2015 Fantasia International Film Festival

Fantasia audience makes Sion Sono’s Love & Peace extra special

 

Page 248 of the Fantasia International Film Festival's catalogue is devoted to the Sion Sono film Love & Peace.

Page 248 of the Fantasia International Film Festival’s catalogue is devoted to the Sion Sono film Love & Peace.

Live blog post: I’m just recently home from watching Sion Sono’s film Love & Peace at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival. (North American premiere, BTW!) I want to write  a few words about it while it is still fresh in my memory. (I will admit, I got a bit distracted by hunger – had to make a snack. . . then I had to make a photo to go with this post. . . also had a quick peek at Facebook, sorry!)

The thing I wanted to say about Love & Peace, besides the fact that it’s very enjoyable, is that the enthusiasm of the Fantasia audience added a lot to the experience. Like. . . salt, ketchup, vinegar, mayonnaise, or whatever thing you like to add to your French fries (frites). Or butter, jam, peanut butter on your toast. . . .that extra ingredient that makes things better.

I appreciate the huge screen and a great sound system in the Hall Theatre of Concordia University, but it’s the cheers, laughter and enthusiastic applause of the people around me that make it feel like an EVENT. For sure I would have laughed a lot if I had watched it at home on my computer, but it was so much better at Fantasia!

People applauded as soon as the name of writer and director Sion Sono appeared onscreen. They also cheered and applauded at certain key points during the film.

Love & Peace is about hopes, dreams, music and the love that pets have for their people, no matter what. Whether they deserve it or not.

 

 

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Fantasia 2015 Review: Princess Jellyfish is wonderfully cute and fluffy fun

Rena Nonen, left, and Masaki Suda are the main stars of Japanese film Princess Jellyfish. The film is based on the multiple-volume manga Kuragehime. Princess Jellyfish is being shown at the 2015 Fantasia Inernational Film Festival in Montreal.

Rena Nonen, left, and Masaki Suda are the main stars of Japanese film Princess Jellyfish. The film is based on the multiple-volume manga Kuragehime. Princess Jellyfish is being shown at the 2015 Fantasia Inernational Film Festival in Montreal.

NOTE: Princess Jellyfish will be shown at 4 p.m., Saturday, July 25, 2015, as part of the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

OMG!!! The plot of Princess Jellyfish is as unbelievable as your average fairy tale (or Japanese or Korean TV drama) but who cares? It’s so much fun! I was happy to make the old “leap of faith” and just go along for the ride. I can imagine the laughs and cheers in the Hall Cinema right now! Go see it if you can!

Princess Jellyfish is based on Kuragehime, a 15-volume manga that first appeared in November 2008. (An 11-episode anime was shown on Japanese TV in 2010.)

OK, that plot, as briefly as possible. Several nerdy women of assorted ages and interests live in Amamizukan, an old Tokyo apartment building. They call themelves The Sisterhood, though they could also be called otakus and NEETS (Not in Education, Employment or Training.)

Tsukimi (Rena Nonen, centre) with her fellow nerds in the Japanese film Princess Jellyfish. The film is based on the multiple-volume manga Kuragehime.

Tsukimi (Rena Nonen, centre) with her fellow nerds in the Japanese film Princess Jellyfish. The film is based on the multiple-volume manga Kuragehime.

Our main character, Tsukimi (Rena Nonen) who wants to be an illustrator, is obsessed with jellyfish. The walls of her room are covered in sketches of them. Ms. Banba studies trains and their schedules. Chieko is interested in traditional Japanese culture and always wears kimono; Mayaya is into the epic Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms (and toys assocated with it). Lady Jiji likes “elderly dandies.” Mme. Juon Mejiro is the most important person in the building; she is a manga artist who is never seen. She’s like some kind of oracle – the residents slip questions under her door, and she answers the same way. She has banned men from the building. The others have no problem with that, because men make them so uncomfortable anyway. So do fashionistas. They turn to stone (petrify!) when in the presence of either.

Kuranosuke (Masaki Suda), the cross-dressing son of a politician, meets this gang after helping Tsukimi out of a jellyfish-related jam. She tells them that his name is Kurako; his clothes, makeup and wig are convincing enough that they accept him as a woman. Somewhat surprisingly, they don’t say anything about his deep voice until well into the film. Kuranosuke explains to Tsukimi that he wears women’s clothing because he cares about fashion and has no interest in going into politics. Under his wig he has fashionably blond hair; at school the girls flock around him, eager for his attention.

The nerds of Princess Jellyfish live here, in Amamizukan. Nice, isn't it? They have to band together to keep the building from being demolished.

The nerds of Princess Jellyfish live here, in Amamizukan. Nice, isn’t it? They have to band together to keep the building from being demolished.

Developers want to tear down Amamizukan, and other nearby buildings, to improve the area, and make it all shiny and modern. (Some might wonder, “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”)
Kuranosuke’s father assumes that supporting development will improve his political fortunes.

The Sisterhood is not happy about this at all, but they seem resigned to it; they have always felt powerless. Kuranosuke encourages them to make an effort to fight back, and not to just accept the decisions that others have made.

There are many themes in Princess Jellyfish. Among them: evil politicians and developers, which is connected to the old “you can’t fight City Hall” trope; feeling like an outcast, finding a place to fit in, the long-lasting scars of being bullied, longing for absent mothers. Some really old U.S. movies with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney had a “we’ll put the show on right here in the barn!” trope and Princess Jellyfish has a modern approximation of that.
Note for K-drama fans: Chieko is in charge of the building while her mother is in Korea. As Chieko puts it, “she went there to chase Lee.” That would be actor Lee Byung-hun. In the manga Chieko’s mother is chasing Bae Yong-joon (Yon-sama) who became a huge star in Japan and elsewhere, because of his role in the popular Korean TV drama Winter Sonata. The Korea Times has more information about the Yon-sama phenomenon.

BTW: Masaki Suda plays Karuma Akabane in Assassination Classroom, another film, based on manga and anime, that was shown at Fantasia this year.

PRINCESS JELLYFISH
Director: Taisuke Kawamura
Screenplay: Toshiya Oono, Akiko Higashimura
Cast: Rena Noonen, Masaki Suda, Hiroki Hasegawa, Chizuru Ikewaki
Company: Asmik Ace Entertainment

Saturday, July 25, 4 p.m., Concordia Hall Theatre, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

 

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14-Aug. 4, 2015. Read more about the festival at fantasiafestival.com

 

Fantasia 2015 Review: Possessed – animated mayhem and a diabolically good time!

Damian is possessed. He needs an exorcist! Scene from the Spanish claymation film Possessed (Pos eso) one of sveral animated films being shown at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

Damian is possessed. He needs an exorcist! Scene from the Spanish claymation film Possessed (Pos eso) one of several animated films being shown at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

Possessed (Pos eso) is an irreverent claymation horror comedy from Spain. It spoofs The Exorcist, The Omen, Poltergeist and more; skewers hypocrisy, religion, celebrity culture, gossip tabloids and trash TV. It has amazingly detailed sets.

It includes the “you lookin’ at me?” speech from Taxi Driver, a reference to The Day The Earth Stood Still, flowers like the ones in Little Shop of Horrors, a musical duel in the Underworld and the sight of Exorcism For Dummies in a priest’s briefcase. It’s the goriest, most splattery animated film I’ve ever seen. All these things make it quite appropriate as the almost-midnight movie for Friday, July 24 at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Trini is a world-famous flamenco dancer, with a dead husband and a possessed son, in the Spanish animated film Possessed (Pos eso).

Trini is a world-famous flamenco dancer, with a dead husband and a possessed son, in the Spanish animated film Possessed (Pos eso).

Little Damian is the son of renowned flamenco dancer Trini and beloved bullfighter Gregorio. (The story of this couple sounded so familiar – it reminded me of a docudrama about a real-life dancer that I saw years ago.) Damian has been acting quite strange since his father died in a freak (cough, cough) accident. He does the old head-spinning thing from The Exorcist; the shrink who comes to analyze him is sent away totally befuddled. His mother and grandmother don’t know what to do.

A visit to a gypsy provides the answer – Damien is possessed, but Father Lenin has the power to free him. First they will have to find him, though – Father Lenin has lost his faith, left the church and is hanging out under a bridge. His horrible boss, the  bishop (who has the voice of Santiago Segura)  is the man reason for that.

Actor Santaigo Segura, who plays a corrupt cop in the Torrente film series, has all the evil roles wrapped up in the animated film Possessed (Pos eso). He plays an evil and corrupt bishop, the possessed boy Damian and Satan himself.

Actor Santaigo Segura, who plays a corrupt cop in the Torrente film series, has all the evil roles wrapped up in the animated film Possessed (Pos eso). He plays an evil and corrupt bishop, the possessed boy Damian and Satan himself.

Many people are thanked in the credits of Possessed; they include animator Bill Plympton, musician Slash, and the band Metallica.The film is dedicated to the memory of Ray Harryhausen, master of stop-motion animation and to flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia. How often do those two names appear together?

The Spanish animated film Possessed (Pos eso) includes a musical faceoff in hell - the devil and his drumsticks vs Trini's feet, stomping out flamenco rhythms. Trini is driven by the love of a mother and powered by the elusive duende.

The Spanish animated film Possessed (Pos eso) includes a musical faceoff in hell – the devil and his drumsticks vs Trini’s feet, stomping out flamenco rhythms. Trini is driven by the love of a mother and powered by the elusive duende.

Possessed (Pos eso)
Director: Sam
Screenplay: Rubén Ontiveros, Sam
Voice cast: Anabel Alonso, Josema Yuste, Santiago Segura, Nacho Vigalondo
Company: FilmSharks

Friday, July 24, 2015, 11:55 p.m., J.A. de Sève Theatre, in the J.W. McConnell Building of Concordia University, 1400 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

 

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14-Aug. 4, 2015. Read more about the festival at fantasiafestival.com

 

Fantasia 2015 Review: Korean police thriller A Hard Day

Homicide detective Ko (Lee Sun-kyun) is startled by the unexpected sounds coming from his mother's coffin, in the Korean film A Hard Day.

Homicide detective Ko (Lee Sun-kyun) is startled by the unexpected sounds coming from his mother’s coffin, in the Korean film A Hard Day.

As a policeman, Ko Gun-su (Lee Sun-kyun) ought to know that talking on the phone while driving is unwise. But the calls keep coming. His sister wants to know why he bolted from the funeral-home visitation for their mother, and when is he coming back, anyway? His very young daughter wants cake.

Meanwhile, his fellow (crooked) cops want to know if he will make it back to the station house before the guys from Internal Affairs get there. There are incriminating items in his locked desk.

Ko is really flustered, and the road is dark. He almost hits a dog. Before he recovers from that scare, he hits something else – a man this time. And that man is now dead. In a panic, he throws the body in the trunk. He does not notice the surveillance camera on a nearby post. He does not get to the office before Internal Affairs.

Ko and his fellow officers, including his chief, have been accepting bribes, and now Internal Affairs has proof. That’s bad enough, but now Ko is getting calls on his office phone and his cellphone, from someone who seems to know way too much about his unfortunate accident. And that someone wants to know where the body is.

In the Korean film A Hard Day, Detective Ko gets call after call - his phone won't stop ringing,

In the Korean film A Hard Day, Detective Ko gets call after call – his phone won’t stop ringing,

A Hard Day? You’d better believe it! The film’s title is very well chosen. Ko might not seem like a sympathetic figure at first, but he’s an angel compared to his monstrous mystery caller.

While Ko is often tongue-tied when it comes to explaining himself, he is quite wily and inventive. He won’t be giving up without a fight.
A Hard Day is full of twists, turns, high tension and dark humour. It was a big hit at the Directors Fortnight at Cannes 2014, and has won eight awards in South Korea alone. I enjoyed reading reviews from Cannes so much that I wrote a blog post back then, expressing hope that the film would come to Montreal as soon as possible. I didn’t realize that it would take more than one year.

A HARD DAY
Directed by Kim Seong-hun, with Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Jin-woong, Shin Jung-geun, Jung Man-sik.
Monday, July 20, 2015, 17:15, Concordia Hall Theatre, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W
Monday, Aug. 3, 2015, 12:30, J.A. de Sève Theatre, 1400 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14-Aug. 4, 2015. Read more about the festival at fantasiafestival.com