All the youthful energy in the world couldn’t save Ludo. The film opens with bombast, as an exploration of the night life of Kolkata, and two young couples who are hungry for sex. Cultural puritanicalism prevents them from finding a hotel room, but they end up finding refuge in a closed shopping mall where they are free to indulge in their baser instincts. Here they encounter an elderly couple, trapped and hungry, and are introduced to a mysterious game. From here on, the film abandons linearity and expectations, taking us on a whirlwind phantasmagorical journey into the past and the collective unconscious, where it similarly loses all sense of grounding.
Fantasia Film Festival
Irish legends are rich with horrifying monsters, painful realities and a genuine sense of despair. Perhaps rooted in the Irish struggle, many of the lessons from their myths evoke inequality and injustice – it does not matter who you are, what you believe or what you do, you are not above nature’s law. What is nature’s law? It is a perverse combination of God’s will and an amoral natural world. Set in the mostly undisturbed forests of Ireland, The Hallow is about a conservationist (Joseph Mawle) and his young family. Despite many warnings from the locals, he persists in investigating the forests, eventually inspiring its wrath.
Tangerine not only stars transgender folk in transgender roles, but the film isn’t only about transgender issues, a refreshing change from all the movies mentioned above. Tangerine is really a film about sex workers, that just so happens to follow a pair of MTF characters in and around West Hollywood. Tangerine has no interest in depicting these transgender characters as martyrs or victims – but rather as real people with real problems. They are complicated, fascinating, deeply flawed, vulnerable, insecure, selfish and outrageously funny.
A feeling of gloom pervades every frame of Bridgend, the Danish teen drama which makes its Canadian premiere at Fantasia. Even as the kids drink and dance in ecstasy (in a scene which wouldn’t be out of place in Skins, the British soap where star Hannah Murray got her break) or skinny dip in large groups, there’s an undeniable sense of melancholy in their maniacal celebrations. Given the sadness evident in otherwise ebullient scenes such as these, the ominous shots of the countryside shrouded in darkness or mournful messages on a computer screen make life in the film’s titular Welsh town seem unbearably grim.
I love when Fantasia gets weird. Featuring its fair share of bigger budget horrors, Asian epics and the occasional mainstream genre pic – it’s the little ones from far off places and no-name filmmakers that excite me the most. This year’s a goldmine for my particular tastes, and it’s been years since I’ve been so excited by their lineup. Most of the films I’m most eager to see are from filmmakers I’ve never heard of, or from countries I’ve nary seen a single film.
Frank follows a post-internet age Billy Liar and asks, “What if he did follow his dream through, but his idol was a lunatic?” Jon (Domnhall Gleeson), a young middling English songwriter, gets invited to play keyboard for the aforementioned Frank (Michael Fassbender). Frank wears a giant fake head made of papier-mâché and refuses to take it off. Soon, Jon is invited to spend a year in Ireland with the band as they record their painstakingly overblown album, all the while secretly filming it and posting clips to YouTube.
Notwithstanding a third act that comes across as laborious for how it strives to resolve the plot, Steel Cold Winter is fittingly titled character study, guided by reserved but highly efficient direction that helps set the film’s deliberate pace. In many ways the film is cold, both in tone and for its wintry setting. Even the few wisecracks tossed by certain peripheral characters about the strangeness of the happenings do little to alleviate the overall serious mood Choi’s picture steeps itself in.
For the most part Time Lapse efficiently builds suspense around its simple conceit, offering a tightly wound up story that showcases how a once closely-knit unit can break apart when its pieces begin to obsess over the details of their respective lives that were, that are and those that shall come to pass. Bradley King smartly offers up a depiction of people’s obsession with destiny. In this case said destiny is not manifest in the traditionally understood sense but rather figuratively served on a platter for the trio of plucky protagonists to observe, digest and then obsessively try to adhere to it out of fear that any deviation will lead to their ultimate obliteration.
Le diable est parmi nous (also known as The Possession of Virginia and Satan’s Sabbath) continues the Fantasia International Film Festival’s foray into the dark, sleazy recesses on Quebec’s cinematic past. This, like the previously-covered Pouvoir intime, is another homegrown genre effort that hasn’t seen the light of day on home video since the VHS era.
Part of the advantage of being an ardent supporter of action movies, similarly to die hard horror movie buffs, is the exponential choice from which one can choose a film to watch. The good stuff is divine whereas the bad stuff, when particularly poor, is bafflingly loathsome. Guardian is a cacophony of loud noises, a ruckus storm of aural and visual attacks that might leave some shaking their heads to recover from the stupor. When a movie is as senseless as this one, who can blame them.
Bluntly revealing information to the audience is one manner by which to increase the tension, another being the performance of a capable star. In the case of Creep that star shines very brightly on Mark Duplass. Having co-written the screenplay with director Patrick Brice Duplass was well positioned to understand where to take the character, how to behave and when to dial up the creepiness. The most inventive decision is to make Josef has compelling a character as he is through comedy.
Cybernatural suffers an unenviable fate. Movies that take time to find their groove but end strong can be forgiven. Those that carry the potential to do something of interest only to squander that potential in as worrisome a fashion as does Cybernatural make for painfully disappointing experiences. This movie won’t scare anyone away from using Facebook or Skype any time soon.
Just this year has seen the relatively wider releases of dreck the likes of Almost Human and All Cheerleaders Die, both films that can easily discourage horror movie junkies from continuing the exploration of what the American independent scene has to offer. Enter Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer who collectively bring forth a surprisingly effective, unnerving, fantastically gory and thematically intelligent movie about the soul-sucking motion pictures industry in the City of Angels.
After Tim Burton’s Ed Wood was released, Sarah Jessica Parker remarked in interviews that she had just played the worst actress of all time. Delores Fuller, Wood’s ex-wife and would-be starlet, responded, albeit quietly, merely stating, “That hurt” on a Plan 9 From Outer Space DVD. The Creep Behind The Camera, Pete Schuermann’s docu-drama surrounding the making of 1962’s The Creeping Terror, retains as much class and care for its subjects are Parker did for Fuller.
Naito packages this descent into hell with black humour and disgusting, unnerving visuals that clearly denote the lengths to which Shigeo is willing to go in order to have his way with people. It isn’t just that the live recordings he dispatches are eerie for their content, but the obvious joy the antagonist reaps from putting his victims (both the kidnaped and the sorry souls lured into futile games that never end well anyways) through mental and physical torture. The director finds the oddest ways to infuse humour into proceedings that in the hands of most other filmmakers would be blanketed in an impossibly bleak tone.
Pouvoir intime, or Blind Trust if you’re of the Anglo persuasion, is a film that has more or less fallen through the cracks of time. It was issued on home video once upon a time, in the long-past age known as the VHS era, and hasn’t been seen in a newer format since. Luckily, some enterprising folks at the Fantasia International Film Festival got together with the Cinémathèque québécoise and got them to dust off their 35mm print of the film. Showing these kinds of movies serves a very specific purpose: they add depth and texture to a film culture that was still figuring itself out even in the mid-80s.