Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Fantasia Daily, 2013.19 (5 August 2013): When a Wolf Falls in Love with a Sheep, War of the Worlds: Welles & Wells, and Go Down Death

Another day, another last-minute arrival at the Imperial for my first movie. I've sort of made my peace with the idea that I spend a lot of time writing stuff to justify my press pass. I feel like I should be getting out and about more, but I have seen a lot of the tourist attractions that interest me up here and I do revisit the ones that get refreshed with something interesting.

Anyway, I saw and enjoyed When a Wolf Falls in Love with a Sheep, and then, since to the best of my knowledge there would be no English-language subtitles on Les 4 Soldats, I headed up the street to de Seve for the "War of the Worlds Welles & Wells" lecture.

That was pretty keen.

Le Cineclub's Philippe Spurrell

That's le Cinéclub: The Film Society' Philippe Spurrell; he generally hosts one of these every year at Fantasia, and while they're not always something I get to (sometimes it's the thing where you're out of luck if you're not bilingual), it's generally fairly interesting stuff; the C/FS has a large and interesting collection of prints to trot out. For this one, they had a version of George Pal's War of the Worlds that was cut down to about ten minutes with split-screens added. Oh, it was also 16mm and printed backwards so that it would work on the rear-projection system that was used to show it at Expo67.

They also had a print of The Night that Panicked America, a pretty good TV-movie from the mid-seventies about the 10 October 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds. And, to warm up for that, we listened to some excerpts on this:

Not quite as cool as my grandfather's, which is now basically decoration in my father's house, but it did the job. At first it seemed a bit odd to bring the lights down and all, but it did help to show what a singular focus the radio was in the living rooms of the time. It was also quite impressive how well the Wells broadcast works, even 75 years later.

Last show of the day was Go Down Death. This one was my first choice because the other option was Bryan Singer who is shooting X-Men: Days of Future Past somewhere in Montreal, with the promise of two minutes of footage from that movie. Which might have been cool, but let's be honest, if that was what I wanted to see, I'd fly to San Diego for Comic Con in mid-July rather than take the bus to Montreal. Plus, the producer handing out postcards for this movie seemed nice and earnest, so why not?

Well... It's a very deliberately weird movie is arguably why not. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy bits of it, but it's one of those movies that becomes a bit of an endurance test, piling on one bit after another, and they may be building to something, or they may not, and while some of these bits are funny or clever, others seem calculated to annoy beyond their potential as entertainment. It's in black-and-white, of course, and then the last couple of scenes just go off on a completely different tangent.

It's the kind of thing where you sort of suspect the director is mainly just messing with you, but the Q&A sort of confirmed it, talking about how the last two scenes existed to ause the audience to half-forget the rest of the movie, making it more dreamlike. I don't know if that's more clever or evil, to be honest. The opening credit bit of it being based on the work of fictional poet Jonathan Mallory Sinus was apparently a bit of last-minute jokery, and he mentioned that they actually destroyed the sets before they got the final week's worth of film back from the lab, so if that had been messed up... Well, who knows what they would have done for the movie.

He also seemed pretty nervous, but it also seemed like he might have been affecting that so he could throw out answers that were just strange. I've got to admit, it's not the sort of thing I really go for - I'm very suspicious of deliberately adding randomness to something like this; it just seems cavalier.

Today's plan: Press screening for The World's End in the morning, and then Halley and Plus One in the evening. Oh, and See You Tomorrow, Everyone is highly recommended.

Nan fang xiao yang mu chang (When a Wolf Falls in Love With a Sheep

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 5 August 2013 in le Cinéma Impérial (Fantasia Festival, HD)

One thing that struck me while watching this movie is that you don't see many Hollywood romantic comedies with young characters - it's always bankable stars who are by their nature at least in their thirties. The sort of just-out-of-school adults who play out When a Wolf Falls in Love with a Sheep seem to be a relative rarity.

Which is sort of a shame, because this is a charming as heck little thing that doesn't have a whole lot of anger or bitterness to it at all, and it would be fun to see more like it. One of the things I like most about it is that it doesn't feel the need to jam things into capital-r Relationship statuses; Tung and Yang can meet, do stuff, and clearly start to like each other without going into what it means for the future. Sure, they're going to end up together, but mechanically getting them to that point doesn't feel like the film's first priority.

So, it can just be enjoyable to watch. Kai Ko & Jian Man-shu both do well carrying their characters' previous relationships without making that the most important thing about these kids, and Hou Chi-jan has fun with an airy script. It's a charmer, and I appreciate it for that.

The Night that Panicked America)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 4 August 2013 in Salle de Sève (Fantasia Festival: Welles & Wells, 16mm)

I don't know whether I'd call The Night That Panicked America a buried treasure, but it's an interesting reminder that the entertainment industry has produced a lot of content over the years, and some of it, while pretty good and containing some recognizable people, is just seldom going to reach the top of anyone's to-watch list. It's a nifty little movie produced for television in 1975, and benefits from its modest goals.

I think one thing that the movie does very well that often gets overlooked when talking about the Orson Welles War of the Worlds broadcast is to give it some context, showing the world headed to war and America already on pins and needles. It transforms the story from one about gullibility to one where people were hearing a variation on what they've been expecting anyway. The various side stories are well-done enough to be little short films of their own.

Anyway, it's a shame that this doesn't seem to be on DVD or maybe even especially any of the streaming sites, where it would be a nifty thing to stumble on based on recommendations. It's a good movie that folks will seldom regret watching.

Go Down Death

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 5 August 2013 in Salle de Sève (Fantasia Festival: Camera Lucida, DCP)

I'm reasonably sure writer/director Aaron Schimberg is mostly just screwing with his audience here. Go Down Death actually has some impressive moments, and a somewhat spiffy look from being shot on black-and-white film that is used well, but it's the sort of movie that has a lot of weirdness and discomfort for the sake of having weirdness and discomfort, and can as such try one's patience.

Is it enjoyable at spots? Oh, absolutely; there are bits that will make the audience laugh and some that are decently tragic. It's very deliberately peculiar, though, just as much random as quirky.

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