#FantasiaFest

Fantasia 2017 Review: The Senior Class

Jung-woo and Ju-hee are art students in the animated Korean film The Senior Class. (Lee Joo-seung provides the voice of Jung-wwo and Kang Jin-ah plays Ju-hee.)

When I’m watching a horror movie, I often want to yell: “Don’t go in the basement!” While watching The Senior Class I was pulled into the story enough that I wanted to shout: “Don’t do that; don’t say that; don’t go there!”

The Senior Class is not a horror movie, strictly speaking, though many people behave horribly. It was written by Yeon Sang-ho, who wrote The King of Pigs, The Fake, Seoul Station and Train to Busan, evidence enough that Yeon knows plenty about bad behaviour. (Hong Deok-pyo directed the film, and he came to Fantasia to present it to us and to take questions after the screening.)

The story is set in a class of art students in their final year of university. The students all have anxiety over final projects, the evaluation of their year’s work and a coming exhibition of that work.

The main characters are the quiet, slightly nerdy Jung-woo, his loudmouth, jerky friend Dong-hwa and pretty Ju-hee, who concentrates on her work and is rather quiet herself. Some classmates assume she’s a snob because of that. The female students talk about her behind her back, but they put on friendly faces  when they want to know where she bought her handbag.

Jung-woo has had a crush on Ju-hee for a long time. Maybe it’s more like an obsession. She appears as a delicate, ethereal angel in an online cartoon he works on regularly, while he portrays himself as a scrawny, caring, sensitive merman. (Really!) In many belief systems, angels protect us, but this angel seemingly needs the protection of Jung-woo’s alter-ego. In real life, Jung-woo can barely say hello to Ju-hee.

Jung-woo and Ju-hee get to know each other better when he discovers something about her and she begs him to keep it to himself. He agrees to do that, but can he keep his mouth shut? And since he made this discovery while doing an errand for Dong-hwa, it’s quite possible that Dong-hwa will find out, too. We’ve got some tension, now!

In the animated Korean film The Senior Class, Jung-woo, centre, is quite literally stuck in the middle of a dispute between his jerky friend Dong-hwa, left, and the young woman on the right, who was seduced and then rejected by Dong-hwa.

The Senior Class is distressing to watch, because there is so much meanness and betrayal in it. There’s also some “cutting off your nose to spite your face” behaviour, that makes no sense, logically, but people do act illogically all the time.

Though The Senior Class lacks the physical violence seen in the other films written by Yeon Sang-ho, it is like them in that it exposes a rampant hypocrisy that is hardly unique to Korean society. Gossip is harmful, but hypocrisy is so much worse.

I haven’t included a link to the trailer because I think it gives away too much of the story, but you can find it on the Fantasia web site, if you want to. (Link is below.)

Director Hong Deok-pyo will attend the screening and answer questions after. I’m sorry that I did not ask one myself. A certain character reminded me of Marilyn Monroe. I wonder if that was an intentional thing, or just my imagination? I’ll try to find out before he leaves! (The last time I thought I saw something in a Korean film, it WAS all in my head!

At the Q&A for The Senior Class: Fantasia International Film Festival programmer Rupert Bottenberg, translator Noeul Kang, and director Hong Deok-pyo.

The Senior Class, in Korean with English subtitles, 82 minutes long.
Directed by: Hong Deok-pyo
Written by: Yeon Sang-ho
(Voice) cast: Lee Ju-seung, Kang Jin-ah, Jeong Yeong-gi
Company: Contents Panda

The Senior Class will be shown Monday, July 17, 5:10 pm, Salle J.A. De Sève of Concordia University, 1400 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W., as part of Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival, which runs until Aug. 2, 2017.

Visit the Fantasia web site for more information.

Advertisements

Fantasia 2016 Review: Three by Johnnie To

Wallace Chung, left, Vicki Zhao Wei and Louis Koo in the Johnnie To film Three. Everything that happens in the film is a prelude to the madness depicted here.

Wallace Chung, left, Vicki Zhao Wei and Louis Koo in the Johnnie To film Three. Everything that happens in the film is a prelude to the madness depicted here.

Three did not do it for me. I’ve enjoyed many Johnnie To films over the years, thanks to the Fantasia International Film Festival, but I found Three both disappointing and annoying. The film asks us to throw common sense to the wind. I do that all the time, and not just at the movies, either, but I just couldn’t do it for Three.

(However, it’s only fair to point out that both Fantasia screenings were sold out, albeit in the smaller De Sève cinema, and that one of my friends, an esteemed film prof, watched it twice.

My problems with it, in no particular order: a dumb script with many unlikely events, unnecessary carnage, wooden acting.

To elaborate further: Shun (Wallace Chung), the leader of a criminal gang, is shot in the head by a cop (we don’t see it happen) and he’s taken to a hospital. Not only is he still alive, it seems that the bullet hasn’t done any damage – he’s quipping away about philosophy, taunting his police guards, etc. Even so, the doctors say that he needs surgery as soon as possible. Shun refuses that surgery because he wants to be conscious when his gang comes to rescue him. But then what? He’ll still have a bullet in his head, and it’s not like your average mob doc is prepared to deal with that.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the surgery now, and then have the gang rescue him while he’s being taken to prison? Hijack the prison van – should be a piece of cake, right?

If his henchmen are so scary (and we’re led to believe that they are) and he’s in such medical danger you’d think that he’d be held in a private room with many guards, but no, he’s in a ward with several other patients.

Vicki Zhao Wei plays a neurosurgeon and Louis Koo plays a police detective in Three, a film from Hong Kong director Johnnie To. Koo wears that same stone-faced look in 98 per-cent of the film.

Vicki Zhao Wei plays a neurosurgeon and Louis Koo plays a police detective in Three, a film from Hong Kong director Johnnie To. Koo wears that same stone-faced look in 98 per-cent of the film. He doesn’t take that jacket off, either.

Lotsa cops, led by Ken Chan (Louis Koo) are waiting for the gang to arrive so that they can arrest them. Or kill them. It’s a tense waiting game! Never mind that this plan puts all the patients, doctors, nurses, other hospital workers and visitors in extreme danger. The sensible thing to do would be to restrict access to the hospital, as was done in many countries during the SARS outbreak, and to catch those bad guys at some other time, in some other place. But no, Chan is determined to nab them today.

Because this is a Johnnie To film, we know that there will be an over-the-top-shoot out, and, um. . . (SPOILER ALERT!) other kinds of mayhem, as well. The only question is when. But even in the land of make believe, I object to doctors and patients being blown away for such contrived reasons.

Which brings us to the wooden acting. Most of the time Louis Koo looks grim, stoic, stubborn, angry, or determined, which is pretty much the same thing on his face. He barks, snaps and scowls at everybody. Neurosurgeon Dr. Tong (Vicki Zhao Wei), who is having a very bad week, looks glum and exhausted, sometimes on the verge of tears. Not a lot of nuance happening here. Well-cushioned Lam Suet, one of  Johnnie To’s regular actors, plays the guy sent to get lunches, of course. His character can barely speak in sentences.

A patient named “Uncle Chung” provides some comic relief, though he isn’t that funny. Two other patients offer what you might call tragic distraction. There’s a cliffhanger scene, or more precisely a-bedsheet-and-firehose scene, that is just left. . .hanging. Literally. We don’t see how it wraps up. There’s another scene that might remind you of the Odessa Steps sequence in Battleship Potemkin. And why not? Toss it all in!

Every time I look at Louis Koo in his quilted blue jacket I wonder – just how heavy is the air-conditioning supposed to be in this hospital?

For the squeamish: Action-film fans are used to shootouts, but are they used to gruesome surgery? Be warned that even though Shun refuses his operation, many other patients do get theirs. There are scalpels, drills, copious amounts of blood and exposed brains in Three.

Meh. I suggest watching something else by Johnnie To.

THREE
Director: Johnnie To
Writers: Yau Nai-hoi, Lau Ho-leung, Mak Tin-shu
Cast: Louis Koo, Wallace Chung, Vicki Zhao Wei, Lam Suet
Run Time: 87 minutes.
In Cantonese with subtitles in English and Traditional Chinese
Seen at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal

Fantasia 2016 Review: Too Young To Die!

Nana Seino, Tomoya Nagase, Ryunosuke Kamiki and Kenta Kiritani play musicians in the Japanese film Too Young To Die! which was shown at the Fantasia International Fim Festival in Montreal.

Nana Seino, Tomoya Nagase, Ryunosuke Kamiki and Kenta Kiritani play musicians in the Japanese film Too Young To Die! which was shown at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

Too Young To Die! is full of laughs, music, demons, and love. It’s educational, too!

I saw this raucous crowd pleaser in the very best circumstances possible, with hundreds of other enthusiastic film fans at the Fantasia International Film Festival, right here in Montreal.

Daisuke (Ryunosuke Kamiki) and his fellow high-school students are riding a bus home after a field trip. Earlier, Daisuke had bribed a friend to change seats with him so he could sit next to his crush, Hiromi (Aoi Morikawa). They are having a shy chat when the bus goes over a cliff.

Daisuke wakes up in Buddhist Hell wondering what he did to end up there and how he could be so much worse than his fellow classmates. None of them are there with him, even though initial reports say that all the students on the bus died, except one.

Daisuke tells Killer K (Tomoya Nagase) a long-haired, horned, fanged guitar-playing demon, that he wants to go wherever Hiromi is. (He hopes she’s alive but he assumes that she’s in Heaven.) When Killer K says that no one has ever gone from Hell to Heaven before, Daisuke vows to do his best to be the first person to do that.

In the film To Young To Die, Daisuke (Ryunosuke Kamiki) works really hard in Hell; he'll do anything for another chance to see his true love Hiromi.

In the film To Young To Die, Daisuke (Ryunosuke Kamiki) works really hard in Hell; he’ll do anything for another chance to see his true love Hiromi.

There will be many challenges ahead! Daisuke has to haul heavy loads AND attend Hell Agricultural High School, too!  He’ll have to work very hard in Hell to be re-incarnated on Earth. What kind of creature he will be depends on his own efforts and the whims of Lord Enma, who sits in judgement. I’d be going into serious spoiler territory if I mentioned ALL of his reincarnations, though they include a bird, performing sea lion, a dog, and a giant scorpion. It’s pretty hilarious to watch Daisuke, who returns to his family home as a pale blue parakeet, frantically trying to delete a naughty video from his smartphone, and send one last text message to Hiromi.

Daisuke will get seven chances to redeem himself, but if he fails, he will turn into a demon like Killer K. Already his face is getting a bit redder, his teeth are longer and sharper and he can feel little bumps on his head where his future horns might sprout.

Arata Furuta plays Lord Enma in Too Young To Die! Lord Enma sends Daisuke back to Earth as a bird, a dog, and a sea lion, among other things.

Arata Furuta plays Lord Enma in Too Young To Die! Lord Enma sends Daisuke back to Earth as a bird, a dog, and a sea lion, among other things.

Joining Hiromi is Daisuke’s main concern, but there’s a secondary plot line about a demonic battle of the bands. Killer K wants to recruit Daisuke for his group, Heruzu (Hells). This plot provides several tunes, some outrageous gags and an ultimate pyrotechnical showdown.

Despite the abundance of laughs and silly situations, Too Young to Die! is also a genuine love story. Years go by, but Daisuke’s love for Hiromi never wavers.  I found it very touching.

Writer and director Kankuro Kudo is obviously taking lots of liberties with his depiction of the Buddhist underworld, but he didn’t make it all up, either. Just Google Lord Enma and Ox-Face and Horse-Head for some background, and you’ll see. That’s why Too Young to Die! is also educational.

Musical Notes: Tomoya Nagase, who plays Killer K, is a musician in a band called Tokio. Director Kudo plays guitar in a band called Group Tamashii.  

Ryunosuke Kamiki, Tomoya Nagase, Kenta Kiritani and Nana Seino played the film’s title track at the Tokyo Metropolitan Rock Festival in May. If you like the songs in the film and you’ve got money to spare, you can order the film’s sound track from CD Japan.

Another film: Ryunosuke Kamiki and Takeru Satoh play high school students who write a manga in Bakuman, also shown at Fantasia this year. (You can read my review of Bakuman here.)

Interesting coincidence: Before the bus crash, Daisuke bought Hiromi an amulet at a temple. A few days after watching the film, I saw a guy on the metro with a similar amulet hanging off his knapsack. I would have liked to ask him about it, but I didn’t get the chance before I had to get off the train to watch another Fantasia film.

Too Young To Die!
125 minutes, in Japanese with English subtitles
Director: Kankuro Kudo
Screenplay: Kankuro Kudo
Cast: Tomoya Nagase, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Kenta Kiritani, Nana Seino, Aoi Morikawa, Arata Furuta

Fantasia 2016: Slash Review

Jessie Ennis plays Martine, Michael Johnston plays Neil and Hannah Marks plays Julia in the film Slash. It was shown in Montreal during the Fantasia International Film Festival.

Jessie Ennis plays Martine, Michael Johnston plays Neil and Hannah Marks plays Julia in the film Slash. It was shown in Montreal during the Fantasia International Film Festival.

Slash is a coming-of-age film with an easy rapport between the main actors, Michael Johnston and Hannah Marks. They play Neil, 15, and Julia,16, fellow high-school students who both write erotic fanfiction. They only become aware of each other after Neil drops his notebook at school, other students grab it, read from it and mock him. Would a guy who’s already a bit of an outsider bring his notebook to school and risk such exposure? I have my doubts, but these characters have to be brought together somehow, and they are cute together, so I’ll go along with it.

We see excerpts from Neil’s somewhat overwrought stories, about his favourite hero, Vanguard, acted out onscreen. Some of those scenes were shot at the Vasquez Rocks outside of Los Angeles, the same place where many Star Trek scenes were shot.  Until now I had assumed that those Star Trek rocks were made out of plaster – they looked fake to me back in the day and they still look fake to me now, but that fake look and the Star Trek connection just add more cheesiness to Neil’s stories.

Julia indicates that she has an unhappy home life, even though we don’t actually see it, and Neil hasn’t figured out his sexuality yet, so they both need as much friendship and moral support as they can get. Julia encourages Neil to lie about his age and submit his writing to an Internet site called the Rabbit Hole. Soon Neil is getting friendly messages from an older man. Oh, oh. For Neil, the possibility of meeting that man adds a frisson to their attendance at a Houston comic-con that has a minor slash component hidden away behind closed doors.

I liked Slash, though the lively Julia makes Neil seem bland. She might have made a better main character.

According to some Internet comments, writer-director Clay Liford does not present an accurate picture of slash culture. I have no way to know if that is so, but I confess that the accusations tainted my enjoyment a bit. Here’s a link to a review on The Daily Dot, by Aja Romano, who says the film is “Beautifully filmed and wonderfully acted” but “For all it may be a movie titled Slash, its depiction of slash is completely wrong. It is a bizarre, distorted, inaccurate, outdated, inexplicably porn-obsessed, and inexplicably male-centric version of slash fiction and slash fandom that doesn’t reflect reality.” Romano also says that “Julia still bears all the earmarks of a classic manic pixie dreamgirl.”

Romano includes a link to another article, “A guide to fanfiction for people who can’t stop getting it wrong,” that she co-wrote with Gavia Baler-Whitelaw.

Clay Liford told IndieWire that he did lots of research before making the film, though the world he describes doesn’t sound like the one presented by Romano and Baler-Whitelaw. If you write fanfic yourself, feel free to comment below!

On the other hand, as someone who has never owned a car and has many car-less friends, the car culture and world of privilege that Neil and Julia live in seem more foreign to me than slash culture does – Julia is only 16 but she seems to have access to an expensive-looking SUV whenever she wants it, and the two of them (just 15 and 16, remember) check into a Houston hotel without any difficulties at all.

I watched Slash via online screener at the 2016 edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

Slash, written and directed by Clay Liford, with Michael Johnston, Hannah Marks, Missi Pyle, Jessie Ennis, Peter Vack, Sarah Ramos, Michael Ian Black, Tishuan Scott.

Fantasia 2016: Superpowerless review

In the film Superpowerless, actor Josiah Polhemus plays former superhero Captain Truth. The film had its world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

In the film Superpowerless, actor Josiah Polhemus plays former superhero Captain Truth. The film had its world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

The poster for Superpowerless calls it “A coming-of-middle-age story.”

Bob used to be Captain Truth, sort of the Batman of San Francisco – he didn’t have a fortune, a mansion, or a souped-up car, but he did save the good citizens from muggers, accidents and natural disasters. He also had a diminutive sidekick named Liberty Boy. Seriously.

Bob can still speak in the deep, threatening tones of Captain Truth, but he can’t come through with fists and feet and he doesn’t dare try to fly. His powers have faded away and he doesn’t know what to do next. He’s lost his “job,” his identity and he’s not yet ready to be normal and ordinary.

Nowadays, Bob (Josiah Polhemus) stays home drinking, or he wanders the streets aimlessly while his girlfriend Mimi (Amy Prosser) is at her office. (While Bob has lost his dream job, we learn that Mimi never achieved hers, even though she seems to be doing okay financially – she has a house and all in beautiful and super-expensive SAN FRANCISCO! She had always wanted to live and work in Rome, but she never made the leap.)

Real-life couple Josiah Polhemus and Amy Prosser play former superhero Captain Truth and his girlfriend Mimi in the film Superpowerless.

Real-life couple Josiah Polhemus and Amy Prosser play former superhero Captain Truth and his girlfriend Mimi in the film Superpowerless.

One of the things that struck me about Mimi is. . .to put it bluntly, she is a bit wrinkly. She was Bob’s childhood sweetheart and therefore, they are more or less the same age. This should not be remarkable in any way, yet it is, because men in Hollywood films are so often paired with women young enough to be their daughters.

When Bob learns that Liberty Boy has published a book he considers doing the same and starts dictating his thoughts. His description of how he discovered that he could fly, and how much he misses doing it, is fascinating and touching. You might wish that you could fly, too.

H.P. Mendoza plays Liberty Boy, former sidekick to superhero Captain Truth, in the film Superpowerless.

H.P. Mendoza plays Liberty Boy, former sidekick to superhero Captain Truth, in the film Superpowerless.

Speaking of women young enough to be a daughter – Bob gets in touch with a young and toothy potential editor who spells her name Danniell (Natalie Lander). He foolishly tells Mimi that this editor is a guy, named Daniel. Of course, we can guess that this will lead to problems later. It’s a situation older than TV sitcoms like I Love Lucy.

Because Bob does a lot of walking we are treated to views of many parts of San Francisco. Never mind superheroes, even ordinary citizens must be very fit to handle all those hills! There’s an interlude with a guy who makes bird houses and a car trip to Bob’s childhood neighbourhood in Palo Alto. When he’s walking, Bob often hides his face under a hoodie – this made me think of characters in the video game Assassins Creed. (Coincidentally, Assassins Creed is made by Ubisoft, which was a Fantasia sponsor for many years. We used to see ads with faces hidden under hoods before almost every film.)

After reading the synopsis for Superpowerless, I mistakenly expected a comedy, satire, or even a farce. In the end, I was happy enough with a film that’s relatively serious, with occasional comic moments.

Something I noticed while reading the credits: Actor Josiah Polhemus did the paintings that hang in Bob and Mimi’s home. He’s a multi-talented guy!

Superpowerless (2016)
80 minutes
Director: Duane Andersen
Writers: Duane Andersen, Dominic Mah
Stars: Josiah Polhemus, Amy Prosser, Natalie Lander, Guinevere Turner, Pepe Serna, H.P. Mendoza, Warren Serkin

Fantasia 2016 presents TWO Zappin’ Parties from DJ XL5!

DJ XL5's Vibraslap Zappin' Party at the Fantasia International Film Festival will include four episodes of festival favourite Simon's Cat. That Zappin Party happens at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, July 27, 2016.

DJ XL5’s Vibraslap Zappin’ Party at the Fantasia International Film Festival will include four episodes of festival favourite Simon’s Cat. That Zappin Party happens at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, July 27, 2016.

What’s a Zappin’ Party? It’s a Fantasia International Film Festival tradition that Montrealers should check out at least once, especially they are already fans of the festival.

The party takes place in a cinema, and laughs, weirdness and lots of variety are guaranteed.

For DJ XL5’s Vibraslap Zappin’ Party, at 10 p.m., on Wednesday, July 27, 2016, “DJ XL5 has selected 20 intriguing items and slipped them in amid a mix of old TV ads, film snippets and bursts of static, to simulate a productive evening of channel surfing with the gang at home.”

The characters Cowboy, Indian and Cheval from the animated epic Panique Au Village / A Town Called Panic appear in La rentrée des classes, which won the Jury Prize for a TV Special at the Festival international du film d'animation d'Annecy in June

The characters Cowboy, Indian and Cheval from the animated epic Panique Au Village / A Town Called Panic appear in La rentrée des classes, which won the Jury Prize for a TV Special at the Festival international du film d’animation d’Annecy in June.

Those 20 items will include four episodes of Fantasia favourite Simon’s Cat and five pieces from Lee Hardcasle, a master of claymation horror. (Seriously!) The characters Cowboy, Indian and Cheval from the animated Belgian epic Panique Au Village / A Town Called Panic return for La rentrée des classes, which won the Jury Prize for a TV Special at the Festival international du film d’animation d’Annecy in June. Read more about DJ XL5’s Vibraslap Zappin’ Party on the Fantasia web site.

Very important info: “DJ XL5 is the only Fantasia programmer who gets thing started 20 minutes ahead of showtime. Wild trailers and musical oddities await those wise enough to arrive early!”

The second installment, DJ XL5’s Mondo Superhero Zappin’ Party, at 9:45 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, will look at superheros from the 1940s until the present. Not just American ones either; these crime fighting men and women are from Spain, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, Thailand and Turkey. The Fantasia catalogue says “Expect lousy fight choreography, ill-fitting costumes, dollar-store masks and similar cinematic stumbles and bungles. Arrive early — surprise screenings await the first folks in the room!”

Read more about DJ XL5’s Mondo Superhero Zappin’ Party on the Fantasia web site. The Fantasia International Film Festival continues until Wednesday, August 3, 2016.

BTW: I’ve heard that the Fantasia tradition of meowing when the lights go down was started by fans of Simon’s Cat.

Fantasia 2016 Review: The Bacchus Lady (죽여주는 여자)

So-young (Youn Yuh-jung) takes her friends on a day trip to the Demilitarized Zone in this scene from the Korean film The Bacchus Lady.

So-young (Youn Yuh-jung) takes her friends on a day trip to the Demilitarized Zone in this scene from the Korean film The Bacchus Lady.

Bacchus is a Korean drink, originally sold as a general health tonic, but now marketed as an energy drink much like Red Bull or Guru.

So-young (Youn Yuh-jung) the 65-year-old Bacchus Lady of the title, sells the drink to men who gather in Seoul’s parks. If they want sexual services, too, she takes them to a by-the-hour hotel close by. Many of her customers are long-time regulars, friends, really, and want conversation and a cuddle more than sex.

So-young does this work out of economic necessity. There’s no social safety net for her. She doesn’t have a family to help her, she doesn’t have a state pension, nor a company pension. (While she had been a prostitute before, on a U.S. army base, she had also worked in a factory.) The job market is tough for everyone, of all ages, and it seems that the only other work she could get is picking up cardboard for recycling. One woman who is seen doing that work looks very old and very frail. In a better world she would be at home drinking tea with her feet up.

So-young’s life is really hard, but she carries on, as she always has done. The friendship of her landlady and one of the neighbours helps; they are the closest thing she has to family. They share laughs, drinks and some happy times. Her customers seem less resilient, even though they are better off financially. One could assume that these widowers were pampered by their wives all their lives; now they are bored, lonely and don’t know how to look after themselves. In past times, these men could expect to live out their days in the home of their eldest sons, but things have changed and parents and grandparents are no longer given the respect and deference they once had. The children and grandchildren move to other cities, even other countries, to further their careers and they leave their elders behind, seemingly without a thought.

When some of these men can no longer bear to live in this new world, they ask So-young to help them leave it, and this begins another chapter in her life.

The film also looks at other marginalized people in a way that seems relatively natural and uncontrived. So-young’s landlady is a transgender woman and her neighbour is a guy with a prosthetic leg. So-young gives shelter to a young boy who’s half-Filipino, half Korean. Through her efforts to help him, we learn that mixed-race children face discrimination in Korea and their non-Korean mothers are often exploited and unaware of their rights.
The Bacchus Lady is fiction but it is based on reality. Reaction to the film will vary from viewer to viewer but I see it as an excellent argument for better social services and an unconditional basic income for everyone. Basic Income Canada Network and Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) are two websites with articles about that concept.

The Bacchus Lady (죽여주는 여자)
Written and directed by E J-yong
Cast: Youn Yuh-jung, Chon Moo-song, Yoon Kye-sang, An A-zu, Choi Hyun-jun

In Korean with English subtitles, 110 minutes long.

Montrealers can see The Bacchus Lady on Monday, July 25, 2016 at 7:25 p.m., at the J.A. De Seve Theatre of Concordia University, 1400 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W. Visit the Fantasia International Film Festival web site for more information.

I saw Guillermo del Toro three times on Friday – thanks Fantasia!

Director Guillermo del Toro with his Cheval Noir Award at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Friday, July 15, 2016. The smiling guy behind Del Toro is festival programmer Mitch Davis. (Liz Ferguson photo)

Director Guillermo del Toro with his Cheval Noir Award at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Friday, July 15, 2016. The smiling guy behind Del Toro is festival programmer Mitch Davis. (Liz Ferguson photo)

On Friday afternoon, July 15, 2016, director Guillermo del Toro spoke with Fantasia Film Festival programmer Tony Timpone at a press conference where he also took questions from fans who are journalists, film profs, etc. Clearly, they were there because they wanted to hear his stories, not to do a job.

Del Toro is passionate about films, monsters, and his work. He’s really funny, too. (Not exactly news to those who are already his fans!)

Friday evening, Del Toro was given Fantasia’s Cheval Noir Award; then he appeared onscreen in the (excellent) documentary Creature Designers: The Frankenstein Complex, then he returned, again with Timpone, to share more insights and answer more questions.

I’ll post more details about his talks later, but here’s one of the things I particularly liked: Del Toro makes lots of Twitter posts about many kinds of art, but he only makes positive remarks, he doesn’t believe in tearing people or things down. He doesn’t mind criticizing politicians, though. (He tweets as @RealGDT.)

Sounds good to me!

Visit the Fantasia Film Festival web site to learn more about this year’s films and guests.

NYAFF and Fantasia 2015 Review: Battles Without Honor and Humanity

Bunta Sugawara as a gangster in the 1973 Japanese film Battles Without Honor and Humanity, which is being shown at the 2015 Fantasia Film Festival.

Bunta Sugawara as a gangster in the 1973 Japanese film Battles Without Honor and Humanity, which is being shown at the 2015 Fantasia Film Festival.

Battles Without Honor and Humanity! What an appropriate title! Many yakuza films would have us believe that there are rules to be obeyed, a code of conduct to be followed, that there is, in fact, honour among thieves. This film just laughs at such silly notions . . . beats them to a pulp, and throws them right out the window.

And the various rituals and ceremonies? When it’s time for someone to give up a finger, no one is quite sure how it’s supposed to be done. A woman says “I saw it in Osaka, once.”

Battles Without Honor and Humanity was made in 1973, though the story it tells begins just after World War II, in Hiroshima. Japan is under U.S. occupation, and U.S. soldiers are running wild and acting like animals. The local crooks almost look civilized in comparison, which is quite the feat.

The film mixes conventional scenes with parts that are like a vintage version of 60 Minutes, with a narrator describing feuds and alliances, and onscreen text telling us how and when certain people were killed.

Gangs struggle for supremacy within the city, and gangsters struggle for power within their gangs. A boss cries poor so he can get away with underpaying his underlings. There’s lots of yelling and arguing; fights are not elegantly choreographed. Not one of these guys seems like a criminal mastermind.

Frankly, I couldn’t keep track of all the lying, plotting and double crossing that was going on. I could have used a family tree and a score card. Maybe that’s because the film is based on the memoirs of a gangster and real life can be more complicated than fiction? Battles Without Honor and Humanity was also part of the lineup at the recent New York Asian Film Festival.

Battles Without Honor and Humanity

Crime / Thriller / Classic / Retro Japan 1973, 99 min., DCP, Japanese (with English subtitles)
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Screenplay: Kazuo Kasahara, Koji Shundo, Koichi Iiboshi
Cast:Bunta Sugawara, Hiroki Matsukata, Nobuo Kaneko, Kunie Tanaka, Goro Ibuki, Tatsuo Umemiya, Tsunehiko Watase, Seizo Fukumuto

Saturday, Aug 1, 2015, 2:50 p.m., Concordia Hall Theatre, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

 

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14-Aug. 5, 2015. Read more about the festival at fantasiafestival.com

 

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.