What dictates my perfect film festival? My love for intelligent comedies knows no bounds, spanning decades, language, and style. The three films I chose for my film festival are connected, not by how they present a punchline or construct a narrative, but rather by how they subvert the audience’s expectations. Each of the films in my festival finds comedy in the drama and excitement in the mundane. Please enjoy your trip to Laugh by Laugh West, my very own film festival.
Laugh by Laugh West begins with The Darjeeling Limited (2007), Wes Anderson’s criminally underrated film about three brothers struggling to connect with each other following the death of their father. The subject matter isn’t necessarily humorous, it may even be more dramatic than comedic, but this family’s selfishness combined with Anderson’s dry humor creates many memorable laughs along the way.
Seijun Suzuki’s Tokyo Drifter (1966) is a film noir (and occasional musical) that mocks many of the tropes associated with Japanese dramas. This film fits nicely as the centerpiece of the festival by never taking itself seriously and never being concerned with maintaining a sense of consistency or creating any rules of the world.
What We Do in the Shadows (2014), Taika Waititi’s vampire mockumentary about three vampire roommates going about their day-to-day lives in urban New Zealand, concludes the festival. Waititi’s specialty is finding the humor in a sad situation, and What We Do in the Shadows shapes the dismal life of a vampire into a captivating and genuinely hilarious picture. Taking the brutality of becoming a vampire, as seen in films like Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), and uncovering the humor of that situation act as a strong bookend.
My film festival begins where I began — by showing the audience The Darjeeling Limited, I allow the audience to appreciate the film that first made me want to study film. Tokyo Drifter is my wild card, the Japanese thriller that consistently breaks the “rules” of what a filmmaker can do. What We Do in the Shadows is my grand finale, taking the horror genre and successfully flipping it on its head. Laugh by Laugh West is a celebration of humor found in unconventional places and my only hope is that it changes the perception of what comedy can be.
Ryan Wentz is a junior at the University of North Carolina Wilmington majoring in Film Studies and minoring in Entrepreneurship & Innovation. He focuses on screenwriting and song composition, but aspires to direct comedies.