Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Fantasia 2008, Day Five: Before the Fall, Timecrimes, Sparrow, Peur(s) de Noir

Another longer morning than I hoped, especially considering it's much more likely to be hot and/or thunderstorming in the afternoon. I'm thinking that I might head down to the riverfront today, seeing what's at the archeological museum, climbing the clock tower, maybe catching up on some reviews while sitting on the riverbank. Yeah, I doubt that last one too.

Today's plans may wind up being relatively short, movie-wise: Probably just Wide Awake and Mad Detective; maybe "DJ XL5's Helzapoppin' Zappin' Party". Second Skin didn't tempt me at IFFB and it doesn't really tempt me here, and I don't know about the Zappin' Party, though it's a Fantasia tradition which I've yet to catch.

If you're in town, I heartily recommend Let the Right One In, and I'm opting for Wide Awake over Triangle by the slimmest of margins: I'd really like to see the Lam/Hark/To movie in its entirety, as I dozed through the middle segment at IFFB, but I'm pretty sure I'll get the likely US video release anyway.

3 Dias (Before The Fall)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 7 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre J.A. de Seve (Fantasia Festival)

No full review for this one, since I must have nodded off at some point while watching it - a character disappearing without you remembering how is a pretty sure sign of that. Don't read that as a knock against the movie, though - it's all about me having a decent-sized lunch and then walking around in the heat afterward; I knew going in that I was kind of wiped out.

I'm not sure the fantastical premise of this movie is really necessary - at it's core, it's about a family trying to survive the escape of a serial killer that they were instrumental in putting away. The apocalyptic background explains his escape and creates an extra level of tension, although the movie already has that in abundance. That makes Before the Fall a thriller about dying on one's own terms rather than surviving, which is certainly an interesting variation.

Los Cronocrimenes (Timecrimes)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 7 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre J.A. de Seve (Fantasia Festival)

There's an argument to be made that a time travel story that makes one's head hurt a bit is probably a pretty good one; it generally means some thought has been put into how everything fits together. Timecrimes comes close to being a great time travel story because it's got the potential to make one's head hurt, but executes so well that it never comes to that.

Its unconventional hero is Hector (Karra Elejalde), something of a middle-aged schlub who just moved into a new house with his wife Clara (Candela Fernandez). As Clara goes out to get food for supper, Hector spots a pretty girl (Barbara Goenaga) taking her top off through his binoculars. He probably shouldn't go to investigate, as he winds up attacked by a bandaged man when he finds her unconscious. He climbs a fence to escape, winding up in a nearby laboratory where a grad student (Nacho Vigalondo) offers him a spot to hide, but when he gets out of the chamber, it's an hour... earlier?

Certain things which subsequently happen - or which, from another point of view, have already happened - are probably fairly obvious the the seasoned sci-fi fan. There is still satisfaction in watching them play out, though; filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo has built himself a clever clockwork mechanism of a script - and, yes, he has pulled M. Night Shamalayan's trick of inserting himself into the movie in the role that makes him the architect of the problem and allows him to explain it directly to the audience. Half the fun is figuring out how the pieces will fit together, especially since things will hit different people at different rates.

Full review at EFC.

Man jeuk (Sparrow)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 7 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

Johnnie To's Sparrow begins with a small delight of a scene: Simon Yam sewing a button back onto his coat. The score could come from a classic musical, and from Yam's body language, the audience almost expects him to jump up and burst into song and dance. What a movie it would have been if he had, rather than being frequently tied down by plot!

That plot has Yam's Kei playing one of a team of four pickpockets; they're often good enough that they can extract the money out of a person's wallet and return it. Kei's hobby is photography, and one day he snaps some pictures of a beautiful woman (Kelly Lin). This woman, Chung Chun Lei, is the unhappy mistress of Boss Fu (Lo Hoi-Pang), and she also has encounters with the other members of the team. Fu's men are not pleased with that, and rough them up, which is part of why Kei is more than a little hesitant when Chun Lei asks for their help in retrieving her passport - which Fu keeps in a locked safe with the key always on his person.

Sparrow is often far more whimsical than what people think of as the typical Johnnie To movie, although that's due in part to the fact that his gangster movies get exported with far more regularity than his forays into other genres. There are times when it does seem like he is trying to make something like a musical or a dance picture, as the pickpockets wordlessly show off their precision work to the wonderful score by Fred Avril and Xavier Jamaux. The sequence at the end, in the rain with umbrellas, is a thing of true beauty.

Full review at EFC.

Peur(s) du Noir (Fear(s) of the Dark)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 7 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival, Animated Auteur Visions)

Horror and animation are natural fits for anthology films - horror because too much familiarity with a story can leave the audience unafraid by the end, animation because it can allow for amazingly different styles to be showcased. Peur(s) du Noir goes to an international group of print cartoonists for its stories, and while it's kind of a mixed bag, there certainly are some gems in this black-and-white packages.

We start out with French cartoonist Blutch, who gives us a series of episodes spread throughout the film of an aristocrat leading a group of wolves around only to have them slip their leads, one by one, with ghastly results. The artwork is very nice, looking like charcoal pencils come to life, and the attacks of the wolves remain shocking and brutal all the way to the end. The bits are rife with symbolism - the wolves' master starts out appalled by the first attack but is gleefully loosing them on innocent victims later on. The end is pretty much the expected one, and might have felt like a fizzle if not for it's viciousness.

Next up is American Charles Burns, whose art style is recognizable even from only seeing the cover to Black Hole. He gives us a tale of Eric, who as a boy was fascinated by insects and other creepy crawly things. One day he finds a peculiarly intelligent-seeming specimin that escapes its jar hidden under his bed. Years later, at college, the introverted young man meets a beautiful young woman, but she changes after getting some sort of weird cut while sleeping on that same bed with him. Burns and company create a creepy scenario, but the animation is kind of hit and miss - the very obviously computer-generated recreation of Burns's style works great for insects, but is kind of unnerving in a bad way with people.

Full review at EFC.

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