15 July 2013

Everyone Knows An Oddball

Every town has its very own resident weirdo and mine has the locally notorious ‘Purple Aki’. To summarise his life as briefly as possible- he's our local sex pest whose hobby is to force young men to squat down so that he can sit on their back and feel their muscles. At around 6 foot 5, Akinwale Arobieke got his nickname when his mugshot began to circulate and people declared that his skin colour was so black that it actually looked purple. One of the more glamorous rumours that surround him is that he was the inspiration for Clive Barker’s Candy Man. I don't know if this is true but I'll be damned if I say his name whilst looking into a fucking mirror. More commonly though is the story that if you met him, he would give you the choice of either being raped or having his initials carved into your arse cheeks. It is alleged that he proposes this situation to his victims by getting straight to the point and casually asking, “Pop or Slash?” Luckily he's mostly attracted to teenagers with muscles and I am currently neither. I'm in my mid-twenties and the idea of weightlifting just makes me screw up my face and think, “Fuck that. Who can be arsed?”

Recently I saw a film which involved a town being introduced to their local oddball. But instead of being a tall, black guy it was in fact a magical white one. Powder tells the story of a young boy who is gifted/cursed with the ability of controlling electricity. Oh, and I think he's meant to be an albino although in this case he's been painted so ridiculously white that he looks more like one of Prometheus's naked Space Jockeys. His magical powers are a result of his mum being struck by lightning whilst pregnant with him... because you know, that's how science works. Personally, I would have just assumed her feet would explode and her baby would fry in vitro but I guess I'm not a doctor.

I guess people are all made of stars...
The young albino child quickly finds himself orphaned and living with his grandparents who, as the title suggests, have considerately nicknamed him Powder. Kind of like when you have a little kid riddled with cancer and to make light of the situation you refer to him as Kojak, Gollum or He Who Must Not Be Named. Also, because the local town isn't ready to see somebody slightly paler than usual, they keep their innocent grandchild imprisoned in the basement. I don't know if America understands albino-ism because the film really does treat the little honkey as if he was Frankenstein's milky monster. After the death of his family, the magnetised cracker is forced to enter society and does not adjust well. Despite his only crime being a resemblance to a vampiric Moby, the town rejects him and Powder becomes the subject of some pretty intense bullying.

Don't forget though that the kid does have the ability to manipulate electricity as the bullies seem less interested in electro-manipulation than they are his unfortunate complexion. I mean I know racism is fairly rife in some areas but I still would have thought that even the most bigoted of twats would be at least a little distracted when presented with the powers of almighty Thor. At one point, Powder almost develops a relationship with a kindly red-haired girl but her father sees and intervenes. For some reason, this plot thread is just left hanging and I'm pretty sure we never see her again which really is a shame. When you think about it, an albino and a ginger would make a really nice couple as neither can go out in the sun and neither have souls.

Still, I don't want to credit the film with being an over the top satire on the state of a discrimination. It's really a lot dumber than that. In actual fact it's really an odd and overly sentimental movie that unashamedly steals the structure of Edward Scissorhands. In both cases, the kind-hearted freak comes down from the outskirts, is thoroughly rejected by society and so returns to isolation. Although in Powder’s case, instead of going back home, he just gets hit by a bolt of lightning, burns completely up and dies. Personally I'd have thought that telling you that would be an end-ruining spoiler but considering it's the image on the front cover of the DVD I guess not. Spoiler alert... It actually is!

What the fuck am I watching ...?
So, at this point it's not sounding too great but there is one ace in the hole that might attract it an audience. Playing Powder's school science teacher is Jeff Goldblum who has once again been set to ‘fully watchable mental mode’. He bursts into this film full of his weird stutters, smiles and twitches and is instantly as funny as hell. At one point, to express surprise, he looks about the room before finding the camera and randomly staring straight down the lens for a lot longer than I suspect he was directed to. Sure you could just watch him in The Fly which is clearly a much better movie but then you'd miss out on the one scene here which is just too fucking random. At one point, young Powder shows Goldblum his electrical powers by holding his hand and passing a static current through him. This results in Goldblum's hair bouncing up and down whilst his eyes look up towards it so sensually that it's as though he's about to spontaneously ejaculate. Now that the two have bonded, Goldblum, with his hair still messy, starts to fondle the albino boy’s face for no real reason. I have no idea what was going on here but it was fucking hilarious all the same.

I was introduced to this film by a friend and I'm genuinely grateful for the experience of having seen it. Beyond the fact that I'll watch anything that's new to me, there's enough oddness here that even with its predictable plot, it's hard to get bored during its fairly tolerable running time. Before Powder explodes at the end, he finds himself in the presence of the bullies for one last confrontation. Things start to get a little rapey though, when they strip him completely bollock naked and throw him into a puddle. During his anger, he calls on all of his electrical powers and magnetises his attackers belt buckles, yanking them open and causing their pants to fall down. Now I have no problem at all with gay scenes in movies but this one did appear slightly out of the blue and a little out of place. Imagine you were watching something else - Spiderman for example, and there was a random scene in which Aunt May caught him tossing off. It's not that it would bother or offend me, it's just I'd wonder who thought that sequence was the best idea?

Well the answer to that question is a convicted paedophile.

Before this week I'd never heard of the film Powder and I'd never heard of its director Victor Salva. I therefore decided to research what other films he'd made and was unsurprised to discover that his filmography was fairly bare. As it turns out, beyond Powder, the only thing of any significance that he had done was the Jeepers Creepers franchise. Oh, and apparently at one point, he had been arrested for child molestation. It seems that during the making of a film previous to this, he had kiddy-fiddled a twelve year old actor and subsequently been imprisoned as a result. I guess that explains why the climax of Powder has an unexpected schoolboy nude-off. Now, I'm not one of those extremists who feels the urge to go out with a flaming torch so that I can kill the monster in his giant, gothic windmill but still... There are so many talented filmmakers out there that struggle to receive any funding that it seems wrong that this pedo managed to get money to film his climactic student cock fight.

Is Powder a particularly good film? No, not really. Do I recommend that you watch it? Yeah, I guess so. It holds the attention, has moments of Goldblum-related hilarity and it's interesting just to see how a pervert works a predictable plot into their own creepy, fantasy. For best results, I suggest watching with friends so that you can talk throughout and take the piss. It's not brilliant but for stories of doomed, freaky, white people that contain undercurrents of paedophilia, it's certainly better than anything featuring Michael Jackson. Still, I watch Roman Polanski's films and he's not much better. I guess it's just Powder’s slightly random scenes of pant-less-ness that just seemed a bit sinister when knowing of Salva's history. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer it when Hollywood doesn't fund the casual whims of an untrustworthy nonce. 

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