J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

SF Indie Fest ’13: The Legend of Kaspar Hauser


Since the early Nineteenth Century, the odd tale of Kaspar Hauser has stirred controversy and skepticism.  The latest film (somewhat) inspired by the sad strange Bavarian wild child is likely to generate similar disbelief.  Those who enjoy historical costume dramas will be deeply disappointed, but fans of Vincent Gallo get a double fix with Davide Manuli’s The Legend of Kaspar Hauser (trailer here), which screens during the 2013 San Francisco Independent Film Festival.

After a long mysterious absence, Kaspar Hauser washes up on a deserted Sardinian beach.  The local Sheriff is convinced the young man is indeed heir to the island’s throne.  After all, he has his name tattooed across his chest.  Others, like the local Priest, consider him a holy fool.  However, the ruling Duchess does not think much of Hauser at all.

Hauser never says much, but he is constantly getting down to the music apparently coming out of the headphones that he always wears but never has connected to anything.  Eventually, the Sheriff teaches him a profession: dj-ing, surely a high demand trade on a nearly barren isle.  There are also UFOs that briefly show up.

Do not try to make too much sense of Legend.  It would be a fruitless exercise.  The only reason to watch the film is to see Gallo do his thing as the English speaking Sheriff and his Italian speaking nemesis, the Pusher.  He improvises, chews the scenery, and boogies down with wild abandon.  Nonetheless, he cannot disguise the thinness of the concept he is trying to punch up.

Tarek Ben Abdallah’s black-and-white cinematography is quite striking, as is Elisa Sednaoui as the Clairvoyant, one of apparently seven residents of the island.  Unfortunately, her scenes are essentially extended non sequiturs.  On the plus side, a case could be made Silvia Calderoni is rather effective as Hauser, since it takes a while for those not forewarned to realize she is a woman playing a manchild’s role.

Fans of electronica might dig Vitalic’s original soundtrack, but it is hard to believe it would constitute sufficient entertainment for most movie patrons.  Manuli offers up some clever gags here and three, like “priest” emblazoned on the back of “the Priest’s” cassock” in Judas Priest typography, but basically, Legend just gives you Gallo X 2 in black-and-white. 

Regardless, Legend is sure to attract a cult audience, who will probably guffaw loudly through both showings to assure themselves they are really enjoying it.  Recommended for Gallo fanatics (who are not likely to have many chances to see it), but not the rest of us mere mortals, The Legend of Kaspar Hauser screens this Friday (2/8) and the following Monday (2/11) at the Roxie Theatre as part of this year’s SF Indie Fest.

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