Friday, July 28, 2017

Fantasia 2017.15: M.F.A., Drib, Town in a Lake, Dead Man Tells His Own Tale, and Good Time

A bit longer than I expected, as I was putting it at 50/50 that Dead Man Tells His Own Tale wouldn't let out in time for me to get into the night's big attraction, and it was close enough that I wondered if I should walk away, get an early start on writing, and let someone who needed it for their job have a seat. But first…



M.F.A. director Natalia Leite is on the left, talking about her film. I liked it, for the most part, although it was something of a case where I heard her talking about shooting the revenge-killing scenes as fantasy that I kind of hemmed and hawed, because they didn't really create the measure of excitement that I think she was going for, and I think that goes beyond me not being a woman, young or otherwise. It was, at least, interesting to hear her talk about shooting a rape scene first thing in the morning when nobody is really into it, despite knowing it's what the film needs. Non-sexual violence seems like it would easier to choreograph to not be so uncomfortable and scary.

The 3:30 show of Drib was moved across the street to Hall, which was kind of weird, although it gave me time to hit the Swiss watch/chocolate place for a hot dog and a 68% cacao Madagascar Chocolate milkshake. As much as it's a good sausage and shake, watching it change over the past years has been kind of amusing - it started out as very much a place where you could buy fancy Swiss wall clocks with a place to get chocolate off in a corner, but the layout has been a bit different every year, evolving to the present where it's basically a cafe with clocks serving as decoration and a back room where you can see more.



After that, it was back to de Seve for Dead Man Tells His Own Tale, and it's pretty darn cool to see someone I know brought up on stage to talk about her short. I've seen her at BUFF, of course, but it's a different thing when it's not your home festival.

Finally it was back across the street for Good Time, where I got this lovely seat:



… meaning that my pictures of Mitch, filmmakers Joshua & Ben Safdie, and star Robert Pattinson (who draws a crowd) earn the horrible photography tag:



Doesn't much matter; they made a pretty great film and give an exceptionally entertaining and informative Q&A, talking about how the guy playing "Jerome" in one of its jail scenes was someone who actually had spent time in jails and gangs (they used a lot of non-professional actors), and as a result did a lot of the blocking for them, making sure they go things right. Joshua talked a lot about how Cops, which is seen a couple times in the movie, really speaks to America in the 21st century a lot more than you'd like it to.

Friday's plan: Thousand Cuts, Darkland, A Thousand Junkies, Fritz Lang, and we'll see whether I'm more in the mood for Overdrive or Innocent Curse after that. Better Watch Out is pretty decent, and the free George Romero tribute screening of The Crazies is a good movie by a good dude.

"Red Handed"

* * * (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2017 in Salle J.A. De Sève (Fantasia International Film Festival 2017, DCP)

Nifty, though very compressed short about a woman dealing with a very persistent stalker, ultimately taking desperate measures to make sure he gets caught. I really like the first few minutes of this six-minute short, as it gets across the huge blind spot the law has where persistent harassment is concerned more as a distinct problem for the characters than as a lecture. It wobbles a bit toward the end, seemingly not quite sure how much weight to give to "clever" and "desperate" in the woman's eventual plan, and as a result doesn't quite stick the landing like it hopes to.

M.F.A.

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2017 in Salle J.A. De Sève (Fantasia International Film Festival 2017, DCP)

Rape-revenge films are kind of nasty things, although this one at least had that it was written and directed by women going for it, which at least makes things a little less creepy and exploitative. Not necessarily different, perhaps, but one can watch it without second-guessing it so much - it's easier to watch a scene where a woman is painting naked as a sign of reclaiming her own agency where physicality is concerned and feel like that's actual intentions rather than an excuse that way, for sure.

That being the case, it's still kind of a movie that can't help but feel like it's checking things off, pointing out the things you need to know and it needs to say about campus rape culture but not necessarily digging deep into it or using that to establish a specific, unique situation. Noelle takes revenge for herself and others, in ways that are more real-world than elaborate, bit staying that far ahead of the police but finding new inspiration for her art.

(And, yeah, that's kind of gross no matter who is telling the story, although at least nobody brings up the idea that her horrible trains may be a blessing in disguise.)

Nice performance by Francesca Eastwood, though; she can rage and boil exceptionally well, and she's fantastic when she mousy needs to be in the immediate aftermath of her attack. I wonder how much she's meant to seem cognizant of the oddness of her using her sexuality to exact revenge, and how much of that comes from Eastwood.

"Whiskey Fist"

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2017 in 26 July 2017 in Auditorium des diplômés de la SGWU/Théâtre Hall (Fantasia International Film Festival 2017, DCP)

The framing device Gillian Wallace Horvat puts around this film - that it's a rejected script for a liquor company's short-film contest - is kind of brilliant, because not only does it enable her to bite the hand that feeds her in terms of talking about dumb branding stuff, but it really gives her free rein to do almost any crazy joke she can and have it not seem like going off the rails, because half of the joke is that the filmmaker was nuts to submit this.

Of course, that meta-level stuff mainly works if the core material is funny, and that is the case here; Horvat and her game cast sell the material with a great combination of deadpan and knowing reaction shots. I'd laugh hard even without that going on, but loved it even more for the multi-layer satire.

Drib

* * * (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2017 in 26 July 2017 in Auditorium des diplômés de la SGWU/Théâtre Hall (Fantasia International Film Festival 2017: Documentaries from the Edge, DCP)

This probably only qualifies as a documentary for how it includes some original material that led up to the events depicted and cutaway bits that talk directly to the audience; otherwise it's all "recreations" that have a certain amount if license admittedly taken. If it's trying to be something a bit more than something based on a true story or have a bit more of a meta level, it's a bit short.

Fortunately, it's still quite funny; the absurdity of the situation is not as Kaufman-esque as the initial introduction makes it sound, but the cast had a good handle on when to go for weird and when play it as sane people in a crazy environment. In some ways, the L.A. advertising world can be too easy a target, but that doesn't make its specific sort of strange headspace and amorality less of a fine source of material.

DRIB probably isn't nearly as strange and out there as it would present itself as being, but it's solidly funny, and maybe would work better if it presented itself as more mainstream than it does.

Matangtubig (Town in a Lake)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2017 in Salle J.A. De Sève (Fantasia International Film Festival 2017: Camera Lucida, DCP)

Highly recommended to me and I can see why - it's a moody piece that effectively shows the paralysis and denial that can come from having an unimaginable crime in one's midst, but those can be tough to make into a story that goes forward. Town in a Lake feels true and often traps into something real even in its more metaphorical moments, but it can be dull.

Still, it's got moments of brilliance, especially in a last act where reality seems to go off the rails - at first subtly, and then in undeniable ways that almost demand explanations that will not be forthcoming. It's a tough way to end, but one that works, giving the audience reason to consider just what people are willing to trade in order to feel like the world is safe.

"For a Good Time, Call…"

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2017 in Salle J.A. De Sève (Fantasia International Film Festival 2017, DCP)

As much as I like director Izzy Lee and writer Chris Hallock, and will miss them as they leave Boston for points south and west, there's no denying that I really like a much more focused horror film than they tend to make. The impulses behind this one are great, you can sort of see the connection between the guy who posts his revenge porn getting attacked after he encounters the original form of that (the number scrawled on the bathroom wall), but there's something to the leaps the short makes that puts me off - the monster doesn't quite seem a personification of what it represents, and the guy sort of seems to go into the rest-stop bathroom for the specific purpose of getting attack, just putting in earbuds rather than attending to any sort of business.

I'm glad to see Izzy continues to have strong pacing skills and a good team in cinematographer/editor Bryan McKay and musicians Give Zombies the Vote, and I think this is some of her best work with actors, too. Here's hoping that the move to L.A., with more available resources and a potentially more competitive environment, will get her up to the next level.

El Muerto Cuenta su Historia (Dead Man Tells His Own Tale)

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2017 in Salle J.A. De Sève (Fantasia International Film Festival 2017, DCP)

That took a couple of turns toward the end, and that night have been okay if the movie hadn't dwelled to get there. This tale of a sexist take who revives as a member of the undead controlled by a cabal of mysterious women could be a nice throwback to the original sort of zombie, but instead it spins its wheels, having a fun cast not really do anything until it's ready to get into supernatural mythology at the end, and then a stinger that's seemingly nothing but set-up for something we'll never see.

Good Time

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2017 in Auditorium des diplômés de la SGWU/Théâtre Hall (Fantasia International FIlm Festival 2017, DCP)

Good Time just moves, setting up what seems like a simple central relationship and then blowing it up by pushing Robert Pattinson's character into new bad situations, letting it slowly dawn on the audience that this isn't a good guy no matter how sympathetic his initial motives are. It makes for a fascinating shift, as the audience sees the astonishingly destructive chaos going on but is kind of stuck with Connie.

But what a run it is, as the Safdie Brothers never really let up, rolling one scenario into the next with almost no delay, never making the action moments into punctuation but instead just pushing through. It's a thing that keeps this night going and not necessarily worrying about how you'll get back to something.

And while it seems very street-level and simple-looking, it's got real style, from a flashback style to the credits to the pulsating soundtrack. The Safdies are great with sound and rhythm, to the extent that it pulls the audience through even when the visuals are chaotic and muddy.

Full Review at EFC

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