Friday, July 06, 2007

Fantasia Day One: Tekkon Kinkreet et Perfect Creature

Next year, I'm flying out and taking the bus back. Taking the bus up here just leave me feeling drained for the rest of the day, and I'm probably being a little harsh to these films as a result - I had trouble staying awake, but I don't think that's really Tekkon Kinkreet's fault, although Perfect Creature didn't exactly help matters. Hopefully a good night's sleep and taking the Metro rather than actually walking everywhere will do wonders.

I forgot my Montreal guidebook back in Cambridge (hey, when you try to pack and sleep between Boston's Fourth of July fireworks and an early bus, something going to be left behind), so I'm feeling a little antsy about not having an easy reference and not even knowing a good place to get an English-language guidebook here off the top of my head. Maybe I'll go see some penguins; that's always fun.

Today's plan movie-wise is the "Outer Limits of Animation" shorts program, The Restless, The Signal, and Flight of the Living Dead.

Tekkon Kinkreet

* * * (out of four)
Seen 5 July 2007 in Théatre Hall Condordia (Fantasia 2007)

The decaying city is a staple of anime and science fiction (though Tekken Kinkreet doesn't really fit that genre). It appears in many conventional urban genres, too, but they seldom have the ability to really show the audience just how magical the place is to its inhabitants, or just why they remain so fiercely loyal. For all cities are described as characters in a story, these characters are seldom as original as they are in a fantasy like Tekken Kinkreet.

Treasure Town, a rough area of the city of Takara, is both crowded and decrepit. There are fanciful signs piled high, and there's a jolly contrast between neighboring buildings. Still, you don't have to look very close to see that the paint is peeling, or that those signs don't provide much light. We spend a lot of time in a junkyard, and it doesn't miss our gaze that Treasure Town is on an island, easily neglected by the surrounding city. It's a beautiful place from about fifteen or twenty feet above ground level; once you're on the street, it's a little more dangerous. Still, by that time the place has already gotten under the audience's skin a little; the visuals of the city are simply a visual feast - most drawn by hand, but scanned into a computer so that the camera can move freely.

That's the world that two orphan brothers, Kuro ("Black") and Shiro ("White"), live in. Homeless, living out of a car in the junkyard when not visiting "Gramps", an older homeless man, these children also serve as the city's superhero guardians, although older brother Black must also give a great deal of personal attention to White, who even for a ten-year-old can sometimes seem very disconnected from reality. They're going to have to be on the top of their games, because a pair of Yakuza - "Rat" and Kimura - are returning to Treasure Town, but to a certain extent their only front men for a group of developers looking to build a family amusement center - and they've hired the monstrous looking "Snake" and his inhumanly powerful goons to make sure it gets done.

Full review at EFC.

Perfect Creature

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 5 July 2007 in Théatre Hall Condordia (Fantasia 2007)

For Perfect Creature, the question of "what if vampires were real" isn't quite good enough; it asks what if vampires were real, but instead of being feared, they were objects of worship? It's kind of a dodgy idea, but the film runs with it. If the film is disappointing, it's not because of the basic idea.

Although the long-lived, blood-drinking "Brothers" have long organized as a church and claim to protect humanity in exchange for their blood, we find that one - Edgar (Leo Gregory) has started to act more like a traditional vampire, biting and exsanguinating young New Zealanders. The church, naturally, would very much like to keep this under wraps, and have Edgar's brother Silus (Dougray Scott) tracking him down. Eventually, though, one of his killings is seen by a young boy who calls the police. The case is assigned to Lilly (Saffron Burrows), who immediately sees that it's a ticking time bomb. Though no Brother has ever harmed a human, there have also been no new ones born in seventy years; their mutation (which occurs exclusively in males) leaves them sterile. Even though most people go to church and have their blood drained regularly, there's still a certain level of resentment, as personified by Lilly's partner Jones (Scott Wills).

In some ways the very things which make Perfect Creature so interesting work against it. Writer/director Glenn Standring has created a world which follows from its premise without feeling particularly beholden to making it match ours. It's a steam-engine world, with technology lagging behind our own, blimps in the sky, and a constant paranoia of disease (I imagine all that sharing of needles in church doesn't help). It's a nifty look, although Standring takes it a bit too far - we're really given no reason to think of the Brothers as creatures of the night, but it seems as though the sun never comes out in "Nuovo Zelandia". The film often ends up on the wrong side of the line between "atmospheric" and "murky".

Full review at EFC.

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