Another year and another incredible Fantasia experience. Though every year has it’s share of gems, 2014 has come out as being particularly strong as far as innovative and daring filmmaking. This is a selection of just five films that impressed me, and I didn’t even include some of the repertory choices like Ghost in the Shell and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre which played to sold out audiences. More than just a genre film festival, Fantasia caters a strong community of passionate film fans and makers.
5. Remember Me (Jean-François Asselin)
Fantasia has always been a festival where some of the best films are some of the most unexpected. Running at three weeks long, with well over 200 films playing, it seems inevitable that something will jump out of nowhere to surprise you. Screening before the awful Aux yeux des vivants, Remember Me is a Quebec comedy-horror short film about a young man who suffers from a very unusual condition: he begins to literally disappear if people stop thinking about him. So reasonably, he goes above and beyond and through the motions of love, hate and destruction to ensure he will never be forgotten. The film exercises it’s premise to the limit, and ends on a perfect note of self-erasure that packs a powerful punch. Few films this year were as consistently on point, raucously surprising and laugh out loud funny. Hopefully this film is an entry point for Jean-François Asselin and his crew, and their film gains traction that eventually leads to a feature length film.
4. Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter (David Zellner)
One of the films presented during the press conference, Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter has been gaining attention as it screens across the world. While there is a prominent charm that propels the film, the premise is ultimately dark and about the frustration of contemporary life. Kumiko is unsatisfied with her life and there is little promise that through hard work and a good attitude she will overcome her situation. So, she finds solace in a VHS tape of Fargo and becomes obsessed with finding the treasure that Steve Buscemi buries in an anonymous roadside location. The film is funny and fantastic, but ultimately is about the sense of loss many young people feel. Kumiko’s hopelessness is potent and is translated with beautiful pathos through Rinko Kikuchi who gives one of the year’s best performances so far. While the film definitely has a light touch, it is undercut by angst and frustration in an increasingly capital oriented world.
3. Bag Boy Lover Boy (Andres Torres)
The opening film for Fantasia’s new program, Fantasia Underground, Bag Boy Lover Boy is a startling example of youthful misanthropy and inventiveness. Evoking the legacy of the New York underground, the film maintains it’s rough edges as it presents the story of a sad-sack hot dog vendor and his ascension into fetish photography. Read my full review HERE
2. Cybernatural (Levan Gabriadze)
Don’t let the awful title fool you, Cybernatural is not only one of the year’s best but presents an interesting direction for the future of our understanding of cinema. Set in real time and taking place exclusively on a computer screen, Cybernatural challenges our understanding of “real” images and the power of the cinematic frame. Recontextualizing the computer screen under the terms of narrative and art, it builds on sociological fields of study that equate our process of engaging with computers as meta-textual narratives about our own experiences. Furthermore, the film builds on horror trends that favour wide-shots and encourage the audience’s eyes to wander. We are no longer guided under the same terms as more traditional image composition and the screens that surround us seem to be in a constant state of metamorphosis. Beyond the theoretical implications though, Cybernatural is a tight, inventive and scary slasher film. Founded on a strong script, great performances and credible reconstruction of the computer experience the movie hits all the right beats to engage and enthrall audiences.
1. Welcome to New York (Abel Ferrara)
Welcome to New York is a dark exploratiob of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal through the eyes of American underground maverick Abel Ferrara. The film is a grand showcase for Gerard Depardieu’s chaotic acting style and a grim portrait of economic inequality in the contemporary age. Blending a highly realist style with moments of incredible poetic invention, the film demonstrates a unique world view that is confrontational and challenging to the status quo. Read my full review of the film HERE