Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Fantastic Fest Daily 2014.05: The Tale of Princess Kaguya, Purgatory, Realiti, From the Dark, and I Am a Knife With Legs

Zero time this morning; will update later.

Today's assignments: The Stranger, Everly, Automata, The Guest, and Dead Snow 2

Kaguya-hime no Monogatari (The Tale of Princess Kaguya)

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 22 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #5 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

Though Hayao Miyazaki's retirement from directing animated features with The Wind Rises deserved all the attention it got last year, there is somewhat less noise being made about Isao Takahata's swan song, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, though Takahata has made a number of classics at their Studio Ghibli production company that have not gained the same sort of traction in America. As such, is not necessarily a surprise that Takahata says goodbye with a movie that may be a tough sell in the U.S., but is just as brilliant as its companion.

In this one, bamboo cutter Sanuki no Miyatsuko (voice of Takei Chii) observes a strange shoot growing impossibly fast, and is doubly surprised to see the to open to reveal what looks like a tiny princess, inches tall. The sprite becomes a regular-sized baby at the touch of the man's wife (voice of Nobuko Miyamoto), and will continue to be subject to growth spurts that have the village children calling her "Li'l Bamboo" as she surpasses them in age. As she becomes a teenager, the first presents her father with other gifts that would allow him to fulfill what he believes is her destiny to become a princess, though the girl (voiced by Aki Asakura) is not a natural fit for the capital whether the newly christened Kaguya is dealing with tutors or suitors.

It's a charming, episodic little story, breaking out into a number of smaller, often funny tales, each with a rhythm of its own, strung together in a way that the audience doesn't really feel the film's long running time - 137 minutes is highly unusual for an animated picture - at all. There are bits that feel like they could be cut down - does one really need five princes and ministers attempting to woo Kaguya? - but each is small enough that removing it wouldn't tighten things notably and a couple of good moments would be lost. It's a leisurely pace that can encompass an entire life, even if there's some irony in that parts of Kaguya's are accelerated.

Full review at EFC


* * * (out of four)
Seen 22 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #7 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

I didn't think much of Purgatory for a good chunk of its short running time; as much as Oona Chaplin did a fine job of holding the screen, there didn't seem to be much story, and it just felt like someone doing the best that they could with artificial constraints. It had a few good moments, but was kind of forgettable.

Then it got to its double-barrelled twist action, and while the quick-arriving second one didn't do much for me, the first seemed legitimately shocking and angering, providing a pretty fascinating context for the rest of the movie. I don't know that this elevates it that far, but I was interested by the situation by the end, and can't deny I felt some chills.

Plus, the movie is around 80 minutes, pretty close to the ideal length for a horror movie.


* * (out of four)
Seen 22 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #7 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

Realiti has a couple of entertaining performances in it - I loved every time that Graham McTavish appeared on screen as a sinister corporate lawyer - and Nathan Meister is an amiable enough lead, but for the most part it's very bland. Director Jonathan Kind and Chad Taylor seem to be onto something in their basic concept - a media organization behind the "what is real and what is illusion" mystery - but they don't really have what is necessary to make it really fascinate. I sort of lost track of what was going on for a while, and just didn't care that much when things were coming to a head.

From the Dark

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 22 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #9 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

Give Conor McMahon credit for building a reasonably solid horror movie out of almost nothing here, but it really strains against its tiny budget. The premise of it - a light-averse peat bog zombie thing - requires darkness, but there are long stretches of this movie where I felt like I couldn't see anything either because of the dark or because there were lights being shone directly in my eyes, and it was more frustrating than eerie.

On the other hand, Niamh Algar absolutely owns this movie as the heroine, and when McMahon is able to ust show her gutsily and cleverly try to escape, it's a lot of fun. Even if she does have a really frustrating habit of losing light sources.

I Am a Knife with Legs

N/A (out of four)
Seen 22 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #5 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

Hey, would someone in Boston pick this up and show it at 7pm or so? Thanks. It's got some big laughs, but this is the second festival where I've tried to watch it and fallen asleep just as it's getting really weird.

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