Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fantasia Daily for 18 July 2009: Paco; Milly; Yesterday; Crush and Blush; Orochi; Smash Cut

Not much time for other comments after finishing the review of Paco (didn't get back in until nearly 3am last night, first film today is at noon, so not a lot of time in between), but I will say that that is how you do a film festival day right - six films, all pretty good, guests at three who give entertaining Q&A afterward.

Pako to mahô no ehon (Paco and the Magical Book)

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 18 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

You could probably cut quite the deceptive trailer for Paco and the Magical Book, if you chose, by concentrating on the fast-paced, animation-heavy last act. It wouldn't be a complete misrepresentation, but it sure wouldn't give a true idea of what director Tetsuya Nakashima has in store for the audience.

He starts with a framing sequence in which an eccentric old man (Sadao Abe) goes to visit an aimless heir. He's looking for the book of the title, now beaten and worn. But once upon a time, there was a hospital. The patients included badly injured firefighter Takita (Hitori Gekidan), hypochondriac drag queen Kinomoto (Jun Kunimura), a psych case who wishes he wasn't human, and failed suicide Muromachi (Satoshi Tsumabuki). There was a doctor who looked forward to the annual play put on for the "Summer Christmas" celebration, and two nurses - Tamako (Anna Tsuchiya), who was always angry, and Masami (Eiko Koike), with vampire-sharp teeth that she frequently sank into her husband, the nephew of the hospital's wealthiest patient, Onuki (Koji Yakusho). Onuki was a mean old man, cruel to everyone he met, even Paco (Ayaka Wilson), whom he thought had stolen his solid-gold cigarette lighter. What Onuki didn't know was that Paco cannot retain a new day's memories after a night's sleep - hence her excitement at reading her new book for the first time every morning. After their first encounter, though, she vaguely remembers Onuki the next day, which stirs some small vestige of human emotion in the old grouch.

It's not much of a spoiler to say that Onuki's heart will grow three sizes by the end of the film. Despite the unorthodox cast of characters, Paco is a fairy tale, and even the smallest of children will not fail to see the connection between Onuki and the greedy, selfish Toad Prince in Paco's storybook. Nakashima and co-writer Nobuhiro Monma (working from a book by Hirohito "Elvis" Goto) are a step or two ahead of the audience in that case, though, using the framing scenes to comment on how most stories work and then sending it off in a different direction - one that doesn't feel arbitrary at all.

Full review at EFC.

"Hâdo ribenji, Mirî" & Hâdo ribenji, Mirî: Buraddi batoru ("Hard Revenge, Milly" & Hard Revenge, Milly: Bloody Battle)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 18 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

I'm going to have to add these two to the EFC database so that reviews can go in, even though the first is about half-length at 44 minutes. They are pretty exceptional pieces of work for their low budget: Exciting action movies, for sure, but not only does director Takanori Tsujimoto shoot a good action scene - which he does, and having a screen fighter as good as Miki Mizuno in his corner doesn't hurt at all - but he's actually built enough of a story and a world around pretty standard post-apocalyptic trappings that I really want to see more.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 18 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre de Seve (Fantasia Festival)

Another no-budget special, almost literally - a bunch of Vancouver film students shot it during their summer vacation for about $10k - and while it doesn't break new zombie-movie ground, it is a pretty darn good "no-one is safe" example of the genre.

Misseu Hongdangmu (Crush and Blush)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 18 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

Fantasia being the sort of festival that it is, it doesn't always feature a lot of female-oriented movies, so it's nice to see something like Crush and Blush every once in a while. It's written and directed by a woman, and there's really only one noteworthy male character in it. It's also the sort of movie where the knives are out, with the various characters finding ways to make each others' lives miserable even under the occasional guise of sisterhood.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 18 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre de Seve (Fantasia Festival)

Darn it, I'm not going to start buying Kazuo Umezu horror manga from the comic shop, no matter how many stylish horror movies they make from his work. Orochi is actually pretty restrained (although also a bit plot-heavy) compared to last year's Akanbo Shojo, not showing much in the way of gore or grotesquery at all, and featuring some nice performances from Yoshino Kimura and Noriko Nakagoshi. I've just picked up too many things like The Drifting Classroom, opened to a random page, and put it down having seen something I couldn't unsee.

Smash Cut

* * * (out of four)
Seen 18 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

Smash Cut is a lot more fun this sort of "homage" usually is, in large part due to the performance of David Hess as a director of crappy horror movies who finally snaps and starts making his latest flick more real by actually killing people and using their corpses as props (as well as acting out some low-budget filmmaker revenge fantasies). Much of the rest is enjoyably silly, but it's Hess that makes this film worth watching.

Today's plan is Samurai Princess, both 20th Century Boys pictures, Portait of a Beauty, and A Quelle Heure le Train pour Nulle Part.

Monday is looking like La Marque, The Warlords, Coweb, and Life is Hot in Cracktown

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