Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival is back again with one kick-ass line-up. As always, Fantasia brings the best of genre cinema from all over the globe to some of the best audiences in the world. The Fantasia Film Festival is an experience like none other and the films are only part of the fun. It is one of those very unique festivals out there that fosters a true sense of community, as people seem bound together for their love of the weird, obscure and gruesome. At its best, the atmosphere surrounding the fest is like a far less sinister “Gooble Gobble!” moment, with industry and fandom blurred and cinephile elitism brought down to a bare minimum.
Though it might mean a bit more of a commute between screenings this year, it is a rare treat that the festival is able to (if only temporarily) return to its roots at the Imperial Theatre on Bleury. It will be a truly unique pleasure to enjoy the blood and guts on the screen, in a theatre that outdates F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu by over a decade. Though many of the retrospectives will be screening at the Cinematheque, there is a palpable balance between old and new this year, as the fest pays tributes to some great icons, films and movements in horror and fringe cinema history. From Zulawski to Divine to Sleepaway Camp, Fantasia does far more than showcase the very best of new genre cinema, but pays tribute to its icons and gods with the utmost respect and reverie.
Without any further ado, I am going to introduce five films I am most excited to see at this year’s festival. This is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg, because there are SO many great films playing this year. Let me know what you think and what your personal favourites are!
Directed by Joe Swanberg
USA, 77 min.
Considered one of the most important figures in the mumblecore movement, Joe Swanberg is a highly-prolific independent filmmaker with a penchant for risk. 24 Exposures strikes as a meta-project, bringing filmmaking duo Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett as his actors and characters. The film apparently explores the nature of their professional relationship under the style of a late-night erotic thriller. 24 Exposures seems like a wonderfully seedy adventure, blurring the line between fantasy and reality as a fetish photographer suddenly finds one of his models dead. I have little doubt in my mind that this will be a film to defy expectations and face the audience with uncomfortable truths about life, love and death.
Directed by Sion Sono
Japan, 161 min.
My love for Sion Sono is almost limitless (Cold Fish necessitates the ‘almost’), so it should be no surprise for those who know me that his newest film pops up on my list. Sono is one of those rare filmmakers who is constantly reinventing himself and constantly pushing the limits of absurdity. His films are like no other, and by that virtue alone he is worth giving a try. The film’s history, namely that it is pieced together from hundreds of hours of footage that he had shot in the early 1990s only adds to the film’s appeal as it adds another layer of difference to his work. Bad Film will hopefully bring the good stuff and help me forget the hateful Cold Fish.
Directed by Richard Stanley
France, 87 min.
Those of you who don’t take the time to check out the documentaries at Fantasia are sorely missing out, as they regularly end up being the hidden gems of the fest and sometimes among the very best films of the year (I’m looking at you Marwencol!). Though some may know Richard Stanley best for his work of fiction like Dust Devil, he is also an anthropologist with a strong interest in the occult. In 2009 he moved to an area deep in France known by some as the “zone” where the modern way of life has never really caught on, and magic and mysticism have an important hold on the people who live there. Though the premise alone should be enough to capture your attention, it should also be noted that the film was shot by filmmaker and cinematographer Karim Hussain, who most recently shot the best looking episodes of NBC’s Hannibal.
Directed by Johnnie To
Hong Kong/China, 128 min.
I feel as though it would be a bit redundant and even a bit silly to explain why I am excited for a new Johnnie To movie. He is a master of cinema, and he is very much at home in the world of action cinema.
Directed by Mika Ninagawa
Japan, 127 min.
I admittedly don’t know much about this film or it’s filmmaker but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t swayed by its promise. The film’s premise presents a beautiful Japanese Model who is little more than a construction, her beauty brought to life through an almost constant stream of surgical procedures. As the delicacy of her beauty becomes evident, she is suddenly under competition from a younger model, who threatens her career and image. The film has all the elements of the kind of film I love, in particular the exploration and construction of beauty. The comparisons to the work of William Klein only serving to increase my interest and my hope that the film utilizes the absurd in order to explore it’s ideas. Finally though, I can’t help but hope that a genre film made by a woman is not only kick-ass but popular. All too often relegated to the sidelines in the filmmaking community, it seems especially difficult for women to break into the weird and the horrific.
– Justine Smith