Monday, August 05, 2013

The Fantasia Daily, 2013.18 (4 August 2013): 009 Re: Cyborg, Imaginaerum, Tales from the Dark Part I, 24 Exposures, and 5-25-77

Sunday tended to follow the pattern established on Saturday, and I think it's one that recurs for a weekend day or two at Fantasia every year: Play the stuff that has its own constituency on weekend afternoons when the folks who were up watching midnights or drinking might be sleeping in, and you'll do okay filling the auditorium. So, at noon there's the anime movie, the one that will draw a band's fans at 2pm, and then we're ready to get back to normal at four-ish with Tales From the Dark Part 1.

Like a lot of Chinese movies, that one had a classic Shaw Brothers trailer run in front of it (I'm guessing King-wei Chu has a pretty impressive collection). I'm starting to idly wonder if the 35mm projectors at the main venues spent more time running these trailers or the two (I think) 35mm prints that played as selections. Also, the Shaw Brothers had no problem putting nudity in the trailer for The Ghost Story.

Filmmaker visits!

"Imaginaerum" star Marianne Farley and editor Mathieu B

That's Imaginaerum star Marianne Farley and editor Matthiew Belanger. The movie was a Finnish production with much of it shot in Montreal with the actors speaking English, because I guess that's the language Nightwish sings in? Is that a Scandanavian thing - everyone's learning English in school anyway, so you might as well record that way and maybe sell some albums internationally? I remember a similar sort of project from Lordi a couple years ago, and you get Abba if you cast far enough back. Weird.

Anyway, the entire Q&A was in French, so I just got bits, like Mathieu trying to claim every good part of the movie was editing.

"24 Exposures" director Joe Swanberg & co-star Helen Rogers

Hey, this time Joe Swanberg was doing Q&A for the movie he directed (24 Exposures), but given the nature of it, he was still talking about Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett. There was also a lot of talk about the line between exploitation and art, and how you deal with it in a project like this which had a bunch of nudity but was also sort of about exploitation. No definitive consensus was reached, obviously, but the impression seemed to be that he was trying.

I kind of wish I'd remembered Remy Couture during the Q&A; the material in this movie wasn't quite as crazy as what got him in hot water here in Montreal (see: Art/Crime), but there must have been an interesting question to ask there.

King-wei Chu & Patrick Read Johnson

Man, that Patrick Read Johnson can talk. He spent a while introducing 5-25-77, and the Q&A went on for about an hour-fifteen after the movie ended, well past 1am. He seemed pretty tickled to see it with this particular audience, though, and talked honestly about the many obstacles he faced getting it made, including just leaving it on the shelf and not being able to look at it for a couple of years. Now, thankfully, studios are sniffing around, what with the new Star Wars movies coming in 2015 - something he knew was in the works three years ago but couldn't use to sell studios on his particular movie.

Today's plan: At the Imperial for When a Wolf Falls in Love with a Sheep, then finding out if Les 4 Soldats has English subtitles. Yes, stick around; no, head to de Seve for the "War of the Worlds: Welles & Wells" presentation. Either way, Go Down Death to finish. Antisocial is pretty good.

009 Re: Cyborg

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 4 August 2013 in le Cinéma Impérial (Fantasia Festival: AXIS, DCP)

Cyborg 009 has been popping up on my radar occasionally during the past year, first as a "classic manga you haven't read" interesting for being a Japanese take on American-style superheroes, then with a recent American comic miniseries coming out. If this new animated version is any indication, I should remedy this gap in my sci-fi fandom, as 009 Re: Cyborg is a smart, exciting technothriller filled with big action and cool ideas.

Skyscrapers are falling to suicide bombers all around the world, with the latest attack coming in Shanghai. Joe Shinamura (voice of Hiroshi Kamiya), a lonely high-school kid in Tokyo, is planning the next, just as "His Voice" commands. At least, that is, until Geronimo Jr. (voice of Hisao Egawa) and Françoise Arnoul (voice of Houko Kuwashima), two cyborg operatives for the Gilmore Foundation, give him the jolt he needs to remember that he is one of them, Cyborg 009, and there's no time to waste because the attacks are escalating.

Cyborg 009 was created in the 1960s and has undergone a number of evolutions since then, especially when being adapted to animation, but the basics have mostly stayed the same: A team of nine cyborgs from around the world with varying superpowers, 009 as the field leader, with battles against foes who threaten the entire world. This iteration is spearheaded by writer/director Kenji Kamiyama, who among other things ran the "Stand Alone Complex" and "Solid State Society" versions of Ghost in the Shell, and he plays it as a high-tech thriller set in the present day with the cyborgs operating in a world of spies and modern technological warfare. It's not an entirely grim setting nor completely grounded by a long shot, but it's one where the terror attacks have real stakes and shadowy conspiracies make sense even if it's also one where a motley crew with sci-fi weapons implanted in their bodies can fight evil in jaunty red outfits with long scarves.

Full review at EFC.


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 4 August 2013 in le Cinéma Impérial (Fantasia Festival, HD)

This fantasy movie is kind of a peculiar thing: Based on the band Nightwish's concept album but not seeming to have that many songs from it - I think two are performed and another two or three show up on the soundtrack - it's targeted to a specific audience who isn't necessarily getting a whole lot of what it wants. On the other hand, it's too weird and specific to grab the attention of a general audience.

But for all that, it's not bad. It's a thin script, but Marianne Farley and Quinn Lord are pretty good as the main incarnations of the main characters (there's a lot of moving back and forth through their lives), and the design of it is often striking. The music is just kind of there as far as I was concerned, but the fairy-tale nature of the story works pretty well. It's no instant [cult] classic, but it's an interesting curiosity that I don't feel I wasted my time seeing.

Full review at EFC.

Tales from the Dark (Mi Li Ye)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 4 August 2013 in le Cinéma Impérial (Fantasia Festival, DCP)

The last horror movie I saw that I recall really messing me up was "Dumplings", Fruit Chan's segment of the Three...Extreme anthology. After a decade of making movies that have not particularly traveled outside of the various Chinas, he's done another segment for a horror anthology, this first of two adapting stories by "Dumplings" writer Lillian Lee. And while none of the three results here are the same sort of shocker as that one, they do prove to be an entertaining trio of ghost stories.

The release of this movie in Hong Kong coincides with the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts, which seems to be in full swing as "Stolen Goods" begins, although it's not clear whether Kwan (Simon Yam) is aware of the ghosts around him. What he does know is that he's been fired from his last two jobs and is in danger of losing his crappy apartment if he doesn't make some money fast, so he hits upon the idea of stealing urns from a nearby columbarium and selling them back to the deceaseds' loved ones. However, he soon finds he may have wound up with more than he bargained for.

In addition to starring, busy character actor Yam (six films in 2013 alone) makes his directorial debut with this short; he's also the only director working directly from a script by Lee rather than adapting her story himself. It's maybe not particularly surprising that it's the least polished of the segments, giving Yam a chance to go to town with a big, broad character but also causing him to flex his directorial muscles a little more than necessary. The story is cut up with the meat of it mostly told in flashback, the music has a lot of the sort of rumbling bass and big clangy noises that put exclamation marks on scares, and the ironic twist is a bit disconnected. It's fun, especially for those with some prior experience with Chinese ghost stories, but there's better to come.

Full review at EFC.

24 Expsures (The Rooftop)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 4 August 2013 in Salle de Sève (Fantasia Festival: Camera Lucida, HD)

I'm not sure when, precisely, I decided I had little use for Joe Swanberg. I never had much use for mumblecore, but did I really dislike Hannah Takes the Stairs (the only one of his movies as a director that I even think I saw) that much? Or was I just uninterested enough in the form that I just dismissed him altogether?

There's a bit of the pretense on 24 Exposures, but I think one does have to know about its origins in order for it to really bother you. Swanberg casts fellow filmmakers Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett (who frequently work as a team) as characters based upon them, and I don't know that he discovers anything particularly revelatory whether you take this into consideration or not, but the set-up of the cheerful erotic photographer and the depressed detective whose paths cross on a homicide investigation is pretty interesting, as are the women floating around Wingard's character. That may be my biggest issue, though - there is a lot to that half of the story and very little to the other. It's kind of the point - Billy's problems are due to excessive socialization while Michael's are down to too little - but there should be something to do about that.

It's not bad, and doesn't play all that well as a mystery, but it certainly does okay at telling its story.

Full review at EFC.


* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 4 August 2013 in Salle de Sève (Fantasia Festival, HD)

That this was still a work-in-progress surprised me a little; it wasn't listed as such int he program and the tone was certainly that it was all-but-complete. But, not the case; there were some very-much-unfinished effects, bits of SD placeholder footage, and a few more edits to be made.

When it does come out, though, I think people are going to like it a lot. John Francis Daley gives an energetic, earnest performance in a movie that gets being an outsider but also gets being a teenager with a million things running through your head at any particular time. Filmmaker Patrick Read Johnson says he intends to cut down on some of the montages and jumping around in the movie, but I kind of hope he's not talking about the way the first half of the movie flows; it really gets across the sense that things are moving fast for this kid.

I do think that the second half is a bit of a step down; there's a lot of "where did that storyline come from?" and a lot of hammering the point of wanting to move on and out much harder and more on-the-nose than necessary: A lot of teenagers talking about why someone is doing something like they're examining the plot of a movie rather than their own actions. It's not fatal, but I did kind of want them to get on with it.

Still, fun movie that I'll be happy to see again when it's finished.

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