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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(spoilers below, if you care)
This curious little softcore picture played recently in beautiful downtown Toronto (under the title TOMCAT), and I cannot recall a more bizarre audience reaction than during this screening.
MINI WEEKEND (or TOMCAT) is at first a rather dreary, mundane film with the central plot concerning the horny young man Tom, who imagines himself between the sheets with every little tart he encounters... excepting of course, his girlfriend, who is (typically) a nagging little drag. His mother is also a real drag, who keeps on interrupting his infantile little pursuits of the imagination. So, once mom sends Tom to the grocery store, his libidinous odyssey begins once he encounters all these assorted lovelies, and so on into the night.
This washed-out film, shot in varying stages of grey, makes the dangerous mistake of being a dreary movie about someone's dreary life. It doesn't help either that the film is so unimaginatively shot. Take one pseudo-comical moment where Tom is walking towards a naked girl in his room: they run to each other in two separate shots that are repeated to the nth degree. It just becomes excruciating. Yet, however indirectly, the audience therefore begins to feel as restless and frustrated as Tom. This kind of shared feeling with the lead character also makes sense, as most of the movie takes place inside Tom's head, or at least, within his limited little world of cheap bars and stifling market streets. In that regard, TOMCAT is less a cheap excuse for seeing some breasts than a late entry in Britain's "Kitchen Sink" movement. Tom is very much a clone of BILLY LIAR, except that his fantasies are totally sexual. The low-budget filmmaker's classic mistake of having to use footage in which unpaid extras gawk at the camera is certainly witnessed here-- except that this time, it sort of works. Because we see this film through his eyes, it makes sense that people gaze at the camera clumsily shambling through crowded streets, and it accidentally reminds us that film is a voyeuristic art. And these gawking extras look at us as if we are caught in the act of doing something devious (which we are-- we're watching a movie in the sole purpose of seeing naked women)-- what a curiously shaming device! This also makes sense too, as Tom is always frustrated from getting any action-- as if the filmmakers were also frustrating the horny audience.
Then, something happens.
As Tom continues to pursue his desires of the flesh into the night (and I kept on saying, "Okay, when's he gonna get home and get asked by his mother where the groceries are?"), the film becomes more interesting. Not only does the director actually seem excited by the mod nightlife (one club scene features a group doing an awesome garage rendition of "Hold On, I'm Comin'"), but the women actually start to be treated as real people. First there is that Shelley Fabares lookalike that eventually dumps him at the movie theatre, then there is an interesting female whom Tom walks home from the train (and then, finally, cowabunga!)
Then in one more slap across the viewers' faces, Tom wakes up in the train, having simply dreamt the previous sexual encounter (and still carrying no groceries, by the way). Suddenly in the audience, a huge collective "Ohhh..." was heard, as if people actually felt sorry for the guy! Right away, we are reminded that the upstart filmmakers made us genuinely feel for this schmuck, but also, perhaps the greater truth, Tom actually spoke to the loneliness within all of us (and let's face it, watching movies is a lonely profession-- especially watching sex movies), and we are somewhat surprised that even an infantile sex flick like this has a point, and can actually make us feel something. What trickery, what cruelty, what audacity. All we wanted was a little peep show and we are taken to task for our puerile ambitions. What an Artaudian exercise at the movies. And what a reminder that ALL film matters.
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