Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Horror, the Horror

Trey Edward Shultz and Krisha Fairchild in Krisha.  Shults not only writes and directs, he stars too.

I haven't written a post in almost three months.  Too much stuff to do, plus I'm working on getting a draft of a novel done, which takes a lot of concentration and soul and nerve.

Which brings me to why I'm blogging now:  I stumbled on so much concentration and soul and nerve in a new independent movie I've watched twice now I felt compelled to sit down and do this.   The movie is Krisha, and it is written and directed by Trey Edward Shults, starring his aunt Krisha Fairchild.  It's his first full-length movie, and it is a masterpiece of technical skill and empathy and horror.

Watching Krisha is so revelatory because of its concise, controlled madness, banality and sorrow merged with a slick, dynamic sense of style, kind of like if Hitchcock and Cassevettes had a baby.  It mostly takes place inside a Houston, Texas suburban McMansion on Thanksgiving Day, with cars parked all along the grass and in the driveway.  A sad busted-up truck pulls up, the bottom of a hippie skirt sticking out of the closed driver door.  Krisha gets out in all her Sleeping-Gypsy glory, grabs her suitcase on wheels and initially goes to the wrong McMansion, finally stumbling onto the right one, where her sister and other family-members, including a son she abandoned many years ago, take her back into the fold in scenes so awkwardly meaningful and breathtakingly real you feel like you're watching security footage, not a movie.

And yet it's security-footage once removed, filtered through the brain and heart of a true artist.  Shults knows exactly what he is doing, and on a shoe-string budget with his actual family-members doing the acting he produces thrilling set-pieces, lush camera-work, effortlessly composed yet completely on-point scenes that reveal so much without curling into sentimentality of any kind. He can pan, grab a close-up, mute the sound, fixate on an everyday object, all in one swirl, and with all of that he's able to relay tons of fact and joy and hate without dabbling in exposition or dialog.  It's all visual and movement.  He's done his homework, and yet he doesn't show off:  it all serves the story he's telling, the people he's trying to figure out.

The lead actor, Krisha Fairchild playing Krisha, devastates with her moves from smug spiritual priestess to terrified little girl to jealous drunk Medusa yearning for her own version of innocence and happiness to return.  It's one of those performances that linger in your head, just like the movie does, and you can't think of anyone else, movie star or not, who could have pulled it off any better.  Krisha sets up her own little fiefdom in an upstairs bedroom in the house, pulling out pictures and her little locked box of drugs, her Ziplock baggie of makeup, resting her sweet little dog in a blanket on a sofa. That room she takes over is like the psychological nest in Roman Polanski's Repulsion, with Fairchild taking on Catherine Deneuve in the vulnerable yet terrifyingly insane department.  But you fall in love with Krisha in a way you don't with Polanski's character-study.  It's Schults' gaze I think.  Even though his aunt is playing a part, you feel a connection through the camera that's truthful, hurt, full of love, not willing to make amends.  The whole setup is dead-on kitchen-sink tragedy but then it reinforces itself, building into a love-letter written to someone you can't find a way to love even though it's all you want to do.

Krisha is at times a horror movie, a high-style sitcom, a meditation on family and love and loss, an experiment in style, and a visual poem that takes everyday objects and situations and invests in them a Kubrickian coldness and intensity that leave you feeling as though you've seen something brand new and yet totally recognizable, comforting in its strangeness.

At the end of Krisha, when all goes to hell, you feel bruised and elated, kind of astounded by what art can really do.