Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The Fantasia Daily, 2012.19 (6 August 2012): Sunny, Despite the Gods, Love Fiction, Vulgaria, Hidden in the Woods

Just one short today, and that was "Petite Mort" again in front of Vulgaria (and it's hard to think of a more suitable home for it!). Some filmmakers in attendence for horrible photography, though.

Mitch Davis & Penny Vozniak, Mitch Davis & Penny Vozniak after "Despite the Gods"

That's Despite the Gods director Penny Vozniak doing Q&A with the festival's Mitch Davis; sadly, Jennifer Lynch wasn't there for this screening, having left for home after introducing Chained on Sunday, although the Q&A from the Despite the Gods screening she did attend should be up on the festival's YouTube channel soon. Vozniak still had a number of interesting stories to tell, including how she knew from the start that she was going to want the opportunity to do more than just a standard EPK and made sure she had a chance. She also said that part of what she was hired for was babysitting Lynch's daughter Sydney, who was with her mother through the bulk of the eight-month shoot and whose presence would be a major issue between Lynch and producer Govind Menon. Which I can see in theory, but from the way the film was cut, it seems like most film sets would be cooler places for having a precocious 12-year-old hanging around.

I had to duck out of this Q&A a little early to head across the street for the next movie, so it may have gotten good afterward, once the audience had a chance to open up.

Mitch Davis & Patricio Valladares, Mitch Davis & Patricio Valladares after "Hidden in the Woods"

The day ended back in de Seve, this time with a Q&A for Hidden in the Woods writer/director Patricio Valladares. In some ways, the Q&A focused less on the movie itself than a couple of things surrounding it. First, there was amazement that such a brutal exploitation-style picture had been made in part with government funds; the story appears to be that Valladares submitted a more palatable proposal before actually filming this movie. I did get the impression that some of the details were being lost in translation and that the scale of both the Chilean exhibition business and the film's release was being misinterpreted. Or, at least, that everyone involved recognized the value of a good story even if the truth was a bit more prosaic.

Second, jury member Michael Biehn saw the picture and flipped for it, purchasing the remake rights with the intention of starring as the father. Which should be interesting; it's certiainly a role Biehn can play, and according to Valladares (who will also write and direct the new version in Chile), that part will be expanded. Not sure what I think about that; there's a part of me that kind of wanted less of him, and I don't know that he needs to be explained. It is kind of interesting how Biehn, who has done some very mainstream, very big-budget stuff in his career, really seems to be showing a real fondness for downright nasty grindhouse material now.

Well, that was my last really full day; I'll be spending most of today doing touristy stuff before getting back for The Fourth Dimension, Sunflower Hour, and Painted Skin: The Resurrection

Seeoni (Sunny)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 6 August 2012 in Concordia University Cinema de Seve (Fantasia 2012, DCP)

Sunny is flagrant nostalgia bait, but don't count that against it - it's genuinely funny, heartfelt nostalgia bait, and while that might seem odd to world cinema fans - few films that reach North America set in 1980s South Korea suggest people would miss it - it's actually got the wit to make that work when it needs to.

Lim Na-mi (Yu Ho-jeong) is in her early forties, a good wife and mother, and a dutiful daughter as well, making sure to visit her ailing mother in the hospital every day. It's after one of those visits that she notes the patient name on the door of the next room, "Ha Chun-hwa" - and is shocked to discover that the woman in that room with two months to live (Jin Hee-kyung) is her best friend from high school. Back then, Chun-hwa (Kang So-ra) befriended Na-mi (Sim Eung-kyeong) when she was the new kid after moving to Seoul from the rural Jeolla-do region, including her in "Sunny", her group of friends that included upbeat Jang-mi (Kim Min-yeong), foul-mouthed Jin-hee (Park Jin-joo), model-pretty Su-ji (Min Hyo-rin), pugnatious Geum-ok (Nam Bo-ra), and Miss Korea hopeful Bok-hee (Kim Bo-mi). Chun-hwa would like to get the group back together one last time before dying, and while Jang-mi (Ko Su-hee) and Jin-hee (Hong Jin-hee) prove easy enough to find, the rest will take a little more effort.

There's also stuff going on with Na-mi's teenage daughter Yae-bin (Ha Seung-ri) in the present and 1985 subplots involving a boy Na-mi has a crush on and a similarly composed group of girls from another school. It's a busy movie that splits its time roughly equally between 1985 and 2010, throwing a lot of period pop - both western and Korean - onto the soundtrack. Plenty of garish 1980s fashions make it on-screen too, making the flashback scenes especially colorful, especially when you consider that the girls aren't wearing school uniforms like Yae-bin and her classmates. That's likely a pretty deliberate sop to nostalgia; kids then were colorful and individual even when buying the same brands, while the next generation are missing that sort of variety.

Full review at EFC.

Despite the Gods

* * * (out of four)
Seen 6 August 2012 in Concordia University Cinema de Seve (Fantasia 2012 Documentaries From the Edge, HD)

It takes a special kind of movie for a "making-of" piece to morph into really interesting documentaries, and it certainly appears that Hisss was that sort of movie. It was always going to be odd but had the sort of calamitous production that leads to plain disaster.

The interesting thing about Despite the Gods is that it doesn't necessarily feel calamitous, but rather more like something that just got stretched out for no definitive reason until so much had been invested in it that it could neither stop nor possibly be a commercial success. Director Jennifer Lynch mostly seems to get along with her cast and crew until right up to the end, even if she does clash with producer Govind Menon. They're a pair of strong personalities, with Lynch often appearing more tortured because of her being out of her natural element.

Director Penny Vozniak does a nice job of putting the movie together, and it's a good look at making a movie in general as opposed to making one which went awry.

Full review at EFC.

Leobeu Pikseon (Love Fiction)

* * (out of four)
Seen 6 August 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, HD)

A romantic comedy that never quite gels, despite a pair of fairly likable leads and Jeon Kye-soo's script having a quirky, individual voice. The trouble is that said voice is often using unusual words to say the same old thing: Guy meets girl, they fall in love despite their own baggage, guy selfishly does something she has specifically asked him not to do, and then must try to pick up the pieces.

There's ways to make that feel fresh, but Jeon doesn't find them; instead, the quirks seem to be very obvious ornamentation on a too-familiar skeleton. Just as frustrating was the occasional impression that Jeon had backstories and lives laid out for both main characters but didn't include them beyond the superficial; it could have been more interesting than it was.

Full review at EFC.


* * * * (out of four)
Seen 6 August 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, DCP)

Funny, funny stuff, and Pang Ho-Cheung is just crazy prolific right now - a couple years ago, he made Love in a Puff in the middle of post-production on Dream Home, and now he has Vulgaria come out just a few months after Love in the Buff, supposedly with just a 12-day shooting schedule. Which seems exaggerated, because while there's no one hugely elaborate scene, it's got a fair number of locations and characters.

However quickly he cranked it out, it's hilarious, with Pang and company pouring a ton of raunchy jokes into ninety minutes and Chapman To delivering a marvelously flustered performance as a B-movie producer facing hard times and a project that began under dubious circumstances and gets weirder by the minute. Few jokes are repeatable, but most are among the funniest of the year.

Full review at EFC.

En las afueras de la ciudad (Hidden in the Woods)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 6 August 2012 in Concordia University Cinema de Seve (Fantasia 2012, HD)

Yep, this certainly does live up to its introduction as an envelope-pushing bit of cinema; it sets out a ghastly premise and doesn't hesitate to make each segment more horrific than what came before. Director Patricio Valladares is also good enough to not just throw more blood, guts, and sex on-screen, but to really connect it to the audience emotionally.

So why, when it is all said and done, did it leave me relatively cold? I'm not sure. I think part of it was that I found myself confusing the two sister characters; as Valladeres cranked through a lot of backstory in the opening minutes, I found myself unsure whether Anny or Ana was supposed to be older (and the names didn't help much!), which one was Manuel's mother, which one was doing A while the other was doing B... Making them feel so interchangeable took what seemed like horrifyingly personal stories and made them a little dehumanized. And once you've done that, the impression is less a horror story that strikes to the bone and more blood & guts exploitation.

Full review at EFC.

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