HOLY BEASTS is a movie within a movie: directors Israel Cardenas and Laura Amelia Guzman take the spectator to follow in the making of a film intended as a tribute to a mostly forgotten 1970s B-movie director.
From the start, there is an atmosphere of uncertainty in the project of shooting the musical “Le Palace,” a movie for which the late Jean-Louis Jorge had just written the screenplay. The film, in Jorge’s typical style, would feature starlets and vampires. Jorge, born in the Dominican Republic, had been one of the colourful characters in the bohemian scene of the 1970s in San Francisco. He was murdered by three teenagers in 2000.
In the Dominican Republic, Victor (Jorge Piña) is the producer of the ambitious project with local and international backing. To direct the movie, re-creating that 1970s underground ambience that Jorge loved, the producer brought two old friends to the island. The aging star and director, Vera (Geraldine Chaplin), and cinematographer Henry (Udo Kier). The question of memory and the passing of time is an ever-present theme. Vera reminisces about those times, but not with a sense of regret.
On the contrary, she embraces the idea that a life lived fully prevents aging. Vera’s inquisitive mind, free spirit, and arrogance –as her grandchild Yoni (Jackie Lodueña Koslovotich) remarks– make her collide with some members of her crew. In the end, her ideas about the film will prevail, and that is probably what would doom the project as well.
It seems that some mysterious forces were haunting the whole production bringing chaos, and even death. As the events precipitate, causing havoc in the sets, it becomes apparent that there was some fate preventing the project. It appears the film the ill-fated director had left as a screenplay was destined to be left just like that and never be taken on the screen.
“Holy Beasts” will appeal to those who like unconventional movies, with a narrative that at times resembles a puzzle, where Vera’s memories, episodes of her imagination, and dreams intertwine. As expected from this grand old lady of the screen, Geraldine Chaplin delivers a powerful performance. She leaves on the spectator’s mind all those ghostly images of a past “life fully lived” but with no apparent signs of how it really was.
Released this weekend in selected theatres and available on VOD on various platforms. Mostly in Spanish (original title “La fiera y la fiesta”) with some English dialogues and a few voiceover passages in French. With English subtitles. Duration 90 min.