Saturday, 17 July 2021

Fried Barry

Ryan Kruger

2020, South Africa

Story by: Ryan Kruger & James C Williamson

I first saw this at Grimmfest and had no idea what it was going to be. Let's just say I wasn't expecting much and then ... well, I always recommend its scattalogical barminess, but on a second watch I was more taken with how Haezer's score and the editing evokes so much with mood and temporal displacement.

Brash, rude and crude and random, and that’s even before general junkie scumbag Barry is abducted by aliens. From then on, the narrative is based upon, as Barry has now been possessed by an alien passenger, how the more sordid end of Cape Town reacts to his goggle-eyed stare and silence. Along the way, Barry encounters thugs, druggies, prostitutes and sex hungry supermarket staff, serial killers and policemen, etc. Without true narrative dictates, there’s nothing fencing in the WTF possibilities of the story. Barry is mostly passive, the amusement coming from how he just stumbles into and reacts to crazed vignettes, oblivious, occasionally showing signs of extra-terrestrial powers. The whole thing is held together by Gary Green’s consistently oddball performance, jerking and walking like a malfunctioning terminator, innocent, scary, bug-eyed, gurning. It even has time for an intermission when Barry is knocked out.

The skits are predominantly there to amuse, but it’s also a longform riff on feeling disconnected, always feeling the outsider with things just happening to you. An analogy for time-lapses and bafflement of drug addiction, it’s like natural extension of a Barry bender taken to extremes. Unlike ‘Under the Skin’ or ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’, this alien visitor doesn’t have any apparent motivation other than just to experience; perhaps to gather information; maybe it’s just a hedonistic holiday? What the alien gets is a crash-course in digressive exploitation cult cinema. It’s an offbeat tour of a seedy side of urban humankind, although Barry intuits enough to save someone from a heart attack or to engage with a chainsaw fight with a serial killer to save children. 

“Green has the reckless abandon that makes for unhinged performances, but "Fried Barry" can't decide if he's a joke, or a zonked-out Christ figure.”

So says Nick Allen, who seems to think Kruger is reaching for some kind of commentary rather than just amusement and entertainment. After all, Kruger says this is more of a "thing" than a film, mphasising experiece over narrative. But Barry is a fully zonked-out Christ figure joke – complete with resurrection – not one or the other. The point is that Barry is often just a blank slate to project upon for those he runs into, revealing more about themselves than him; and this is an extra satirical edge if that’s what you want. 

It is fluid with vibrant colours and lighting and Haezer’s excellent electronic score contributes otherworldly or pumping vibes where necessary. 'Fried Barry's superpower, apart from Barry/Green himself, is its consistent, restless search for inventiveness. This picaresque, episodic joyride with full on non sequiturs won’t be for everyone, of course, but it’s triumph of low-budget anarchy over the dictates of story. 

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