Beyond Fest is an odd behemoth, indeed. From afar, it is utter simplicity spelled out before you in a week long span of time. Up close however, it’s an act of pure, unadulterated genius. Truly an event that should easily work, but no where near as well as it happens to. In a way, it’s something too good to be true, considering how accessible its rather exclusive content is for the public. Each day of the festival is comprised of one to(on average)three events, which mostly cost around the same price as any single ticket at mainstream theater chains. These events range from world/west coast premieres, television sneak previews & classic film screenings, usually presented in a  gloriously worn 35mm print. 2015 was my first fore into this world Beyond, and it did quite the opposite of disappoint me in every regard. A friend had called me regarding a screening of Lucio Fulci’s “The Beyond”(no relation to the fest’s name), following a full-length Fabio Frizzi concert, I was completely intrigued. Having taken a seat and experiencing a live sampling of Frizzi’s most beloved soundtracks was a mind-boggling occurrence on its own. But, to be blessed shortly after by The Beyond on 35mm as well, I had only one shred of disbelief left in me once I eventually came back to my senses… How did this only cost $20??? Surely something of this magnitude is worth more, right?

Henry Rollins in 'He Never Died'
Henry Rollins in ‘He Never Died’

Two days later I had found out that the same festival was providing the west coast premiere of “He Never Died“, a Henry Rollins starring vampire film I had been dying to check out. Containing a Q & A session with Rollins and street artist Shepard Fairey(having recently co-produced a film featuring Shepard), it all seemed conveniently tailored to my very interests. The structure of the event is so simple, it’s a breath of fresh air that ends the Fall film festival season. It’s a fest that sacrifices large screening blocks, short film marathons and workshops for one big, so-cal exclusive event every night for 2 weeks straight. That’s, for lack of a worse term, sexy. My 2016 Beyond Fest experience was also short, but just as thrilling this year. I attended the very first day of the fest, which was a must on my list ever since the 2016 schedule went live. I’d held out many years to see my favorite movie on the big screen. Waiting for an occasion truly worth the bucket list checkmark. This was it. But that wasn’t until I had watched what cam before it!

The opening day of the festival was very much a celebration of writer/director Paul Schrader. A man whom on the day he’d screen the west coast premiere of his new film, “Dog Eat Dog“, he’d proclaim it NOT to be one of his “prestigious achievements in filmmaking”. Honesty like that doesn’t come around too often, folks. With star Nicolas Cage apart of an audience who hadn’t a clue as to what they were about to witness, it was all too easy to feel right at home in a cloud full of shared anticipation. The film itself was a barrage of pure kinetic energy projected before us. A heist film that loves the work of Humphrey Bogart as much as it loves summoning the rapid pacing of “Trainspotting” to help execute a wonderfully irreverent story. Or as Cage in the film would put it, “It’ll Take Your Tits Off!” Once the film came to a close, a brief Q & A session commenced with Schrader and Cage respectively. Cage truly put his film buff skills to the test as he truly wowed an audience by explaining just how deep in the code he is with his cinema digest. History was also made, as the filmmakers behind the 2015 documentary The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened!?! were in attendance and finally got to meet Cage face to face for the first time before the entire crowd. It was truly a spectacular moment and I will never forget it.

Happy 40th Birthday, Travis!
Happy 40th Birthday, Travis!

Once the film has ended, my time had come to strike yet another item off my list of life goals. My first viewing of Taxi Driver on the big screen was here. No regular blu-ray projection would do for me though. It had to be Beyond Fest’s signature 35mm print and of course on the year of its 40th anniversary. It was truly a birthday celebration for the ages. Hearing Bernard Herrmann’s score blazing a hole in my heart. See Cybil Shepherd’s smile brighter than ever before. Feeling the tension of loneliness constrict tighter than I thought possible through the narrative in question. It was a film i’ve seen dozens of times, but for one more night in my life I was actually watching it for the first time all over again. I’ll never forget anything from this first night at Beyond Fest 2016. The fact that I’d still be attending two more nights puts everything into a grand perspective now. Although the inaugural day of an event is usually one of the best in retrospect, this one just spoiled me like none other before it.

To Be Continued…

– The Spork Guy

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