The attempt to create an unrestrained freedom of expression in BLACK BISCUIT is (slightly) admirable. However, compared to the best experimental films, Fabrizio Federico’s thematically scattergun approach and reliance on a misguided manifesto prove the undoing of this intriguing but, at times, unforgivably tedious film.
The film, as per the instructions of Federico’s Pink8 manifesto, doesn’t really follow a narrative. It does however, have something of a meta-structure with Chet (Federico) deciding to create a feature film on basically no money using his mobile phone – the same manner in which Federico created BLACK BISCUIT. What follows is a collection of loosely connected vignettes filmed largely on mobile phones as Chet seemingly begins to lose sight of this goal. Some grotesque, some hynoptic, but a huge number are simply uninteresting and moronically dull.
Over the course of the film we see a number of random sections, but seeing Federico do push-ups butt naked at the outset – the mobile-phone framing his floor-brushing knob in the centre – rather sets the tone (and, for me at least, brought to mind Tenacious D’s cock push-ups concept). It most certainly won’t be the last time we see his penis, by the way.
There are a couple of segments, particularly one contrasting the beauty of a dance and ballet dancer with the experimental and grungy lo-fi feel of the filming, that stand out.
There are a number of conditions in the Pink8 manifesto (which reads like a rehashing of Dogme 95 by Nathan Barley), but it is the part that states “Short films are NOT acceptable, it MUST be a feature” that really proves BLACK BISCUIT’s undoing. There are a couple of segments, particularly one contrasting the beauty of a dance and ballet dancer with the experimental and grungy lo-fi feel of the filming, that stand out. It would perhaps work extremely effectively as a short. Quite why Federico chooses to shun this format is unclear, beyond declaring that short films are “lost in history”. The bagginess and general myopia of BLACK BISCUIT, Federico’s feature debut, make it feel like a director trying to run before he can walk. Certain parts do, however, provide some surprising insight. When a male prostitute describes how he gets return customers it is at once depressing and amusing.
Self-indulgence […] doesn’t necessarily mean throwing everything you want to at the wall for over 2 hours and seeing what sticks.
These moments, however, are few and far between. Quite often the film is nothing but Federico and his ‘street superstars’ twatting about. Pink8 also says “Bewildering, vague, self-indulgent, plot-less, risky, egotistical, limpid, raw, ugly, and imperfect are perfect.” Putting aside the fact that, depending on your exact definitions, something can’t be limpid and bewildering, BLACK BISCUIT misunderstands what it is about self-indulgence that makes for good film. Some of the finest filmmakers – experimental or otherwise – have been ‘self-indulgent’. Self-indulgence means creating a vision which is uncompromising, which conveys the message it wants to without concern for what reaction it may engender. It doesn’t necessarily mean throwing everything you want to at the wall for over 2 hours and seeing what sticks.
BLACK BISCUIT, in its desperate attempts to prove its avant garde credentials, ends up a thematically shapeless mess. Even experimental film, despite being hit and miss, benefits from a coherent idea behind it – even if the film’s narrative or structure itself is vague and bewildering. As much as the Pink8 manifesto might try to justify this as its flagship feature adhering to it, this unnecessarily long film single-handedly proves why it might need a second draft.