The Fantasia Film Festival is the highlight of the summer …
Fantasia Film Festival
On the surface, the Spanish film Marshland, by director/co-writer Alberto Rodríguez, is a mere procedural. A gripping one, complete with a thrilling third act car chase and a compelling whodunit at its heart, and ornamented by gorgeous cinematography from Alex Catalán, but a buddy cop procedural nonetheless. Just underneath this captivating veneer, though, is a haunting tale about violence’s lack of transience, and one which situates it within the aftermath of political upheaval.
Delivering a brisk and fast-paced action comedy about the nature of reality, Sion Sono’s Tag stands out as among the best films so far this year. Sion Sono has never been a stranger to pushing boundaries – his films have consistently tackled taboo subjects through the gauze of the unreal. His most famous works operate on the tone of hysteria, as emotions and actions are amplified to create a surreal and fantastical landscape.
Cop Car is the type of movie that knows exactly what it is as well as how to press the right buttons to excite the audience. On first glance, the concept sounds rather far fetched. Then again, kids, because of their nature, do incredibly stupid things. If some chap is foolish enough to leave his or her car unattended and a couple of bored 10 or 11-year olds creep up, who knows what preposterous ideas their imaginations will conjure up.
With Love & Peace, the director comes out of his comfort zone to deliver a startlingly touching and accessible film that the whole family can enjoy. Based on a screenplay he wrote two decades ago, Sion Sono gives the rock movie a makeover by fusing together slapstick, romance, politics, classic Hollywood Christmas movies, Tokusatsu films and stop-motion animation. A bizarre thing, this crazy movie is every movie you loved as a kid crammed into 117 minutes of cinematic lunacy.
Somewhere deep down inside of The Demolisher there is a good movie. On paper, the project has enough material working in its favour to produce a stellar, particularly intense psychological thriller about the effects of one person’s inconsolable anger on a marriage. A popular idiom says that time heals all wounds, yet that does not apply to just anybody.
The Blue Hour is a beautiful, dark and mysterious ghost story from Thai filmmaker Anucha Boonyawatana. Tam (Atthaphan Poonsawas) is a gay teen who doesn’t fit in at school or within his family. He arranges a meeting with the dashing Phum (Oabnithi Wiwattanawarang) at an abandoned swimming pool. Their hook-up quickly develops into something more serious as they find comfort and safety in each other’s friendship. As their relationship progresses, Tam’s life becomes increasingly confused as he struggles to differentiate dream from reality.
Shadows abound, pierced with swaths of light cut to ribbons by venetian blinds. Odd, angular futurist architecture juts into the sky, illuminated by spotlights from passing flying vehicles. There are fans slowly rotating everywhere. This is the future, after all. There must be fans. If nothing else, Synchronicity cuts an interesting shape, a quasi-dystopian future that seems devoid of affection, warmth. Taken purely on visuals, Synchronicity is top-notch. The problem, then, lies in storytelling.
A homicidal martial artist, a kung fu killer if you will, is on the loose challenging the best fighters in their discipline (boxing, kicking, weapons, etc.) to prove he alone is the greatest fighter on the planet. Hahou Mo, played by the phenomenal martial arts actor Donnie Yen (whose Yuen Wu Ping collaboration, Iron Monkey, is among the greatest in kung fu cinema), is serving a prison sentence for losing his control and killing a man, and just so happens to hold the title of the greatest fighter on the planet. Upon learning of the crimes, he offers his expertise to catch the madman before he kills again.
In some ways, the Japanese director Masaharu Take’s 100 Yen Love feels about as old-hat as the 12/8, bluesy guitar music which makes up the bulk of the film’s score: it’s yet another boxing drama about an outcast who finds herself in the ring. There’s nothing in the story we haven’t heard before, and, like the music, its willingness to rehash cliches makes it risk self-parody. But conveying art through established traditions can have a certain nostalgic charm, and both the music and the film it provides the soundtrack for play off tropes to create a crowd-pleaser which oozes appeal.
Taking cues from late ’70’s /early ’80s horror (primarily director Lucio Fulci’s The House by the Cemetery and John Carpenter’s The Fog), writer/director Ted Geoghegan’s directorial debut We Are Still Here doesn’t break new ground, but serves as a suspenseful and well-crafted old-fashioned ghost story.
Some films just can’t stick to their strengths. There are some good jump scares inside Extinction, the post-apocalyptic zombie film from Spanish director Miguel Ángel Vivas, adapted from a novel by his countrymen Juan de Dios Garduño, but Vivas (who co-wrote the script with Alberto Marini) is too keen to turn his film into a melodrama to focus on the fright. The result is a plodding zombie drama with too much tonal inconsistency to succeed as either a character study or a terrifying gorefest.
New Zealand hasn’t produced many horror films over the years, but those it has given birth to are remarkably strong entries. The late ’80s and early ’90s witnessed the rise of Kiwi director Peter Jackson who made a name for himself with the Bad Taste (1988) and Dead Alive (1992). Jackson helped shine a spotlight on the countries genre offerings and his success no doubt opened the door for a new generation of Kiwi genre filmmakers. The latest of these films to make its way Stateside is Jason Lei Howden’s outrageous debut feature Deathgasm about a group of suburban metal heads who summon a demonic force.