Friday, August 02, 2013

The Fantasia Daily, 2013.15 (1 August 2013): Number 10 Blues/Goodbye Saigon, The Dead Experiment, and Resurrection of a Bastard

Of all the days on the calendar, this was perhaps the most fluid day, without a whole lot of "must see that" screenings, with Number 10 Blues certainly looking like the most interesting. So, I risked getting to that one late rather than the easy-to-catch Boomerang Family, and then after The Dead Experiment I opted to hang around for the movie starting soon rather than stand in the rain at the Imperial. It was that kind of day and that level of rain.

It meant grabbing some takeout rather than sitting down to eat somewhere, though, and I hit Smoke's Poutinerie across the street for some bacon cheeseburger poutine. Thing I always discover when eating there: The box they give you contains a lot of poutine and suddenly having my stomach full seemed to counter the cola going into my system pretty well; my head was doing the wake-up jerk every couple minutes. I wound up using the online screener to fill in the blanks before writing the review, and that worked well enough, although I do wonder if re-watching half before I fell asleep and half in the morning hurt my understanding of what was going on too much.

Before that, though, there were guests for The Dead Experiment.

"The Dead Experiment"'s Anthony Dixon, Ryan Brownlee, and Jamie Abrams photo IMAG0438_zps8b449827.jpg

Weird thing; folks started clearing out right at the end of the movie rather than stick around for the Q&A, making me wonder if there wasn't going to be one. Heck, I was halfway out the door myself when they started moving down toward the stage.

Nice folks. Director Anthony Dixon (on the left, followed by actors Ryan Brownlee & Jamie Abrams) has enough of a science background that he wanted to try and get details right, which is always nice. I almost got the impression that he was a bit surprised at the film getting into Fantasia and a few other festivals, as he certainly talked about it as being very much a learning experience the way shorts are for many other filmmakers.


Today's plan: At the Imperial for Thermae Romae, Curse of Chucky, and Raze. Skipping the midnight because ultraviolent Saturday morning cartoons start at 10am tomorrow.


Number 10 Blues/Goodbye Saigon

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 1 August 2013 in Salle de Sève (Fantasia Festival: Camera Lucida, HD)

It's almost certain that there have been movies made under more insane circumstances than Number 10 Blues/Goodbye Saigon (both titles appear on-screen at once), or worthier ones made in a war zone, but that does nothing to take away from what a peculiar and exciting bit of pulp fiction this movie, shot in Vietnam and almost unseen for nearly 40 years, turns out to be.

Though the United States pulled out of Vietnam in 1973, the war between North and South is still going on as of March 1975, when we meet Toshio Sugimoto (Yusuke Kawazu), the representative of a trade company who has been in Saigon for eighteen months. He's gotten used to the place, and Saigon is safe; the gunfire is a distant sound. This somewhat stable situation is upended when a former employee breaks into Sugimoto's house, only to wind up shot with his own gun. Rather than call the police, Sugimoto hides and plans to flee, but while crime boss Chen (Do-an Chau Mao) is willing to sell him a forged passport, he's also looking to stab Sugimoto in the back. Only his mistress Lan (Lan Tanh) seems willing to aid him, although Chen's half-Japanese man Taro (Kenji Isomura) certainly seems like he could be an ally.

It's important to understand right off that Number 10 Blues is not a very polished movie, even by the standards of other 1970s grindhouse movies: The acting is stilted whether one takes the fact that characters are often speaking their second or third languages into consideration or not, the story is basic but still has occasional moments when it seems to make little sense, and there are points when it seems writer/director Norio Osada just didn't have the footage he needed in the editing room. If one approaches movies without context or interest beyond what's right up front (which is a completely legitimate thing to do), this one will almost certainly be found wanting.

Full review at EFC.

The Dead Experiment

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 1 August 2013 in Salle de Sève (Fantasia Festival, HD)

"The Dead Experiment" is going to get abused as a title. There's the way it's probably meant to be taken, as a sinister-sounding article-adjective-noun combination, but it also turns out to be a true sentence describing the plot of the movie. It's also, unfortunately, kind of a disparaging description of the movie that's not entirely inaccurate.

I admire what writer/director/producer/editor Anthony Dixon is trying to do here, making this sort of sci-fi movie which at least tries to ground itself in realistic science while working up some tension and maybe giving the audience something to think about, and all things being equal, I'm glad there is some sense to his technobabble; it never takes me out with "no! wrong!" It is kind of dull, though; the characters say a lot of things but seldom make it interesting for the layman. That means all the tension of what comes next has to come from characters making often-foolhardy decisions to not share information, and that gets kind of irritating.

The cast isn't bad, and Dixon's got some good ideas. He mentioned that this was his first movie project, so there's a lot of room to learn and grow, whether it comes from practice writing or finding a collaborator as good with drama as he is with concepts and scientific detail.

Full review at EFC.

De Wederopstanding van een Klootzak (The Resurrection of a Bastard)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 1 August 2013 in Salle de Sève (Fantasia Festival, DCP)

I'm not quite sure that Guido van Driel achieves everything he sets out to do with The Resurrection of a Bastard; it's the kind of movie that adds crime and magic realism and doesn't necessarily get something that comes together as a story. The end result is never anything less than striking, at least, and there's at least one fantastic performance to be seen in the lead role.

That role would be Ronnie B. (Yorick van Wageningen), who has arrived along with driver Janus (Juda Goslinga) in Dakkum, Friesland (one of the northern provinces of the Netherlands) to find a man despite not knowing anything about him aside from that he had the name of the town tattooed on his arm. The thing is, Ronnie used to be different - a horrifyingly violent enforcer for gangster James Joyce (Jeroen Willems) - but since regaining consciousness from the incident that put him in his neck brace, he's actually treated other people decently and seeing things that no-one else does. Is it connected to African refugee Eduardo (Goua Robert Grovogui), himself plagued by strange dreams?

That's a bit of a tricky question, actually. I don't think it would be all that difficult to take Eduardo out of the movie entirely; for as good as many of his scenes are, they tend to either be good in a way that doesn't have anything to do with the rest of the movie, or they're used to try and add spiritual heft to the story that it doesn't earn. Sure, so the images in his head and those in Ronnie's fit together. Why? What's it mean for him? As good as Grovogui is in the role, and what an interesting character he appears to be (a big, friendly guy carrying around some serious anxiety), he exists so that an image associated with him can mean a little more when the audience sees it in the end.

Full review at EFC.

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