Friday, July 26, 2013

The Fantasia Daily, 2013.07 (24 July 2013): Uzumasa Jacopetti, OXV: The Manual, and Black Out

Not much touristy stuff yesterday - I think it's really going to be backloaded this vacation. And, actually, I wasn't too distressed about it - the temperature had dropped 30 degrees (Fahrenheit, 17-ish Celcius) in the past couple of days and I hadn't brought anything with long sleeves.

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Say hi to Darren Paul Fisher, who figured out a way to promote his movie OXV: The Manual and still look kind of slick. Nice guy who made a good movie, and spent a lot of time talking about his composer's good work.

Today's plan is already well underway (I caught a 10am press screening of I'll Follow You Down), with the regular screenings starting with The Last Tycoon at the Imperial and ending with The Machine at de Seve; and I'm not sure yet whether I go with Missionary or The Weight in between. Ugh, thought I'd find some way to upload this between lunch and the start of the first movie. Really, Old Port of Montreal, what is the point of WiFi without internet access?

Uzumasa Jaccopetti

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 24 July 2013 in in Salle de Sève (Fantasia Festival, HD)

There are any number of different types of weird movies, from the merely off-beat to eccentric to bizarre and beyond. Uzumasa Jacopetti certainly tends toward the stranger end of the spectrum, and like a lot of movies there, it can be as off-putting as it is intriguing. The way its parts add up isn't obvious - that add up to any specific thing is debatable - but they are at least interesting components.

The first piece is Shoji Hyakkan (Shinji Wada), a man of few practical skills but a big idea: Build a house whose floors are magnets floating above each other. It would certainly provide room for his son Shigeo (Shishimaru Ozawa) and his wife Sana (Kiki Hanaka), who would like another child although she shows some odd, unnerving behaviors when out with Shigeo. Another piece is Police Office Kobayakawa (Masaki Kitahara), who catches Shoji obtaining some extremely fresh leather to serve as his new house's wall, and instead of arresting him decides to hire him on for a special project.

Things get a bit violent as well as strange after that, sometimes going so far in unusual directions that trying to figure out just what Uzumasa Jacopetti is trying to do can leave a viewer scratching his or her head. Me, I think that co-writer/director Moriro Miyamoto is saying that there's a kernel of madness in every person, and while it is obvious in some like Shoji, seeing it in one person can activate it in another, resulting in great achievement or folly. All of the characters here are what they are from the very start, and all of them have strange dreams, but sometimes it takes a particular intersection to act on them.

Full review at EFC.

OXV: The Manual

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 24 July 2013 in in Salle de Sève (Fantasia Festival: Camera Lucida, HD)

It is not necessarily difficult for an alternate-reality sci-fi film to hook an audience; it just needs a clever premise and the chance to present it in a familiar setting before playing out how strange it makes the world. The trick is coming up with a story that's more than "hey, this world's weird!" and playing it out so that the audience can relate to it. That's hard, and by making it work with OXV: The Manual, Darren Paul Fisher and company have made an extremely impressive little movie.

That hook? A bunch of young children taking a written test blindfolded to determine their "frequency" - how lucky or in sync with the world they are. The standard scale runs from 0 to 100, but Marie-Curie Fortune (Lily Laight) scores a 127 and Isaac-Newton Midgley (Charlie Rixon) scores a -7, so far off that the universe tries to separate them when they stand near each other for even a minute. As teens (Georgina Minter-Brown & Dylan Llewelllyn), they try to test that phenomenon for different reasons - though both are geniuses, Marie is extremely high-functioning but emotionally detached, while Zak is empathetic and utterly smitten. With the help of friend Theodore-Adorno Strauss (Owen Pugh), the adult Zak (Daniel Fraser) finds a way to connect to Marie (Eleanor Wyld), but for as happy as it makes them, the idea behind it may tear the world apart.

Quantifiable luck has been used in science fiction for a long time, for the exact same reason that it's a tricky thing to do well: It digs into philosophically juicy concepts of free will and determinism, and while that's heady stuff to think about, it can get the story either running on rails or utterly random until it dissatisfyingly breaks its own rules (Larry Niven once described his bred-to-be-lucky character Teela Brown as having the ultimate superpower, author control). Fisher for the most part avoids that by building his universe very precisely, on the one hand having this tendency toward good or bad luck determine its characters' destinies as much through human prejudice as making the environment bend to their will and on the other hand by eventually hinting at a parallel history that has enough recognizable ideas to have a certain ring of truth.

Full review at EFC.

Black Out

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 24 July 2013 in le Cinéma Impérial (Fantasia Festival: Action!, HD)

I think I nodded off for about twenty minutes of Black Out, so go ahead and make your jokes about the title being apt; I certainly did. I don't particularly blame the movie for this, though, as it kept its end up, tossing plenty of new twists and nifty bits of action at the audience with regularity. It is, as promised, reminiscent of early Guy Ritchie, with big characters and a script where one thing leads to another leads to another which triggers this memory which explains that, so heaven help you if you lose the thread.

Interestingly, though, losing that thread maybe gives one a better look at the details in some cases, and those showed a story with perhaps too many moving parts, diluting the focus on soon-to-wed reformed criminal Jos Vreeswijk (Raymond Thirty), who should be driving the movie. Characters comment on amnesia not being believable, and the movie doesn't make it interesting enough to refute them. Things work a bit better when pared down to essentials at the end, and there's enough life throughout to make it interesting, but I feel like it's really going to need a second look to really give it a fair appraisal.

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