Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Fantasia Daily, 2011.09 (22 July): El Sanatorio, Clown, Detention and Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS

This is from Friday, I think. Friday was the annual trip to see what's new at Pointe-à-Callière, the awesome archaeological museum down by the old port. This year, it was a temporary exhibit on how wine evolved was introduced to Gallic France. A nifty bit of history, and it's always fun to stop and say, hey, that thing in the glass in front of me is thousands of years old.

In keeping with the same theme, I crossed the street to the Science Center where was an Indiana Jones Archaeology exhibit which will almost certainly have a stay at the Boston Museum of Science sometime in the next couple of years. And I will, naturally, hit it up again when it does, because there is in fact a whole bunch of neat old stuff in there which will likely be somewhat localized when it moves to other cities, as well as a bunch of extremely cool props from the Indiana Jones movies. I was good and didn't take pictures, but Ark of the Covenent and Shankara Stones right there, if behind glass.

I do kind of hope that when they do move it to other venues, they find ways to perhaps make it less dependent on the handheld device with the video screen and headphones that they have the visitors carrying around. It's a neat piece of tech with a fun-for-the-kids interactive game attached to it, but it also creates this weird scene of everybody, including families, listening to and watching the machine instead of discussing the exhibits with each other. The design of which clips go with which exhibits also created a certain amount of bottleneck at points.

So, that was neat, but took long enough that I wasn't able to stop in the most succinctly and temptingly named restaurant I've ever seen, "Le Steak Frites", where you bring your own wine and ordering consists of answering the question "how would you like your steak?" Maybe tomorrow.

And now, pictures!

King-wei Chu and El Sanatorio director Miguel Gomez.

Gomez was a guy truly excited to be at festivals in general and Fantasia in particular, with a bunch of fun stories to share, such as how he wound up doing some CGI wire-removal by himself when his effects house flaked on him, or how a character not meant to be someone in particular probably was mocking a real person, now that he thinks about it. One thing he mentioned that I've heard before was how in smaller countries like Costa Rica, getting a movie made often means working with the government's arts funding, and they can be pretty averse to funding horror movies - or really, just anything that works as mainstream entertainment first and a moral lesson somewhere lower on the totem pole. The tools get better and cheaper all the time, but we're not quite at the point where independent film can really explode yet.

Detention star Shanley Caswell, a Toronto rapper whose part isn't listed in IMDB, co-writer/director Joseph Kahn, co-writer Mark Palermo

Another fun Q&A session, although I don't know whether to feel like Kahn has the right attitude or is defeatist when talking about how, after this, he doesn't know about making another movie because the hassle isn't quite offset by the joy, and there are so many strings attached. He talks about how he is currently trying to make as many music videos as he can to pay off the money it took to make Detention, which has to be frustrating. Hopefully it will get a theatrical release and pay him enough that continuing to make movies feels worth it.

Also, Mark Palermo has a great deadpan sense of humor, and apparently got in touch with Kahn after being the only critic who like the director's previous movie, Torque. No, that doesn't give me a small amount of hope, not at all...

El Sanatorio

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2011 in Salle de Seve (Fantasia 2011 - Playback in Black: The Next Wave)

Here's how this goes: I tell you that El Sanatorio is a first-person horror movie about a group of young filmmakers who take their cameras inside a haunted building, you groan "what, another?" At this point, I'm expected to say "but this one's different!" And maybe it is; it's Costa Rica's first entry into the horror genre and manages to inject a fair amount of humor into the proceedings. Mostly, though, it's just good.

The haunted building is El Sanatorio Duran, built in 1919 for TB patients, but since used as a prison and an orphanage. Legends have it that the ghosts of orphans and a raped nun haunt the place, among others (it depends on who you ask). The filmmakers are director Luis (Luis Bogartes) and journalist Arturo (Pablo Masis). They recruit a motley crew of others - medium Lulu (Marisa Luisa Garita); techs Papillo (Kabek Gutierrez) and Gaston (Abelardo Vladich); megalomaniac producer Esteban (Olger Gonzalez); musician - and skeptic/atheist! - Kurt (Kurt Dyer); and Mariana (Maria Elena Oreamuno), the researcher that Arturo would like to get closer to. They spend some time learning the lore of the place, but before long, they're in.

That's when the scares start, but no the good times. From the very first scene, cast and crew seem to be having fun with the idea that the characters don't take this activity all that seriously. They snicker during interviews. Luis and Arturo get distracted by the old Nintendo system they find when looking for a tape deck with which to play back the cassettes from an earlier investigation. Arturo is clearly more worried about his crush on Mariana than anything else. Co-writer/director Miguel Alejandro Gomez isn't quite making a comedy, but the high joke density makes what could be the expositional slog portion of the movie entertaining on its own.

Full review at EFC.

Klovn: The Movie (Clown: The Movie)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2011 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2011)

After seeing Klovn: The Movie, I find myself both curious about and wary of the TV series it's spun off from. Curious because the movie is damn funny, and if its style of humor is typical of the series, they can get away with some stuff on Danish TV (or it's running on the Danish equivalent of HBO). Wary because I don't know if this sort of crudity would work on a regular basis, and this is potentially a generic sitcom if toned down.

Klovn centers around the adventures of Frank Hvam (Frank Hvam), a decent-enough-seeming fellow with a remarkable ability to screw things up. Somehow, though, he's managed to stumble into a good woman in Mia (Mia Lyhne), but gets a couple pieces of unexpected news at the wedding of Mia's sister: They're going to be watching Mia's nephew Bo (Marcuz Jess Petersen) during the honeymoon, and Mia is herself expecting. Initially, this interferes with Frank's plans to go on a canoeing trip with his friend Casper (Casper Christensen), but he decides to take the boy along to show he has potential as a father. Maybe not the best idea, as Casper is a hedonist who has taken to calling this trip the "tour de pussy".

And, yes, "tour de pussy" is generally indicative of the level of good taste to be found in the movie. Casper, in particular, doesn't seem to believe in restraint of any sort, and the various sex and drug jokes are amplified just by having a chubby 12-year-old hanging around. Similarly, it's generally not enough for Frank to get into strange predicaments; he's got to wind up in his underwear somehow. It's pretty close to a non-stop stream of crude jokes about middle-aged man-children.

Full review at EFC.


* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2011 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2011)

So, have you ever wondered what would happen when the oroborus finished swallowing its own tail (well, besides the choiking at the bleeding out and all)? That is roughly what Detention is, a movie that spends a lot of time referencing other movies built on film references, but even when it's diving down that rabbit hole, it is doing so in the most fast-paced, energeting way possible, with director and co-writer Joseph Kahn always having one more bit of insanity up its sleeve. It's actually pretty amazing that a movie with the potential for being arch and smug that this one has instead manages to stay so energetic.

And, in fact, downright clever: Kahn takes the old quote from David Fincher that kids today don't just watch movies, they download them into their brains, and he isn't afraid to pack either his plot or comedy densely. What starts out as a cheap character tic turns into the throroughly bonkers springboard to the second half of the film, actually tying things together a heck of a lot better than most films that are sold on their intricate, labyrinthine plots.

Of course, it also means that the year I graduated from high school is now officially far enough in the rear-view mirror that you can straight up joke about it being nerdishly retro, as opposed to the usual "things move so fast these days that five minutes ago is passé" stuff. So I may have to dock a few points for demonstrating that I am, in fact, old.

Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS

* (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2011 in Salle de Seve (Fantasia 2011 - Tribute to John Dunning & André Link)

I could get into this more, but let's face it - just the very idea of this movie should make everybody involved reconsider, from the writer all the way down to the guy with a media pass who could have seen Helldriver again.

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