Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fantasia Day 5 (Monday, July 23)

Day started off a little wonky – got behind schedule as I was racing to prepare lunch/dinner offerings for the week, and so ended up being about 15 minutes late for the first feature, the charming Japanese comedy, Mitsuko Delivers. That said, I’m glad to have the food element under control for the next few days – it’s not easy to do the festival thing on the cheap, and eats are a big expense if you’re not planning ahead. Maybe after I’ve done a few more of these, I can write a film festival survival guide or something. We shall see.

Another element that is rough to navigate is how early one needs to arrive at the next screening in order to gain admittance. Due to the sometimes limited seating, the powers that be have decided that a select number of VIP (industry/press/etc.) pass holders will be admitted prior to the G.P. (general public, i.e. the people who actually bought tickets), then those who exceed the cutoff limit (75 for Concordia Hall, 25 for the Seve) must wait until the G.P. have secured their seats. So, it’s important to be toward the front of the pass holders line, especially if it’s a film you want/need to see. I’ve yet to be shut out, but it’s been close a couple times. Fingers crossed.

It’s worth noting that Sunday night saw a return of the dicey projection in Concordia Hall with Starry Starry Night so out of focus at several points I could hardly read the subtitles. Today seemed to go off without a hitch, with the majority of my viewing taking place in the smaller Seve Theatre. However, there was some kind of construction going on in the room below the screening room during Mitsuko Delivers, so we were forced to endure an incessant rhythmic banging/tapping throughout the final hour or so. Luckily, somebody talked to somebody and it was quiet for the wickedly funny Funeral Kings that followed.

Today was pretty much full-on movie mode, with five flickers and a few special guests. Argentinean director Valentín Javier Diment was on hand to introduce the world premiere of his horror flick Memory of the Dead

…followed by Michael Biehn presenting his feature directorial debut, The Victim, alongside his lovely bride/producing partner, Jennifer Blanc. They were both lovely and generous with their time and enthusiasm, engaging in a prolonged Q&A following the nearly sold-out screening.

Hey, look! It’s Jason Eisener (in blue), director of Treevenge and Hobo with a Shotgun!

Michael and Jennifer also stuck around until the wee hours to sign autographs and take pics with the fans. (Since I’m hoping/planning to interview the two of them tomorrow, I headed for home to catch a few zzz’s before the madness begins anew. Stay tuned, true believers. We may have some Kyle Reese dirt coming your way soon…)

Mitsuko Delivers (2011) (1st viewing) d. Ishii, Yuya (Japan)

Ishii, a 2010 Fantasia grand jury winner for Best Film with Sawako Decides, presents an achingly charming and quirky comedy set in a rural Japanese village. The depressed community undergoes a radical shift in mood with the return of the titular female character, bulging at the midriff from a romantic U.S. interlude (constantly referred to as “very big and very black).” Decidedly heightened in tone and characters’ behavior, yet grounded enough to retain a measure of emotional resonance, with engaging meditations on defining (and redefining) what is “cool” (or “uncool”) and the importance of speaking one’s heart sooner than later (but better late than never). An utterly winning film that leaves itself open to future installments, and who wouldn’t want to spend another few hours with this colorful crew?

Funeral Kings (2012) (1st viewing) d. McManus, Kevin / McManus, Matthew (USA)

Energetic and authentic to the point of blushing portrait of middle school suburban life, complete with the offhand lies, unrequited pining, sibling-like bonds and rivalries, rebellious bouts of smoking/drinking, disregard for authority, and casual profanity accenting every utterance and thought. Wicked sharp ensemble of younger performers who effortlessly inhabit these characters, especially the main trio of Dylan Hartigan, Alex Maizus, and Jordan Puzzo. While I was very glad to have seen it, it is perhaps an odd choice for Fantasia, better suited to Sundance (or SXSW, where it screened in March).

Sword Identity, The (2011) (1st viewing) d. Haofeng, Xu (China)

A mysterious and preternaturally skilled warrior enters a Ming-era city noted for its venerable martial arts schools, seeking to prove his worth. Think you’ve seen this one before? Think again. Writer/director Haofeng is out to buck preexisting notions of the classic martial arts flick, and he does so with great success, as this is a swordsman film unlike any other. Unfortunately for this viewer’s taste, he strips away the conventions without supplying a worthy replacement for them, leaving us with an inert, dull and consciously sedate “action” movie. As deconstruction of an established genre, there is little faulting the filmmakers’ efforts. However, as entertainment, this left much to be desired.

Memory of the Dead (2012) (1st viewing) d. Diment, Valentin Javier (Argentina)

A nonsensical gorefest in same vein of early ’80s Italian horror efforts, this Argentinean occult romp makes next to no narrative sense and should be purely enjoyed for its juicier parts. Seven weeks to the day after her husband’s mysterious death, grieving widow Lola Berthet gathers a select group of friends and family to honor the dead…a reunion that evolves into a sea of vivid sanguinary effects and head-scratching hokum. With homages running rampant (nodding to Evil Dead, The Shining and the aforementioned Fulci flicks) and some impressive emoting occurring throughout, it’s a shame that it’s all being done in the service such incoherent blather. Seriously, I called the logic police about a half dozen times before they took the phone off the hook and left me to muddle through on my own. Switch off your brain and bring your plastic raincoat - you’ve been warned.

Victim, The (2011) (1st viewing) d. Biehn, Michael (USA)

I’m going to wait on this one. Got some noodling and nitpicking to do, and time is better spent preparing for our interview tomorrow. Who knows, I might come away with some further insights to impart, so I’ll beg your patience.

2012 Totals to date: 316 films, 269 1st time views, 180 horror, 98 cinema

Fantasia Totals: 20 films, 18 1st time views, 11 horror, 20 cinema

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