Monday, August 17, 2020

Fantasia On-Demand Preview 2020.03: La Dosis (and Fly Me to the Saitama)

Another short "day", as only three movies were set to have their embargo lifted Saturday and one of them was a "Fantasia Classic" that I saw (and greatly enjoyed) at last year's event. The third, Hail to the Deadites, I may catch up with during the festival proper if I've got time, but I may not; I'm not huge on documentaries about fandom and figure I'll see it in its natural environment, as a special feature on the next release of Army of Darkness as I purchase my fifth copy of one of those movies, with the question being who actually owns it now and whether whatever catalog specialists they license to sees fit to give it a 4K release.

Anyway, I'm sure that will be a lot of fun for the folks who do order it, and I'm willing to bet it would have been a real kick if it played in an auditorium with guests. I don't know whether it would be a Hall or de Seve movie, though.

La Dosis, I suspect, would be one that winds up in de Seve, a slow-and-low burner that holds things back to good effect but isn't really made to get the crowd of 600 or whatever to whoop. I dig it, though. And I strongly suspect I'd still enjoy the heck out of Fly Me to the Saitama, and I don't even feel bad about padding my 2020 reviews with it, because I probably wrote the final review of that one closer to the 2020 festival than the 2019 one anyway!

La Dosis (The Dose)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 16 August 2020 in Jay's Living Room (Fantasia Festival, Vimeo via Roku)

One keeps expecting La Dosis ("The Dose") to move up to another gear at some point, but it never quite does so, at least to the extent that one might expect. That's not a criticism; it's an acknowledgment that there are ways that society can provide cover to darkness, and one cannot necessarily wait for the big moment to make things better.

It begins with a comatose patient in an Argentine intensive care unit entering cardiac arrest; the doctors give in after three attempts to restart her heart fail, but nurse Marcos Roldán (Carlos Portaluppi) seems to sense she is not gone yet, and applies the paddles himself. She is revived, but still unconscious, and the hospital is loath to spend more resources on this old woman who is apparently without family, prompting Marcos to steal something from the supply closet and inject her with it. Meanwhile, some changes are happening in the department - the area supervisor is ailing, and co-worker Noelia (Lorena Vega) hints that it's already been decided that the job is Marcos's. There's also a new nurse in the ICU's rotation, Gabriel Santos (Ignacio Rogers), handsome and cheerful and happy to give the oft-invisible Marcos a ride home. He may, however, be a little too sympathetic with regards to the mercy Marcos showed that old lady.

One doesn't have to know much about the health-care system in Argentina to guess that Clinica Nagal is maybe not the area's best hospital, but the filmmakers don't vilify it. They show how cramped this ICU is, and it looks kind of dark and dingy compared to the other hospital that Marcos has occasion to visit, with its clean white walls and private rooms, but if this is a lesser hospital for the city's lower classes, it doesn't seem to have disdain for its patients; the doctors and nurses and the rest are mostly professional, dedicated caregivers. Still, you can see how it's a place where things may fall through the cracks, with resources stretched thin. It's not really about how the lower-class patients or staff are taken advantage of in the way that some movies might be, but it's not a factor that can be entirely discounted.

Full review at eFilmCritic

Tonde Saitama (Fly Me to the Saitama)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2019 in Auditorium des Diplomes de la SGWU (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

This may not be the most shojo movie possible, assuming I'm not being my manga categories mixed up, but even if I am, it's right up there in terms of just being absurdly, specifically Japanese, and regionally so at that. It shouldn't travel at all, even to a festival audience of people who love Japanese pop culture, and yet it got the biggest laughs of any film there, because for all that the jokes are specific, the spirit is not, and the way they're told is something anyone can laugh at.

The Saitama is a Tokyo suburb, described as the bits that were left over when Tokyo and Yokohama separated, and apparently not well-regarded by its neighbors. Teenage Manami Sugawara (Haruka Shimazaki) is embarrassed to be from there, something of great consternation to father Yoshiumi (Brother Tom) and mother Maki (Kumiko Aso) as they take a road trip. Frustrated, Yoshiumi turns on a radio drama, set in a heightened Tokyo where Class President Momomi Hakuhodo (Fumi Nikaido), a stiletto-heeled monster from the very best family, rules her high school with an iron fist with the Saitamese basically servants living in hovels, though she is as immediately smitten with new transfer student Rei Asami (Gackt) as anyone - "you can still smell the America on him!" What she doesn't know is that before he went abroad, he lived in the Saitama, and has been sent to infiltrate high society and destroy it from within.

Though I can't recall ever seeing any of the manga Mineo Maya specifically, original series Tonde Saitama was published in a girls' manga magazine and director Hideki Takeuchi is clearly channeling the general style, with its elaborate hair and fashion, lean and androgynously handsome men, and generally exaggerated visuals represented and amplified on-screen. It's a somewhat garish style that often works better on the page than screen, but this is a story that lets the filmmakers lean into it; between the contrast with the modern simplicity of the car and the satirical intent, it's no leap for the style to be self-parodying. After a while, becoming more ridiculous is a big part of how Takeuchi and screenwriter Yuichi Tokunaga keep it light rather than mean.

Full review at eFilmCritic

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