Enough free time in the schedule today that I wonder if there were originally guests expected for Fleuve Noir, only to have something come up after the schedule was set. Weird schedule that kept me from seeing 1987: When the Day Comes, which wound up having both of its shows during the 5pm hour, which is odd itself.
Never look the opportunity to sit down and have a good meal mid-festival in the mouth, though. The steak at Thursday's is pretty good.
Saturday's plan is Bleach, Laughing Under the Clouds, Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings, Punk Samurai Slash Down, Terrified, and seeing if I'm up for Oily Maniac after that.
Chernovik (A Rough Draft)
* * (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2018 in Salle J.A. DeSève (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)
What is this "to be continued" garbage? That wasn't in the festival program!
Leaving that aside, this is a tremendously frustrating movie. It's filled with neat ideas and fun visuals, but the filmmakers are kind of terrible at introducing them and letting them play out in a way that seems in any way natural. They use the opening act to introduce things that really don't matter (and skimp on the bits that do), ditch it all with a big "wait, what?" moment, and continually jerk the viewer back and forth with things that are needlessly cryptic or just shrugged off like they should be obvious. There's not even a promise of a story until the movie is almost over.
Despite that, it's got like than its share of entertaining moments. Lead Nikita Volkov is charming enough to get past not really having any sort of script to work with. The ideas it has about alternate timelines and a sort of decadent bureaucracy managing it tingle. And every once in a while it goes all-in showing them, from an enjoyably believable steampunk world to killer robots in the shape of Russian dolls (which, admittedly, do not have smaller killer robots inside them).
You could put together a heck of a trailer for A Rough Draft, that's for sure. It's too bad everything that would be in between the trailer's scenes didn't get enough attention.
Fleuve Noir (Black Tide)
* * * (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2018 in Auditorium des Diplômés de la SGWU (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)
Fleuve Noir (Black Tide in English) feels like the sort of grimy, thoroughly compromised police movie that stopped showing up in America with any great frequency back in the 1990s, perhaps for good reason - it's dark and sometimes feels like it reinforces humanity's lesser impulses rather than shining a light on them. There's still an undeniable fascination to imperfect men trying to travel down the truth, though, and this one's got a story that gets under one's skin, the sort of mystery that gets solved by just picking at it until it bleeds, and the filmmakers a fair job of keeping that going until it's done.
16-year-old Dany Arnault is missing, but when mother Solange (Sandrine Kiberlain) first reports it, police Commander François Visconti (Vincent Cassel) tells her to hold tight, saying kids that age often run off for their own reasons, which is true enough, although Visconti is probably also distracted by his own son's involvement in drug-dealing. When the boy doesn't return, it becomes an official case, and Visconti finds himself pulled in, discounting his colleagues' theories about ISIS recruitment at the boy's school or him running away after meeting the boy's neighbor and former tutor Yann Bellaile (Romain Duris), who seems to be following the investigation a little too closely.
Give this sort of movie a dedicated, professional investigator and it's an episode of Without a Trace; build it around an alcoholic wreck and you've got a movie. With Vincent Cassel in the lead, it's definitely not just some episodic crime drama. He's tasked with playing his detective as a sweaty, semi-toxic mess, just gross enough to disdain and dogged enough to kind of admire. He's kind of fascinating when François is at his worst, less so when he's the sort of disreputable one kind of expects, but always giving the impression of someone who may once have been impressive before alcohol and disillusionment broke him. Romain Duris gives him an odd performance to play off, almost comically suspicious and a bit of a stereotype besides, but enjoyably slippery. He's good at slipping from a stuttering nervous wreck to something decidedly more sinister when the time comes.
Full review at EFC.
* * * (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2018 in Auditorium des Diplômés de la SGWU (Fantasia International Film Festival: Action!, digital)
Ajin: Demi-Human is a better-than-usual attempt to cram a lot of comic book into a two-hour movie; you can see the filmmakers making compromises between character depth and world-building, action and explanation. They generally do okay; there's a fair chunk to absorb but it moves fast and puts the characters in position for sometimes gruesomely creative action.
In the film's world, an "Ajin" or "Demi-Human" is a sort of mutant who doesn't stay dead; kill them and they "reset" a minute later, recovering from any injury, illness, or mayhem. 46 are known to exist in the world, and Kei Nagai (Takeru Satoh) is one of them, having stood back up after being hit by a bus. The bad news: Japan's Ajin bureau is less interested in protecting them than studying them and using them as human guinea pigs. The good news: Japan's other two known Ajin, Koji Tanaka (Yu Shirota) and Sato (Go Ayano), have come to rescue him. Or, wait, maybe it's bad news: Having suffered the same torture at the hands of Yu Tozaki (Tetsuji Tamayama) over years rather than months, they don't much care what humans they kill, and Nagai has yet to become that hardened.
There's more to the mythology than that but less enumerated than you might expect; the filmmakers catch the audience up with some opening text and then get to the good stuff quickly. It's impressively efficient without slowing the movie down much, or bogging it down with too much information that really doesn't matter to folks who have bought a ticket to see people who can't be killed for very long fight. In some cases, that's necessity; there is a fair amount of manga to cram into the movie, and that means getting it down to the essentials, although by the same token that often means jumping from one situation to another quickly. There are characters who are brought in and out with little time to be fleshed out, and the finale has characters becoming uneasy allies without really digging into the unease. It's mentioned, but then there's violence to do.
Full review at EFC.