Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Fantasia Day Two

No "Fantasia Day One" post because, well, I sort of made a hash of my first day in Montreal. Basically, I don't travel much, so I planned it stupidly, getting up at 4am to catch a 7am flight. In my defense, I didn't know there wouldn't be afternoon screenings the first day when I made my travel plans, and I also didn't realize there wouldn't be a bunch of press screenings. Still, it meant I got into Montreal at 8am or so, and couldn't check into my hotel until 2pm, so I wore myself out hauling my luggage to the hotel, then walking around the downtown are for four hours. Then, after checking in, my tickets were in someone else's name. If I'd been smart, I would have just bought some tickets, since I was going to use more than ten eventually, but... Hey, not that bright. I wound up collapsing at the hotel at around eight, anyway.

So, Friday I got started, and things started working out. I got to five movies, but the spread from 10am to 2am was a little wide, and I wound up nodding off during Sigma. Still, I blame the movie as much as the day; the next day, I wound up still wired at the end of Buppa Rahtree even though I'd been nodding off during Izo, but that's the subject of the next post.

So, anyway, movies I saw in Monteral on 8 july 2005:

The Dark Hours

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 8 July 2005 in Salle J.A. de Sève (Fantasia) (press screening)

"Full reviews" are embargoed, and I'm not planning on writing a half-way one as a place-holder (although I probably should write a full one to store away before the film falls out the back of my brain). It's a nice little thriller, despite the fact that it lies to the audience, whch is not something I generally approve of. It's a nice set-up, with a good cast, and if you go for this sort of low-key, character-driven thriller, you'll probably like it more than I do.

Ashura (Ashura-jô no hitomi)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 8 July 2005 in Théâtre Hall Concordia (Fantasia)

How much cooler is Japan than the U.S.? Ashura is an adaptation of a popular play over there, one with the name "Blood Gets In Your Eyes" (which, itself, is something I can barely imagine seeing on a Broadway marquee). It has people jumping between rooftops, astonishing visuals that make up impressive fantasy worlds, swordfighting, and demons who spurt nasty yellow goop when they're hacked up. In America, movies adapted from plays just have a bunch of stupid songs.

I kid. A little.

Anyway, the story takes place in a land much like nineteenth-century Edo, one which is plagued by demons - and the Demon Wardens. Too many Demon Wardens are like Jaku (Atsuro Watabe), who says that it is good that he can kill demons, because otherwise he'd be killing men. His compatriot Izumo (Somegoro Ichikawa) has a crisis of conscience after slaying a (probable) demon who has taken the form of a little girl; he retires from demon-slaying, instead becoming the country's most famed actor. But one night, he spots a cat burglar hiding under a bridge; the amnesiac girl, Tsubaki (Rie Miyazawa), is also an entertainer, an acrobat, and has a peculiar tattoo. The two will meet and fall in love, while Jaku turns to the dark side, killing his mentor and hooking up with the demon Bizan (Kanako Higuchi), seeking the power of Ashura, the demon queen.

Read the rest at HBS.

Low-Life (Haryu insaeng)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 8 July 2005 in Salle J.A. de Sève (Fantasia)

South Korea has, in fewer than sixty years as a separate country, had a tumultuous and fascinating history. Ostensibly democratic and free, it could often really only be described that way relative to its Northern neighbor. That environment of corruption, curfews, and military dictatorship serves as the background to Low-Life, but as the title suggests, it is not the story of those criminals in public office, but one of the gangsters who was able, at various times, to eke out a living and sometimes thrive.

Choi Tae-ung got his start as a thug early, looking for a fight at a rival high school. When one of the students cowardly stabs him in the back of the leg and runs away, he drags himself to that student's home, demanding Park Seung-mun pull the knife out himself. Seung-mun's politician father, Park Il-won, demands his son do so, impressed with Tae-ung's commitment to honor. As the police question them at the hospital, both the Parks and Tae-ung keep the details quiet, not wanting to jeopardize Park senior's political career, and Tae-ung comes to live with them.

Read the rest at HBS.


* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 8 July 2005 in Théâtre Hall Concordia (Fantasia)

The hottest thing in American horror these days is remakes of Japanese movies, so of course if you want to be ahead-of-the-curve cool, it's time to leave Japan behind. The new hot action is in South Korea and, increasingly, Thailand. It's the latter that brings us the unpretentious, thoroughly enjoyable Shutter.

Shutter has a very simple goal: It wants popcorn flying all over the place because it has made you jump. It is not subtle in how it goes about getting this reaction, often punctuating its jump moments with stings on a digital soundtrack as loud as any American movie, and occasionally engaging in tricks as obvious as bright flashes of light. It knows how obvious its tricks are, and occasionally subverts them with a joke, or by happily showing the employees of a tabloid magazine matter-of-factly photoshopping "spirit photographs" together from various elements. And yet, despite all the tricks of the trade that any seasoned horror fan can spot, the movie works. If this (or an already-optioned remake) plays in American theaters, popcorn will be flying all over the place.

Read the rest at HBS.


* ½ (out of four) (Incomplete)
Seen 8 July 2005 in Salle J.A. de Sève (Fantasia) (projected video)

That "incomplete" refers to both the film (a work-in-progress, which the director said was still being edited), and my experience. Projected video is a lot like watching TV, and what do you do when the TV's on at midnight? You fall asleep, especially if it's not really a great movie. This one is fast-paced to the point of being frenetic, but it's all running around without a lot of apparent purpose. Also, it's originated on digital video, but that doesn't look so great for night and low-light shots, which is where this movie lives. If it shows up in Cambridge this October for the BFFF, I'll give it another shot.

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