Friday, July 31, 2009
Fantasia is ovah!
Well Fantasia just wrapped up this Wednesday. Fantasia is North America's largest (and best) genre film festival. It features a wide range of horror, martial arts, giant monster and other international movie craziness. It lasts about 3 weeks in the middle of the summer here in Montreal and basically takes over my life during that time. The first two years I was here, I did 30 movies. This year, I only made it to 20. A big part of that was because I was out of town for the first long weekend and missed a couple crucial Hong Kong movies as well as some others that I will have to wait to come out on DVD.
One of the best parts of Fantasia is the audience. They are totally into it. The people are already pretty hyped at the beginning of the movie, but if it's good, they go crazy. You can risk missing some chunks of dialogue due to laughter or cheering (like when a particularly nasty bad guy gets offed). I always think it must be so amazing to be a director or an actor and be present when your film is screened at Fantasia. A lot of these movies are very low-budget, quite obscure and probably can't hope to do better than maybe get a small DVD distribution. So when you get a packed house of people laughing and cheering at your work and then you get to come up afterwards for a Q&A, you must be so totally psyched.
And the audiences are the best for the midnight showings. They always have one on Friday and Saturday night, usually following one of the more popular films. A lot of people are there for both, but you also get some more trendy members who aren't such hardcore film geeks but have heard about the film through the local media. People are dressed a bit more styley, sometimes tricked out in whatever is the genre of the movie (goths or anime fans, for instance). You can also tell that some people have been partaking their recreational drug of choice (and I often bring my handy flask).
The midnight shows tend to be the crazy over-the-top movies (like a screening this year of Troll 2 or Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl) or something really freaky and hardcore that may be too much for the evening audience. Three years ago, someone passed out during a particularly gory moment in Neighborhood Watch. After it was over, when Mitch Davis was introducing the Q&A with the director, he explained what the kerfluffle was about and the audience exploded in cheers. We all felt quite proud.
Unfortunately, I wasn't so happy with this year's midnight selections. Plus, I was taking it easier in general. So I didn't get to experience a really zany midnight showing. I did have a wonderful festival overall. There were at least 4 films that I would say were outright excellent. Of them, I would strongly recommend that you check out Private Eye, a Korean movie about a private detective who joins up with a young medical intern in pre-WWI Seoul to hunt down a murderer of high-ranking officials. Well-written, with excellent direction and acting, it just captured a real sense of adventure and escapism.
The other movie, that will probably make it to an arthouse circuit was Terribly Happy, a Danish neo-noir about a cop who makes a mistake and gets sent to be the sheriff of a small town in Jutland. Shit gets weird. This movie strongly reminded me of one of my all-time favorites, the Coen Brothers Blood Simple. Really satisfying and well done. Talk about creepy rednecks. We North Americans don't think they have them in Scandinavia. This movie will disabuse you of that notion.
And my hats off to Mitch Davis. He is one of the main programmers and he works hard all year to bring the best stuff to us. He only does about a dozen write-ups or so in the program (of something like 120 films) but those are the movies you should seek out. Thanks, dude!