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The film: The strange thing about Johnson

Streaming on: Vimeo

HereditaryAri Aster’s first feature film begins with a father entering his son’s room while lying on his bed. Also The strange thing about Johnson, the short film Aster, shot 10 years ago when he was still a film student. The similarities end here. Here, senior Johnson enters with his son, masturbating, embarrassed like any normal parent, closes the door, but then does what most normal parents would not do: he decides to talk to his son. An open conversation about sex education has never hurt anyone. Aside from there’s something weird about the whole thing, the way Billy Mayo, who plays Mr. Johnson, wears a smile that’s almost embarrassing, seems a little too impatient than expected. The line between a cool dad and a sinister dad is good.

I already feel like I’ve given away too much of what’s going on The strange thing about Johnson, but believe me when I say this: you have no idea what’s coming in this 29-minute movie. The final shot of the opening scene is shocking and then we reduced it to 14 years later. The term “disturbing” hardly justifies the topic. Does it make a difference that we look at the history of an African-American family? Aster said the choice of a black family was purely incidental. He just wanted to work with Brandon Greenhouse, his teammate at the American Film Institute, who was part of the project at the idea stage. He thought Greenhouse would be perfect as a son (the older version). The rest was converted into it: if the Greenhouse was black, the family would have to be black, too.

But it seems to add to what Aster was trying to achieve. The director of such films as Hereditary and Midsummer’s Day has described AFI as a film school that educates students the Hollywood way, making them aspire to films that are in the good books of the Oscars. Aster wanted to challenge him, and Johnson’s portrayal was the opposite of the pious, upright black family the Academy would approve of.

Anyway, The strange thing about Johnson returns, in its own distorted way, to the melodramas of Hollywood’s 1950s. Aster describes the film as “Sirkian,” a reference to Douglas Sirk, whose grim, technical masterpieces often undermine the idea of ​​a happy American suburban family, with its maintained lawns and homogeneous houses, and deal with taboo topics. The film was a sensation in the independent short film in 2011, went to Sundance, leaked online and, as expected, caused controversy. In retrospect, he also reveals Aster’s concerns about topics such as a family with terrible secrets (Hereditary) and toxic relationships (Midsummer’s Day).



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