Art Attack: Eddie The Sleepwalking Cannibal
by Sherif Awad
Can an artist kill for inspiration? Can art inspire vicious crimes? These are the questions raised by many films I have seen during Tribeca Festival last month. Eddie the Sleepwalking Cannibal, a DanishCanadian co-production was the first film. It stars Danish actor Thure Lindhardt who plays Lars, an artist who suffers from creativity problems. However, his inspiration is only resurrected in the form of carnage – blood, guts and scenes of violence. Concerned about his young protégé, Ronny, Lars’s long-time art dealer, arranges for him a teaching job in a small town, at a school for the mentally challenged. Arriving there, he gets introduced to the deaf and dumb Eddie, one of the school’s students. One night, Lars wakes up only to discover that Eddie is a cannibal suffering from a rare form of sleepwalking that drives him to crave for the fresh meat of human beings. Initially horrified by Eddie’s deep dark secret, Lars becomes enthralled by the not-so-gentle giant who becomes his muse for a new series of bloody and violent paintings.
I met Boris Rodriguez, the writer-director of Eddie, who, after studying filmmaking in Montreal, went to direct the award-winning documentary Havana Kids in 1996. Rodriguez, who is making his feature debut in Eddie, told me that the original draft of the script was about a werewolf and a novelist in Carolina and, after few rewritings, became the final film whose poster’s design, colors and composition, was given a retro feel with a tribute to the poster of the classic horror The Exorcist and some Italian horror film known as Giallo. During the shooting, Rodriguez discovered how difficult it was to mix violence and dark humor, which is a common formula nowadays. But near the end, he was successful in causing the violence to escalate from the beginning of the film to the
end into a more graphic and detailed climax. However, Rodriguez did not show us any of the paintings inspired by Eddie’s crime realized by Lars because he wanted to leave the recognition to our imagination. Eddie reminded me of a very old film I have seen in 1980s though it was released in 1974. Craze starred Jack Palance as Neal Mottram, a nutty antiques dealer who starts to sacrifice women to an African idol he kept in his gallery
The second film about art, mayhem and madness is Francophrenia, a brilliant, cuttingedge collaboration between famed actor and avant-garde artist James Franco and award-winning filmmaker and editor Ian Olds. A couple of years ago, Franco signed up for a guest appearance in one of the episodes of General Hospital, then brought along a crew to film behind-the-scenes action on a set at Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), creating a glimpse into the strange world of celebrity in both its public and private moments. In that episode, Franco was playing a deranged artist who was about to commit a crime while opening his show at the MOCA.
Later on, after wrapping up the episode, Franco contacted Olds who started to work on this “found footage,” to repurpose Franco’s material into an experimental psychological thriller focusing on the actor’s escalating paranoia. Olds added his own voiceover as the conscience of Franco and edited the material to make it look like Franco is losing his mind on the set as the line between reality and fiction was blurring with the performance artist Franco plays in the television soap opera and the movie star James Franco are in internal conflict. Olds and fellow screenwriter Paul Felten worked
on this subjective interior monologue that underscores the conflicted relationship between these various facets of the same being. The film is a crazy ride with the director playing with
many tools: action, reverse-action abstraction, animation, and multiple-screen imagery, all set within the context of a dramatic suspense narrative. Also Franco and Olds succeeded in using Franco’s celebrity status to create an original work that defies the trajectory of stars who usually move from soap to silver screen. After Tribeca, I went to see The Raven starring one my favorite actors, John Cusack, in a thriller taking the real-life character of novelist Edgar Allan Poe into a fictitious narrative where he faces a lunatic committing horrific murders inspired by his writings. James McTeigue (V for Vendetta), directed The Raven with high efficiency and fast-pacing and succeeding to pull out another one of Cusack’s intense performances.