VIDEOMAN (a.k.a. Videomannen) **** Sweden 2018 Dir: Kristian A. Soderstrom. 94 mins
A unique, disarming love story recommended to anyone who has ever had a debate about whether Rosalba Neri’s enthusiastic fingering in SLAUGHTER HOTEL was body-doubled. Italian immigrant Stefan Sauk once ran the best video store in Sweden (his description), peddling what he lovingly calls “fat shiny boxes with animated covers”. Lamenting the “digital plague” of the 21st century, he faces eviction, likening his outsider status to King Kong in New York. A change in fortune emerges when a mysterious, notorious collector known as “Faceless” offers 10,000 Euros for his recently acquired rare tape of Fulci’s ZOMBIE.
This plot provides VIDEOMAN with a satisfying giallo-inspired mystery, though it’s really an unpatronising, poignant portrayal of a romance between two unfashionable, nostalgic middle-aged characters. Sauk is attracted to downtrodden, alcoholic Lena Nilsson – distressed at being side-lined by her daughter for her absentee father – because she reminds him of the actresses in his favoured sub-genre of Italian horrors from the 70’s and 80’s. Nilsson herself worships 80’s music and hair while fixating unhealthily on the lack of “likes” generated by her Instagram posts. Together, they enjoy J & B-enhanced movie nights together; he shows her Fulci’s MANHATTAN BABY to satisfy her obsession with Ancient Egypt. As an authentic representation of fandom, Sauk is sympathetic and amusingly relatable: stand-outs include an argument about whether Fulci was better than Argento and his lament at the demise of once-regular video nights with a fellow fan who has no movie posters in his marital home (“That’s not compromise, that’s fascism!”). Laced with choice clips (THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE and NOTHING UNDERNEATH) and affectionate glimpses of Sauk’s prodigious collection, this combines a warm ode to a lost era with observational humour (the futility of a 90-inch screen in a small space) and a witty, elegiac character study with aplomb and real heart.
Review by Steven West