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Faustbook (2006) (V)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
one of a kind film, 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

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Daniel Griffin's Review, 1 October 2008

Now add Eric (who directed) and Jeffrey (who co-wrote) Leiser to the above list for their absorbing, fascinating Imagination, which contains stunning animated sequences that are often overwhelmingly lurid and oneiric. That's a good thing—for the film's several missteps in, yes, its narrative, its visuals successfully feed that need in me for surreal, abstract dreamscape. It's a rare accomplishment that so fearlessly abandons conventional cinema for astral overload that it often plays more like a music video or one of those Terry Gilliam animated vignettes than a film. But a film it is, ultimately—one that achieves aesthetic beauty and wonderment, even if it ultimately fails to connect emotionally.

What Imagination gets right is its namesake—the animated sequences in which the twins escape into their fantasies and attempt to make sense of the complicated world going on around them. Think Pan's Labyrinth or Victor Erice's Spirit of the Beehive, only far more abstract. These animated sequences are achieved with primitive-looking puppetry and stop motion animation, with abstract water color paintings serving as backgrounds, but these sequences' simplistic nature is part of its considerable style and charm: They represent the half-realized, continuously developing world of two children who are desperately trying to make sense of their lives. Each dream therefore seems to reveal just a few more rooms of their made-up world. By the end of the film, the sisters have developed a fantasy location in which every inch of the screen provides important details; the effect brings to mind the "living" castle in Jean Concteau's Beauty and the Beast, in which every wall, window frame, and candlestick seems to share a secret that the protagonists do not know about.

In these dreams, the twins fuse into a single body (though we hear both their voices speaking at the same time), and the film utilizes biblical and literary imagery that the children use as signposts to interpret the emotional absences of their parents and their increasingly overbearing disabilities. The single animated representation of the twins looks like a hastily-formed, unfinished angel, and this is precisely the embodiment of their reality, at least according to their parents' frequent disappointment with their handicaps. The world they inhabit is sharper, more graceful, and it contains some of the most visionary animation that I've seen—particularly in the details, which includes trees with eyes on its bark and a recurring fawn that turns from an creature of light to a messenger of death in a gradual transition that becomes remarkably terrifying. I'm not going to give away any more of this fully-realized animated world, except to say that they clearly spring from superior creative spirit and that they consistently top themselves in terms of mesmerizing feasts for the eyes. If some of the live action scenes are questionable, Imagination absolutely sparks to life and achieves moments of pure visionary greatness as soon as the children retreat into their dreams.

I am in awe of every animated frame that the Leiser brothers create. Eric's live action work, filmed on 16mm, is a bit more inconsistent. Some sequences are derivative and go on for too long, such as the extended earthquake sequence that begins strong with shots of crumbling rocks but eventually becomes overkill when the camera repeatedly shakes over images of cities, cars, roads, etc. There's another scene like this when the psychologist tosses and turns repeatedly; that he cannot sleep is a point made quickly—why do they linger for so long on his restlessness? On the other hand, some scenes demonstrate great power, such as the director's choice to provide close-ups of the twins' eyes and mouths as they overhear a heated argument between their parents. The effect is so intimate that it grows efficiently unnerving. Eric is also very good at framing—note the way that the doctor's hands overpower the rest of his body as he sits comfortably at his desk, explaining new strategies for approaching the twins' disabilities. He is a man driven completely by his toils.

Imagination has been a three years project for the Lesier brothers, and it was time well spent. There is something utterly hopeful in the thought that a blind girl's fantasy can take her to the Tree of Life, so that she can stand before it and observe both its splendor and its shortcomings, weigh the odds, and eventually decide to taste the fruit. Imperfections result, but the experiences gained are too important to miss—which is exactly how I feel about this movie. The Tree of Life, in the end, exists primarily in the sacred hallows of our minds, which is where the Lesiers keep it and nurture it—unblemished, beautiful, threatening, and quietly informing our dreams. Keep an eye on these fellows; they possess the boldness and, certainly, the imagination of the masters.