Friday, August 01, 2014

The Fantasia Daily 2014.15: The Creep Behind the Camera, The Fake, When Animals Dream, Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder

Yikes, I'm running late. Let me just say, then, that a crazy number of people walked out of The Creep Behind the Camera - some with the intent of catching Stereo (which overlapped it), but some apparently because it just wasn't good. The folks behind me wouldn't shut up. But, on the plus side, The Fake and When Animals Dream were both pretty good, although the kind of good that grew on me a little more as I was writing the review, so all my talk between movies about how, yeah, The Fake was okay, but not spectacular is kind of embarrassing now.

After that, I watched Doctor Proctor before going to sleep, because those screeners have to be returned today. This may be a two-Pepsi Max night.

I will be caffeinating myself to get through Kabisera, Miss Granny, Bros Before Hos (couldn't you have programmed ANYTHING ELSE with English, guys?), and WolfCop. If you're here and speak better French than I do, my friend Gabriela's short plays as part of the "Psychedelicies" block in Clarke at 9:15.

The Creep Behind the Camera

* * (out of four)
Seen 31 July 2014 in Salle J.A. de Sève (Fantasia Festival, DCP)

In real life, there's often a very thin line between the horrible and the ridiculous, and The Creep Behind the Camera posits this as being especially true for Art Nelson, director of disastrous monster movie The Creeping Terror. And while there's a good film to be made about the man and the making of his movie, this one is not exactly it; it's as disorganized and two-faced as its subject, except it's seemingly that way on purpose.

A.J. "Art" Nelson (Josh Phillips), who like to call himself Vic Savage, among other things, was trouble from the start, spending most of his Connecticut youth in juvie. He had a certain amount of charm, enough to seduce Lois Wiseman (Jodi Lynn Thomas) and move to Los Angeles to break into the movie business. An inveterate hustler, Nelson somehow manage to get a script and funding for what he says will be the biggest monster movie ever, although it may be difficult to find time to shoot it amid the other women, drugs, and violent tendencies.

Nelson was a man of extreme volatility, and writer/director Pete Schuermann takes his cue for the movie's tone from that, with broadly comedic scenes packed with hammy acting sitting right next to intensely threatening ones. Schuermann also intersperses talking-head interviews that might have come from a documentary about the film, along with recreations of the original conception of the story. There are moments that reference how The Creeping Horror was infamously narrated rather than having a conventional soundtrack. It's a bizarre combination of being played straight and tongue-in-cheek, meta and conventional.

That might work if the film was snappy about it, but the passing is a real mess. The interviews don't add enough to the movie to make up for how redundant they often are when the subjects are often referencing things that have just been shown or will be played out within minutes, making the movie rather longer than it really has material for. The story often jumps back and forth along the timeline in a manner that is needlessly confusing; it's very difficult to keep things like how Art's and Lois's marriage intersected with the shooting of the movie straight. Characters and subplots from the head of a prostitution ring who lived with the Nelsons to Charles Freakin' Manson are introduced and dropped in scattershot fashion, anecdotes that don't progress like a story.

Full review at EFC

Saibi (The Fake)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 31 July 2014 in Salle D.B. Clarke (Fantasia Festival: AXIS, DCP)

I feel a bit like I've seen the basic story of The Fake many a time, though usually set in rural America rather than South Korea, although Yeon Sang-ho's take is unusually and impressively biting. It stands out among stories of religious charlatans for more than just being animated.

The revival house in this case is set up in a small Korean village about to be wiped out by a new dam, meaning that the poor, simple folks there are relatively flush with compensation money, easy prey for slick con artist "elder" Choi Gyeongseok (voice of Kwon Hae-hyo) and pastor Sung Chul-woo (voice of Oh Jeong-se). One villager directing her money elsewhere is Kim Young-sun (voice of Park Hee-von), just accepted into a good college in Seoul - at least, until her good-for-nothing drunkard of a father Min-chul (voice of Yang Ik-joon) shows up an bad blows it gambling. He also gets into a scuffle at a bar where Choi is hiring actors for a "miracle", and when cared off to jail, spots Choi's picture on a wanted poster.

Antiheroes don't get much more anti than Min-chul, a thoroughly despicable man that his family would be much better off without. He's hateful and violent, with the worst reserved do our his wife and daughter, but even his friends are frequent targets of his bile. Yeon's design for the character has his face lined like it aged prematurely and scrunched up in permanent rage, while Yang's vocal performance is every agitated drunk you've ever encountered on the subway turned up a notch. The audience will likely wish that anybody else had discovered Choi, and make the clash between them one ugly thing.

Full review at EFC

"Sea Devil"

* * * (out of four)
Seen 31 July 2014 in Salle D.B. Clarke (Fantasia Festival, HD)

Finished mere days before its screening at Fantasia, "Sea Devil" does have a fairly nice hook, the sort that I would genuinely like to see expanded a bit further. It's a great under pressure scenario, with two people fleeing Cuba, a trawler captain who seems friendly enough, and the triple amputee covered with barnacles who says they should throw him back. It's a great start to a scary story that builds quietly and finishes all too quickly.

Indeed, I'd like to see more of it not just because I think you could have more happen, but because the characters seem fairly interesting just after this minor fleshing-out, so why not see how they play off each other a little more? Filmmakers D.C. Marcial and Brett Potter have created a great sense of mystery, shot a great looking movie on the high seas, and given us hints that there's more to tell in many ways, so I'd kind of like to see it.

Når dyrene drømmer (When Animals Dream)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 31 July 2014 in Salle D.B. Clarke (Fantasia Festival: Camera Lucida, DCP)

Lychanthropy is not entirely a metaphor for adolescence in When Animals Dream, but there's not much escaping that aspect even if you'd want to. It's an engrossing take on the concept that really picks up stream as it goes along.

We meet Marie (Sonia Suhl) at the doctor's office, complaining about a strange rash. It seems to be nothing, certainly not as serious as her mother, confined to a wheelchair with severe enough motor issues that Make and her father Thor must feed and dress her. Marie has also just started a job at a fish-packing plant, and the normal hazing is made more intense when she doesn't return the affection of Esben, preferring Daniel, and when Esben lashes out... Well, things start to get hairy.

Director Jonas Alexander Arnby has made a beautiful movie; the opening shots of landscapes covered in something between most and fog establish just the right atmosphere of isolation and mystery. Arnby and cinematographer Niels Thastum do a good job of giving this fishing town a definite feel, with the sea and the hills giving it bounds and helicopter shots quietly pointing out the houses and boats in neat rows. The light is always dim and cool, adding a little extra tension and loneliness to Marie's life.

Full review at EFC

Doktor Proktors prompepulver (Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 1 August 2014 in the rented apartment (Fantasia Festival, DVD-on-laptop)

I'll write more later, but I am absolutely seeing this again if it plays somewhere else I happen to be. It's a bright, colorful, immensely silly film, not exactly what I expected from the director of the earnest but kind of harsh Fatso and the writer of some blackly funny, but adult-skewing, crime stories (but probably closer than it might be).

But it's kind of a delight. There's something kind of great about a kids' movie that says, hey, farts are funny, and rides that without ever making it actually gross. There's a sort of innocence to this movie that I really love, and a couple of charming kid actors in Emily Glaister and Eilif Hellum Noraker (along with a low-key, kind of lovable Kristoffer Joner in the title role) doesn't hurt at all.

Full review on EFC

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