Yep, "China White Serpentine" means exactly what Judge Brett Cullum thought it would mean.
Sex, violence, drugs, and a heavy rocking electronic soundtrack.
Directors Eric Stanze (Ice From the Sun) and Robin Garrels (Insaniac) team up to create this surreal journey into stunning visuals, incoherent plot, and random sequences where dead people show up on a doorstep to deliver a DVD. Sounds like David Lynch territory, and it certainly pays homage to the master of beautiful muck. Yet it also has a harder edge to it, and a homemade production value that is its own trademark. It's shot on video, has a cast of amateur actors, and feels low rent while knowing how to exploit that feeling. There are graphic scenes of intravenous drug use, sex, and violent imagery just for good measure. There's a heavy industrial electronic score which can be appreciated on its own isolated track if you want to do away with the dialogue altogether.
Frankly, this film is right up my alley. I'm known as "the libertine" because I don't shy away from frank sex or illicit behavior in my film library. Hollywood and America is far too uptight about sex, and it's refreshing to see movies where there is no fear of something that is natural and can be used poetically in a plot without being pornographic or exploitation. The distributor even has a motto of "Hollywood is a disease, and we're the cure." All I wanted to say is "Fuck yeah!" Oops! Was that my outside voice? The point is China White Serpentine is a deliberate middle finger to mainstream cinema, and that is both its lure and what will turn some people off.
The DVD is extremely well put together. The transfer is the traditional "shot on video" fullscreen, and the images are meant to look grainy and distressed. The simple stereo track gets the job done nicely. A director's commentary track and actor's track together provide a wealth of information on the production. Also included are outtakes and two "making of" featurettes. This is an extremely well-rounded disc which offers a ton of material to support the feature.
China White Serpentine is not for everyone, but if you're in the mood for an adventurous, trippy film laced with sex, drugs, and violence, this is a good choice. It's nice to see an independent movie with such a sophisticated use of visuals, and a European attitude towards sex on film that runs counter to what you see in Hollywood. The production values are a bit rough and sometimes the amateur actors falter, but the film succeeds in creating its own world. It's an interesting indie outing that will provoke the right audience, and outrage everyone else. If you're looking for liberated cinema, China White Serpentine offers an antidote to standard Hollywood fare.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: SRS Cinema
• Audio Commentary with Co-directors Eric Stanze and Rpbin Garrels Joined by Cinematographer Jason Christ
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