With the Fantasia Festival only a day away from starting with a bang (a new Takashi Miike film, in this case Shield of Straw, will always have film buffs drooling), the anticipation amongst genre film fanatics in La Belle Province’s metropole is palpable, unbearable one might say. Not quite as insufferable as the 40 degrees Celsius courtesy of the humidity blanketing the city over the past week or so, but pretty darn close. Thankfully, as of Thursday July 18th, movie goers will be able to cool off inside theatre rooms and watch some quality genre fair.
Speaking of anticipation and quality films, it feels like the right time to count down some movies of particular interest playing at this year’s edition just as the clock continues to count down until Thursday evening. Reading the following list, it is very easy to ask questions along the lines of ‘Where is The World’s End?’ or ‘Where is V/H/S 2?’ or ‘Where is Shield of Straw?’ It would also be incredibly easy to put those very same films on a most anticipated list. Who exactly does not want to see them? Here are, without further ado, the five movies that, while not the most obvious selections, promise a great many cinematic delights.
5-Bushido Man (2013, Japan, directed by Takanori Tsujimoto)
A samurai master of the Cosmic Way dojo is delighted with the return of his prodigal student after the former traversed Japan with the intent of fulfilling his studies through first hand experience and practice. Not only has his sensei taught him the way of Bushido, but also of the importance of food and what it reveals about a man. The student recounts his battles and describes the meals he ate prior to each.
First, it is a samurai film, something which automatically earns it a pass so far as pre-viewing interest is concerned. Secondly, it promises not one, not two, not three, not- heck, it promises seven samurai contests! Thirdly, and this is the clincher, it is a samurai film with seven battles that has plenty of food in it. Just how that is supposed to play out remains to be seen, but suffice to say it smells… huh, sounds tantalizing.
July 27th at 4:30pm at the Impérial
4-Les 4 soldats (2013, Québec, directed by Robert Morin)
The country has been ravaged by a merciless Civil War, during which the military and wealthy elite forged an alliance which saw the parents living in the lower classes wiped out. Their children, now grown, have formed a new rebellion, with the film following the story of one small regiment as they arrive at a quaint locale in the country for some rest, or have they?
In addition to starring Antoine Bertrand (very impressive in the recent Louis Cyr movie playing wide across the province), Les 4 soldats is an intriguing proposition because Québec, for all the critical praise it has earned over several years, including Academy Award nominations, is rarely a major presence at Fantasia. The premise itself sounds very compelling and ripe for a quality story and one wonders if this year Québec will blow away people just as effectively as the films from so many other countries can.
August 5th at 7pm at the Impérial
3-The Machine (2013, U.K., directed by Caradog James)
It is the future and The United Kingdom and China are engaged in a technological Cold War. A brilliant scientist working for the Ministry of Defense toils away at perfecting Britain’s weaponry, although his real concern lies with his sick daughter. One solution may be found in Ava’s mind, a machine possessing replicated brain patterns of a deceased scientist.
Granted, this film sounds like it falls much more on the dramatic side of the genre spectrum than the loony, mind blowing material Fantasia likes to pride itself on most of the time, but great science-fiction is often in service of tremendous stories about the human condition, and The Machine may just fit the bill. It also stars Day Another Day’s villain Toby Stevens and Denis Lawson, remembered as Wedge Antilles from the first three Star Wars films.
July 25th at 9:45pm at J.A. De Sève
August 3rd at 2:20pm at J.A. De Sève
2-Big Bad Wolves (2013, Israel, directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado)
The premise for this movie is deceptively simple. After a small girl is found dead, her body evidently mutilated, a vengeful policeman goes about serving the man he believes responsible an excruciating, unlawful punishment, putting his job very much on the line. When word gets out about his behaviour, thus getting him fired, his newfound freedom from the shackles of his profession allow him to inflict everything he could possibly want on his victim…
The trailer for Big Bad Wolves played at last week’s press conference and left more than a few people in the audience a bit squeamish, not because of what the trailer showed but rather for what it suggested might happen in the movie itself. All things considered, this could very well be an extremely difficult movie to watch even if it does not opt to graphically demonstrate the terrible things the infuriated protagonist does to his target. Could this be 2013’s I Saw the Devil?
July 26th at 9:25pm at the Impérial
1-Lesson of the Evil (2012, Japan, directed by Takashi Miike)
There is a teacher at Shinko Academy like no other. His is younger and definitely more handsome than most. More than that however, he has an incredible knack for solving embarrassing issues, such as students caught plagiarizing or contentious student-teacher relations. Just why is he so good at eliminating problems? The truth behind his methods promises to be quite surprising and put everyone at the school, in particular the students themselves, in grave danger.
Here is the zany, kooky film of the top five, unsurprisingly landing at number 1. In fact, only after reading the synopsis, which sounds absolutely incredible and pure Fantasia material, it was learned that this is a Takashi Miike film. Honest. A few summers ago there was a Cameron Diaz raunchy comedy entitled Bad Teacher that told the story of a less than exemplary teacher working at a high school. It feels safe to sat that Takashi Miike is going to take that premise to a whole new level, especially since this is not supposed to be a comedy!
July 19th at 9:10pm at the Impérial
July 21st at 11:30am at the Impérial
Enjoy the festival!