BAMcinemaFest 2012: Coming of Age

At four, the festival grows into a grand celebration

Rossellini's Machine is part of cinemaFest's small repertory slate, along with Lotte Reiniger's entirely delightful 1926 cutout animation, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, and Frank Tashlin's last collaboration with Jerry Lewis, The Disorderly Orderly, playing alongside Iranian-American director Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa's "personal-essay film" Jerry and Me, something like a cinephile's Reading Lolita in Tehran.

Saeed-Vafa has, by her own admission, no sense of humor, a fact amply evidenced in her film. This leaves Rick Alverson's The Comedy to approximate the sandpapery, stink bomb quality of Lewis's aggravating art. A character study of an alcoholic, driftless 35-year-old of independent means who lives on a sailboat in the East River—an unreformable Arthur who amuses himself by hijacking menial jobs and periodically performing taboo-busting acte gratuitsThe Comedy features a deadpan lead performance by Tim Heidecker of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, making a mockery of family, friendship, romance, faith, and, in various views of his lardy torso, his own body. This darkness, illustrating Nietzsche's "Wit is the epitaph of an emotion," is more disquieting than Compliance's, as one has to contend with the allure of such reprehensibility, choking back laughter.

With so much everyday horror on display, it's almost a relief to encounter V/H/S, an omnibus film of supernatural horror scenarios shot in the exhausted found-footage mode. David Bruckner's leadoff "succubae gone wild" piece transcends its limitations; the rest displays the hazards of any big get-together. That's to say, it's a mixed bag.

For showtimes, visit bam.org.

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