Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"The Electric Chair" (director: Mark Eisenstein)

A little-known cult gem from 1985, this noir-inspired film is a gritty and metaphorical black-and-white amalgam of David Lynch's "Eraserhead" and a Lenny Bruce stand-up act, if that hybrid can be imagined. And it's sadly languished, unreleased, until now.

Dominated by the charismatic and magnetic personality of the late Victor Argo, "The Electric Chair" focuses on a shoe-store manager whose late-night comedy act in a dreamlike, surreal club is gripping and manic. His act is tragically unfunny, and, with the mysterious appearance of a real, working electric chair onstage, his act slowly morphs into a personal journey inside himself. At first, his act is devastatingly unpopular and even painful to watch, as he tells stagnant jokes with pointless punchlines. We, as an audience, eventually witness Argo's character finally find his place on the stage, with a growing audience -- and with more relevant material.

Argo steals the show here, and his powerful performance should be the stuff of legend. A fine art-house film with much more going on beneath the surface, "The Electric Chair" is a compelling and provocative watch. (Wild Eye Releasing via MVD Visual)

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