologists, social workers, or all of the previous. The “possessed” themselves wonder before the camera whether they are crazy or bedeviled, which also adds to the authenticity of their experience, but an encounter between a priest and a doctor – who lavishes him with pills – reveals that even priests do not live “by bread alone.”
It’s easy to dismiss that which we have not experienced and it is a convenient temptation to imagine ourselves the captains of our fates, especially when all is well. But the fates may well swirl about us, demons of “dark energy” whispering in our ears and feasting on our loins. And who doesn’t want to be absolved for their venality, stupidity, wayward impulses and self-destructive urges?
DELIVER US (Liberami) is in cinemas 27th October and on DVD 30th October #DELIVERUSFILM
More on Jeffrey Wengrofsky’s short films via the website Syndicate of Human Image Traffickers and the upcoming feature: Song of Hiawatha.