Saturday, July 16, 2022

Fantasia 2022.02: Coupez! and Hard Boiled

Welcome to the last non-marathon day of the festival! From here out, it's long days and falling behind on the blog.

Friday was a day of tough-ish decisions, with both My Small Land and Swallowed in de Seve not exactly having ideal second showtimes on Monday, while the big shows in Hall were things that were pretty familiar - I'd seen the movie Coupez! remakes in the very same room, and for all I know a few of us watched the very same print of Hard Boiled at Hong-Kong-a-Thon Part III just three months ago. But, hey, Michel Hazanavicius made The Artist (and also something called Le Redoutable I haven't seen), so he knows his meta-movies. And Hard Boiled had a top-tier special guest.

Mr. John Woo Yu-Sen everybody, looking a little worn down - he recently had a fall, which was why he was using a cane and letting his daughter help him around - but seeming very sincerely happy for the honor, and seemed reasonably sincere as he talked about finding Montreal a delightful city where he would like to make one of his next movies (you've got to say that, I suppose, but also it is). Fifteen years in Hollywood means he was able to conduct the entire event in English, with a bit of effort.

He comes across as a charming gentleman who can also be a complete maniac, talking about how he loves working with stuntpeople because they are great problem solvers who just dive into getting a filmmaker what he needs, but then he'll also just casually tell a story about how the flames from one of the explosions at the end of this movie were "so beautiful" that he pushed a cameraman to cover himself with a wet towel and run into them. He also talked a lot about how Hard Boiled came from a place of anger - Hong Kong was seeing a crime wave at the time and he wanted to create this iconic hero cop in Chow Yun-Fat's "Tequila", rushing into gunfire and saving babies.

As I was in the second row, he actually wound up sitting directly in front of me for the start and the end of the movie, although he left for the bulk of it; it must be an odd thing to watch something where you've got all these memories of spending weeks on set organizing and putting things together while everyone around you is experiencing real-time exhilaration.

As for the future, he mentioned that he has no plans to return to Hong Kong or China, saying that Hong Kong only wants him to make gangster films and China has too many restrictions on what you can do. He'd like to work with Chow Yun-fat again, although it can be hard to arrange. Truth be told, I wouldn't be surprised if both were on very-dark-gray lists back home, Woo for making The Crossing about people going to Taiwan and Chow for expressing some sympathy for the umbrella protests. He doesn't seem to mind that, though, looking forward to making films in different places around the world and trying to give them some local flavor - Manhunt was made in Japan and the forthcoming Silent Night takes place in Mexico, and in addition to his comments about wanting to make a film in Montreal, he said he'd love to do something in France.

Anyway, if you're up here, he's got a master class this afternoon and will be around for the screening of Face/Off on Sunday. My plans today include Baby Assassins, The Fish Tale, Popran, One and Four, and Mercenaries from Hong Kong, if I'm not totally run down by midnight.

Coupez! (aka Z as in Z, Final Cut)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 15 July 2022 in Auditorium des Diplõmés de la SGWU (Fantasia Festival, DCP)

Japanese film One Cut of the Dead was a magic trick, but the sort that is built around revealing the gimmick, and as a result I was reluctant to see how well it worked the second time through, whether that meant rewatching the original or a remake. The good news is that the filmmakers know they've got audiences with very different sets of expectations coming in, and I think they do okay satisfying both.

It starts in the same way as the original - leaping into the last act of a zombie movie, only for the director (Romain Duris) to yell "cut!" and berate his actors (Finnegan Oldfield & Matilda Lutz) for not giving the performance the film needs. They get sympathy from the make-up artist (Bérénice Bejo), but things go awry when it becomes clear that there are real zombies on the set. And then we jump back to see how everyone got to that spot…

For those who have seen One Cut, I suspect the opening act is actually a little better here - you can see that it's a strong cast right away and enjoy their chemistry, rather than just sort of groan at how this film-within-a-film is kind of excruciating. On the other hand, all the French characters with Japanese names gives away that something is up early on, which means that the turnarounds later are not the same sort of jolting revelations. The second act also feels a little stronger, although writer/director Michel Hazanavicius seems to have a little trouble getting his entire ensemble enough to do. It's a simple enough story at the heart, but there are some moments where things are paying off in the end that don't quite seem set up.

How does it play for newcomers? No idea but I figure it works okay. It's got the same surprisingly upbeat heart as its predecessor, the cast is pretty dang good. Romain Duris is thoroughly charming as the working TV director known for "fast, cheap, and decent", playing the character as less reserved than his Japanese equivalent but still able to get across what's driving him. Finnegan Oldfield is a standout among the secondary characters for how he connects the actor and the part in different acts of the movie. But ultimately, this film works on how well the third act builds upon everything else, and the series of coins dropping certainly got good reactions from the crowd.

Duris's Rémi mentions that you need to do some localization in movies like this, and there's a bit of a fight between doing it well and slavish faithfulness to the source. It's not always on the right side of the line, but lands there more often than not.

Lat sau san taam (Hard Boiled)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 15 July 2022 in Auditorium des Diplõmés de la SGWU (Fantasia Festival, 35mm)

As mentioned above, I just saw this a few months ago, and liked it, but I've got to confess, I tend to get lost at various points. I love the broad, operatic strokes of the story, but don't get terribly excited about the details, and can sort of find myself following along in a fog until that absolutely fantastic, crazy finale.

Small review from 2007.

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