THIS PAST TUESDAY, MISE EN SCENESTERS ENDED their 2013 lineup with “I Am Divine,” a documentary about Harry Queen Winstead, People Magazine’s “Drag Queen of the Century.” Always associated with John Waters and “Pink Flamingoes,” Divine embodies the concept of the grotesque, without shame or apology. The film is a fitting cap on what MES brings to Chattanooga: the Pop Up Movie Theater brings films that this city would see nowhere else.
Founder Chris Dortch puts his heart and soul into the selections, ensuring that over the course of a season anyone that loves film will find something that appeals to the stranger and more perplexing parts of their personality. There is more in store for 2014, including the very first Chattanooga Film Festival. Publishable details about the festival are slim at the moment, but the rumors surrounding the films, the funding, and the celebrity panels will soon reach its zenith.
The event is going to be a giant step forward for film in Chattanooga and none of it would have happened without the growing popularity of MES. One look at the films coming to town between January and March shows why film fans love it.
“Here Comes the Devil”: It wouldn’t be MES without beginning the season with a somewhat controversial horror film. “Here Comes the Devil” follows a family on a camping trip into a mountainous, cave riddled countryside, where children disappear and sometimes come back wrong. The film is something of an ode to 1970s horror and will likely please the stout-hearted genre movie fan, even if the reviews are somewhat mixed.
“The Punk Singer”: This documentary premiered at SXSW in 2013 and it was received by mostly positive reviews. The film follows the life and career of feminist punk icon Kathleen Hanna, lead singer for bands like Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. MES has a soft spot for obscure music and the people who love it, tracing back to one of my first experiences with the film club: a documentary on The Replacements. “The Punk Singer” continues the tradition of celebration for music and personalities on the fringe.
“The Visitor”: MES shows its range of selection with 1979’s “The Visitor.” This film has recently been re-issued by Drafthouse Films – it is only for the most hardcore film enthusiasts. Poorly received by mainstream critics upon its initial release, “The Visitor” is more of an art film masquerading as a thriller. It features aliens, demons, children, and late 70s special effects – it’s the type of movie that should be enjoyed with an audience of likeminded individuals with open minds and tongues in cheeks.
“Fateful Findings”: This is another low budget, obscure film that lurks the wings of the MES schedule. Earlier in 2013, MES screened a documentary called “Rewind This” which shows the underground interest in the weird world of direct to video film. “Fateful Findings” is a film that would likely be buried on the bottom shelves of a backwoods Mom and Pop video store. Though it was released in 2013, “Fateful Findings” doesn’t even feature a page on Rotten Tomatoes. Not to fear, though. One of the strengths of MES is their ability to reveal hidden qualities in even the worst films. If anything, the pre-show reels will make the event worth the ticket price.
“Grand Piano”: This Hitchcock inspired film featuring Elijah Wood and John Cusack is a simple story about a concert pianist suffering from stage fright and a would be assassin waiting in the wings to kill him if he misses a note during his concert. The premise is absurd and fascinating, the perfect example of a film that would never make it to our local multiplex. “Grand Piano” is the type of film that highlights the appeal of MES—this is one that I really want to see. There is always something for everyone.
Mise En Scenesters is becoming more and more successful, boasting high attendance and a powerful presence in the Chattanooga art community. Every time they raise funds to bring films in, they meet their goal within a matter of days. There is a hunger for independent and genre film in Chattanooga. MES is the balm in Gilead for Chattanooga film enthusiasts.