Monday, July 02, 2012

FANTASIA 2012—THE FIRST WAVE

The 16th annual Fantasia International Film Festival (Fantasia) is gearing up to take Montreal by storm with three weeks of inspiration and thrills beginning July 19, 2012 and continuing through August 7, 2012. Their full 2012 lineup of programming and special events won't be revealed until later this month, but—in anticipation of same—Fantasia announced several selected highlights mid-June to whet appetites.

11/25 The Day Mishima Chose His Own Fate / 11/25 Jiketsu No Hi, Mishima Yukio to Wakamonotachi (Japan) Dir.: Kōji WakamatsuYukio Mishima's masterwork isn't his literature, but the political commitment he pursued even unto death. By retracing the journey of the revolutionary writer, Japanese cinema's enfant terrible Kōji Wakamatsu delivers a violent, rabid critique of militancy. A timely, necessary film. Official Selection: Cannes 2012 [PDF press kit]. IMDb. Wikipedia. North American Premiere.

At Japan Times, Mark Schilling complains: "Kōji Wakamatsu's documentary-like film illuminates the motives behind this quixotic coup attempt, including Mishima's tempestuous relationship with the four young disciples who accompanied him that fateful day, but as a drama it is on the wordy, wooden level of a cable-channel historical reenactment." At Screen, Jonathan Romney describes the film as "glacially analytical" and predicts, "The film's chilly execution and cumbersomely fact-laden narrative will make it a tough export, although it can be expected to thrive at festivals with a bent for rigorous austerity." At Variety, Maggie Lee concurs: "Devoid of drama and shorn of superfluous technical flourishes, the pic uses characters as mouthpieces for political ideology in a manner as indigestible as raw potatoes. Hard going as cinema, yet admirable as an unbiased analysis of misplaced idealism at a particular moment in history, the pic is a worthy study topic but likely commercial suicide for distribs." Mincing no words in his bottom line, The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy concludes: "This thinly realized film makes the Japanese author and militant nationalist look like nothing but a political nutjob."  At Fandor's Keyframe, Anna Tatarska interviews Wakamatsu.

As Luck Would Have It / La chispa de la vida (Spain) Dir: Álex de la Iglesia—Spain's madman auteur reworks Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole for today's world as an absurdist comedy. Stars José Mota and Salma Hayek. Official Selection: Berlin 2012, Tribeca 2012. IMDb. Canadian Premiere.

At Variety, Jonathan Holland writes: "A would-be Death of a Salesman for our times, given that it studies a man prepared to swap his dignity for his family's future, As Luck Would Have It reps an entertaining but unsubtle satire on the moral confusions of a marketing / media-driven world. Though it slickly offers up drama, black comedy and enjoyable perfs in due measure, the pic never develops much bite, though it does bare its fangs. Arguably helmer Álex de la Iglesia's most accessible item to date...." At indieWire, Gabe Toro describes the film as "mordantly funny and sharp as a razor" and proclaims it as "one of the treasures of the Tribeca Film Festival."

Blood-C: The Last Dark (Japan) Dir: Naoyoshi Shiotani—In a futuristic Tokyo where youth struggles for its freedom, Aya must face off against the man who has a stranglehold on the city and nightmarish creatures that are spreading terror. Twelve years after Blood: The Last Vampire, here is the big comeback to the big screen of this influential Japanese animation franchise. Official site [Japanese]. IMDb. International Premiere.

Beast (Denmark) Dir: Christoffer BoeNicolas Bro, Marijana Jankovic and Nikolaj Lie Kaas star in this disturbing and poetic nightmare drama that treats Love as both a force of nature and a chemical imbalance. Official Selection SXSW 2012. IMDb. Canadian Premiere.

At Variety, Alissa Simon praises the sharp dialogue and strong performances in this "perversely fascinating psychodrama." At Twitch, Shelagh M. Rowan-Legg characterizes Beast as "A visceral, dark and disturbing portrait of a man whose love drives him to chaos."

Crave (USA) Dir: Charles de Lauzirika—The long anticipated feature directorial debut from regular Ridley Scott collaborator de Lauzirika stylishly depicts an alienated crime scene photographer (Josh Lawson) teetering on the verge of vigilantism. Also stars Ron Perlman and Edward Furlong. IMDb. Facebook. World Premiere.

Citadel (Ireland-Scotland) Dir: Ciarán Foy—A man suffering from extreme agoraphobia confronts murderous packs of feral, hooded children in this powerful and frightening film that took home the Midnighter Audience Award at this year's SXSW. IMDb. Canadian Premiere.

At Variety, Joe Leydon states that Citadel "will be especially nerve-wracking for any parent who's ever doubted whether he or she could overcome immobilizing fear and spring into action to defend an endangered offspring. Foy exploits that cruel doubt with ruthless efficiency in this impressive debut feature." At FEARnet, Scott Weinberg writes: "Citadel employs simple and effective horror tropes in service of a film that has something a little bit angry to say about crime in low-income neighborhoods, but says it in a frank and starkly entertaining fashion." Quiet Earth claims that "Citadel is one of those films that works not because it has a groundbreaking setup or movie monster (it doesn't), but rather because it fully explores its main character's conflict...."

Doomsday Book (South Korea) Dir: Yim Pil-sung and Kim Ji-woon—Yim Pil-sung (Hansel & Gretel) and Kim Ji-woon (A Tale Of Two Sisters) join forces in this anthology film featuring three stories tackling in very different ways as many apocalyptic scenarios. Be prepared to deal with a zombie invasion, a delicate moral dilemma raised by a robot who's the reincarnation of Buddha, and a most unusual object that's about to destroy the planet! Official website [Korean]. Wikipedia. Canadian Premiere.

Graceland (Philippines / USA) Dir: Ron Morales—A working class chauffeur is dropped into the darkest side of the Philippine underworld when his daughter is kidnapped by ruthless mobsters in this shocking crime drama that won major acclaim at the Tribeca Film Festival. Official website. IMDb. Facebook. Canadian Premiere.

 At Complex Pop Culture, Matt Barone describes Morales' Graceland as a "vigorously breathless thriller" that "quickly presents his case, raises the stakes to gargantuan heights, and roars through a plethora of shocks, dangerously concealed secrets, and thick intensity so to-the-point that you'd think he's got a bus to catch." In a separate entry, Barrone commends Morales for turning "a lean storyline into a muscular and aggressive showstopper." At Sound On Sight, Mark Young qualifies that Graceland's "brisk" running length of 83 minutes is all that's "needed to change a film's delivery from 'wallowing' to 'riveting.' " Tasha Robinson interviews Morales at Tribeca for A.V. Club. Gene Shalit likewise speaks with Morales and lead actor Arnold Reyes.

Errors of the Human Body (Germany-USA) Dir: Eron Sheean—Written and directed by Sheean, who penned last year's The Divide, Errors of the Human Body is an unsettling, stylistically bold look at the personal and ethical horrors of modern genetic engineering, oscillating quite ambiguously between pure science and terrifying science fiction. Stars Michael Eklund. IMDb. World Premiere.

Funeral Kings (USA) Dirs: Kevin McManus & Matthew McManus—They're rebellious, irreverent and vulgar. They're ... 14-year-old! Even though they're altar servants, Andy and Charlie are hardly choirboys. When they meet David, a little mama's boy, they'll do anything to force their life philosophy on him. From then on, they'll really get into trouble. With this debut film that was a sensation at SXSW, the McManus Brothers impose themselves a new comic duo to keep a close eye on. Official Selection: SXSW 2012. Official website. IMDb. Facebook. International Premiere.

At Twitch, Scott Weinberg describes Funeral Kings as "a very funny, generally fast-paced, and resoundingly foul-mouthed little comedy. It's got some edge and a little hint of darkness, but it's mostly a rather humane tale about how boys are often forced to become 'mature' at one of the most egocentric stage of their lives." At Hitfix, Drew McWeeny writes that Funeral Kings "is confident and controlled and, with an unabashed vulgarity underscoring everything, about as pure a piece of movie memory as I can name."

The Human Race (USA) Dir: Paul Hough—From the director of The Backyard comes this stunning action / sci-fi / horror film that challenges conventions and takes enormous risks (among them the casting of a charismatic one-legged lead, a deaf performer who execute his scenes via subtitled sign language, etc). An astoundingly impressive achievement. Official site. IMDb. World Premiere.

Isn't Anyone Alive? (Japan) Dir: Gakuryū Ishii—Filmmaker Gakuryū Ishii, who notably directed Electric Dragon 80.000 V under the name Sogo Ishii, returns with this completely off the wall adaptation of an absurdist play about students at a university campus who mysteriously die one after the other. The apocalypse has rarely been this strange and funny. Canadian Premiere.

La Memoria del Muerto / Memory of the Dead (Argentina) Dir: Javier Diment—This bedazzling giallo-inspired supernatural horror film boasts a strong visual design and a ferociously Grand Guignol sensibility. Prepare for Latin American demonic fury. IMDb. Facebook. World Premiere.

A Night of Nightmares (USA) Dir: Buddy Giovinazzo—One year after winning an award at Fantasia for his entry in The Theatre Bizarre, Combat Shock director Giovinazzo is returning to Montreal with this hair-raising and unique occult chiller that stars Marc Senter and Elissa Dowling. World Premiere.

Poongsan (South Korea) Dir: Juhn Jai-hong—In this dark, intense thriller written by Kim Ki-duk (Bad Guy), a mysterious man who regularly crosses the border between the two Koreas to smuggle goods or people finds himself being hunted down by both sides, which will have their hands full with him. IMDb. Wikipedia. North American Premiere.

At Variety, Jay Weissberg says Poongsan "plays like an enjoyable Cold War-themed TV pilot featuring a mute protag of uncertain political persuasion whose physical endurance puts him in the near-superhero category." At The Hollywood Reporter, Maggie Lee declares that "Poongsan injects new life into Korean North-South espionage thrillers with its edgy portrayal of a mysterious man who crosses the DMZ to provide a unique kind of courier service. From its heart-wrenching opening shot to its breathtaking end, the film is unfaltering in its momentum and often unbearable in its intensity, delivering shocks to the system as it runs the extraordinary gamut of love, longing, jealousy, hate, desperation, intrigue, cruelty and madness."

Resolution (USA) Dirs: Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead—A captivating waking nightmare of a film, Resolution tore out of nowhere when it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April and made almost every critic's best-of-fest lists. Be prepared for something truly original, scary and special. IMDb. Canadian Premiere.

At Twitch, Peter Gutierrez interviews the directors and writes: "Resolution uses its smarts and DIY feel to create something that works on its own terms, achieving moods and moments that would be impossible to duplicate with a much bigger budget." indieWire also interviews Benson and Moorhead, as does You Won Cannes, Andrew Lucre at Vimeo, and Matt Barone at Complex Pop Culture.

Roller Town (Canada) Dir: Andrew Bush—A riotously funny, high-energy send-up of that ever-so-brief but immortal trend of disco celebration films that boogie-blasted cinemas in the early '80s, Roller Town is the warped brainchild of comedy collective Picnicface, brilliant sketch comedians hailed by many as the SCTV of our day. Official Selection: Slamdance 2012. Official site. IMDb. Facebook. Quebec Premiere.

V/H/S (USA) Dirs: David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Ti West, Adam Wingard—The latest in an ongoing wave of both sledgehammer-strong anthology horror features and subjectively-shot found-footage chillers, V/H/S ranks among the best of the pack in both camps. Official Selection: Sundance 2012. Official site. IMDb. Wikipedia. Facebook. Quebec Premiere.

At The Hollywood Reporter, Justin Lowe states: "Refreshingly, V/H/S promises no more than it delivers, always a plus with genre fare." At Variety, Dennis Harvey notes that this "passel of rising indie horror helmers and writers, plus a couple of talents new to the genre, put several spins on found-footage fright in V/H/S. Omnibus feature brings energy and diverse story ideas to the subgenre kickstarted by The Blair Witch Project and kept commercially viable these days by Paranormal Activity sequels, but the segments vary in quality and the whole overstays its welcome at nearly two hours."

Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (Taiwan) Dir: Wei Te-Sheng—The most expensive Taiwanese action epic ever made, Warriors is the extraordinary untold story of the indigenous tribe, the Seediq and their fight for survival. Executive produced by John Woo. Presented roadshow style for the first time in Canada, uncut four-hour version with intermission! Official site. IMDb. Wikipedia.

At Variety, Justin Chang describes the film as a "wildly ambitious rumble-in-the-jungle battle epic arrives bearing so heavy a burden of industry expectations, one wishes the results were less kitschy and more coherent", but "still, the filmmaking has a raw physicality and crazy conviction it's hard not to admire." Chang also writes "there's an impressive degree of variation and anthropological detail in the weaponry and fighting techniques." At The Hollywood Reporter, Deborah Young finds the film "stunning to look at, authentic to a fault and a little tedious to follow", and praised the action set pieces as "spectacular, almost non-stop sequence of grisly hand-to-hand combat scenes." Young nonetheless cautions that "no matter how ingeniously it is varied, the non-stop fighting becomes oppressive in the long run" and the film's best scenes are in its "quieter moments."

Within his preview piece of the New York Asian Film Festival for The Village Voice, Michael Atkinson considers Warriors: "Wei Te-sheng's two-part Seediq Bale (2011) clocks in at more than 4.5 hours, but it moves like a runaway herd through the story of 'the Wushe Incident,' the bloody 1930 uprising of Taiwanese tribes against the occupying Japanese forces. It's a fresh slice of crazy history to us (I didn't know that Taiwan had so many loincloth-wearing headhunter clans deep into the 20th century), and Wei moves methodically, from the 1895 invasion and subsequent years of uneasy coexistence, to the eventual explosion of jungle combat (axes hack, heads roll, blood rivers flow) and the subsequent retaliation by Japan. The robust Seediq tribespeople all look like hunky members of Powers Boothe's extended family, and the film is daffy about the Seediq 'rainbow bridge' mythology, but the unrelenting battles are shot and cut with breathless intensity." [Hyperlinks omitted.]

Wrong (USA) Dir: Quentin Dupieux—If you were among those who caught the international premiere of Dupieux's previous oddity Rubber at Fantasia in 2010, you've got an inkling of the spectacular brand of absurdist imagination you're in store for here. As officially synopsized: "Dolph Springer wakes up one morning to realize he has lost the love of his life, his dog, Paul. During his quest to get Paul (and his life) back, Dolph radically changes the lives of others. In his journey to find Paul, Dolph may lose something even more vital—his mind." Official Selection: Sundance 2012. Official site. Canadian Premiere.

Anticipating Wrong at Sundance (where the film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize), Eric Kohn noted at indieWire: "French director Quentin Dupieux—also known as the DJ artist Mr. Oizo—last caught the attention of the film world with the highest high concept to hit theaters last year with the outrageously meta 'killer tire movie' known as Rubber. Love it or hate it, Rubber was an utterly unique exploration of cinematic narrative, a riotous takedown of Hollywood formula and unapologetically amused with itself from start to finish. Now Dupieux has made a movie seemingly eager to state its edginess in title alone: Wrong, which stars William Fictner and Steve Little, apparently involves one man's quixotic journey to find his missing dog. Early buzz suggests that Dupieux really brought the crazy this time out, and the official synopsis makes it sound that the story really tracks the dissolution of its protagonist's sanity." Kohn then followed suit with his review.

"From the start," Dennis Harvey writes at Variety, "Dupieux seems more delighted with the pic's forced quirkiness than most audiences will be." At The Hollywood Reporter, John Defore notes that lead actor Jack Plotnick's "unkempt persistence" and "a wry score by Tahiti Boy and Mr. Oizo (Oizo being the nom de musique of Dupieux himself) give the film just enough narrative momentum to carry it through short stretches in which cryptic plotlessness threatens to sink it."

Wrong's press kit (PDF) offers insightful interviews with both Director Quentin Dupieux and Producer Gregory Bernard. Further interviews with Dupieux are available at The Hollywood Reporter (which also offers a sneak peek of the film), Anthem, and The Film Stage. An alternate interview with Bernard is available at Screen International.

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