Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fantasia – Day 18 (Sunday, August 5)

Throughout the past weeks, people have asked me how the hell I’ve been writing so much and watching so many movies. The answer is a simple one: I watch the movies because, hey, that’s what I’m here to do, and I write as much as I do because if I don’t get it down on virtual paper now, it’s going to slide away into oblivion. Case in point: due to a migraine creeping up my hindbrain on Sunday night, I didn’t get around to recording the day’s events until now (Tuesday morning) and even though it was only two days ago, it feels like I’m looking back through an immense fog of sights, sounds and memories. THIS is why I’ve been writing every day. Hell, I look back at the entries from Fantasia’s first week and I think to myself, “Wow, that’s right, that happened.” It’s been a surreal experience unlike any I’ve had before, the closest of which would have been BIFFF, a mere four months ago (an adventure that similarly feels like a million years gone by and that I’m glad I recorded in as much detail as I did).

Anyway, setting the stage for what might be a little fuzzier collection of recollections…

Sunday? Sunday. Right.

I wandered down to the Hotel Nouvel to meet up with Richard Bates, Jr., the writer/director of Excision for a little interview time. The plan was also to meet up with the film’s star, AnnaLynne McCord, but apparently wires had gotten crossed and she was out shopping in Montreal. (See this is why you take the photo opps when they present themselves, folks.) Be that as it may, Richard is quite the amiable conversationalist, and while I was not 100% taken with the film itself – which I was up front with him about, so so as not to be a smiling villain to his face only to stab him in the back with a mixed bag review posted later that day – it’s hard not to root for a guy who has put such a personal and original film out into the ether. In a world of indie efforts that look, sound and smell like so much low budget cookie cutter garbage, Excision is a solid, great-looking effort with real soul, whether it hits your personal sweet spot or no.

I then wandered up to the media room to cram in a quick Hong Kong action flick (The Viral Factor) that was nothing special but it passed the time until 6pm when the room closed up for the night, and we wandered down to get queued up for the world premiere of Jennifer Lynch’s latest, Chained.

I’ll go into greater depth about my rolling reactions to the film in our subsequent daily report; for now, let’s just say that I have not had as violently negative reaction to a film over the past few weeks as I did come Chained’s final credits crawl. I attribute my response to three key factors: the environment in which I was viewing the picture, my personal lens of experience, and the Q&A that followed. Had I been watching it at home (as many of you will undoubtedly be – I can’t see it having an extended theatrical run), it would have probably not struck me on such a visceral level. But I watched it when and how I watched it, and it ticked me off.

For starters, the built-in adulation surrounding the event was INSANE. This is a director who has made three films: the reviled Boxing Helena, the admirable Surveillance,and the problematic Bollywood effort Hiss (which we'll talk more about tomorrow). So, why were people SO FREAKING EXCITED to see her latest?

Now, remember, I had a migraine coming on, the place was packed, I’ve been here for nearly three weeks and I'm exhausted. Even with all that factored in, I had some serious issues with the film as it stands; it asks for an incredible amount of generosity and suspension of disbelief from its audience. I know it’s Fantasia, and people get pumped up. But when I see a problematic film getting a standing ovation, I start digging in my critical heels to say, “Now, just hold on a minute…”

Chained’s central premise revolves around Vincent D’Onofrio’s serial killer “adopting” the nine-year-old son of one of his latest victims, keeping him as a pet to be shaped into a beast like himself. A fine exploitation premise although, as Tony Timpone pointed out during the Q&A, not an entirely original one since Steven Mena’s Bereavement, released only a couple years ago, covers similar ground. (I’m not suggesting that original screenwriter Damian O’Donnell lifted the idea, just that it’s hardly a revolutionary concept.) But when Lynch stated that she made the film as a societal critique of child abuse, I was taken aback because I would have never guessed that she was attempting to make any kind of serious statement. Twisted, sick, maybe a little silly around the edges, but hardly a realistic depiction of life as we know it, even within a genre context. Yet people were applauding and cheering like crazy; like a non-Francophone at a Parisian comedy club, I just didn’t get it.

And I was scheduled to have an interview with Lynch tomorrow morning. Hoo boy.

We stuck around for the DJ XL5 Zappin’ Italian Party, a collection of clips from a wealth of crowd-pleasing Italian genre flicks – giallos, spaghetti westerns, sword and sandals epics, zombie gore films, etc. – which was great fun, but eventually my piercing headache got the best of me and I had to cut outa there. (The volume was through the roof, loudest it’s been thus far.) Matt and I headed for the pub, but got sidetracked by the lovely Stephanie Trepanier, one of Fantasia’s elite year-round employees, who happened to be out on the sidewalk and who invited us into the tail end dinner celebration with none other than…Jennifer Lynch. Awkward. Still, there were enough occupants and a delicious buffet of salads and salmon to keep me distracted and no one asked my opinion of the film, so I didn’t have to make up any fancy footwork or engage in fisticuffs with anyone…at least not for 12 more hours.

Stay tuned, true believers.

Viral Factor, The (2012) (1st viewing) d. Lam, Dante (Hong Kong)

Full disclosure: Because the screening room was closing in 90 minutes and this HK action/crime flick has a 120-minute runtime, I was riding the FF button pretty hard during the talkier parts and there were quite a few of them to zip through. My cinematic traveling companion Matt Hodgson of Entertainment Maven took great issue with the constant use of close-ups of the various characters’ faces as they opened fire on everyone and everything, but for me, it wasn’t any different than the push n’ blur that Hollywood uses to artificially induce a feeling of “you are there.” In fact, I probably prefer the former approach. That all said, it’s a fairly conventional actioner, with some solid stunts, a wacko storyline about two estranged brothers (cop and criminal, naturally) who must ally forces to prevent a madman looking to unleash a deadly strain of smallpox upon the population at large. Oh, and the “good” brother has a bullet lodged in his brain and is going to die in two weeks. Definitely didn’t need that full two hours, but thanks to the remote control, it served the turn in 90 minutes.

Chained (2012) (1st viewing) d. Lynch, Jennifer (USA)

One shouldn’t even attempt to view this tale of a taxi driving serial killer (Vincent D’Onofrio, looking primed to reprise his Private Pyle character for Full Metal Jacket II: More Jelly Donuts) who “adopts” the nine-year-old son of his latest victim through a realistic lens. Instead, engage it as a twisted, sinister fairy tale, one that exists in an alternate storybook universe where bad men do bad things, children exist in peril, years flash by as needed, and events occur simply because that’s how the story goes. (To do otherwise proves an exercise in frustration and exhaustion at the amount of disbelief suspension required.) D’Onofrio’s hulking, mumbling menace is a puzzling construct; one wonders how this lisping, inarticulate, intellectually-emotionally-socially stunted creature has eluded capture for decades. (The venerable actor renders a lived-in performance, to be sure, but one that always feels like a performance.) Likewise, our young abductee’s (played by Evan Bird and Eamon Farren at different stages) character never changes, remaining quietly, defiantly human in the face of inhumanity. Considering how much screen time Lynch gives to flashback sequences of emotional and sexual childhood abuse to justify his captor’s madness, one wonders why “Rabbit,” as he is renamed by D’Onofrio, resists a similar path so clearly laid out for him to follow. But then again, we wonder about a lot of logistical things as the weeks, months and years drift by – a final climactic twist the biggest head-slapper of all – and I wish that the fairy tale approach had been made clear from the outset. Just whisper “Once upon a time…” during the opening credits. You’ll thank me later.

2012 Totals to date: 370 films, 321 1st time views, 206 horror, 142 cinema

Fantasia Totals: 74 films, 70 1st time views, 37 horror, 64 cinema

1 comment:

  1. "Just whisper “Once upon a time…” during the opening credits. You’ll thank me later."

    WONDERFUL! I now want to see the movie again with that in mind. Then again... maybe there's not a reason in the world to watch this one again. In any case, I'm looking forward to your review of HIDDEN IN THE WOODS, as I think one can make all the same criticisms, but even more so.