Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Fantasia Daily, 2013.14 (31 July 2013): Ip Man: The Final Fight, Ritual: A Psychomagic Story, and Antisocial

Another day, another arrival at the very last second to see Ip Man: The Final Fight. One thing I've noticed from doing a little more walking during this festival compared to previous years: The pedestrians in Montreal walk very slowly, at least compared to Boston; I find myself consciously slowing down a lot. The bicyclists, meanwhile, come in swarms and are crazily aggressive.

So I said to the folks I met at de Seve after walking there to see Ritual, which didn't get a great reaction; even those of us that liked it would have liked to take some whatever-the-Avid-equivalent-to-scissors is to it, and a lot of folks flat-out hated it. After that, some of us stuck around for Antisocial, and were kind of lucky that they had the waiting area for people with at the previous show open, because there were not a lot of seats for people with passes. We saw why, when the cast and filmmakers came up after the movie:

"Antisocial" cast & filmmakers photo IMAG0435_zps5a2ba805.jpg

Left to right, that's actors Laurel Brandes, Eitan Shalmon, Romaine waite, Ana Alic, and Cody Thompson; director/co-writer Cody Calahan; co-writer/producer Chad Archibald; and actor Michelle Mylett. And having them all there was cool, it was a nice Q&A with fun talk about shooting in small-town Ontario and how shooting in the same house made them feel quite bonded. The genesis basically was how the writers started noticing that just going to one's phone even while with another person was becoming acceptable behavior, and how could that translate into a horror movie.

Then, halfway through the Q&A, they had the rest of the crew that came to Montreal come up:

"Antisocial" cast & crew photo IMAG0437_zps7c9f28c8.jpg

Yeah, that's a lot of de Seve's couple hundred seats taken, not even counting that I guess a few folks from the opening short came. I'm kind of surprised that the festival staff didn't anticipate this - the same group brought a ton of people for Monster Brawl a couple years ago - and book this in the Imperial rather than having two shows in the smaller theater sell out and press & industry have to see it without seeing how the audience reacted.

Not that I'm complaining; I'm reasonably certain that I would do a lousy job making this sort of judgment. Just observing, and sort of tucking this sort of information in the back of my head for if I ever get to do this sort of film programming myself.


Today's plan: To de Seve for Number 10 Blues/Goodbye Saigon and The Dead Experiment, and then heading to the Imperial for Metro Manila (although I may switch that up for Resurrection of a Bastard if I hear good things/want to stick with friends/suddenly value finishing an hour earlier).

Yip Man: Jung gik yat jin (Ip Man: The Final Fight)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 31 July 2013 in le Cinéma Impérial (Fantasia Festival, DCP)

If it seems as if there's been a new movie about Bruce Lee's teacher Ip Man coming out every year since Donnie Yen first played the role for Wilson Yip in 2008, it means you've been paying attention; they have been coming out at roughly that rate. And while they've been a varied lot both in tone and quality, this one's a bit of a surprise, given that it comes from the team that did the rather different The Legend is Born.

Wing Chun master Ip Man (Anthony Wong Chau-sang) arrived in Hong Kong in 1949, having been well-off before the war but now with as little as anyone. A friend gives him a place to stay above his restaurant, and he is soon giving lessons on the rooftop. His students include restaurant union leader Leung Sheung (Timmy Hung Tin-ming), waitress Chan Sei-mui (Gillian Chung Yan-tung), policeman Tang Sing (Jordan Chan Siu-chun), factory worker Lee king (Jiang Lu-xia), and prison guard Wong Tung (Chow Ting-yu); his most famous pupil would arrive later. While Ip Man and wife Wing-sing (Anita Yuen Wing-yee) live a modest life, Tang Sing finds himself tempted by what a cop willing to look the other way can attain from the hands of crime boss Dragon (Xiong Xin Xin).

While I cannot yet speak for Wong Kar-wai's The Grandmasters, one of the things that is surprising from the start of The Final Fight is how thoroughly grounded it is after a number of movies focused on legend-building, a fair amount of which was outright fabrication. I don't recall any of the previous movies mentioning that Ip Man's daughters starved to death during the war as this one does, something that immediately establishes a more somber tone than, say, Ip Man 2, which also starts from the title character arriving in Hong Kong. It seems quite likely that the events that provide a climax are well-embellished, but much of the rest - described in the credits as coming from son Ip Chun's recollections, has the ring of truth.

Full review at EFC.

Ritual: A Psychomagic Story

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 31 July 2013 in Salle de Sève (Fantasia Festival, DCP)

Ritual: A Psychomagic Story is explicitly inspired by the work and philosophy of Alejandro Jodorowsky, and many may find themselves disappointed that, after a very stylish opening, it is never in the same category of strangeness as Jodorowsky's films (or comics, though those are bizarre in different ways). Oh, it's certainly odd, and goes in and out of states of madness, but it never gets near the "what the heck did I just see?" territory where Jodorowsky often lives.

And yet, it's not a bad or particularly mainstreat movie by any means. It's got an impressive set of actors doing three very different things at its core - Désirée Giorgetti as the fragile Lia, Ivan Franek as her intensely domineering boyfriend, and Anna Bonasso as Lia's wise aunt. They're compelling to watch, especially Giorgetti, who has Lia on the edge of complete collapse for something like 80% of the movie and manages to keep it fascinating. Its espousal of Jodorowsky's theories are done by example rather than lecture, and while they are a sort of low-key oddity, it's interesting to see them work. It gives the audience something to think about in terms of the power of symbolic language.

It does, however, also make things kind of slow going at times. The film is only 90 minutes long but often seems to drag; we get a lot of examples of Viktor's cruelty and Agata's kindness, but it often seems like more repeition without actual new insight. There's a thing with two "pixies" that never seems to completely resolve. Parts of the movie are presented out of chronological order, but not in the sort of way where it seems like that's the best moment to see that event. The directors served as the editors, and this may be a case of needing someone else in the room to keep them from falling too much in love with every idea they had during filming.

Full review at EFC.

Antisocial

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 31 July 2013 in Salle de Sève (Fantasia Festival, DCP)

Antisocial is an impressive little horror movie that distinguishes itself by showing how it's not necessarily what a movie does that matters, but how it pulls it off. Sure, the initial plot is built on a foundation of an alarmist view of modern life and iffy science (things that bug me), but the filmmakers work this material quite well - it becomes tense and downright clever by the time it reaches a finale that satisfies and leaves the audience hungry for more. It'd be easy to say this movie shouldn't work, but it actually should; we're just not used to seeing the effort to make it work put in.

Samantha (Michelle Mylett) is not having a great day - her boyfriend just broke up with her over the phone and had changed his relationship status online to "available" before she'd even hung up, she's far enough behind in her courses that she's attending a supplementary criminology lecture on New Year's Eve, and... Well, it's a rotten day. It's about to get worse; she heads to her best friend's place for a party, but the only guests who show up to join Mark (Cody Thompson), Jed (Adam Christie), Steve (Romaine Waite), and Steve's girlfriend Kaitlin (Ana Alic) are bleeding, ultra-violent lunatics, and the news says that this is happening all across the world.

There's a lot of it being thrown around on the various social media networks the characters frequent as well, and in a way, you've kind of got to feel for horror filmmakers where that's concerned. It only seemed like they'd just figured out how to use mobile telephones beyond the battery running out or the local area conveniently having no coverage when smartphones and social media started becoming common. That went through an "it's only good for stalkers and other creeps" and "kids paying too much attention to that will just get killed" period, and while there's still a bit of the latter present, director Cody Calahan and co-writer Chad Archibald mostly find ways to use it as a tool to build the scale of the film up as opposed to seeing it as a nuisance that keeps them from isolating their potential victims.

Full review at EFC.

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