Toronto 2014 Review: THE EDITOR Is Eager To Please
The directors of The Editor, Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy, along with the rest of their cohorts from VHS-obsessed Winnipeg film collective Astron-6, must have been mighty pissed when they caught wind of Berberian Sound Studio.
Peter Strickland's 2012 film was a comic meditation on 1970s Italian Giallos featuring a fragile British film editor trying to finish a film in Italy while he slowly loses his mind due to the culture shock and vulgar cinema imagery. The Editor, operating from a similar premise, features a suicidal film editor equally out of sync with the studio he works with, losing his mind due to everyone being murdered around him.
This kind of coincidence, where two features of similar ideas go into development at the same time, happen frequently enough to not warrant much mention, and in this case, it proves beneficial in a kind of way. Where Berberian Sound Studio is distant and deadpan in its humour, The Editor is manically silly with an eagerness to please that gives the whole slapstick-gory affair a kind of puppy dog charm.
The Editor is a rapid-fire succession of broad and goofy gags with a predilection for diction. The target is the seemingly endless stream of Italian Giallo films in the 1970s, as the Italians are nothing if not prolific when they set their B-film directors on doing a thing, be it Cannibals, Zombies, Spaghetti Westerns, or Poliziotteschi moives.
These sex and murder horror-thrillers are not remembered for their acting, the storytelling always consisted a kind of lurid, fever-dream nonsense typically involving, broken glass, insects, demonology, leather gloves, dolls, glistening knives and scissors, hyper-sexuallized kills, warped gender politics, weird zooms, colour tinting, split-screens and everything and anything else to shock and titillate. Any kind of English dubbing was perfunctory on the best of days. Spoofing them kind of feels like shooting fish in a barrel, but Astron-6 has a peculiar, infectuous sense of comic timing. Men are slapped in the face, repeatedly, and it gets more funny each whether, in a bizarre way, and I suspect it will be even if you are familiar with the male posturing of the genre.
It is as if the MST3K guys decided to make movies instead of mocking them. Density of jokes being the key. After honing their skills in short films and short-features for years, The Editor feels like their coming out party, it's more polished and less prone to non-sequiturs than their previous Father's Day.
That being said, The Editor is not that polished and there are lots of peculiar non-sequiturs. Points for a character randomly ripping woman's face off, thinking it is a mask, then sheepishly re-attaching it after realizing his mistake. It feels about right. In this world, nobody is good at their job, and everyone goes about their incompetence in the loudest, most naked (figuratively and literally) fashion until they are murdered with extreme grue.
Brooks and Kennedy again star alongside Connor Sweeney but here they have collected a fabulously collection of nutty and weird character actors including Udo Kier, The Human Centipede 2's Laurence R. Harvey, Brent Neale (fellow Winnipeg native who was the star of one of Guy Maddin's best films, Careful) and the reigning queen of 'getting naked' on screen, Paz de la Huerta. Clearly only on set for a day or two each, the support cast add just enough legitimacy to the picture to carry it along to an ending that feels both lunatic and satisfying at the same time. For folks just arriving, welcome to the Astron-6 party, which is still ascending.