Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Fantasia Daily, 2011.15 (28 July): Abolition, Art/Crime, and Foxy Festival

I should have been taking notes on where/when I ate on various days. I had an hour and a half between knocking off work and my first film of the day, and to be totally frank, on the days I work, which fancy gourmet burger place I ate at did a lot to distinguish the day.

Now, if I were ambitious, I'd go through my debit card charges online and try to figure this out. But I suspect the various burger places in and around Crescent Street are not exactly what people visit this blog for, so let's just hit up the terrible photography before getting to the reviews.

King-Wei Chu, the Abolition filmmakers, and someone who probably got a much better picture than me.

Not a whole lot to say about Abolition. Its position on the schedule - one screening, in de Seve, on a weekday afternoon - kind of marks it as filler, and it's better than that, but not by a huge amount. The filmmakers were nice enough, but there weren't a whole lot of questions; it's just another antichrist movie, to a certain extent.

Art/Crime director Frédérik Maheux and subject Remy Couture.

A couple more fine folks with a Q&A that wound up very chummy, which is fair - when you're premiering a doc about an injustice in your hometown, with an audience that was likely fairly familiar with the situation beforehand, that's how it goes.

Foxy Festival director Lee Hae-young and translator. As you might expect, the director of a film named "Foxy Festival" had a smile when she joined him on stage.

As those who have seen promotional stills from the movie (like the one on this page) will no doubt expect, one of the questions asked was if he took a ride on a certain prop. Honestly, I suspect a lot of cast and crew did.


* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 28 July 2011 in Salle de Seve (Fantasia 2011)

Abolition is a serviceable enough take on a certain horror subgenre, and the decision to put a figure seldom given screen time commensurate to his importance under the microscope instead of looking at the big picture is interesting (and also practical on an indie-movie budget). This approach does carry the risk of the audience feeling like the movie ends just as things are starting to get good, even if that is arguably missing the movie's point.

After a bloody opening flashback, the film focuses on Joshua (Andrew Roth), a janitor putting a great deal more effort into a falling-apart detox facility than anybody else. He's given a bonus as it shuts down that a homeless friend squanders, and an ugly incident afterward reveals that he has incredible powers and that it's time to move on. He's soon taken in by Matthew (Reggie Bannister), a former priest who could use a hand doing maintenance on a building he manages. By coincidence, one of the tenants is Mia (Elissa Dowling), whom Joshua met when she visited her suicidal ex-boyfriend at the hospital, and whose husband doesn't much appreciate how friendly she is to either the ex-boyfriend or the new handyman. As Joshua has trouble resisting temptation, Matthew is frightened by the symbols his new friend absently draws and sees around him, knowing their meaning. Perhaps a trip to see his mother Eva (Caroline Williams) will clear things up.

Director Mike Klassen and his fellow filmmakers (including co-writers Chantelle Kadyschuk and Chris Lawson) do a lot of interesting things right in Abolition. It's got a couple of solid hook scenes toward the start: The opening is soaked in blood but still manages to come off more as eerie and foreboding than just going for familiar shocks, and the Joshua's first outburst pays an already-tense scene off remarkably well. The sequence at Eva's house is as tense and off-kilter as it should be, allowing for the cast to hint at much more than they are saying. A lot of supernatural thrillers would sell their souls to have three bits that good in them, and the movie at least seems set up to reward repeat viewing: I find myself curious to re-examine the early scenes to figure out whether Joshua is drawn to bad situations or whether they are drawn to him, as well as if he influences them in one direction or another just by being nearby.

Full review at EFC.


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 28 July 2011 in Salle de Seve (Fantasia 2011 - Documentaries From the Edge)

At the end of Art/Crime, the audience is informed that there are still more days in court ahead for Remy Couture, and it's fair to ask if maybe the filmmakers should have waited six months before locking and premiering it. And while the movie could perhaps use a little more material, waiting for that last ruling might make the case less of an interesting illustration of a larger point.

Couture is a gifted make-up artist based in Montréal, and in 2005 he started a website "Mourgue 666" - later renamed "Inner Depravity" - to demonstrate his work. As you might expect from the name, the photo galleries (and two videos) there are not pleasant, generally centered around a masked man tormenting and killing captive women. Eventually, as he got more professional work, Inner Depravity went dormant, but in 2009, on a tip from Interpol, police set up a sting to arrest Couture and search his apartment and studio. Though he can extensively document that nobody was harmed, particularly the child mentioned in the complaint, his case still works its way through the court on obscenity charges.

Are Couture's works obscene? Well, they're decidedly not nice, that's for certain. Seen without context, it would be easy to assume that his photographs are the real thing, and the Inner Depravity works are certainly made to put the viewer in an uncomfortable place, though they're not far removed from the horror movies on which he also works. The laws on this were written long enough ago that "crime comics" are specifically prohibited, but even if they are not generally enforced (and the officers on-scene are more apt to admire Couture's work than recommend throwing the book at him), this is to be a special case.

Full review at EFC.

Peseutibal (Foxy Festival

* * * (out of four)
Seen 28 July 2011 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2011 - Korean Film Spotlight)

Look behind enough closed doors in any community and it probably won't take long until you find something a bit odd, but probably harmless if you look at it without judgment. Well, maybe not totally without judgment - "weird" does qualify as judging something, and without that, Foxy Festival isn't very funny and life isn't very exciting.

Weird can be seen as threatening, though, which is why Seoul's police department has announced a crackdown on indecency in a middle-class neighborhood. Kwok Jang-bae (Shin Ha-kyun) is not terribly interested in enforcing it, at least not until he sees the fancy vibrator that his live-in girlfriend Ji-su (Uhm Ji-won) has purchased. Why, he thinks, having access to his rod should be enough (and she really should be more grateful)! On the other end of the supply chain is Joo Ja-hae (Baek Jin-hee), a schoolgirl who sells her sweaty panties to a sex shop on wheels but can't get Choi-kang Sangdu (Ryoo Seung-bum), a street vendor, to return her interest. Meanwhile, Ja-hae's mother Sun-shim (Shim Hye-jin), a prim traditional dressmaker, discovers that she and Gi-bong (Song Dong-il), the owner of the hardware store across the street, have complementary turn-ons, while her high-school principal Kim Kwang-rok (Oh Dal-su) finds things going in odd directions when he tries to get more intimate with his wife.

It might be a bit of fun here to give the reader a list of kinks to match with the characters as a game (whoever matches the most before seeing the movie wins!), but that runs the risk of spoiling the surprises that writer/director Lee Hae-young regularly springs on the audience. It actually wouldn't be too big a deal, as Lee isn't so much going for jaw-dropping shock as wry smiles as he reveals these predictions - but why take any of the fun out of it? Still, it is worth noting that there is something of a pattern at work, with the more superficially outré activities corresponding to happier relationships, and vice versa. Certainly, Jang-bae's conventional approach seems to be heading toward acrimony with Ji-su, while Sun-shim's and Gi-bong's scenes together are undeniably sweet.

Full review at EFC.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Great review! Thanks for sharing this one Jay. Hope you'll update soon with quality images :)