Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fantasia 2008, Day Sixteen: Handle Me With Care, Cryptozoologie, Le Tueur, and Special Magnum

Sometimes, having a media pass works against you - if I had bought a ticket, I would have gotten into Repo! The Genetic Opera, but it was so sold out and popular with the media/VIPs that about half of us were left out. Not that I think it's unfair - I got the email about the press screening, which I passed on of my own free will in order to see An Empress and the Warriors and May 18, and it would be downright churlish to act like I haven't made out like a bandit seeing dozens of movies over the past few weeks and often being first in line to get seats. Besides, it gave me time to have a late dinner, and that was a pretty good steak and baked potato.

Also, it helps to speak French. I sat through the La BĂȘte du Lac Q&A hoping in vain for someone to either ask a question in English of for my 15-years-dormant high school french to suddenly kick in, but to no avail.

Today's plan is to camp at the Hall theater, where the movies are somewhat spread out: Island of Lost Souls, Seven Days, 4bia, Sasori, and Midnight Meat Train (with Ryuhei Kitamura present). If you're here, I can recommend The Rebel highly, Le Grand Chef with reservations, and wish I could make Triangle work for me.

Kod (Handle Me With Care)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 18 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre J.A. de Seve (Fantasia Festival)

When you're born with a third arm, losing your tailor is far more traumatic than losing your girlfriend.

At least, that's the impression one gets from Kwan Traithep (Kiatkamol Latha) at the start of Handle Me With Care. His high-school girlfriend Lin is getting married, and his current girl Ann has just broken up with him, but it's the sudden death of "Uncle" Tawee, the tailor who makes his special three-sleeved shirts, that apparently pushes him to take a Bangkok clinic up on their offer to amputate his extra left arm. Getting there from rural Lampang will be something of an adventure - his car is busted, so he winds up hitching a ride with his friend Lorlee, who is delivering a bus there. On the way, they meet up with Na (Supaksorn Chaimongkol), also on her way to Bangkok to find the husband who she hasn't seen for a year.

Take away the whole third arm thing, and what's left is still quite the entertaining road movie. Writer/director Kongdej Jaturanrasamee plagues Kwan, Na, and Lorlee with a series of disasters that are more challenging than dangerous, and shuffles Lorlee off the stage once he starts just being an interruption to the scenes with Kwan and Na (and it becomes clear that the bus would make things too easy). They meet up with some interesting people, but the emphasis never shifts too much from them getting to know each other.

They're a nice pair to meet for the audience as well. Both of them tend to draw looks for their appearance (many comments are made about the size of Na's breasts, although she seems more generally curvy than notably busty), leaving them more alienated as they feel nobody pays attention to them as whole people. Latha plays Kwan as having a chip on his shoulder for much of the movie, although he's charmingly awkward at other times. Chaimongkol tends to present Na as more extroverted and likely to joke around, but shifts gears to lonely and sad well enough to make it abundantly clear that being seen as sexy isn't necessarily all it's cracked up to be. The simple and heartfelt way she pays off a sort of annoying series of comments about having a great ringtone is kind of wonderful.

Full review at EFC.

Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie

* * * (out of four)
Seen 18 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre J.A. de Seve (Fantasia Festival, Documentaries from the Edge)

I missed this one at IFFB, so I was glad to catch up with it here. It doesn't quite clock in at feature length at a mere 62 minutes, but does fill that time with an intriguing portrayal of two men trying to do something extraordinary amid their ordinary lives. Director Jay Delaney walks a nice tightrope here, looking at their claims in a way that's not quite skeptical but lets the evidence (or lack thereof) speak for itself, without being too harsh on his subjects.

La BĂȘte du Lac

* * (out of four)
Seen 18 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre J.A. de Seve (Fantasia Festival, Documentaries from the Edge)

I couldn't find myself nearly as intrigued by Nicolas Renaud's half of the Cryptozoology double bill, though. It drew plenty of local interest by taking part in a Quebec community near the Maine border, but despite being even shorter than Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie, sometimes felt very stretched out. There are some nice bits of underwater photography, and a couple of interesting storytellers, but when you get right down to it, it's kind of repetitive: People say they've seen the lake's monster fish, but can't offer any evidence other than "if you've seen it, you know", even though, as one resident says, when one person says they've seen a monster, everybody starts looking for them.

Le Tueur (The Killer)

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 18 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre J.A. de Seve (Fantasia Festival)

Le Tueur is the very image of what the phrase "French film" often brings to mind. It's alternatively talkative and quiet, casually sexual, and deals with matters of life and death with what seems like emotionless detachment. What makes it notable is that it manages to scratch beneath that surface without seeming arch or self-satisfied about it.

We start out with Leo Zimmerman (Gilbert Melki), a reasonably successful financier, doing some shopping with his beautiful daughter Alana. He seems nervous, as if he can sense the man following and filming him. That footage winds up in the hands of Dimitri Kopas (Gregoire Colin), an assassin who has been hired to kill Leo. When Kopas visits Leo in his office, he knows his number is up, so he confronts him and asks a favor - let him live until Saturday, so he can pull off one last big deal and make sure Alana is taken care of. He knows his wife Sylvia (Sophie Cattani) is having an affair with his partner Xavier Franzen (Xavier Beauvois), and the idea of Franzen raising his daughter makes him blind with rage. Kopas agrees - why not? - using the free time to strike something up with Stella (Melanie Laurent), a model he meets in the hotel lobby.

There have been hundreds of cinematic hitmen, so often played as cool to the point where it's become almost impossible to avoid self-parody. Gregoire Colin doesn't quite sidestep that, but he handles it. He's got the cool exterior (and interior, for that matter), but there's something awkward about his isolation from regular people. He trips over his own tongue when hitting on Sylvia, and seems to become keenly aware that he doesn't have much of an existence outside of his job. He is so conditioned to leave no trace of his presence that he sometimes seems likely to disappear entirely.

Full review at EFC.

Special Magnum (Strange Shadows in an Empty Room)

N/A (out of four)
Seen 18 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre J.A. de Seve (Fantasia Festival)

Damn, I wish I hadn't nodded off during this one. Not just because it's apparently not available on DVD, and was only issued cut on VHS, but just because it is a really crazy action movie. The big car chase in the middle of the movie really needs to be seen to be believed (especially since it was apparently filmed without permits of any kind), and even on the 16mm print the Montreal locations looked gorgeous. I really hope this comes out on DVD or Blu-ray soon; I want to catch up.

1 comment:

OlmanFeelyus said...

WTF?! Did nobody see Special Magnum? And the one guy who did nodded off? This was my most anticipated movie of the festival and I got sent out of town that weekend! I'm desperately trying to find out the buzz.

Well thanks at least for the little tidbit.