Sunday, September 27, 2009

FANTASTIC FEST : DAY 3

Day 3 was a good day...




****** Fish Story (Yoshihiro Nakamura)

Until I could check the director's resume afterwards, I thought maybe I was watching another film by the director of Linda Linda Linda. Like that under appreciated film, Fish Story rides the wave of a catchy song for its entirety. It has to be a good song, because the fate of the world is resting on its shoulders. Sounds ludicrous, and it is, but in the way that many Japanese filmmakers are able to stretch the unimaginable and impossible into the heartfelt and triumphant, Fish Story will have you smiling (and maybe crying) as its encore takes into the credits.


******

Morphine (Aleksey Balabanov)

The director of the grim and brutal Cargo 200 returns with a creaky and stylized period film about Russian small village medicine, malpractice, and misappropriation. There is something interesting about the way Balabanov narrowly goes about dissecting the past of his country, but - like Cargo 200 - there is a cracked heaviosity to it that just rubs me raw. The last shot seems to be channeling the ticklish tough times of Sullivan's Travels... before our guy blows his head off. Meh.


******
Breathless (Ik-June Yang)

I initially thought this film was overlong, but then perhaps it needed to be so we could marinate with the character of gangster debt collector Sang-Hoon long enough to see his whole picture. Breathless is reminiscent of Kim Ki-Duk's Bad Guy, but with depth and a wider range of notes. Slow reveals give the audience a wider scope of characters that pretty much walk the same lines throughout. Since family drama is at the core of this emotional film, I suspect Hollywood may scoop this one up for a remake. Try to see this version before that happens.


****** Bronson (Nicolas Winding Refn)

I wasn't expecting this. I'd read what Bronson was about, but watched no trailers. What I saw was a artful rendering of chiseled masculinity more in line with Derek Jarman than any kind of Guy Ritchie-ness. I was pretty much blown back. Refn has an intelligent eye and a playful palm for setting up scenery. Tom Hardy must have been a joy to photograph. Puffed-up Greek physique and all, the man delivers a performance from his toes to the skin of his head. I think I saw spit exit his mouth about twelve times during the film.


****** The Human Centipede (Tom Six)

After a solid day that consisted of three strong films, I made the mistake of choosing to see this piece of garbage. By far, The Human Centipede is the worst film I've seen all year. I have no idea why the programmers of Fantastic Fest decided to program this outside of the fact that it "pushes the envelope". Well, if you want your envelope pushed, you can always debase yourself at the easy click of a mouse. When I'm in the theater, I want to see a film. (Actually, I don't even want to say that this film pushed any envelopes... because that could be interpreted as a compliment, something that The Human Centipede should never receive by any fair-minded person). The worst student film ever conceived of is more watchable than this! Come back Macabre, all is forgiven. You are a masterpiece next to The Human Centipede, 2009's biggest piece of shit.

14 comments:

Bob Turnbull said...

I applaud any mention of "Linda Linda Linda" - what a superb film that is (though not out on DVD in R1 yet, Nobuhiro Yamashita's most recent film "A Gentle Breeze In The Village" is also absolutely wonderful). I'll keep an eye out for "Fish Story"...I checked IMDB and it appears the director of it also did a small little horror film called "The Booth" that wasn't half bad at all (Tartan released it a few years ago).

I can't wait to see "Bronson" - I love Refn's Pusher trilogy and just saw his "Valhalla Rising" at TIFF (which had some remarkable scenes in it). Looks like the Six-Shooter film series picked it up along with "Ong Bak 2", "Red Cliff" and "District 13: The Ultimatum", so it'll have decent distribution I would think...

Sounds like it would be interesting to put Hardy up against Eddie Marsden in a spittle contest.

Fox said...

Bob-

After seeing and loving Linda Linda Linda, I was bummed that I couldn't find any of Yamashita's other films. Any idea why they are unavailable on DVD??? I guess it has to do with Linda Linda Linda not doing much here on DVD, which is a shame, b/c I think most American film fans would appreciate it.

I'm gonna go check out the The Booth now. It looked like a regular J-Horror film lost on the shelves when I first saw it, but now that I know it's director made Fish Story, I am all over it.

And, again, Bronson really spun me around. Even while I was watching it. At first, I suspected it was gonna be a sick celebration of a bad man, but it's beyond that. It's beyond "biopic". I think what Refn does is use the myth of Bronson to tap into some really avenues. He has an amazing eye. Outstanding. I can't wait to see another film of his.

Slayton said...

Thank you for liking Linda Linda Linda! I've seen A Gentle Breeze in the Village (bought the DVD on eBay) and liked it a lot, but LLL must be my favourite film of the decade. It's remarkable how Yamashita can infuse the most mundane of situations and the simplest of images with such emotional depth, power and grace. LLL is so much more than a 'feel-good film'... it's really one of the more profound and bittersweet coming-of-age films I've ever seen.

Fox said...

Slayton-

Thanks for mentioning Amazon, b/c I think I will check that out now for a foreign copy. I assume it's not that expensive?

And I agree with what you said about LLL being one of the greatest coming-of-age films. I really think there is an Altman quality to it with - as you said - the mundane or ordinary is taken and given a really emotional and insightful quality to it. So good!

I'm pretty sure you would like Fish Story too. I would think that it would be available on some form of DVD in the near future. Check it out!

Slayton said...

The Japanese copy of A Gentle Breeze in the Village actually has excellent English subtitles.

It's a bit more "Western" in its treatment of the story than LLL is (odd considering "Breeze" concerns itself with life in a rural Japanese village) but its still a very rewarding watch, with a lovely, multifaceted perf from Kaho in the lead role, very nice photography and a remarkably tender and intimate final scene. Just ignore the sometimes-grating musical cues.

I bought my DVD for something like $25 American. I can't remember if it was from Amazon or eBay or from YesAsia or something similar, come to think of it. But it's definitely worth buying because there's no sign that it will ever arrive on American shores of its own accord.

If you enjoy Bae Du-na (who was radiant as Son in LLL), I think you'd like Take Care of My Cat, another excellent coming-of-age film - albeit one a bit more (outwardly) sad in tone than LLL. She's in it and, once again, she's excellent.

Bae is actually one of my favourite working actresses. She does so much with sheer presence. Can't wait to see her in Koreeda's Air Doll.

Bob Turnbull said...

Du-na Bae is absolutely outstanding in "Air Doll". It's a fine film, but she is absolutely the prime reason to see it. She conveys a wide variety of emotions, but all in subtle ways. And I have to say she's just incredibly adorable at times...

I've been meaning to get a region free player for sometime and "A Gentle Breeze In The Village" is one of the films pushing me there. I'd still love to see it released here, but subtle and warm Japanese coming of age stories apparently don't play well...

One thing I love about Yamashita is how he uses very long takes. He spends time with his characters and you feel you know them better for having lived in moments with them for longer than you normally would.

By the way, I can't wait until more people get to see "Valhalla Rising". There's a sequence in the film (a bit of a montage of each character slowly losing his grip) that is absolutely brilliant. It's mostly to do with the incredible build of the music, but the way it is put together had me on the edge of my seat. There's no major payoff coming out of it, but that sequence is one of the more intense ones I've felt for quite some time.

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