Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Fantasia Daily, 2011.14 (27 July): El Sol, Burke and Hare, and John Landis

Weird scheduling day for me: I skedaddled from the sublet-apartment-office a bit early to see El Sol and then had a long gap between it and Burke and Hare, with the 5pm show in de Seve being all-French, the 6:30pm in Hall being the 13 Assassins director's cut (which I'd already seen), and the 7:50pm show in de Seve an awfully good bet to bump up against Burke and Hare, what with the short and filmmaker present. So, plenty of time to eat, scribble review-text in the pocket notebook, etc.

I suppose I could have stayed in de Seve and seen one more movie, but I did want to see this one and Landis receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award trophy:



The trophy itself, by the way, is awesome, a winged cheval noir like the one featured on this year's program and signage, a cool combination between classic fantasy imagery and local Quebec folklore. Landis was tickled, commenting about how he has, over the years, received a number of awards, and described them about being how they seemed to be created on the premise of "let's give Landis the ugliest thing we can create" (reminding me of Kevin Kline's initial reaction to his IFFBoston lifetime achievement award, but this one was really awesome.

This led him picking up on Mitch mentioning the 30th Anniversary of An American Werewolf in London, and mentioning that while making that, he visited Ray Harryhausen, who was busily animating the Pegasus for Clash of the Titans. This was the first of a great many tangents that he would go on while accepting the award, introducing the movie, and doing Q&A afterward, which ran for a good hour (I'm told he also stuck around very late to chat with people and sign things in the lobby, too). He's very much an enthusiastic movie fan, but comes at it from a bit of a different angle than many of the fans who have gotten into the industry in recent years, having worked inside the industry from a very young age without ever being an outsider. So while today's fan talks about working in a video store and devouring films, he had an office on the Universal lot lot and a regular lunch date with Alfred Hitchcock, leading to some of my favorite anecdotes of many: One, that Hitch was furious about DePalma's Dressed to Kill being called "Hitchcockian", expressing this in witty profanity because the man was gloriously vulgar in person; and two, that he would screen all the current films of the day in his office and told Landis that he loved The Blues Brothers. That's just a fantastic image.

Anyway, Landis was a great guest, unguarded, eager to give credit to many people but not falsely humble. It was a good thing that Burke and Hare was a fun movie, too - it might have been very awkward if we hadn't liked it!

El Sol

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2011 in Salle de Seve (Fantasia 2011)

If you had to sum El Sol up in one phrase, "screw it, might as well!" probably describes it both inside and out. The filmmakers aren't feeling any particular need to conform to standards of logic or good taste, and the characters are just as free from caring about civility and decorum. This gets it some points for originality, even if it's mostly a mess.

It's been a few years since the bombs fell, and suffice it to say that the mood of no person in Argentina has improved - they're still the same testy lot they were, to hear the narrator tell it, before the apocalypse. "Once" (voice of Jorge Sesán) is a scout of sorts, traveling with pretty junkie Checo (Sofía Gala) to find caches of supplies. This trip, they've stumbled upon the mother lode - the still functioning settlement of Poblar. Of course, that place has problems of its own, such as sending out sacrifices to the Bonitos, a group of cannibal environmentalists.

And then, of course, things get weirder and meaner. El Sol often seems to be South Park-inspired in its stream-of-consciousness animated filmmaking: Crude in both its animation style and sense of humor, very episodic, and having a bone to pick with everybody, regardless of politics, age, class, etc. It's not so much an angry film as a ticked-off one, the sort that growls about how everything sucks but doesn't have anything much more specific or insightful to add to that. Thankfully, "Once" and the other protagonists are fair game, with the film getting just as much mileage from them being selfish, short-sighted jerks as with taking down anybody they encounter.

Full review at EFC.

Burke and Hare

* * * (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2011 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2011 - Lifetime Achievement Award for John Landis)

The true story of 19th Century serial killers Burke & Hare is not a natural fit for romantic comedy, so this take on the characters is certainly going to stand out for that. It works better than one might imagine, though, in large part because there are enough funny and talented people involved.

In 1828, Edinburgh was famous for its several competing medical schools, but the teaching of anatomy in those days required many, many cadavers, and Dr. Monro (Tim Curry) had used his pull with the city to get the supply from the hangman's noose for himself, frustrating rival Dr. Robert Knox (Tom Wilkinson). Meanwhile, across the city, the latest scheme of Mr. William Burke (Simon Pegg) and Mr. William Hare (Andy Serkis) has failed, and to make matters worse, an elderly tenant at the boarding house run bmy Hare's wife Lucky (Jessica Hynes) has died. At this point, the free market does its work, with Knox mentioning that he can always use more bodies. Unfortunately, their supply of dying tenants is short, the militia has stepped up patrols of the graveyard, and Burke is smitten with actress Ginny Hawkins (Isla Fisher), who needs money for her dream of mounting MacBeth with an all-female cast. Burke and Hare are going to need to increase the supply of fresh corpses to stay ahead of the game.

Of course, the movie spends relatively little time on the title characters actually murdering people - the screenplay by Piers Ashworth and Nick Moorcroft aims to present this version of the duo as doing horrible things less due to their own psychopathy than the tacit encouragement of Knox and the pressure to support the women in their lives. It is, at times, a bit of a cop-out; even when we see a montage of the pair's crimes, it's often easy to get the impression of a series of deaths by misadventure that Burke & Hare assisted rather than something that got their hands dirty.

Full review at EFC.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Great reviews Jay! Keep it up!