Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fantasia Day 21 (Wednesday, August 8)

Done and done, folks. Two films in the screening room, two films at the Seve, and outa here. 88 films viewed over the past three weeks, 69 of them on the big (and bigger) screen in the company of hundreds of like-minded cinephiles. Quite the adventure – hats off to the Fantasia crew and volunteers who made it happen, and all the filmmakers who lit up the darkness with fertile imaginations.

That's frequent co-pilot Matt Hodgson of Entertainment Maven and I on the red carpet above. Matt and I were among the few, the proud, the idiotic, and the brain dead journalists to ride the Fantasia bus from start to (official, if not technical) finish.

He's also a heck of a good guy and probably my favorite discovery of the entire festival.

A couple parting thoughts and shots:

These little candy vending machines are situated all over the Concordia campus, offering temptation round the clock. I finally succumbed to its siren call, and for my quarter I was rewarded with three, count ‘em, THREE chocolate covered almonds. Whatta tease.

The other revolutionary development via the Great White North are the little spigots located in the water fountains so as to make it easy peasy to fill your water bottle rather than having to do the tip n’ splash method.


Other random memories include:

--the hit-and-miss Concordia Hall seats, either absent any ass-protecting seat cushion material and/or resting at a 120 degree angle such that one is forced to sit as far back as possible and hang onto the armrests to keep from falling on the floor;

--the VIP queue “funnel effect,” where admission lines inexplicably become many-headed triangles, with all members vying for prime position;

--the drifting clarity of image focus, especially during subtitled 35mm films…and people’s willingness to just sit there and take it;

--the collegial funk smell of my subleased apartment;

-- dodging international roaming charges by not using my cell phone for three consecutive weeks. Despite chatting via email several times a day, I never, EVER want to go that long without hearing my beloved femalien’s voice again;

--those interminable Ubisoft videogame advertisements for Zombie U and Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell that preceded many a feature presentation;

--the ongoing, eye fluttering, head bobbing battle for consciousness as the body cried out desperately for sleep, only to be told, “But there’s a movie on…”

Yes, these are things I will remember. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m ready for a nap.

Let's-Make-The-Teacher-Have-A-Miscarriage Club (2010) (1st viewing) d. Naito, Eisuke (Japan)

A discomfiting blend of The Bad Seed and The Children’s Hour, where peer pressure, perceived “innocence of youth” and fear of one’s own body play equal roles. A quintet of elementary school girls form the titular group in protest of the “gross” notion of their pregnant homeroom teacher (Aki Miyata) having sex and/or procreating, their attacks growing increasingly sinister and lethal. (As their sociopathic leader, Kaori Kobayashi paints a vivid portrait of a young lady wrestling with her own terrifying femininity). While writer/director Naito’s camera techniques are more than a little shaky (literally), the concept’s raw power – both of casually amoral youngsters and adults’ willingness to excuse their actions rather than confront the truth – is chilling in its simplicity. A cowed school board, parents in deep denial and the emotional heat of hormonal imbalance create the perfect breeding ground for adolescent evil to hold sway. Best of all, Naito doesn’t feel compelled to unnecessarily pad out the running time – at 62 minutes, he’s told the story he came to tell and told it well.

Hail (2011) (1st viewing) d. Courtin-Wilson, Amiel (Australia)

An aging ex-con struggles to find his way back in the world in a breathtaking, immediate drama from Down Under, “based on the life and stories of Daniel P. Jones," the film’s star. Juxtaposing poetic images with handheld slice-of-life scenarios, with characters sharing the same names as the actors playing them, director Courtin-Wilson works on an almost instinctual level – perfectly in tandem with his extraordinary players who achieve a documentary-like authenticity within their banal to beastly conversations. (Leanne Letch is a marvel as Jones’ longtime companion, lighting up the screen with her unabashed ordinariness.) As tragedy strikes and things grow progressively darker in the final act, Courtin-Wilson’s camera reflects the mood, extreme close-ups and foggy, unfocused screen imagery dominating. A searing character study that dares you to meet its gaze – the reward being sights heretofore unseen. (Yes, I’m talking about the terrifying/beautiful horse scene.)

Turn Me On, Goddammit! (2011) (1st viewing) d. Jacobsen, Jannicke Systad (Norway)

Hormones rage and hypocrisy reigns in a small Norwegian village as seen through the compelling gaze of Alma (winningly played by Helene Bergsholm), an attractive teen preoccupied with sexual fantasies featuring her hunky classmate Matias Myren. When he reciprocates her feelings in amusingly blunt fashion at a school mixer, Alma’s world is turned upside down, rejected by her classmates for publicly proclaiming her potential paramour’s unusual mating tactics. A charming, funny, fresh and emotionally truthful examination of passion and puberty, of hypocrisy and hankering...all with the most emphatic title you're likely to find anywhere.

Boy and His Samurai, A (2010) (1st viewing) d. Nakamura, Yoshihiro (Japan)

Through the mysteries of time travel, a handsome young samurai (Ryo Nishikido) appears in modern day Edo where he is taken in by a single mother (Rie Tomosaka) and her six-year-old son (Fuku Suzuki). Our hero predictably becomes the boy’s best friend, protector and substitute dad and while the time-honored stranger-in-a-strange-land comic tropes get their due, it’s after Nishikido has been reasonably indoctrinated into modern society that the film finds its true stride and heart. Scenes of a “Mr. Mom” nature reveal an unlikely culinary superstar, as skilled with a blade in the kitchen as on the battlefield. Once the world comes calling, will he become a stereotypical overworked Japanese male, forgoing family for career? Will he have to choose between his heart and the samurai code? Packed with surprises, smiles, and an array of mouth-watering onscreen edibles sure to send you scurrying to the closest Japanese sweet shop for dessert.

2012 Totals to date: 384 films, 335 1st time views, 210 horror, 147 cinema

Fantasia Totals: 88 films, 84 1st time views, 41 horror, 69 cinema

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