Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The Fantasia Daily 2014.20: The Desert, Monsterz, Metalhead, Welcome to New York

The wind-down for Fantasia is kind of long this year - Tuesday was the official "closing night", with Welcome to New York the closing night film, but there's more on Wednesday and an extra day of encores on Thursday.

Kind of a bland day, though, with all of the movies inspiring less than a strong reaction from me. I kind of get the impression that the festival wasn't blown away by demand for Welcome to New York - I think the announcement in French before Metalhead was that you could go see WtNY on that ticket as well, which (needless to say) you don't do with a sold out show.

And then, man, the Q&A.

Mitch Davis & Abel Ferrara after WELCOME TO NEW YORK

Abel Ferrara (r) delivered one of the most rambling Q&A sessions I've seen, refusing to answer the simple question of what attracted him to the subject and going off on tagents with almost every question, and festival co-director Mitch Davis (l) basically had to just sit back, enjoy the randomness, and let the man go, because I don't think you come see Ferrara for focus. He's an emotional guy who specializes in rawness in his films, and this is the persona you kind of have to expect. He's the sort of "from the gut" filmmaker that you'd expect to bristle when somebody mentions "process".

Still, this lasted from the end of the movie at around midnight until one-thirty or so, and while sometimes these Q&As aren't exactly informative, this one occasionally felt like the movie just happened free of anybody making a decision at all. I'm pretty sure that's not the case, although it would kind of explain why it rambled so much.

Also, there was one guy a few rows behind me who went to the "who are we to judge" well with Gerard Depardieu's DSK-inspired character and mentioned how his wife kept trying to put the blame on him rather than accepting culpability herself, and while I suppose there's some merit to the latter, I am really all kind of okay with judging someone who sees a maid come into his hotel room and decides that ejaculating on her face is a reasonable thing to do harshly. There's not exactly a lot of moral ambiguity to this character.

Anyway, final day #2 will be Preservation, the "Outer Limits of Animation" block, and probably Killers, although I might be tempted by The Fives if the animation ends early enough. Skipping Kundo: Age of the Rampart in the hopes that AMC will actually book it in Boston at the end of the month.

"Former Things"

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 5 August 2014 in Salle J.A. de Sève (Fantasia Festival, HD)

"Former Things" is fifteen minutes of a man returning to his childhood home after some sort of outbreak, and it's all right. It's not sluggish or overwrought or hampered by bad effects or anything like that. It's a decent slice of post-apocalyptic melancholy that doesn't drag.

That's something, but I've got to admit - I'm kind of with the folks who were struggling to remember its name after the main feature. It's a decent bit of imagery, but not one with much staying power at all.

El Desierto (The Desert)

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 5 August 2014 in Salle J.A. de Sève (Fantasia Festival: Camera Lucida, DCP)

There's a lot to like about Christoph Behl's post-apocalyptic love triangle, with Lautaro Delgado and William Prociuk playing what may be the last two men in the world and Victoria Almeida the last woman, a situation that is never going to go smoothly. The cast is terrific in their restrained performances, and a bit of clever structuring and editing in the last act makes the movie something close to heartbreaking at times. The flies are unnerving, both the ones buzzing around the house where they're holed up and tattooed on one character's skin.

The movie doesn't quite run out of steam, but it does bump up against its barriers on occasion. Behl and company don't seem to have the resources to depict a post-apocalyptic world outside of the house, and it often comes across as limited rather than claustrophobic. It's also the sort of movie where identifying any particular scene that needs to go or be tightened is difficult, but where the cumulative effect of not a whole lot happening starts to wear on the viewer. I felt a little more fidgety than I really should have coming out of it, even if I liked most of what it was doing.


* * (out of four)
Seen 5 August 2014 in Théâtre Hall (Fantasia Festival, DCP)

2011's Haunters was an excellent Korean movie that established a simple premise - two people with opposite superpowers (mind control and rapid healing) on a collision course - and delivered with entertaining action pieces, a likable cast of characters, and style to complement its straight-ahead drive. I figured it for a US remake, but Japan got there first, and sort of screwed it up.

It's got some nice details - giving a kid with immense psychic powers a copy of Akira to read may have been a bad idea - but it also does some completely unnecessary things, like grafting a greater mythology onto the story but not making that actually important, while also trying to give the characters too much nuance. There are odd jumps, action that seems nowhere near as crisp or logical as it was in the Korean film, and a tendency by horror director Hideo Nakata to equate killing a lot of people with excitement. It's a remake trying to add too much at the expense of what made the original terrific.

Málmhaus (Metalhead)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 5 August 2014 in Salle J.A. de Sève (Fantasia Festival, DCP)

Metalhead doesn't exactly sneak up on an audience - it's clear from the start that writer/director Ragnar Bragason has some pretty good ideas for his story about grief and mourning, especially when he trains his camera on the parents of the title character, who still seem shell-shocked nine years after losing their son while daughter Hera watched. There's not always that much for Hera to actually do, but just enough for things to crank along.

The last act is something special, though, as Karl and Droplaug start to come out of their funks and Helga crashes in a way that finds her giving in to the standards of her small Icelandic community just as a group from Norway who like her music shows up. It's a surprisingly complex interaction that actually frees the movie up to be funny in a way that the previous hour of one lone headbanger in a quiet farming town might have been expected to be but wasn't.

I'm not sure that Metalhead will emerge as a particular favorite, but it's pretty good, and surprisingly ingratiating when you might expect screaming.

Full review on EFC

Welcome to New York

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 5 August 2014 in Théâtre Hall (Fantasia Festival: Closing Night, HD)

That Welcome to New York is a long, rambling movie is not in and of itself a bad thing. There are times early on where it's a definite plus as the audience is kind of assaulted with the excesses of M. Deveraux (Gerard Depardieu), with a noteworthy contrast as he's arrested and booked.. There are later scenes with Jacqueline Bisset as his wife trying to fight the charges and save her reputation that go on and on, and while they're individually interesting, the cumulative effect is wearing.

Ultimately, I wonder what it's about. The movie is based closely enough on the Dominique Strauss-Khan case to have three screens worth of disclaimers at the front but pointedly fictionalized in a way that causes it to lose a bit of weight, it winds up with the Special Victims Unit episode resolved off-screen and no notable movement for either Deveraux or Simone, it winds up just a look at a man without a conscience who skates because he is rich and powerful, but doesn't seem to have much to say about the matter beyond the obvious while letting Depardieu and Bisset do their things.

Full review on EFC

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