Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fantasia Daily for 21 July 2009: Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl, Canary, and 8th Wonderland

Yes, I'm ready to start actually getting out and seeing some of Montreal this trip, but it just doesn't seem to be happening much - something winds up keeping me tied to the laptop to grind out reviews right up until it's time to head out for movies. Yesterday it was laundry, today it's sleeping in. I'm glad I have the apartment through August, so that I can come back for a weekend or two next month and just do the touristy stuff.

One place I will definitely stop by again, either while I'm still here or on my way back, is the m:brgr bar. I had one of the best burgers I've ever eaten there last night. A bit pricey, but to be fair, it is ten times the burger-eating experience for only four or five times the price of a fast food place. That's arguably value.

Kyûketsu Shôjo tai Shôjo Furanken (Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 21 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

There's a group of filmmakers cranking out crazy exploitation in Japan; the results are not really good movies by any objective standard, but the creativity, energy, and commitment to giving the audience what it wants has to be admired. In America, we're busy blandly rehashing the ghosts and serial killers of twenty years ago or coming up with minor variations, whereas these guys decided that there needed to be a movie worthy of the name Vampire Girl Versus Frankenstein Girl. If you must watch teenagers get carved up, you might as well embrace the full strangeness of the latter.

In Japan, girls give chocolate to boys they like on Valentine's Day, but one teacher at Tokyo Public High School (conveniently located just below Tokyo Tower) spoils all the fun by taking away all non-academic materials - even after goth-loli queen bee Keiko (Eri Otoguro) screams for her ather, the vice principal. Now she can't show Mizushima (Takumi Saito) how much she tolerates him over the losers that make up the rest of the school! But Monami (Yukie Kawamura) can; her chocolate was tiny and people tend to ignore her (odd, because she's beautiful). And it's no ordinary chocolate - it's filled with Monami's blood, so eating it will bring Mizushima halfway to being a vampire like her. Crazy as that sounds, it may not be the strangest thing happening on campus, what with Keiko's father secretly working on reanimating the dead with oversexed nurse Midori, and some truly strange clubs.

Better make that strange and offensive - one is "gonguro", girls in blackface acting like a bizarre pastiche of African(-American) culture, although they're probably not worse than the competitive wrist-slitters. There's good satire possible with both, but filmmaker Naoyuki Tomomatsu isn't working that sort of subtlety, but instead making jokes as big and as broad as the bloodletting, and if you've got a problem with that, well, it's not like you chose to watch this movie because you've got a problem with bad taste and this was the classiest option. Still, it's not like many of the jokes are very funny beyond "I can't believe they did that!".

Full review at EFC.

"From Burger It Came"

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 21 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre de Seve (Fantasia Festival)

Voice-over synced to animation that literalizes what the narrator is saying, this one involving memories of a young man's AIDS hysteria back when he had just transferred from Catholic school and not only didn't know much about the disease, but wasn't getting good information.

Fair enough as those things go, I guess, but this sort of thing doesn't excite me much. The reminiscence isn't particularly interesting, and the animation, though technically done well, doesn't especially illuminate or play off the words.


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 21 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre de Seve (Fantasia Festival - Vers les Étoiles: Cerebral Science Fiction Cinema)

Canary is not for everyone. I know this because despite sitting in the fourth row of the auditorium, I saw a dozen or so people in front of me up and leave; I assume there were others behind me. Usually this happens in intensely off-putting films like Audition or Irreversible, but these people weren't grossed out or shocked in some other way. They were just fed up.

How did Canary try their patience? Well, to start, it opens with a scene of people speaking unsubtitled German, with no apparent reason for them to be incomprehensible to most of the audience. Later scenes in a doctors' office contain so much overlapping dialog that even if it's in English, it's nearly incomprehensible. And it utterly refuses to tell its story directly, reveling in approaching main storylines from a tangent - for instance, a story about a news crew investigating Canary Industries spends more time on the report feeling that her producer is undercutting her authority and effectiveness than the actual investigation.

For some, this is going to be boring and intolerable; others will see it as brilliant, improvisational pseudo-documentary style filmmaking that challenges the audience. There are certainly elements of both to it. What it comes down to, in a nutshell, is that director Alejandro Adams is completely forsaking plot in favor of world-building. He's not interesting in crusading reporters discovering the truth about Canary Industries' "organ redistribution" program, members trying to escape their fate, or how the plague of organ failures may be connected. He just wants to show us this world and let us mull it over a bit. So we're given reflections to study, little bits of everyday life that build not to a climax, but a picture.

Full review at EFC.

"La Révélation"

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 21 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

A pretty darn nifty short film from France, which goes from the audience watching a B-movie to shooting it to aliens announcing their presense to the people of Earth. It's funny, kitschy without being abnoxious about it, and a little bit of a mindbender about what is "real" and what is not at various times. Very cool.

8th Wonderland

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 21 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival - Vers les Étoiles: Cerebral Science Fiction Cinema)

The "virtual country" has been a favorite device of science fiction authors for a while now. The idea is that an online community would grow large and organized (and, perhaps, wealthy) enough to be more of a player on the world stage than nations defined by geography. 8th Wonderland transplants the idea to film, and while I don't know that the concept is as viable or inevitable as it's often presented as being, it's an interesting idea to play with.

The film opens on channel-surfing, from a documentary about cockroaches with chips implanted to news coverage of a South American election. There is another election going on, though, in the on-line community "8th Wonderland", directly tied to the real-world one. They end at the same time, and then the movie flashes back a few months. 8th Wonderland was a bit smaller then, and while its activities initially came off as pranks - installing condom dispensers in Catholic churches, for instance - they soon began to acquire more muscle in their attempts to strike blows for justice. Things get complicated in a hurry - American opportunist "John McClane" (Matthew Géczy) claims to have started the community, but those within have never heard of him, and appoint David (Robert William Bradford) as their Ambassador to the world. When they strike against a multinational corporation, the nations of the world start to take them seriously, as terrorists - and even though all activities were approved democratically, some members find themselves agreeing.

8th Wonderland starts out with the more sinister possibilities of this kind of rogue international organization, but without that flash-forward, it would be starting off as a comedy, as many of the initial operations are pretty entertaining, and play off both the idea that nations have a hard time fighting their jesters and how it can be difficult for those jesters to keep the attention of a public with a twenty-first century attention span. Even as they get into more direct intervention, such as Ludmilla (Irina Ninova) interceding as the translator in a meeting between Russian and Iranian Presidents - the film is still, initially, very funny.

Full review at EFC.

Wednesday: Reel Zombies, Divine Weapon, Black, and Orphan. Hells very much recommended; Canary, as you see, is an acquired taste.

Thursday has a ton up in the air: Edison and Leo, "Yariman" & "S&M Hunter" (unless the TBA on the schedule gets filled in with something interesting), Crazy Racer, Crime or Punishment?!? (unless I get a screener for it but not Cryptic), and The Possibility of an Island.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Vampire girl vs Frankenstein girl great movie. Yukie Kawamura is a Japanese "gravure" model. Pretty lady!