Friday, July 20, 2018

Fantasia 2018.08: Hurt, Under the Silver Lake, Laplace's Witch

Did a press screening today, and it was weird - about ten people in the Hall theater for a horror movie, which tend to work much better with a big audience. It would have been even stranger if we were all clustered in the same area because we all think the sweet spot is in the same place, but it didn't happen.

After that, I kind of killed time in the afternoon because Blue My Mind would have made things too tight with Under the Silver Lake, and even getting in line the recommended 45 minutes early barely got me in, and going straight from that to the line for Laplace's Witch was the same. I wonder, a bit, if it being an adaptation of a Keigo Higashino novel gave it a boost on top of it being the only Takashi Miike film at the festival this year.

Anyway, this arriving 45 minutes early for the line-up thing is nuts. If you have a pass and can do that, you're not seeing enough movies, and should give up your pass to someone who will use it properly.

Speaking of trying to use a pass properly, I'll be at People's Republic of Desire and Cam, then getting some supper before Kasane and then The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot. Mildly annoyed that trying to see the last one basically means punting Lifechanger, which looks neat.

Hurt

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 19 July 2018 in Auditorium des Diplômés de la SGWU (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

Hurt plays fair enough as it warns the audience that it's not necessarily telling the story they think, and that it's going to be inward-looking, but is that really enough to make up for switching so much out late, or how, no matter what, it's going to be something of a horror movie about how horror movies are problematic? Would Blumhouse even release it if it were an effective anti-horror statement?

Probably not, but it nevertheless finds an interesting angle in today's self-aware horror world by starting with (well, eventually getting to) a woman who became a fan because of the man who would become her husband, getting really into it, and then showing him returning home after time in the military and clearly not yet ready to see sudden noises and mutilated bodies as something fun again. The middle section of the movie is a smart play on this that becomes a dead-serious thriller which manages genuine horror. It also uses its strong and cast well, swimming to have a clear-eyed look at rural America and handling just how young and unprepared some a lot of people around the military are for serious adult things.

That's what makes the finale something of a disappointment; it seems to leave an empty space, and every twist in a movie threatens to make its themes less potent the first time through. That happens here, even though the filmmakers employ enough artistic flourishes to make sure the audience sees that they're going for more than just "gotcha!".

Under the Silver Lake

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 19 July 2018 in Auditorium des Diplômés de la SGWU (Fantasia International Film Festival: Camera Lucida, DCP)

What an absolutely bizarre tall tale of a movie, filled to overflowing with impossible connections, revelations that don't actually mean anything but create a feeling of resolution, and utter pop-culture absurdity. I suspect people will be digging through it for months when they can do so at home, connecting references and finding themes.

It's a good shaggy-dog story, at least, anchored nicely by Andrew Garfield, who makes his stumbling, uncommitted character amiable enough to seldom rub the audience too far the wrong way even if he is too swept up in trivialities and delusions to handle the basics of his life. He's a lazy young person, but one with a decent heart, even if his stories about dogs are worrisome in how they contradict each other.

The studio seems worried about this (I'm mildly surprised it wasn't pulled from the festival when the release was delayed, especially when it was rumored a re-edit was being considered), and I'm not surprised. The word parts are very weird indeed, it's male-gaze-y as heck (it's not quite explicit enough in its comments on how Hollywood works to get away with that), and a lot of people seemed to feel the length more than I did.

This doesn't capture an audience the way It Follows did; it's too specific to tap into something universal until the end. But it's interesting and original, and I bet I'll be able to pull a lot more out of it when I really get to think about it.

Rapurasu no majo (Laplace's Witch)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 19 July 2018 in Auditorium des Diplômés de la SGWU (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

There doesn't seem to be an English translation available for Keigo Higashino's novel Laplace's Witch yet, but I'm curious to what extent things maybe weren't changed but were emphasized and diminished between Higashino's book and this movie directed by Takashi Miike. It's easy for genre film fans to explain all its odd turns as coming from that eccentric filmmaker, but it does feel a bit like something shifted in the adaptation.

That there was any sort of murder isn't initially apparent at all; though film producer Yoshihiro Mizuki was found dead of hydrogen sulfide poisoning in a hot spring, and detective Yuji Nakaoka (Hiroshi Tamaki) is keen on his Mikuki's younger wife Chisato (Eriko Sato) as a suspect, geologist Shusuke Aoe (Sho Sakurai) has just been called in as a matter of public safety; H2S is not a good murder weapon, dissipating too quickly in even the slightest wind. But when another man, an unsuccessful actor, is found dead of the same cause at a different resort, Nakaoka discovers a connection: Both worked with filmmaker Saisei Amakasu (Etsushi Toyokawa), who lost his wife and daughter when the latter used the chemical to commit suicide, and nearly son Kento (Sota Fukushi) as well. Meanwhile, teenage runaway Madoka Uhara (Suzu Hirose) keeps running into Aoe, looking for his help. She says she's a witch, and that like Laplace's demon, she can predict the outcome of chaotic systems - like, say, when an abnormally potent cloud of hydrogen sulfide might pass through a spot - and she's not the only one.

Though murder mysteries and amateur sleuths are by and large good things, and in this case a great hook to pull the audience into the movie, they can also be a thing that the film quickly outgrows. Take Aoe, for example - though Sho Sakurai is first-billed in the cast and he's initially the guy at the center of investigating this bizarre phenomenon, he actually doesn't seem very useful for much of the movie, to the point where it seems that Madoka all but says the geologist is around because she needs someone to drive. It's a bit of a shame; Sakurai turns in a boyishly charismatic performance and makes an enjoyable foil for both Suzu Hirose's Madoka and Hiroshi Tamaki's Detective Nakaoka, but he always feels like he could be left behind. The same is true for Nakaoka; Tamaki gives a fine performance as the pushy but witty detective, but the story eventually moves beyond him.

Full review at EFC.

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