Friday, August 13, 2010

(Final!) Fantasia Daily for 28 July: Boys on the Run, The Complete Metropolis

So, just over two weeks after the end of this three-week festival, I get to the last of my daily updates of Fantasia as it happens! Not the end of the Fantasia coverage, over course - I've got half a dozen screeners to view and two or three times as many movies that I saw that I saved for later in my attempt to get something up daily, so I figure you'll be seeing Fantasia updates until it's time to expect Fantastic Fest updates (not from me - even if I could bring myself to get more then a few miles from Fenway Park in September/October, it conflicts with my brother's wedding).

The last day of the festival is always a weird one, and this year it was especially so. I tidied up the apartment I sublet, trying to leave as little trace of myself as a master criminal would. The owner came in, collected the keys, and verified that I hadn't destroyed anything that would count against my deposit - he was very forgiving about that ceramic potpourri jar which, in my defense, was sitting on an awfully rickety table that I was almost guaranteed to trip over if I forgot just where the light switch was on the wall. Then I took my things, headed to the bus station, stowed the suitcase in a locker (yes, the Montreal bus station actually has storage lockers! Awesome when you have a noon check-out and an 11:15pm bus), and headed back downtown.

After a late breakfast at Cocktail Hawaii, I went to the Canadian Center for Architecture. I'd been there a few years ago, and sat in their park reading and writing a few other times, but my curiosity had been piqued by posters on the Metro about "other space odysseys". It turned out not to really be space architecture - such a thing can barely be said to exist - but a reasonably interesting exhibit that included designs for the JPL, comparisons of a lunar capsule to the inside of a peasant hut (more similar than you'd think, in how it makes use of every surface for storage), and theoretical ideas about zero-gravity construction. The other main exhibit was about Iannis Xenakis, who combined architecture, music, and mathematics.

After that, I had a choice to make. My plan had been to see the 3pm Centurion, but that was before Boys on the Run was canceled and rescheduled for 3:30pm Wednesday afternoon. Figuring that Centurion will likely get a theatrical release, I opted for the latter (it's nice to have a media/VIP pass that lets you make those decisions at the last minute; I recommend it). It was maybe not the best decision I made at the festival, but I try to be consistent in opting for the movie I won't necessarily have another chance to see on the big screen - or at all - and even a below-average movie like Boys on the Run has interesting moments.

After that, a little more time to kill, so I made my way to Place des Arts on foot, and made sure that I got there early enough that if my being on the list didn't mean I could pick up my tickets there, I would have time to hike back down to Concordia to do so. Fortunately, that wasn't the case, and I just had to wait for them to be delivered.

Of course, first I had to find the right building. There's a really pretty building on the Place...


... although what I've cropped out was how the entrances were inaccessible due to the construction going on around it. The actual entrance the the address on the flier looked more like this:


... which, I must say, looks better than it did at street level. What I'd forgotten, of course, is that Canadians are basically burrowing creatures (something I learned from waydowntown long before I discovered the Underground City in Montreal). The entrance shown led to a tunnel which, in addition to the usual shopping centers and Metro stops, led to a lobby area which, as you can sort of see, is just under and outside Salle Wilfrid Pelletier:


I was among the first there, which was maybe not the best idea - if you were on the VIP/media list, they were just ripping tickets off a bunch they'd printed out, and the first person there gets one at the end of a row. Now, maybe all the folks on the list got "whatever's left". It doesn't much matter; it's an awesome room, and being on the end gave me a real idea of how big and cool the place is:



Seeing everybody file in did give me a chance to see how genuinely excited all involved were, though - especially seeing all the programmers practically giggling with glee, almost unable to believe that they had really filled a 3,000-seat auditorium, that they'd gotten an orchestra to score something for their event... that their quirky festival, dedicated to what have traditionally been niche offerings, was being treated as a genuinely big a city that has no small number of festivals and other artistic events.

And despite all that, they haven't lost touch:


That image may not say a whole lot to those who haven't been there, but those folks standing at the front right? I sat behind them at a lot of movies. They are the "front row crew"; nearly every screening I've seen at the festival in the years that I've been there has had some portion of the same group down there, whether in Hall or de Seve. They get thanked collectively at the end of each DJ XL5 Zappin Party. I don't know them, I've never spoken to them, but seeing that someone involved made sure that they had seats to this big event that might normally have been reserved for high-rollers of some kind made me feel good. I talked in the wrap-up about how Fantasia is growing and will probably continue to grow and mainstream itself, but it's good to see that they're not forgetting the people who made the festival what it was.

Anyway, eventually the movie started, the movie ran and was excellent, and ended. The orchestra pit appeared to have an elevator built into it, so that composer Gabriel Thibaudeau and his 13-piece orchestra could be easily brought up to eye level to take a bow:


A standing ovation, naturally, ensued.

After that, it was time to dash through the underground city, take the Metro to Berri-UQAM, grab a slice of pizza before the place in the bus station closed, and jump on the Greyhound to head back to Boston. There were familiar rites to be observed then - staying awake until the border, hoping that you don't get the cranky and hostile ICE guy, and then trying to get as much sleep between there and South Station as possible because by the time you hit Boston, it will be almost seven o'clock and you've got to be at work at nine.

Speaking of which... It's 1:30am, I'd like to do some combination of "this week" and "next week" tomorrow, and work starts at nine. Good night, see you tomorrow, and look for more Fantasia reviews as I spend the rest of August catching up!

Wai dor lei ah yut ho (Boys on the Run)

* * (out of four)
Seen 28 July 2010 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2010)

A number of times in the past few years, and past few weeks, as I've been reviewing Japanese films based on long-running comics/manga, I've either written something along the lines of how well I think it does in translating that medium's pace and story to film (or struggled mightily to not make that comment, as it gets repetitive). Usually, it's something along the lines of having to cram a lot of material into a couple hours to make a film with a beginning, middle, and end. This time, I find myself left wondering whether writer/director Daisuke Miura did that fairly well and I just don't like the end, if he only adapted some fraction of the series, or if he adapted it somewhat loosely.

Whatever he did, this is the story of a young man, Toshiyuki Tannishi (Kazunobu Mineta), still living in his parents' home and working a pretty menial job, servicing capsule vending machines for the Sangyo Saida toy company. It could be worse, though. There's a girl at the office he likes - Chiharu (Mei Kurokawa), a toy designer - and he gets along with his opposite number at Monster Toys, Aoyama (Ryuhei Matsuda). It's Aoyama, in fact, who encourages him to make a go of it with Chiharu. Things go pretty well, until an awkward situation involving Shiho (You), Chiharu's next door neighbor - a basically friendly prostitute.

Low-end neighborhoods and the often best-left-unspoken habits of their residents are apparently familiar territory for Miura, and Boys on the Run certainly lives in that district. It's casually vulgar, milking incidents like Toshi accidentally lending Chiharu some unusual pornography for plenty of laughs while also being able to recognize things which aren't far off as scuzzy and uncomfortable. Miura gets good mileage both from his gross-out gags and the comedy of discomfort, and as long as the movie is focusing on being a raunchy romantic comedy, it's a delight to watch.

Full review at eFilmCritic


* * * * (out of four)
Seen 28 July 2010 in Salle Wilfrid Pelletier, Place des Arts (Fantasia 2010)
Seen 8 August 2010 at the Brattle Theatre (Special Engagements)

I am somewhat reticent to publish this review under the title "The Complete Metropolis". Firstly, because that isn't strictly accurate; approximately five important minutes still remain missing - and will likely remain so; the 2008 discovery of a 16mm print in Argentina that contained 25 minutes of missing footage is a miracle, and hoping for multiple miracles is just unreasonable. Secondly, because it feels so right that it will not be long until this cut will be considered the definitive, "normal" cut of Metropolis, and the version that persisted for eighty years will be seen as the alternate cut requiring an identifier.

In its unspecified future, a great city exists. The rich and powerful live near the top, and none is higher up than Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel), considered the city's architect as well as its most powerful resident. His son Freder (Gustav Frohlich), on the other hand, is idle rich, but has his eye turned by Maria (Brigitte Helm), who has brought some children from the workers' city to see the opulence in which their "brothers" live. He follows her down to the machine floor, where he witnesses a fatal malfunction, and eventually switches places with Georgy (Erwin Biswanger), worker #11811. While he learns of the lives of workers and Maria preaches about the need for a mediator between the classes, the elder Fredersen sets his henchman "The Thin Man" (Fritz Rasp) to spy on his son and charges inventor Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) to create a robot duplicate of Maria to sow dissent - though Rotwang is not necessarily an ally.

Metropolis is 83 years old, and sometimes that shows in the way this cut was assembled - not only are there two important sequences where intertitles must substitute for still-missing footage, but the footage from the Argentine print sticks out; restoration can only do so much. Even if it were pristine, though, it would still be very much a film from 1927 - silent, black and white, and made with different conventions than we are used to today. People run funny because the action is sped up in those scenes, while other moments will have the characters pausing before making sweeping motions to be certain that their emotion is clear. The dialogue seen in intertitles is functional and sometimes stilted, and the visuals are fanciful and non-literal in ways seldom seen today except as a parody of older art-house films.

Full review at eFilmCritic


jerky said...

loving the Fantasia. I go every year.
Please check out my movie blog!

Montreal Movie Blog said...

loving the blog keep up the good work!