Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Fantasia 2018.19: Number 37, Cinderella the Cat, Heavy Trip, and Tokyo Vampire Hotel

Going to have to circle back around for Sunday, because it was shorts day, and there's twenty of those things which probably take a half-hour each to write up even if they only lasted five minutes. Remember that the next time you say critics are paid to watch movies - they're paid to write about them. Or not paid but given press passes, as the case may be here.

No guests - the last week of the festival really slows down on that count before a few people on the last couple days. It's almost kind of relaxing - just hanging out, watching good movies - at least to the extent that a film festival can be.

Will today be the same? We'll see - I'm at The Brink, River's Edge, Arizona, and trying to get into what is sure to be a huge crowd for Monteral Dead End. Amiko is pretty darn good, and I wouldn't be opposed to trying to stay awake through a non-midnight screening of Rokuroku, even if it is a big mess.

Nommer 37 (Number 37)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 30 July 2018 in Salle J.A. DeSève (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

Basically an uncredited remake of Rear Window set in an unsavory Cape Town neighborhood, but that's not exactly a bad place to start if the goal is to make a decent thriller, and Number 37 is that. It's not as inventive as the things that inspired it, and there's really not a beat that you can't predict once the basics have been put into place.

It goes through those motions well, though, and its James Stewart and Grace Kelly substitutes, Irshaad Ally and Monique Rockman, are well-chosen for this particular production. It's got one really nice villain in Danny Ross's loan shark, and once the finale gets where it's been going, it is undeniably satisfying.

Gatta Cenerentola (Cinderella the Cat)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 30 July 2018 in Salle J.A. DeSève (Fantasia International Film Festival: Axis, digital)

This modern/futuristic retelling of Cinderella has a bunch of wonderfully loopy pieces to it, from a yacht seemingly designed to be a ghost ship, a tragic wicked stepmother, a transvestite stepsister, glass slippers used to smuggle cocaine, and a spunky take on the title character who is anything but passive in the last few minutes. That it never really seems to go off the rails is at least partially a product of its Italian DNA: It's got songs that are equal parts cheery and mournful, casual sexiness, a certain fatalism and loyalty where the characters' hometown is concerned.

Of course, it still is Cinderella, which means that Mia doesn't actually do much until the end - indeed, she's a fairly minor part of the story for much of the movie. And though the motion-captured animation is probably wise not to attempt too much detail, it does tend to feel a bit stiff at times (visually, a proper DCP would probably be a huge help as well). And given how adult some of the movie is, I'm not sure who it's for - its too much this for some, not enough that for others, in practically every facet.

I'll probably watch it again given a chance, though - the thrilling promise of the opening and the moments when it shines make up for its failings.

"Backstore"

* * * (out of four)
Seen 30 July 2018 in Salle J.A. DeSève (Fantasia International Film Festival, digital)

A cute little short that kind of just messes around for ten minutes as a mall Santa and the "star fairy" working with him take a ten-minute break, planning to get it on in the back room, but kind of getting derailed by Christmas-y puns, foreplay, and the logistical difficulties imposed by their costumes get in the way. There's really not much to it other than hanging out, but there doesn't really need to be; the two main cast members are likable and able to hit some pretty specific beats when need be. They and filmmaker Valérie Leclair make them pretty believably two people you might catch working at the mall, not secretly brilliant folks slumming it.

It's got a decent enough end, although I think the goal is more to just get the audience out without things getting too sappy. Which isn't a bad way to go about it at all.

Hevi reissu (Heavy Trip)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 30 July 2018 in Salle J.A. DeSève (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

Though the "trip" part of the movie only includes a fiercely funny last act, that's no disappointment; this Finnish heavy-metal comedy is pretty much a delight throughout, mostly because our never feels like its characters being both big metalheads and lovable dorks is any sort of conflict that has to be resolved. It's well aware that some parts of this type of music are kind of ridiculous even if very serious, but doesn't disrespect that.

It's also filled with funny people, playing deadpan with enthusiasm, straight-faced when called for and full of joy otherwise. It's got big, ridiculous slapstick, body fluid jokes that make sense and involve giving a damn, and never sells or what makes one le a character for a cheap laugh.

And, again, that last act is some concentrated funny. It's utterly ridiculous in a bigger way than the rest of the film, but it earns that and executes perfectly. Sometimes, it seems, being metal as heck means rolling with the insanity that comes your way.

Tokyo Vampire Hotel (film version)

* ¾ (out of four)
Seen 30 July 2018 in Auditorium des Diplômés de la SGWU (Fantasia International Film Festival, digital)

So, maybe this thing has saved me a little time, because how do you commit to six hours of this mess, even if it is basically free on Prime? And you have, in fact, been waiting impatiently for Amazon to bring it over from Japan for the better part of a year. I mean, there's still a non-trivial chance that I will go for the full version, because this thing cut down to half that size is just such an obvious editing disaster that you kind of have to see what Sion Sono doing a TV series with this premise is like.

Still, there's a lot about Tokyo Vampire Hotel that is just generally Not Good. The character dumped in what counts for the protagonist slot, Manami (Ami Tomite), is abused so constantly that it's hard to really care beyond wanting her to just stop crying, and the potentially interesting anti-heroes of K (Kaho) and Nao (Ami Fukuda, I think) feel like side characters whose history is a distraction here. Maybe as an ensemble, they work a whole lot better.

As a film, Tokyo Vampire Hotel becomes a loud, obnoxious thing that gets into the exaggerated violence too early and never has a point to its vampire mythology other than "vampires are cool". But they're really not, and complicated mythology of warring families may make for a good RPG but it makes them hollow, not meaning anything. The one time this seems kind of interesting is when a Rumanian vampire sucking the blood of a woman on an underground ferris wheel makes one recoil because Sono has set it up to feel an awful lot like a rape, and beyond the disgust, there's potentially a metaphor to that, but the movie just doesn't have time for it at all. Sono may also be aging past the point where him doing stuff that is primarily about girls this young dressed sexy is kind of creepy - they definitely get a lot more weird outfits than their less-numerous male counterparts.

I'll probably want the show, because I like Sono for the most part and I'm weak. But it's way on the backburner now.

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