American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
I've looked at a couple of 1950s monster movies lately, and was struck by their innocence. Sure, they showed death rays from outer space, and great cities trampled by giant grasshoppers. But it was so optimistic, in a way, to assume that doom would arrive in such a comprehensible form: That we would die of things we could see coming, instead of from invisible viruses, and poverty, and global pollution.
"Matinee," a delightful comedy and one of the most charming movies in a long time, takes place exactly at a moment when that innocence may have ended. The time is November, 1962. President Kennedy has gone on television to warn that Cuba is armed with nuclear missiles, and that the U.S. Navy is blockading the island against an approaching Russian fleet. Meanwhile, in Key West, which is just over the horizon from Cuba, another drama is unfolding. An exploitation filmmaker has arrived in town with his latest sleazo production, "Mant," the story of a man who has mutated into a giant ant.
After the Cuban missile crisis and other shocks to our system, such as Vietnam, it became harder to get worked up over B-movie heroes who started to grow tentacles. But this is an earlier time, and for a local kid named Gene (Simon Fenton), the arrival of the famous Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman) is a great day for Key West.
Gene reads all the fanzines about monsters of moviedom, and considers Woolsey a great man.