Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fantasia Daily for 27 July 2009: Fine, Totally Fine and Antique

And now I'm back in Massachusetts, watching the Red Sox blow games on TV after taking an overnight bus back from Montreal and trying to work on that amount of sleep. Not recommended.

Speaking of being back in the Boston area and watching sports, I was kind of surprised to see a couple of guys in Bruins shirts wandering around Fantasia without any apparent ill effects. My Red Sox stuff, that should be fine - even when Les Expos were still around, the Sox were sort of the area's AL team. But the Bruins... Isn't that sort of like wearing Sox gear around New York? They say it's not really a rivalry to them, at least until you get on the ice...

Yeah, my brain's shot. Must sleep and then rewind this reviewing back to Love Exposure. Criminy, that's going to be a challenge.

Zenzen daijobu (Fine, Totally Fine)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

Fine, Totally Fine has one of the highest quirk-to-story ratios ever recorded in a feature-length motion picture. It is, admittedly, though to measure, as both the plot and the digressions from it are so wispy that it's almost impossible to get much of a grasp on either. Both aspects are pleasant enough, although so lightweight that the movie threatens to float away as soon as its finished.

The film focuses on three people in their twenties: Teruo Tohyama (Yoshiyoshi Arakawa) is a horror-movie otaku who delights in playing morbid pranks on those around him; when he's not constructing these elaborate gags, he's working days trimming trees the city's parks or watching the used bookstore owned by his father Eitaro (Keizo Kani'e). He still lives with his dad, who lately has been suffering from depression. His best friend and frequent partner in crime is Hisanobu Komori (Yoshinori Okada), a much more strait-laced type who works in personnel at a local hospital. He has recently hired Akari Kinoshita (Yoshino Kimura) as part of the cleaning crew, which may be a mistake because she is as clumsy as she is beautiful and shy. For all her inability to control her hands in most situations, though, she is a gifted artist.

The festival program describes Fine, Totally Fine as longtime supporting player Arakawa's first real leading role, which I suppose is technically true if you reckon such things by screen time and. Teruo certainly has the most subplots attached to him: There's his dream of building the world's greatest haunted house, the amateur he and Hisanobu are working on with some friends, his father's creeping ennui, and the crush he's developing on Akari. Arakawa gives a nice performance, although it's not terribly far removed from his scene-stealing supporting work in nature: Teruo is immature, seldom the smartest guy in the room, and even a bit mean, but still oddly admirable for his stubbornness on sticking with what makes him happy, even as the world looks down on him.

Full review at EFC.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

Part of what makes seeing foreign popular cinema fun is that the genre barriers often aren't quite in the same place, so while what you see is mostly familiar, it can quickly go to unexpected places. Seldom has that been more true than with Antique, which adds some surprisingly tart flavoring to its sweet confections and somehow makes it work.

Kim Jin-hyuk (Joo Ji-hoon) comes from a wealthy family but has never accomplished much in his life, so when he announces to his parents (at the age of 29) that he intends to open a cake shop, they think it's odd - Jin-hyuk hasn't liked sweets since he was a child - but are supportive. Insisting on having the very best, he hires patissier Min Seon-woo (Kim Jae-wook), a master baker who learned his trade in Paris but has had trouble keeping a job because he refuses to work with women but, being a "Gay of Demonic Charm", always lures the men he's attracted to, gay or straight, into his bed. Despite being exactly Seon-woo's type, Jin-hyuk seems to be immune to his charms (and has been since high school, when Seon-woo had a massive crush on him). They're eventually joined by Yang Ki-beom (Yoo Ah-in), a former boxer now discovering his passion for baking, and Nam Soo-young (Choi Ji-ho), the son of one of the Kim family servants who has come to watch over he master as it seems Jin-hyuk is having the nightmares again - although he certainly serves as a handsome distraction for Seon-woo until his old boyfriend Jean-Baptiste (Andy Gillet) shows up.

And, no, Jin-hyuk's nightmares aren't about the fact that somewhere in the back of his mind, he's obviously not nearly so immune to Seon-woo's charms as he claims. No, this is about that time twenty years ago when Jin-hyuk was kidnapped for two months and returned with only vague memories of his captivity. This is important, because lately more kids have been disappearing, only when they show back up, they're dead, and the cake in their stomach can only have come from one bakery.

Full review at EFC.

If I were around Tuesday, I'd be doing Eureka Seven, Left Bank, and Neighbor; I would have recommend Cyborg She and The Eclipse, wouldn't have been able to get behind Fireball, and still wouldn't have known what to make of The Possibility of An Island. If I'd been able to finish this on Tuesday (work sucks up the entire day!).

Super-hypothetically, Wednesday would be Genius Party Beyond, M.W., and Trick 'R Treat; I'd be missing Inglorious Basterds because it's sold out beyond media/VIP passholders getting in (although there were rumors going around about a press screening in the AM). I recommend K-20 and Private Eye whole-heartedly, Edison and Leo and The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia with reservations.

Ultra-hypothetically, I would have already seen everything playing on Thursday, the newly-added "encore day". Antique and Cyborg She recommended.

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