Saturday, March 25

Special Events ArchiveBoston Underground Film Festival 2017

Saint Bernard

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Director: Gabriel Bartalos
Screenwriter: Gabriel Bartalos
Cast: Jason Dugre, Katy Sullivan, Bob Zmuda, Warwick Davis
2013 | USA | DCP | 97 min

A floundering classical music conductor unravels into an abyss of insanity.

Gabe Bartalos is the mad architect of outrageous creations featured in the work of genre luminaries like Frank Henenlotter and Stuart Gordon; the full potential of his twisted imagination, however, configures in Saint Bernard, a berserk directorial effort that gives us a direct line into Bartalos’ fertile and considerably warped mind. Virtually undiscovered in North America, BUFF proudly unleashes Bartalos’ phantasmagoric fever dream into the psyche of our midnight crowd, the perfect platform for the most exquisitely what-the-fuck entry in our celebration of batshit crazy cinema.

The film follows Bernard (Jason Dugre), a once-aspiring conductor who’s lost his creative identity through a lifetime of accumulated traumas. His zest for music is resurrected by a series of bizarre encounters with a slew of peculiar characters who challenge the barriers Bernard has built up in his mind, and force him to confront repressed truths about himself. The story serves as affecting allegory for artists who’ve faced similar crisis in devotion to their chosen medium, and Bartalos uses his own horrific art to incite restoration of that passion or risk losing it all.

Bartalos develops mise-en-scène through a blend of found objects, splatter gore, and impossible creatures, a cyclone of creation aimed directly at the viewer’s delicate sensibilities. Though Saint Bernard hinges on a steadfast DIY approach, it transcends limitations and is filled to the brim with outrageous set-pieces that compliment its surreal absurdity. The film is therapeutic in its approach, and the visual lunacy allows Bartalos to thoughtfully express his unique visual sense with gusto. Once bearing witness to skydiving poultry carcasses, alleyway dismemberment, and a gang of walking hair, the viewer cannot passively digest Saint Bernard, but succumb to its disorienting hallucinatory unspooling.

Chris Hallock