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Faustbook
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Faustbook (V) More at IMDbPro »

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A film about death by a dead man

Author: rooprect from New York City
30 December 2013

It's impossible to review this film without referencing the real life & death of writer/actor Jacob Faust. I knew nothing about him until I bought this DVD on a whim. But 10 minutes on google uncovered a pretty sickening story. If you want to research it yourself, here's a page with a lot of links: lostokyo.com/?p=197

The facts:

25-year-old Jacob Faust was shot to death by the San Diego police on April 4, 2005 after a routine traffic stop. The police said he reached for what looked like a gun, but other witnesses say it was a tape recorder, a toy or possibly nothing at all. We may never know because, after a 4-year civil suit, his family decided to settle out of court for $325,000 with the stipulation, I'm sure, of a gag order. With all that in mind, I watched this film as if it were a piece of evidence, or at least something to shed light on whether Jacob Faust deserved to die.

The film:

Although Jacob plays himself in the movie, a 20-something loner who stumbles through life brazenly challenging concepts of theology, death and necromancy, and although the DVD description advertises "an uncanny parallel" to the actor's real life passing, I didn't find much that related to Jacob Faust's actual demise. But I did learn that Jacob was the kind of person who questions authority (jokingly arguing with the devil... or perhaps likewise arguing with armed officers?), and in that sense there is perhaps a parallel.

Overall this film is not for the casual film-goer, but if, like me, you happen to find yourself obsessively curious about the life and death of Jacob Faust, wondering if he had some premonition of his own doom at the hands of the powers that be, then you owe it to yourself (if not the dead guy) to give this a whirl.

It's a cinema experience that is every bit as confounding, intriguing, subjective and ultimately frustrating as Jacob's real life. This film will give you no clear answers, only fragments of deep thoughts which ultimately lead to more questions. Or for those of you who lose patience, it may lead you to the trash can. One way or the other, something about the experience is oddly appropriate.

"Faustbook" is a modern adaptation of the 16th century "Faustbuch" and the 1604 Marlowe version "Dr. Faustus", perhaps the earliest recorded tale about a man who sells his soul to the devil. While "Faustbook" is set in modern times (around the year 2001), the narration and dialogue are mostly in the lyrical style of Marlowe. But it's spoken in Jacob's distinct, tongue-in-cheek, semi-mocking tone of voice which may seem more reminiscent of the ramblings of beatnik poets in Seattle coffee houses. Don't let this scare you off; if you pay attention to his words, there's actually a lot of meaning, wit and offhand humor.

Watching this film is a struggle. Bombarded with visuals that are fragmented, disorienting and seemingly random, you'll be tempted to tune out, just as if you were tuning out the annoying psychobabble you'd overhear at that Seattle coffee house. This film will give even the most patient Godard fan a run for his money. It doesn't help either that this film was made on a very low budget. Generally speaking, low budget + artistic expression = pretentious drivel. But 2 things kept it from falling into that pile, at least for me. 1) the playful, humorous presentation which immediately offsets any threat of pretentiousness, and 2) the excellent piano & accordion music.

The music reminded me of the Yann Tiersen soundtrack to "Amélie", except that this had a darker edge. More dissonance, minor keys and diminished chords gave this "bouncy" soundtrack a decidedly somber air. When you realize that the piano & accordion music was composed & recorded by Jacob Faust himself, it becomes a grand experience.

Oh something else I really liked was the premise of Faust working as a funeral director, loving his job (which apparently Jacob did in real life) and finding beauty in such morbid things that generally spook the rest of us. Isn't that the perfect premise for the story of Faust: a man who is driven by a curious appreciation of the morbid arts?

Cool animations (mostly at the beginning) and playful use of masks & puppets (perhaps a nod toward Jan Svankmajer's excellent "Lesson Faust" 1994) also kept things interesting.

But around midway I completely lost the point of the film. This could be because that's where Jacob supposedly quit the production and stopped writing. Or who knows, maybe it's because my puny mortal brain had absorbed all it could. But from my point of view, it seemed like the novel spin on the Faust tale ran out of ideas and fell back to a simple retelling of the hackneyed old good vs evil sermon. For the last half hour, the Jacob Faust character, who had initially been a sassy, rebellious, wisecracking hero, instead seemed to sleepwalk through the rest of the story with no real identity.

The ending was confusing to me to me, but I guess so is Jacob's unsolved fate in real life. No tidy endings with red ribbons here. Like I said earlier, "Faustbook" may prove to be as intriguing, confounding and frustrating as reality. But for what it's worth, this is a rare opportunity to get into the mind of a person who, as far as I can tell, deserves to be called a tragic genius who was cut down way too early in life.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Well done yet overly personal

8/10
Author: salreemer from United States
28 June 2010

FAUSTBOOK Vanguard Cinema 2005 Written by and starring Jacob Faust – Directed and shot by Eric Leiser

Well done yet overly personal.

This film begins with two scruffy guys sitting on a balcony talking about themselves. Very home movie and sort of odd - not what you expect to see. Come to find out this disk is an understandable memorial to the creator and star who is now dead. The release should have saved this clip until after the movie, thereby letting it stand on it's own merits and letting the creators personalities become an addendum to, rather than an overshadowing of the project. The movie itself begins in glorious black and white, yes, and instantly we are transported to another world - a very stylized and personal world that is the vision of this unique artist. Either you will identify with and/or appreciate this world, or you won't. I found it hard to fall into it's trappings, but then, there was something haunting about the whole experience. A paradox if you will… Had I met Jacob some late night, in some strange town, on some forgotten adventure? As I went on watching this young man in his bohemian ramblings, contemplating life, death, and everything in between. I realized I had. Jacob is the archetypal café beat that we all know and love. His mind is always working, his soul continually tortured, his passions ultimately leading him into situations best left to those who must confront the devil. This is all done with a quiet earthiness that ruffles no feathers but his own. We get to live vicariously through him as he pushes the barriers of existence challenging all of the institutions that we can't. The work is as much a diary of this man's life as it is a movie. Being filmed over a five-year period, the depth of dialogue and overall sensibility are evident of true artistic genius. I'm sure that had this man lived on, he would have accomplished great things. I find myself becoming touched by his passing, how poetic a loss. Eric Leiser however, does live on. Director of this film among several others, and more to come, this prolific troubador seems to have his fingers in just about everything. From cinematography and animation, to holographic science and fine art, I can't help but be curious to view this madman's other works. I may even forgive him for editing Faustbook with that clip at the beginning. At any rate, it's good to know that there are still good-old-fashioned crazy men running around and stirring up trouble. I can't wait to see more! If you like quirky/artsy with a touch of geek and a double-dash of trouble, you'll love Faustbook. www.albinofawn.com

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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

one of a kind film

8/10
Author: sheri-collins705 from United States
1 October 2008

"Faustbook" is an extreme character study that will shock you and leave you in awe. It's from first time filmmaker Eric Leiser, who shows real skill behind the camera. It's also written by its star Jacob Faust, who passed away in April of 2005. He's also the composer of the film. All of this really adds to the tone and mood of the film. The film is also presented in black and white. I think the black and white presentation is perfectly suited for a film of this nature. It's the type of that film really surrounds you in its style. You are really absorbed by everything that is happening on screen. With that said, this is a very strange film. At certain points, I was not sure if I really liked it. It's very strange Eventually, I learned to just go with the total weirdness and strangeness of the film. You have to accept it. If not, you'll go crazy trying to figure out the film.

The film follows Faustus, who is a troubled mortician with a lot of questions. He's trying to find some truth behind his job. It's almost like the film "Sideways," but set in a funeral home. In "Sideways," you had two guys looking for some truth behind the wine that they drink. In this film, you have a man looking for truth behind his profession. He also must encounter the devil, who offers him answers for his soul. Not exactly what I would call a fair trade. Now, I have a lot of questions about life, but I'm not going this far to find them. He is starting to wonder if he needs his questions answered that badly. He has one last chance to save himself before the deal is finally signed with the devil. The devil does not enjoy people who don't follow their contract. He's not exactly understanding or patient. Either you follow his deals, or you perish promptly.

As stated above, all of this is really weird and out there. Can you accept the premise of the film? That's the question you should ask yourself before checking out this film. I was able to because it was so different from anything that I had ever seen. You won't be bored watching this film. It's weirdly fascinating and bizarre. To make the film even weirder, it has a lot of dark humor in it. Jacob Faust must have been a very interesting individual in real life. He sure has a unique and dark vision with this film. He would have been an interesting filmmaker in the years to come. His work is all over this film in terms of acting, directing, and even composing. Are you tired of the same old Indy films? You won't find anything boring or predictable in this film. You'll find some unique film-making in this strange flick. You just have to make sure you are ready and prepared for such bizarre fare. If not, you'll be lost throughout the course of this film.

"Faustbook" is a film that I think will polarize audiences right down the middle. I thought it was a nice change of pace from the usual Indy films that seem to be inspired by Kevin Smith. It had its own style and tone. If you are a film fan who takes chances, check out this film.

- Tony Farinella

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Faustbook Review

10/10
Author: telesquid2002 from San Diego, CA USA
10 January 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Faustbook is a rare treat, a freshmen work by a competent filmmaker that manages to articulate its creative energy in a compelling film. So often first films fail to translate their creators ambition onto the screen. It is a pleasure to see a filmmaker such as Eric Leiser and company propel an utterly unique vision and rich mythology into being. The film, too, balances many extremes; being formal and experimental, personal and broad, fantastic and grounded; but above all showcasing a rising talent in both animation and narrative film. The print I viewed began with a behind the scenes interview with director, Leiser, and star, Jacob Faust. Traditionally relegated to the supplementary features, having the interview incorporated into the movie at once prepares us for the personal story of both the production and the narrative. This breaking of the fourth wall is a consistent aesthetic utilized most fascinatingly in what would normally be structural faults such as continuity errors, glimpses of puppet operators, and inconsistent audio mixes. Faustbook purposefully includes these as a charming proclamation of the filmmaker as craftsman. There is an ever present influence of Eastern European animation and film theory, most notably that of the works of Jan Svankmajer, whose own "Faust" is lovingly paid tribute.

Sean Ryan, Media Technician at City College San Diego, CA

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