No time the first time posting, so straight to the horrible photography:
Keir-la Janisse introducing The Haunting of Julia, which was being screened in support of her new book, House of Psychotic Women.
Rina Takeda, about to demonstrate why her first movie was named "High Kick Girl".
Dead Sushi cast and crew: Director Noboru Iguchi, star Rina Takeda, composer (and voice of "Eggy") Yasuhiko Fukuda, and producer Mana Fukui
And that's all the time I have today. I'll be the guy wearing the "Space Bastard" t-shirt at Mitsuko Delivers, Funeral Kings, The Sword Identity, Memory of the Dead, and The Victim, so say hello.
I was rushing out the door yesterday morning, so I missed a couple of things that I really did mean to say.
First, here's a little extra horrible photography, this time of Jason Gray introducing his short film "Yukuharu", which played before Starry Starry Night:
I really don't talk about the shorts I see at Fantasia (or other film festivals) as much as I should, because they're often great little pieces of filmmaking. "Yukuharu" was especially impressive, and its story of a little girl facing some dark things within her family and the boy who likes her serves as a particularly fitting introduction to Starry Starry Night.
I went into that movie sort of blind - I might have read the description of it when looking at stuff for NYAFF, but hadn't really reached it in the Fantasia program, so when the movie started, I actually thought that Xu Jiao was somewhat older - like 19 or 20 - and was kind of surprised when it became a movie about kids. Kind of not what I was expecting at 9:40pm on Sunday, really, especially since this one is not just about kids, but pretty suitable for them as well. As I mention in the EFC review, the one potentially objectionable thing in it is handled maturely in-story.
One other comparison that I wanted to mention here even though I consciously tried hard to avoid it in the review was to recent critical darling Moonrise Kingdom, although maybe I would have gotten a few more hits if I said something semi-inflamatory there. You know, like how there's a great deal of overlap between the movies, only Starry Starry Night had actual kids instead of Wes Anderson quirkbots and adults who seem to be playing their characters rather than being less well-developed gags. An exaggeration, of course, and I did rather like Moonrise Kingdom, but I do think Night is in many ways a lot more human than Anderson's movie, and wish it was getting the same sort of release.
The Haunting of Julia (Full Circle)
* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2012 in Concordia University Theatre J.A. de Seve (Fantasia 2012: House of Psychotic Women, video)
Once again: Support film preservation, people. There's one print of this left, and while the guys who trasferred it to digital video for this screening specifically likely did their best, it's got the sort of cinematography, especially in terms of dark rooms, that doesn't translate to video that well at all.
The movie itself, at least, is pretty good. A great deal of horror is implied, and while the plot meanders somewhat, Mia Farrow is really just excellent at playing this sort of waif who is almost certain to be overwhelmed by both psychological and supernatural terrors.
Full review at EFC.
Dead Sushi (Deddo Sushi)
* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 21 July 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, HD)
Like the previous night's Zombie Ass, Noboru Iguchi delivers pretty much what one expects by now: Lo-fi Japanese weirdness that could seem a bit cynical, as it seems to be made with a western audience in mind, but which is still fun because he so clearly takes quite sincere joy in this sort of movie.
Dead Sushi is a fun diversion, delivering self-aware silliness and quality gore in equal measures, and star Rina Takeda might really be something in a movie where her karate skills were the focus - it's a shame to see her spending so much time running away here!
Full review at EFC.
Xing Kong (Starry Starry Night)
* * * * (out of four)
Seen 21 July 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, 35mm)
Stick around through the end credits of Starry Starry Night, which appear to contain images from Jimmy Liao's original illustrated book. It's not just that they're beautiful (they are) or that they imply that this pretty stunning film was based on a work originally for young readers (it is), but that writer/director Tom Shu-yu Lin is willing to show the audience where he was faithful and where he changed things; a confidence you don't always see, but one which is warranted.
Xiao Mei (Xu Jiao) is in seventh grade, her parents' marriage is falling apart, and it seems obvious enough to her that she plans to run away to her grandfather's cabin in the woods, although she doesn't go through with it. That's maybe a good thing, as she soon discovers she has a new neighbor and classmate, Jay Chou (Lin Hui-ming), and even though her curiosity about what's in his sketchbook gets him in trouble, they soon form a tight bond that Mei is going to need.
Where to start? Well, how about with the kids, because they're wonderful to watch. While Xu Xiao could be considered a veteran child actress by now - western audiences likely remember her as Stephen Chow's son in CJ7 - Lin Hui-ming is a newcomer, but both seem quite natural throughout the movie. What's perhaps most impressive is that kids in a movie like this usually either pick one expression and stick with it or bounce awkwardly between two different moods; Xu and Lin both handle the pressures as well as the utter glee of finding each other very nicely, making them hurt and vulnerable but never quite about to collapse.
Full review at EFC.