Fantasia 2017 Review: Tilt

Joseph Cross plays a filmmaker named Joseph Burns in the film Tilt, directed by Kasra Farahani and shown at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

In the U.S. film Tilt we watch a man slowly coming unhinged. Joseph Burns (played by Joseph Cross) is a documentary filmmaker, though he has only completed one film so far. His second film will be about the the Golden Age of America, or rather, the myth of it. It was never really more than fairy tale, or propaganda in the first place, right?

His film is a very low-budget, independent project that he’s making in a shed in his backyard, using clips from newsreels and educational shorts from an earlier era, when average citizens were more innocent, or gullible. Among those films is the (in)famous Duck and Cover. Imagine telling school children to hide under their desks if an atomic bomb is dropped on their school. Joe has been watching that stuff for awhile and maybe it’s taking a toll. He empties many cans and bottles while working, too. I don’t think they are soft drinks.

He’s also been watching TV, where the 2016 presidential campaign is underway, so we can cringe along with Joe (well, I cringed) when Donald Trump, still just an inexplicable candidate, talks about losers, etc. Joe’s wife, Joanne, asks why watch if Trump annoys him so much? (A person could write an essay, or entire book about that, I think!)

Joanne (Alexia Rasmussen) is a nurse who will soon be applying to medical school. She is the voice of sanity and reason in their home. Possibly also the voice of conformity, convention and authority. When she semi-sarcastically says “Not everyone is as smart as you,” he gives her a look cold enough to stop your heart. Then he hits her in the face with the cork while opening a wine bottle. He apologizes profusely for this “accident,” but it’s a disturbing moment.

Alexia Rasmussen as Joanne Burns and Joseph Cross, as Joseph Burns, in the film Tilt. This might be the only time that both characters manage to share a smile.

Joanne is pregnant and Joe does not seem ready for fatherhood at all, though he never says it in so many words. Joanne berates him because he’s not super enthusiastic about the baby’s sonogram photo, the way that her friends are.

Joe can’t sleep at night so he takes long walks around his dark, largely empty Los Angeles neighbourhood. (In a city where they say “no one walks” Joe has given up the expense of a car and a smartphone for the sake of his film.)  There’s a definite feeling of danger, tension and unease during these scenes. Each time he went out, I was expecting something bad to happen to Joe. On the other hand, he looks kinda scary himself, with his face half hidden under a dark hoodie. He looks scarier still when paints his face with black stripes before heading out to observe Halloween/ Dia de Los Muertos festivities.

Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festivities in Los Angeles, seen in the film Tilt, shown at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

About those names, Joseph and Joanne, both abbreviated to have the same sound: Jo(e). In real life that could be an amusing coincidence. But in a script? The same name might imply too much togetherness or a loss of identity, I don’t know. But when he tells his wife things like “I don’t know if I’m safe, Jo,” he could just as well be talking out loud to himself. And that sentence could be taken two ways. While the more obvious interpretation is that Joe might be in danger, it could mean that Joe himself is dangerous.

Tilt prompts one to wonder, could trying circumstances totally change a person, or do they allow parts that were hidden and controlled to finally break free?

I give Tilt full marks for mood and cinematography. I will gladly watch another film from Kasra Farahani. My only small complaint is, it seemed a bit long. Perhaps it would be stronger still if trimmed by a few minutes.

No wonder it looks good!: The Internet reveals that director and co-writer Kasra Farahani was an art director or concept artist for many Hollywood films. Check out his imdb page, or his resume.

Tilt

Directed by: Kasra Farahani
Written by: Kasra Farahani, Jason O’Leary
Cast: Joseph Cross, Alexia Rasmussen, Jessy Hodges, Kelvin Yu, Jade Sealey, C.S. Lee, Billy Khoury
Company: Bad Guy Good Guy
100 minutes long, in English

Seen at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Canada, July 14, 2017

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Fantasia 2016: I saw Yoga Hosers and Kevin Smith and I’m very glad I did!

Harley Quinn Smith, left, and Lily-Rose Melody Depp give a decent rendition of O Canada during the closing credits of Kevin Smith's film Yoga Hosers. Depp even sings some of the French verses.
Harley Quinn Smith, left, and Lily-Rose Melody Depp give a decent rendition of O Canada during the closing credits of Kevin Smith’s film Yoga Hosers. Depp even sings some of the French verses.

I can’t imagine a better place to see Kevin Smith’s Yoga Hosers than at the Fantasia International Film Festival. The audience is famous for being warm, welcoming and enthusiastic. And to have Smith himself introduce his film and answer questions later. . .bonus!

I swear, he talked for ONE HOUR before the film even started. I was sitting down (he wasn’t!) and his talk was interesting, so I didn’t mind. After the film, almost everyone in the room stayed for the entire Q&A, even though the metro would close before he stopped talking. We’d figure out how to get home later.

If the critics who did not enjoy Yoga Hosers could have seen it with us…maybe they would have had a different reaction.

Smith told us that he had written the film with teenage girls in mind, after his wife had pointed out that he was taking their daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, to a lot of films about male superheroes. “BatMAN, SuperMAN, IronMAN, do you see a pattern here?” she had asked him. So he made a film about girls hanging out together, playing with their phones, and fighting evil.

Smith is famously fond of our country. Why is that? Well. . . His parents went to Niagara Falls, and then to Montreal, on their honeymoon, and after they had children, they took them to those cities, too. And then there’s hockey, and SCTV, and the DeGrassi TV series. Smith went to film school in Vancouver and met his good friend Scott A. Mosier there. This friendship was foretold by an Indian fakir, no less. (“You will meet someone with the initials S.A.M.”)

Smith said that when the Internet became available to one and all, he thought “Oh, good, now I can learn more about Canada!” He hopes to have dual citizenship one day. He would probably pass the exam easily enough! Daughter Harley came to the screening with him. She likes Montreal; he told her that’s good because “we might be moving here.” (You know, depending how the presidential elections go.)

What about the movie, Yoga Hosers? Of course it’s silly, but it was better than I expected. Harley Quinn Smith plays Colleen McKenzie, and her good friend Lily-Rose Melody Depp, the daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, plays Colleen Collette. People call them Colleen M and Colleen C. (Or Colleen Squared.) I assume that the McKenzie name is a tribute to hoser brothers Bob and Doug McKenzie from SCTV. The two Colleens work in a Winnipeg convenience store (or dep, as we’d say here in Montreal) owned by Colleen C’s father.

The store has lots of maple syrup in stock, and even sells frozen poutine. As often as possible, the two Colleens head to the back to practice their singing. This inadvertently leads to the appearance of tiny men, made of bratwurst, wearing red jackets and Kaiser Wilhelm-type pointy helmets, who start killing people.

The two Colleens go to Terry Fox Preparatory School(!) Their history teacher, played by Vanessa Paradis, talks about Nazi sympathizers in Canada during World War II. Some U.S. or U.K. reviewers might not have grasped that that part of the story was not fictional at all. Sadly. (This might seem like a weird thing to mention, or even notice, in a film with bratwurst Nazis, but it seemed strange to me that Paradis, as the teacher, could wear skinny jeans at school while her students had to wear school uniforms. Also, we don’t do that junior, senior, sophomore stuff here in Canada. Whatever, though.)

Colleen M (Harley Quinn Smith) left, Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp) centre, and Colleen C are held prisoner in a secret, underground lair in Kevin Smith's film Yoga Hosers.
Colleen M (Harley Quinn Smith) left, Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp) centre, and Colleen C are held prisoner in a secret, underground lair in Kevin Smith’s film Yoga Hosers.

Johnny Depp plays a Montreal detective named Guy Lapointe. He’s got bushy eyebrows and wears a beret. (Depp told Smith that he could do a very good Québécois accent, because of the time that he’s spent here in Montreal, but if Smith preferred a bad one, he could do that, too. “Dial it down to stupid,” Smith told him.

The yoga part of Yoga Hosers? The girls take a yoga class with Yogi Bayer (Justin Long). The moves he teaches them come in very handy when they have to defend themselves from murderous satanists, not to mention the Goalie Golem!

Yoga Hosers and Kevin Smith got lots of applause and a standing ovation from the Fantasia crowd. The introduction, the film itself and the post-film Q&A, took about 3.5 hours. Time well spent; I have no regrets!

During the Q&A, there was a heart-warming moment when a man in the audience said that he had met Smith last year at Comic-Con and the encouragement he got from Smith then  had led him to write his first feature film.

Yoga Hosers, written and directed by Kevin Smith, starring Harley Quinn Smith, Lily-Rose Depp, Johnny Depp, Vanessa Paradis, Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, Ralph Garman, Stan Lee.

Los Angeles stands in for Winnipeg.

Yoga Hosers was seen at a sold-out screening at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal on Friday, July 29, 2016.

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: Therapy for a Vampire

Karl Fischer as Dr. Sigmund Freud, Tobias Moretti as Count Geza von Kozsnom in the Austrian film Therapy For a Vampire.
Karl Fischer as Dr. Sigmund Freud, Tobias Moretti as Count Geza von Kozsnom in the Austrian film Therapy For a Vampire.

Therapy for a Vampire is a little confection from Austria, something to while away 87 minutes early on Friday afternoon.

The conceit is that a vampire consults Sigmund Freud in his Vienna office, in 1932. In the evening, of course. Count Geza von Kozsnom says that his life has lost its bite, that he has seen it all, that his blood runs cold, that he is tired of this endless night. Naturally, the good doctor assumes that his new patient is using the language of metaphor. Ha!

The Count no longer loves his wife, Elsa, and he’s had it with her constant questioning: “How do I look?” It’s that old problem with the mirrors, you know.

In a parallel situation, sort of, are Lucy and Viktor. Their relationship is rocky. He’s a painter who lives in the requisite garret and Lucy is his model and girlfriend. He never paints her as she really is, a bruntte with a bun, he paints a fantasy blonde, instead. Lucy is very hurt and insulted by this. (She doesn’t visit Freud, though.)

One day, who knows why, Lucy arrives at Viktor’s place in a bright orange dress, with her hair curled and dyed blonde. All the neighbourhood men are sending her chocolates and flowers and Viktor doesn’t like that one bit. Lucy’s new look reminds the Count of his long-lost true love, Nadila, who promised him that she’d be reincarnated some day.

The Count sends Elsa to Viktor to get her portrait painted; when it’s finished, she will know what she looks like; in the meantime, he will be freeto spend time with Lucy, telling her about her past life.

Viktor is quite happy to meet the mysterious Countess, and seems willing to forget about Lucy, but changing partners is not going to be as simple as all that.

Therapy for a Vampire, Horror/Comedy, Austria, (2014) 87 min., DCP, German, with English subtitles
Director: David Rühm
Screenplay: David Rühm
Cast: Tobias Moretti, Jeanette Hain, 
Cornelia Ivancan, Dominic Oley
Company: Picture Tree International

Therapy for a Vampire
Friday, July 17, 2015, 12:45 p.m.
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