Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fantasia Daily for 15 July 2009: Go Go 70's, Mutants, and DJ XL5's Razzle Dazzle Zappin' Party

I finally met up with Scott Weinberg and William Goss, a couple of fellow writers for eFilmCritic, who are here to cover the festival for Cinematical/Horror Squad and FEARnet this week. I finally met them for the first time in Austin back in March, after having internet-known Scott for years, and they're pretty cool folks. They're up here until Sunday and will likely be posting regularly, although, let's face it - that's only a a side note to the coverage going on here. You won't even find out what I had to eat on those pages!

Gogo Chilship (Go Go 70's)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 15 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

What does a classic rock & roll movie need? A new sound. Rebellion against authority. Strife within the band. A girl. Clubs. Maybe a writer. And, of course, music that rocks, even if a generation has passed since the film's events. Go Go 70's delivers right down the list, to a greater or lesser extent, telling the story of a band, and a country, that needed to rock.

The time: 1969. The place, Kyungsang Province, right on the border between the Koreas. In a bar catering to American GIs, Im Sang-kyu (Cho Seung-woo) unenthusiastically fronts a country & western trio. After the gig, he and the band head across town to check out another show, where Man-sik (Cha Seung-wu) is demonstrating that he has neither the voice nor command of English to sing James Brown. Things get wild, both trios end up on stage, and as they bond over their love of "black music" afterward, they opt to join forces as "The Devils". They're soon headed to Seoul for a battle of the bands, with Mimi (Shin Min-a), who may be as fond of the music as she is of Sang-kyu, in tow. It's not a great time to be trying something new: Martial law is being declared, and Sang-kyu is a draft dodger. Still, some ingenuity on the part of writer/promoter Lee Byung-wuk (Lee Sung-min) gets them a regular gig, and a little sex appeal injected by Mimi creates a go-go sensation! But once you reach the top, the fall is inevitable.

Go Go 70's is an affectionate look back at The Devils. Other filmmakers may have chosen to play up any sort of rift between Sang-kyu and Man-sik, delved deeper into the relationship between Sang-kyu and Mimi, or taken a broader look at what it calls the first generation of Koran rock & roll (there are hints of a rivalry with another band, The Phoenixes); writer/director Choi Ho does not. There's a very brief bit of conflict in the middle, as Sang-kyu is upset that between the others' side gigs and the popularity of the "go-go" style, they haven't written much new music and have drifted from their soul roots, but the story goes off in another direction fairly quickly.

Full review at EFC.

"Die Schneider Krankheit" ("The Schneider Disease")

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 15 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival; screened with Mutants)

An extremely high-concept short from Spain, purpouting to be about a zombie-like plague that infected a small town near the German border fifty years ago, presented as an old German educational film. Kind of clever, but it certainly makes its conceit convoluted, too much so for it ever to be either very scary or very funny.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 15 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

Zombie movies, even more than other types of horror movies, are kind of like Westerns. The specific background of how the characters got to where they start doesn't matter; the science or taxonomy of the monsters is secondary. The important part is that, like the western, you have people who have the ideals of a rational world, one with laws, ethics, and protection, trying to handle a world without them. David Morlet's Mutants doesn't break a lot of new ground in the field, but what it does come up with is worth seeing.

It opens with an ambulance screaming down a country road. Marco (Francis Renaud) is driving. Sonia (Hélène de Fougerolles), an EMT, is trying to treat a patient in the back; the is starting starting to turn into one of the mindless cannibals that has plunged the nation into chaos since summer. Perez (Marie-Sohna Conde), a hard-bitten soldier, is ready to cut their losses; she's also trying to raise NOAH, the government health/emergency management organization, on the radio. Stopping for gas, they come across a man who may have turned or may simply be autistic. More cannibals are heard. Guns come out. By the time they arrive at a large, abandoned building in the forest, their numbers have already been reduced, Marco has been bitten, although Sonia has reason to think that they have a chance if they can hold out long enough for the army to pick them up. Unfortunately, the first person to answer their radio call, Frank (Nicolas Briançon), isn't from the government.

There is clearly a great deal of 28 Days Later in the DNA of Mutants, although it makes some interesting contributions to the genre. The most interesting is how it adopts a somewhat realistic approach to how the virus affects the victims: In most zombie/ghoul/biohorror movies, it's close to instantaneous after an initial incubation period; Morlet has it attack Marco gradually, tormenting him, chipping away at his mental state, ebbing and strengthening almost randomly. It's in some ways even more horrifying than the physical attacks, because it gets at our sense of self. If Sonia is unable to stop the process, there won't be a single moment when Marco dies and his body becomes a zombie; just a gray area where you can't say exactly which he is.

Full review at EFC.

DJ XL5's Razzle Dazzle Zappin' Party

N/A (out of four)
Seen 15 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

The pros didn't stick around for the Zappin' Party, although I didn't really give them a hard sell. It is something you want to do at least once as part of the Fantasia Experience, to get an idea of just how much this thing is a community as well as a festival - though, to be fair, I didn't partake until last year (my fourth), the first time I had the block free.

It is, objectively, mostly not very good, filled with a ton of inside jokes and deliberately chincy parodies. There are a few nuggets of god worth sifting for:

* "Starlight" - a funny CGI piece about the how the hole in the ozone layer is affecting Antartica's penguins.

* "Jazz with a General Problem" and "Iron Man vs. Bruce Lee" - enjoyable stop-motion toy animation, and you could probably sell many nostalgic nerds like me a transforming General Lee.

* "Deathspiel" - Zombie curling.

* "Momma" - the rare piece of straight horror in among the parodies, a chilling mood piece about two children worried that their mother will wake up.

... plus, I also finally realized that festival president Pierre Corbeil and DJ XL5 are the same person. Unless my meager french screwed that up last night and I'm a fool now rather than a fool before.

My plan for today was Slam-Bang, Gushing Prayer, and Hells; Lesbian Vampire Slayers (5pm, Hall) was recommended, but I'm apparently falling further and further behind.

Friday's plan looks like GS Wonderland (if I can finish work early), Instant Swamp, "Outer Limits of Animation", Les Lascars, The Chaser (or maybe the other screening of GS Wonderland, if work doesn't co-operate), and Arcanum.

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