Talking about Fabrizio Federico's film Black Biscuit is quite a difficult thing to do, largely due to the fact that, despite having just watched it, I can't be certain that I have the right idea as to what it was really about. Now, this might read like a cruel opening statement but bear with me. In the world of underground cinema, defining something as confused is as much commendation as it is criticism, and Black Biscuit, for all its puzzling obscurity, can at the very least be categorized as underground. Having been dubbed by BBC radio and Sight & Sound magazine as 'rebel cinema', Black Biscuit provides bizarre and brief insights into the lives of the odd, the ignored and the ordinary in ways that range from captivating to tedious. Using only children's cameras and mobile phones, we witness drug taking, prostitution, a highly aggressive Ping-Pong game, a grainy heavy metal club juxtaposed with a bleached monochromatic ballet dancer and a nude model telling jokes to his aged painters. And that's all within the first half of the two hour running time. Federico's creation seems to be homage to the crossroads faced by so many when the romantic intentions and harsh realities of ones life cease to mesh; a particularly interesting theme due to the fact that the film is at a crossroads itself, between the ingenious and the rambling; half nightmarish surrealism, half sinister veracity. Taking the theme of social junctions and emphasizing it by using, in his words, the 'punk angels' of society's underbelly, the effect is certainly fascinating and, at times, morbidly pretty. In between odd compilations of imagery with deliberately incorrect censoring and interesting musical overlaps, these moments of colorful disturbance are occasionally entertaining, often baring striking similarities to Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho (1991). In general, the film is a total assault of the senses. Despite its highly stylised cinematography, which displays somewhat gritty and honest characters – or perhaps, to put it more aptly, subjects – in childlike, bleached and almost moving Polaroid ways, Black Biscuit is not a film for everyone. As the Pink8 Manifesto dictates, Federico was required, as director, to cast himself in a starring role as Chet, a young man seduced by the uncomfortable and quick-rich lifestyle of a prostitute. Despite being easily the most enthralling strand within the multi-narrative and schizophrenic film, his presence is as narcissistic as it is charming. Equally, the wholly raw and almost accidental nature of the film could be heralded as brilliantly unorthodox or disjointed and uninvolved. Whilst one viewer might think the scenes are too quickly cut with too little explanation, another may think Federico is presenting them with a series of emotive and bizarre images, honorably allowing his audience to interpret their meaning with no hints or coercion.
Having premiered at the Raindance Festival, the fact that the entire film is available to stream on YouTube solidifies this creation as one born of passion rather than exploitation, and irrespective of any individual's opinion of it, Federico has undeniably done the Pink8
Manifesto (the explanation of which can be found here) proud. If mistakes are beautiful and continuity is wrong (rules 15 and 16) then Black Biscuit is gloriously and glowingly right. If bewildering, vague, self-indulgent, plot-less, risky, egotistical, limpid, raw, ugly and imperfect are perfect (rule 17), then this is a film that is is close to perfection. Federico has adhered unwaveringly to a set of rules that have defined his creation from balls to bones, and there is something to be, at the very least, wholeheartedly respected in this, even if you are in disagreement with the manifesto's rules. So is my inability to understand it fully a good or bad thing? I'm not entirely sure myself. However what I do know is when watching it I was very much reminded of the once-underground indie cult classics like Gummo (Harmony Korine, 1997) or even Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1977). And like either of those films, love or hate it, one must respect Black Biscuit's bewildering and unshakable difference to everything on the film circuit today and accept that perhaps the only certainty is that both the film and it's creator are cult classics in the making.
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