Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Fantasia Daily, 2013.13 (30 July 2013): "Slipstreams and Eclectic Sheep" and Library Wars

I barely arrived at the theater in time for "Eclectic Sheep", it turned out, getting there as the line-up was introduced, and I didn't take a picture because I figured I could afterward. Woops.

"Library Wars" director Shinsuke Sato

I did get to see Shinsuke Sato's Q&A, which was friendly, though not particularly informative. There's not a whole lot to say about this movie, and once he'd mentioned that they played down the action because too much hurt the romance (which, honestly, was barely there), it kind of started to look like an ill-conceived demographics-chasing studio film. Which I suppose it is, and that can be kind of surprising, since we don't generally import those from foreign countries. I am curious what my librarian friends would think of it, though.

Yeah, I bailed on Vegetarian Cannibal. It was already nearly 10:30pm by the time Library Wars got out, and hard-selling "this will disturb you", it turns out, just doesn't get me into a movie. And I wanted a slice of pizza. Funny thing: I was looking forward to hitting the sack early and stayed up late following baseball news. How it works, right?

Today's plan: Ip Man: The Final Fight at the Imperial, and then heading down Maisonneuve for Ritual and Antisocial.

"Slipstreams and Eclectic Sheep"

Seen 30 July 2013 in le Cinéma Impérial (Fantasia Festival, HD)

Hey, world, could you stop showing me "Death of a Shadow"? This is the third shorts program I've seen it in, and it's just not going to happen with us. It's always going to be pretty but its concept isn't going to make a lick of sense, and it's never really going to earn the sense of tragic romnace its going for.

That Oscar-winning short was the centerpiece of "Slipstreams and Eclectic Sheep", and it was fairly representative of a fair chunk of the group. Not really bad, but often seemingly made by people who think they're above fantasy and science fiction - that using this canvas means you don't have to acutally make sense, either in the way people act (what the hell, mother in "Restitution"?) or the world they inhabit (c'mon, "Hibernation"). "Reset" has the germ of a good idea, but it bugs out by the time it can really explore it rather than just throw weirdness at the screen.

I don't mind the ones where the concepts exceed the filmmakers' resources ("Temma" or "113 Degrees", though the latter has other problems). But I get very frustrated when something is sold to me as science fiction but doesn't live up to my hopes.

Toshokan Senso (Library Wars)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 30 July 2013 in le Cinéma Impérial (Fantasia Festival, HD)

Not having read any of the books in Hiro Arikawa's Toshokan Sensô series, I readily admit that this film adaptation of the first may give its fans exactly what they want (the manga adaptation looks as "shojo" as it possibly can). Still, that seems a bit of a shame: If you've got a concept as pointed as open warfare between heavily-armed librarians and the government censorship bureau, you might as well make Battle Royale, and this movie is only on par with The Hunger Games.

And, yes, "heavily-armed librarians". In this story's parallel universe, Japan passed the "Media Betterment Act" in 1989, a censorship law whose enforcement bureau eventually became militarized. This led to the opposing creation of the Library Defense Force in 2004. Now, in 2019, Iku Kasahara (Nana Eikura) and Satoshi Tezuka (Sota Fukushi) are Musashiro Library #1's newest recruits, although Kasahara confesses to her roommate Asako Shibasaki (Chiaki Kuriyama) that she joined in part due to a crush on an unknown Task Force officer. She and Tezuka are being trained by demanding squad leader Atsushi Dojo (Junichi Okada), who really seems to have it in for Kasahara. Meanwhile, the owner of the Museum of Information History lingers near death with instructions to hand its contents over to the Musashiro Library - although the Betterment Bureau has good reason to want that handover stopped.

The high concept is ludicrous, of course, but it's the kind of ludicrous that's useful because a writer can do interesting things with it. Maybe not particularly subtle, but illustrative, and if dressing the forces advocating censorship as the SS while librarians are the soldiers handing out humanitarian aid after the battle puts an image in the viewers' minds, well, mission accomplished. But while screenwriter Akiko Nogi occasionally uses the setting to make a comment of some sort, there's not much in the way of sharp satire; the main focus, actually, is on office romance.
Full review at EFC.

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