Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Fantasia Daily, 2012.20 (7 August 2012): The Fourth Dimension, Sunflower Hour, and Painted Skin: The Resurrection

I was going to triumphantly tweet something about having pancakes at 12:30 on a weekday because vacation, but when I got to the old port, I found that the place I was planning on visiting was shut down for some reason or another, so I went to Les Glaceurs for the cupcake/ice cream combo instead (cupcake: Choco-Orange; ice cream: vanille-framboise). Which is pretty "because vacation" itself.

While walking around, I found this plaque outside the Bank of Montreal:

Badass Montreal History

Canadian history: More badass than you think. Remember that, folks: They may be friendly and polite but their leaders will kill yours with their bare hands if you stand in their way.

After that, I headed to the Science Museum for the "Star Wars: Identities" exhibit (some photos here), which was pretty nifty. Probably less actual science to it than last year's Indiana Jones-themed archaeology exhibit, but all the Star Wars props were still really cool, and they've made the exhibit less dependent on watching video on the handheld unit than the Indy one. The interactive parts, where you design a Star Wars Universe character were neat, although they created a bit of a bottleneck, so I didn't finish Whurrhurrhrwa, my Wookiee trader.

Here's hoping that it makes its way to the Boston Museum of Science, and I eagerly await next year's Radioland Murders-themed exhibit.

Newly-created beach

I killed some time in the Old Port after that, making my way across les quays to the clock tower. There's been a little work done on the area, most obviously the new "Clock Tower Beach" shown above, which is a weird thing, being completely man-made and charging admission. I'm pretty sure that the actual walkways around the tower have become more narrow as well, and not just in places where the beach needed to be accomodated.

One thing you can sort of see in that picture is that the concession stand is sort of done up to look like a cargo container, which is a recurring theme around the quays. I don't recall that quite being the case in previous years, but I like it - its practical and a nice link to the area's history which they manage to make look good.

After that, went to the "Forbidden Visions" exhibit at BBAM! Gallery that is being co-presented by Fantasia, which was nifty, and had some food at Mr. Steer's, an absolutely un-prepossessing diner on St. Catherine that makes one of the best burgers you'll ever taste. They sell raw burgers to cook on your own grill, and if I drove and didn't want to get in an argument with the TSA, some would probably come home with me. Then it was off to the festival to watch some movies.

"Sunflower Hour" star Amitai Marmorstein

Marc Lamothe (l), it turns out, can be as excitedly motormouthed in English as he is in French; he saw Sunflower Hour at another festival and was very enthusiastic to bring it to Fantasia. Writer/director Aaron Houston was originally supposed to come, but apparently the film is giving him a lot of new opportunities; as star Amitai Marmorstein (r) said after reading an email from Houston on his phone, the man has been pulled into meetings at every festival they've gone to.

There were only a few of us press folks there for this one, which made me kind of sad; most everyone else seemed to be across the street at ParaNorman, which looks like a lot of fun, but it's not like there won't be ample opportunities to see it in a week and a half (though Alliance seemed to put on a good show, with guys in mascot uniforms and other guests), while this might be the only chance to see Sunflower Hour in a theater.

Considering that a lot of the promo material for Painted Skin: The Resurrection had "3D" logos on it, I was kind of hoping that we might get to try out the active-shutter glasses used to show ParaNorman that way, but I'm not going to complain about a 35mm print (an increasingly scarce beast at both festivals and regular screenings), either. There was one other bit of business before the show:

David Bordwell receives a Lifetime Excellence Cheval Noir

Film scholar David Bordwell received this year's "Lifetime Excellence" award for his academic work, but you really didn't even need King-wei Chu's introduction to realize that he's not a dull ivory tower type; he's been sitting in the front row of screenings since arriving over the weekend, and just a few short words made it clear that he doesn't just love film, but movies. He watches and gets excited about them rather than just studying them, and I couldn't help but think back to earlier in the day, when I picked up an envelope of screeners for movies I couldn't fit into the schedule and saw a half-dozen people in the "viewing room", watching movies off computer monitors with headphones to shut everyone else out, and I couldn't help but think that that is no way to experience a film festival. EFC may not pay, but not having deadlines and assignments makes up for it somewhat.

While accepting his trophy (and is Fantasia's Cheval Noir the coolest award given by a festival or what?), Bordwell said something that amused me: "Film is a great art form. It may not seem that way, because people still like it." That kind of sums festivals like Fantasia up; they import more popular entertainments than bits of high art, but you can get a lot out of those movies.

Anyway, this is my last day in Montreal, and I'm planning on a late brunch at Cocktail Hawaii, another museum visit, maybe dinner at m:brgr, and just one film, The Woman in the Septic Tank, before catching the 11:30pm bus home (and maybe going straight from South Station to work).

The Fourth Dimension

* * * (out of four)
Seen 7 August 2012 in Concordia University Cinema de Seve (Fantasia 2012, HD)

The part of this anthology that will likely get the most notice will likely be Harmony Korine's piece, which has Val Kilmer playing a particularly odd version of himself as motivational speaker, but while it's amusing, it's the other two pieces, by Silent Souls's Aleksei Fedorchenko and Polish newcomer Jan Kwiecinski, but resonate a bit more, taking simple sci-fi-ish concepts and turning them into stories which resonate suprisingly well.

It winds up being kind of a quiet anthology movie - none of its segments really blow the audience away and they don't come together as something greater - but it does all right.

Full review at EFC.

Sunflower Hour

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 7 August 2012 in Concordia University Cinema de Seve (Fantasia 2012, HD)

Even as mock-documentary movies go, Sunflower Hour looks kind of bare-bones, but partly by design - it's a documentary about finding a new puppeteer for a cheap-looking Vancouver kids' show, with the idea being that low stakes actually make people more passionate. Still, it's pretty good use of this - it lets filmmaker Aaron Houston do his gags with almost nothing in the way of resources.

And he's got a good bunch of gags. It's simple comedy truth that everything is funnier when done by a puppet, which makes the character of Shamus O'Reilly, whose puppet Gerry is acting out his id all the time, one of the movie's funniest. There's also a nice little thread about people learning to communicate and gaining confidence throughout the movie, and charming performances from Amitai Marmorstein and Kacy Rohl as the kids who need validation the most.

Full review at EFC.

Hua Pi 2 (Painted Skin: The Resurrection)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 7 August 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, 35mm)

Newcomers should not be too put-off by the fact that Painted Skin: The Resurrection has a subtitle or a roman numeral depending on whether the title is written in English or Chinese; the first text on the screen more or less reads "500 years later", so you're talking about a pretty clean start. Once you get past that, it's just a simple gothic martial-arts horror romance fantasy.

Fox demon Xiaowei (Zhou Xun) has spent the last five centuries imprisoned in ice for the crime of falling in love with a mortal, but is freed when Qeer, a curious young sparrow demon, creates a crack. The two return to the mortal world, where eating human hearts not only allows them to retain human form (as it does) but keeps the ice from swallowing Xiaowei again. The only remedy is to become human by having a heart given to Xiaowei freely. The key is Princess Jing (Zhao Wei), whose scarred face, the circumstances behind it, and their differences in caste keep her from being with her true love General Huo Xin (Chen Kun) until Xiaowei befriends her and offers her the chance to swap their skins. Meanwhile, the latest in a family of demon hunters, Pang Lang (Feng Shaofeng) has an inkling that something is up, so Qeer (Yang Mini) shows up to keep him out of the way.

Painted Skin: The Resurrection is a dark fantasy by way of the erotic thriller - few of the latter have ever taken the idea of a woman who insinuates herself with a couple so that she can work her way into their beds and rip their hearts out quite so literally! And yet, for all the moralizing that usually accompanies the genre's titilation, the set-up and relationships here are surprisingly complex. Even as Xioawei schemes, her motivation is desperation rather than the usual hatred (she actually seems to like Jing), and the lack of actual enmity makes the strange triangle all the more interesting.

Full review at EFC.

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