FANTASIA 2004

The Fantasia Ubisoft Festival will hit Montreal for the 8th edition, from July 8 to August 1st 2004!

One of America’s leading genre film festivals, it shows the edgiest, craziest flicks to packed houses that eat it all up. This year will bring 109 features and 80 shorts from all around the world to the two movie rooms of Concordia University.

REVIEWS!

Blueberry 58
[ I loathed “Dobberman”, Jan Kounen and Vincent Cassel’s previous collaboration, but I was intrigued by this adaptation of Moebius’ comic book Western, even though the word from France was that it’s a self-indulgent mess of shamanistic hallucinations. I figured, what the hell, at least I know I’ll get supporting parts by the great Michael Madsen and Juliette Lewis (mmm, Juliette Lewis). Cassel plays Mike Blueberry, a Cajun cowboy who was rescued by Chiricahuan Indians after a violent quarrel over a whore with the vicious Wallace Sebastian Blount (Madsen). The film takes place some years after that when Blueberry, now Town Marshall, must face Blount again and stop him from entering the Sacred Mountains and… Ok, even trying to work out a straightforward summary seems impossible, and I haven’t even gotten into the mystical Indian stuff yet! Still, for most of the movie, this is a typical Spaghetti Western revenge story, very well crafted if inconsequential. Cassel looks sharp, like a young Clint Eastwood, Madsen is both despicable and charismatic, Juliette Lewis looks gorgeous (she even gets to do a song), Ernest Borgnine and Colm Meaney are amusing as Blueberry’s deputies and while he only appears in two brief scenes, Djimon Hounsou makes an intense impression. I was really with the film until the last act, when the earlier mystical bits suddenly overcome everything else. There’s something like 20 minutes of CGI snakes and scorpions battling into some kind of Indian Kool Aid acid trip mind-fuck, and only the most experimental of moviegoers won’t disconnect with the picture. Still, the first 90 minutes are pretty damn cool… ]

Memories of Murder 37
[ Based on South Korea’s first recognized serial killer case, “Memories of Murder” follows a pair of bumbling police detectives as they try to find the man who’s strangling women with their own underwear on rainy nights. Park Du-man (Song Kang-ho) relies on his instincts and is not above planting evidence to support what his “shaman eyes” suggest, while his partner Jo Yung-gu (Kim Roe-ha) likes to force confessions out of suspect by dropkicking them in the head! When the country cops’ methods fail, a senior officer from Seoul is brought in and they’re soon following all kinds of leads concerning bald genitals, pop songs and outhouses, yet the killer keeps on striking… “Memories of Murder” is an odd duck, with uneasy tonal shifts between grimness and comedy. It can be pretty funny when it tries to be, but it’s surprising that it would, considering how it’s about women being raped and murdered. It also suffers from unnecessarily slow pacing; the investigation seems to go nowhere most of the time and, while the climax is intense, the ending remains inconclusive. Likewise, the hints of social unrest in Korea (the film is set in 1986 when the country was still under military dictatorship) are intriguing, but they don’t add up to much. There’s a good film somewhere in this material, but this is not quite it. ]

One Point O 54
[ Simon J. (Jeremy Sisto) is a programmer who lives in a decrepit building in some kind of near future. The landlord’s a weirdo who watches all from the surveillance cameras positioned in every hallway, the maintenance man (Lance Henriksen) is a weirdo who talks a lot of nonsense and Simon’s immediate neighbours are, respectively, a weirdo who’s created a virtual reality sex game and a weirdo (Udo Kier) who builds robot boys and self-cleaning furniture. Yet Jeremy only truly begins to get weirded out when empty packages appear in his apartment, followed by mysterious phone calls and constant computer crashes. Is there a virus in the code he’s writing? Or is he the one infected with the virus?

This first effort from writing-directing team Jeff Renfroe and Marteinn Thorsson might be a little too bleak and obtuse for its own good, but Sisto does tormented as well as anybody and paranoid anguish effectively builds through the film. There’s a definite “Matrix” influence, from the stylishly saturated cinematography to the gloomy-chic production design and the cryptic dialogue (“There are changes happening.”); no kung fu alas.

The filmmakers hosted a Q&A after the screening, but all hope of getting insights into “One Point O” vanished when they were joined by an hilariously incoherent Udo Kier:

“I wanna make movie with Emily Perkins, I play a vampire, she’s the werewolf… I wanna bite her.”
“I go on television, I talk about orgasm, sperm… I say fuck, I like to say fuck, because I know it’s forbidden… Toilet smelling, snnnfff!”
“I’m a man who likes lamps. I bought two lamps from the ‘50s in Montreal.”

Last Life in the Universe 71
[ This is the latest from Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, who also directed Fun Bar Karaoke. It stars Asano Tadanobu, best known as the Mr.-Blonde-to-the-extreme Yakihara in Ichi the Killer, but his character here couldn’t be more different. Kenji is a quiet Japanese man who works in a Bangkok library during the day and contemplates suicide the rest of the time. “No more e-mail. No more telephone. It would be like taking a nap, then you wake up refreshed for your next life…” One night, though, his morbid routine is disturbed by two yakuzas (one being his brother), a 6-pack of Heineken and a few gunshots. Later that night, Kenji meets Noi in equally bloody circumstances and they end up going back to her house together… And that’s about that.

The remainder of the movie revolves around how the two gently bond despite their differences. She’s messy, he’s a cleaning freak. He barely speaks Thai, she’s learning Japanese, so most of the time they talk in broken English. He can’t dance, she loves to Dance Dance Revolution! This is kind of a very understated romantic comedy, basically what Lost in Translation tried to be, minus the American chauvinism and Sofia Coppola’s grade school-level writing skills. “Last Life in the Universe” is slowly paced but never boring, not when you get to savour Christopher Doyle’s exquisite cinematography and the wonderful bursts of offbeat humor, notably the priceless cameos by filmmaker Takashi Miike and Sakichi Satô (Charlie Brown in Kill Bill!). ]

Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning 34
[ Emily Perkins was on hand to introduce the world premiere of this third entry into the Canadian horror franchise. It’s sort of a prequel, with earlier incarnations of sisters Ginger (Katherine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Perkins) dealing with werewolves around a trading outpost in 1815 Hudson’s Bay. It’s nice to watch Perkins and Isabelle in any setting, but the larger cast around them is hardly as engaging. You got asshole officers, asshole trappers, the asshole reverend, the asshole doctor, asshole David La Haye (he does blurt out a nice “Tabarnak!”), and then you’ve got a bunch of mystical Indians talking a lot of mystical Indian bullcrap. The snowy woods and Fort Edmonton (where the filmmakers shot while tourists still visited it!) are made to be creepy enough, but the gore scenes rely too much on flash-cuts and loud orchestral thumps. This oddball mix of B-movies and Minutes du Patrimoine has its moments, but it’s not worthy of its much superior precursors. ]

Tokyo Godfathers 66
[ After “Perfect Blue” and “Millennium Actress”, Satoshi Kon seriously tones down the mind-fucking to tell a simple fable about a homeless man, a heartbroken transvestite and a runaway girl who find a baby in the trash on Christmas eve and attempt to find her parents. This is all quite melodramatic, but the characters are quirky and the animation is wonderful. ]

Mortadelo y Filemon (presented as part of the KOMIKSTOK week-end) 51
[ This is an adaptation of a Spanish comic that has apparently sold 80 million books worldwide – I’d personally never heard of it. Mortadelo (Benito Pocino) and Filemon (Pepe Viyuela) are not-so-special agents for the T.I.A. (Total Intelligence Agency), which is in deep trouble since their most dangerous weapon, the D.D.T (Daunting Demoralizer of Troops) has been stolen and sold to the diminutive but antagonistic dictator of Tirania (Paco Sagarzazu). The Agency assigns cocky detective Fredy Sledgehammer (Dominique Pinon) to save the day but when his loyalties turn, they’re forced to send in dumb Mortadelo and dumber Filemon. “Mortadelo y Filemon” is the textbook definition of WACKY! Every little corner of the film is colorful and cartoonish, every other beat is silly and irreverent, the actors are chewing scenery like there’s no tomorrow, the story has not purpose except to string together endless gags and bits of slapstick… All of this is often more STUPID than funny, but I found the movie’s relentless goofiness rather endearing, if a bit tiresome. ]

CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS!

Emily Perkins, star of the “Ginger Snaps” movies
Olivier Sabino, writer-director-star of “À tout perdre”
Udo Kier, legendary creepy European actor
Éric Bertrand, from Dead Cat Films
Rémy M. Larochelle, director of the technically brilliant but tiresome stop-motion nightmare “Mecanix”