I first heard of Mr. Saliba while looking at the Severed Cinema website, and reading these reviews of a couple of short films by some canadian guy. I was captivated right away, in part by the beautiful lighting and composition in the photos, and because they were done in photographic stills instead of the usual film/digital way, similar to Chris Marker’s classic La Jette. But most of all, I was captivated by the beautiful nude ladies. That was it, I had to watch them. I tried looking for these shorts but didn’t have much luck, so I decided to just contact the filmmaker point blank, to see if he could offer me his films in exchange for a review on this blog nobody watches. Curiously enough, he said yes. Since then I’ve been able to have small conversation with Matthew, and have noticed he’s a guy that takes his work seriously, but not himself, which is a good trait in a filmmaker (so many of us have such fragile egos).
So I got the package in the mail last Friday with five films by Mr. Saliba (which means drool in Spanish, btw) and started giving them a watch. First, we have two early short films, The Manipulator And The Subservient and Pandora’s Paradox. They were both shot in a familiar manner, and have a very ‘film school’ vibe to them, which isn’t a bad thing. The problem with these two shorts is that we can see a filmmaker trying to find his own style, but not getting there yet. On the plus side, the acting is pretty damn good, frenetic and energetic as the story dictates. Pandora’s Paradox goes for a surreal David Lynch vibe that I can kind of understand, but for the life of me, I couldn’t stop laughing. I found the movie to be a surreal black comedy, and I hope this was Saliba’s intentions. From the woman giving birth to the giant toe, to the crazy S&M between the parents and the goofy-looking doctor, I couldn’t stop giggles.
After these two shorts came She Was Asking For It, and boy, here we really started cooking. The story involves a man who is raped and abused by a duo of women, so he decides to take revenge against them with a giant dildo. This is where Saliba’s photographic style began, at least based on the films I received. Saliba is style and substance, as he is able to show in a short film what a lot of people wish they could achieve in feature length films. The colors are vivid, with many gels and surreal tones adding to the dark images. Not only do they reflect the darkness of the story but o f the psychology and revenge of the characters. Many people would probably think ‘Argento’ first, but I have to say that he reminds me more of another giallo filmmaker, Sergio Martino, particularly All The Colors Of The Dark. The only flaw in the film, for me, is the music. Most of it comes from the Lost Highway soundtrack and it’s more distracting than mood-enhancing. Still, this is a great short film.
Even better than She Was Asking For It, was his second short in the photographic style, known as Vampyros Lesbos. Now, before you hit the brakes, yes, I know that this is the title of a Jess Franco film. My favorite Franco film, personally. It doesn’t surprise me that Saliba would do his own re-envisioning of Franco’s work, as both filmmakers share similar themes, particularly the stuff Jess made in the late 60’s/early 70’s (Venus in Furs, Succubus). The story deals with a female vampire who seduces Saliba’s girlfriend and steals her for himself, so Saliba decides “I’m staking these bitches”.
This is the best of Saliba’s films. It takes the promise of She Was Asking For It and takes it to the higher level. Not only is the story better and more complex, but so is the style. You see, as much as I liked She Was Asking For It, the way it was made makes it very self-aware. Here, the style isn’t as noticeable and blends better to make the story easier to follow. There’s also a ton of nudity in this film. As beautiful as the homicidal and vampiric as Isabelle Stephen and Kitty Daly are in their roles, my favorite has to be Kayden Rose as Morpho. I wish the Morpho in the Franco films was as beautiful as the one here.
Matthew has said in many of his interviews that his movies are mostly about creating a mix between horror and sadomasochism, a sexual lifestyle that I must admit that I take no part in. Not my thing. But Saliba’s films have to be applauded for making their approaches to sadomasochism in a very realistic and truthful way (before the murders happen). It’s a relief from the typical use of s&m as automatic comic relief (if you want proof, watch Tomboys or Euro Trip). So search out his films as soon as possible, his profile is in both Myspace and Facebook. He’s a nice guy and will gladly share his art with the world.
Come back soon for my review of Frankenstein Unlimited, a five-part film omnibus produced and created by Saliba!