Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 8, No. 3, 2009
  Current Issue  
  Back Issues  
Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
  Contributing Editors
Bernard Dubé
Diane Gordon
Robert Rotondo
Sylvain Richard
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Emanuel Pordes
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Film Reviews
  Bowling for Columbine
Shanghai Ghetto
Talk to Her
City of God
Magdalene Sisters
Dirty Pretty Things
Barbarian Invasions
Fog of War
Blind Shaft
The Corporation
Station Agent
The Agronomist
Maria Full of Grace
Man Without a Past
In This World
Buffalo Boy
Shake Hands with the Devil
Born into Brothels
The Edukators
Big Sugar
A Long Walk
An Inconvenient Truth
Sisters In Law
Send a Bullet
Banking on Heaven
Chinese Botanist's Daugher
Ben X
La Zona
The Legacy
Irina Palm
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Poor Boys Game
Finn's Girl
Leaving the Fold
The Mourning Forest
Beneath the Rooftops of Paris
Before Tomorrow




So far, A & O film critic Sylvain Richard has had time to see the following films. Here are his ratings, always out of 4, reserving 2.5 or more for a noteworthy film, 3.5 for an exceptional film, 4 for a classic.


Sylvain RichardAmong Sylvain Richard's best ever films = (Bang Rajan; Thai 2000 by Tanit Jitnukal, The Eye; Thai 2002 by Oxide & Dany Pang, In my Skin; France 2002 by Marina DeVan, Immortel; France 2004 by Enki Bilal, Natural City; Korea 2003 by Byung - Chun Min, Behind The Mask; USA 2006 by Scott Glosserman, Good Cop Bad Cop; Canada 2006 by Eric Canuel , Wild Blue Yonder; Germany 2006 by Werner Herzog, The Ferryman; New Zealand 2007 by Chris Graham, Zebraman; Japan 2004 by Takashie Miike).

2.5 -- THE ECLIPSE, Coner McPherson
Slow cooking ghost story set in the breathtakingly beautiful coastal village of Cobh, Ireland during a literary festival. About a widower, father of two, seeing terrifying apparitions of his still living father-in-law who resides in a home. Film somewhat marred by subtle inconsistencies, such as "why does he lie?"

2.7 -- LEFT BANK (LINKEROEVER), Pieter Van Hees
Psycholgical supernatural drama about a young sidelined athlete who falls head over heals for a dashing young man and instantly accepts his offer to move into his otherwise seemingly unremarkable appartment on the Left Bank. Not long after we begin to see notice that something is off-kilter and we are slowly brought into a strange, bizzare and dangerous world. Well crafted debut feature from an emerging talent.

2.6 -- GENIUS PARTY BEYOND, Studio 4 degrees C
Five more animated shorts from the same studio that brought us last years "Genius Party." As with the original, these are cutting edge and dream-like. And while the imagery is colourful and sometimes strikingly beautiful, the shorts all lacked narrative.

2.5 -- M.W., Hitoshi Iwamoto
Conspiracy thriller recounting how 16 years earlier on an island off the coast of Okinawa (Japan), there occurred a disasterous spill of a lethal nerve gas, which was immediately covered up. Two young boys escape. Now adult, each has adopted an opposite response: one is a priest and wants to be at peace; the other is disturbed and seeks revenge. Flagrantly Hollywood blockbuster style lacking in credibilty; English dialogue hard to hear.

2.4 -- TRICK'R'TREAT, Michael Dougherty
Wildly entertaining horror-comedy following a multitude of characters and told through four interweaving stories on halloween. Contains all the cliches of a typical horror with a strong comedic element.

2.9 -- THE DEVINE WEAPON, Kim Yoo-jin
Historical drama set in 15th century Korea at the height of the Joseon dynasty and its quest to develop a weapon of mass destruction against the threat of Ming expansionists from the north. As with weapon itself, detailed precision paid to set designs and costumes etc. Solid performances throughout.

2.1 -- DEAD SNOW ( DOD SNO), Tommy Wirkola
Eight medical students go to a remote cabin in the mountains of Norway for a little "r and r" during Easter break. But this area of Norway suffered a dark and evil period in WWII at the hands of the Nazis who tortured the locals. Thus, amid the beautiful snow covered mountain setting, the Nazis arise from the snow and the "carnage" begins. The performances were lame, unengaging and not credible.

1.9 -- ANTIQUE, Min Kyu-dong
Gay comedy with an element of darkness centering on a popular Korean bakery. Too comedic for its darkness; too dark for its comedy.

2.6 -- I SELL THE DEAD, Glen McQuaid
Victorian era slapstick, comedy-horror that parodies classic Hammer horror films with nods to early Sam Raimi (Evil Dead) and "Tales from the Crypt" (with its bookend comicbook images). Centers on two ambitious gravediggers and their encounters with matters of supernatural strangeness. Cleverly done, excellent performances, entertaining and fun.

2.9 -- K-20: LEGEND OF THE MASK, Shimako Sato
Science-fiction set in an alternate past (WWII never occured) -- 1949 Japan. About a masked marvel undermining aristocratic authorities. Strong social commentary on how the aristocracy has throughout history turned a blind eye to the hardships of the lower class. Set designs and music remaniscent of Hollywood superhero blockbusters.

2.4 -- FIREBALL, Thanakorn Pansurwan
Brutal action that includes basketball that incorporates Thai kick-boxing, thugs and bookies: and a game to the death. Credible acting short changed by confusing plot and unclear subtitles.

2.0 -- HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, Ti West
A sophomore student needing money to pay first month's rent accepts a babysitter's job from a creepy odd old couple who live in a creaky victorian house deep in the woods. The night just happens to feature a rare lunar eclipse. Despite good performances film suffers from predictability.

2.7 -- BREATHLESS, Yang Ik-june
Based on director's own experience -- a journey into the alleyways of Seoul where poverty and violence are passed on from one generation to the next. The film is hyper violent, the language coarse, where, by western standards, unimaginable insults hurtled back and forth. Nonetheless, the film feels balanced because of its humour and the main character is well played by director.

2.8 -- PRIVATE DETECTIVE, Park Dee-min
Debut feature -- a murder mystery à la Sherlock Holmes set in 1910 Korea. Historical recreation is superb. Good performances enhanced with timely interventions of humour. Music effectively recreates intended mood.

2.3 -- ROUGH CUT, Jang Hun
Acting or Real? An actor who thinks he is a gangster vs a gangster who thinks he is an actor. Good performances undercut by porous plot and choppy editing.

2.4 -- SANS DESSEIN, Caroline Labrèche, Steeve Léonard (aka Dead Cat Films)
First feature length film from this collective that during the past 10 years brought us many (20) hilarious and ingenious shorts. In the same genre, Sans Dessein is about a man visited by a spirit intent on turning around the former's current dead-end existence. Promising debut but somewhat repetitive.

Out of the imagination of the master of Brazilian horror comes the third installment of "Coffin Joe," who upon being released from prison after 40 years picks up where he left off, seeking to continue his bloodline in order to achieve immortality. For that result, she must be "perfect." What ensues is total immersion into the grotesque and surreal that thrives on blasphemy and imagery drenched in blood and sex. Main character played to near perfection by director, who was handed a lifetime acheivement award after the screening. Scenes from first two films seamlessly integrated as visionary flashbacks.

2.7 -- CYBORG SHE, Kwak Jae-young
Romantic fantasy-comedy about relationship between stunningly beautiful cyborg from the future and an introverted moody student. Spectacular special effects. Good chemistry between the two leads.

2.2 -- BATTLE LEAGUE IN KYOTO, Katsuhide Motoki
Comedy fantasy about "ordinary" university fraternities battling each other through chubby little demons called "Oni" and controlled by "silly" dance moves. Funny but fails to sustain interest.

2.6 -- MY DEAR ENEMY, Lee Yoon-ki
A "road" movie involving ex-girlfriend who comes back to reclaim $3500 she lent and will not leave until she gets it back. What follows is a journey that traverses Seoul as they visit the women the boyfriend has seduced to retrieve what he owes. Subdued humour, mellow jazz score along with cool shots of Seoul.

2.4 -- THE CHILDREN, Tony Shankland
A family reunion over the holidays at a secluded country house. While the adults kick back to enjoy the holidays, the children begin to behave strangely, gradually becoming more savage and cruel. Despite intensity and slick pace, the film is often unclear as what has happened or is happening.

2.4 -- EDISON AND LEO, Neil Burns
Canada's first stop-action animation looking at Edison's "greatest invention." Storyline a bit too conventional; animation techniques need to be developed; not for young children.

2.1 -- YARIMAN, Rei Sakamoto
Soft-porn on the death of an old friend leading to a voyage of discovery. Decent performances, lighting and colour. Flimsy plot where every encounter leads to sex.

1.9 -- S&M HUNTER , Shuji Kataoka
Soft-porn featuring an Indiana style hero. Choppy script and editing. Sound and imagery flagrantly inapposite.

3.1 -- CRYPTIC, Danny Kuchuck, John Weiner
Jess' mother died tragically 9 years ago. She finds her old cell phone from that fateful day, dials her old number, her old self answers : what can she do to save her mother? Thus begins a series of temporal dislocations where changes in the past unpredictably (enigmatically) affect the present and the former sanctity of dark secrets. Better executed than "Butterfly Effect" and more intelligible than "Primer."

2.3 -- THE POSSIBILITY OF AN ISLAND, Michel Houllebecq
Science fiction centering on a Raellian (belief in a scientific basis of immortality) style religious sect. Promising beginning, weak ending with numerous gaps and short on key details.

2.7 -- REEL ZOMBIES, David J. Francis
Mockumentary following the cast and crew as they set about making Zombie Night 3 (the first two widely considered among the worst movies ever made) with a twist -- casting real zombies. Hilarious and self-deprecating. Cameo by Lloyd Kaufman (Toxic Avenger, Poultrygeist, Troma Films -- considered the King of Trash) auditioning for a part.

Documentary journey into the world of Yakuza (Japanese gangster) film genre and its close connection to actual Yakuza. Interviews with key players -- directors, actors, gang leaders and even the daughter of one, plus clips from classic films. Too jumpy and talkative.

3.0 -- THE WHITE RAINDEER, Erik Blomberg
1952 obscure gem from Finland that combines both the werewolf and vampire legends into a tale of a woman who turns into a white reindeer. Score and composed camera work combine to give the effect of an atmospheric poem. Set in the far north of Finland.

2.4 -- YOU MIGHT AS WELL LIVE, Simon Ennis
Dark comedy about a loser on a quest to be somebody. Often hilarious but does cross the line into bad taste. Cross Napolean Dynamite with Borat and set in the bleakest parts of Hamilton, Ont.

2.5 -- VAMPIRE GIRL VS FRANKENSTEIN GIRL, Naoyuki Tomomatsu, Yoshihiro Nishimura
Campy, slapstick comedy about two high school girls pining for the same boy. No need to shower -- plenty of it -- blood that is -- in fact so much so that the screen is often 'simply red.' Entertaining, quirky characters a major plus.

Two competative police units must work together on their final mission: to pursue and capture a gang of dangerous and disciplined bank robbers (shades of Public Enemies) in the remote mountains near Hong Kong. Thet will be sorely tested and true natures revealed. Produced by Johnny To and spun off of his 2003 effort "PTU." Action packed thriller with the right amount of humour.

1.8 -- CANARY, Alejandro Adams
Canary Industries is dedicated to the well being of all and will even provide you with a new organ, but reserves the right to reclaim it if you abuse the gift. A promising concept that failed to deliver.

2.0 -- CANYON, Richard Harrah
Survival thriller about a couple who clandestinely take a donkey tour of the Grand Canyon guided by a drunken old coot contemptuous of authority and established procedures. Good performances within an all too predictable and formulaic template. " Into the Wild" vastly superior.

2.6 -- 20th CENTURY BOYS, Yukihiko Tsutsumi
Apocalyptic saga spanning 1969 to 2015. In 1969 a group of young children concoct a storybook called "The Book of Prophecy." In 1997 the book's events come to pass. Complex with engaging themes: religious sects, biological warfare, propaganda and terrorism. Moments of humour help to get through dark moments.

2.6 -- 20th CENTURY BOYS: CHAPTER 2, Yukihiko Tsutsumi
Chapter 2 focuses on the neice of one of the boys and is set mainly in 2015. Chapter 3 will be shown next year.

3.0 -- PORTRAIT OF A BEAUTY, Jeon Yun-su
A fictional account of 18th century painter Shin Yoon-bok premised on the claim that said artist was a woman. Lush shooting; lilting score; beautifully acted and engaging erotic film.

1.5 -- GRAPHIC SEXUAL HORROR, Barbara Bell, Anna Lorenzon
Disturbing, shocking and controversial look at Brent Scot and his web site -- INSEX (1997 to 2005 until shut down by US government) that specialized in bondage and sado-masochism. Is it art or obscenity, did he abuse his models? Let the viewer be the judge. Definately a voyage into a different reality. I found the film offensive and exploitive. As a documentary, wholly lacking in objectivity.

3.5 -- BLOOD RIVER, Adam Mason
Old Testament style thriller addressing the issue of God`s jugdment, sin and punishment. A young expectant couple get stuck in the Nevada desert with a mysterious hitchhiker they had passed by earlier after their car has a blowout. Unnervingly tense and gripping, with intense soundtrack and arresting cinematography that turns the Nevada into a formidable fourth character. A tour de force that effectively asks questions and withholds answers.

2.6 -- YESTERDAY, Rob Grant
Amateur student first feature zombie flic shot over a summer break with a tip of the hat to both George A. Romero and Sergio Leone. Made on an impossibly low production budget, the result = QED that drive, determination and a vivid imagination are all that is required to make an entertaining and thoughtful film.

2.4 -- PLAYING COLUMBINE, Danny Ledonne
Are video games a valid form of artistic expression in dealing with important and tragic events? More of an issue for those who are gamers or have children that are.

2.5 -- OROCHI, Norio Tsurata
Supernatural drama involving a family of celebrity women who at the age of 29 begin to turn into tortured and deformed beasts, all of which transpires before a young girl who doesn't age. Strong performances, weak plot.

2.4 -- LA BILLE DE PANDORE (PANDORA'S MARBLE), Nicolas de la Sabloniere
100% Quebecois independent -- seven years in the making -- debut feature that is a complex mix of many genres: fantasy, action, metaphysical etc. A man is suddenly seized by strange and bizzare visions/experiences; a parallel universe or a waking nightmare? The complexity of this film required the viewer to put him/herself into the skin of the protagonist (necessitates multiple viewing). Excellant score. Dialogue a bit cliched.

British horror farce about a pair lads who travel to an obscure remote village and come face to face with an ancient problem -- lesbian vampires. Funny, ranks equally with Abbot and Costello, but more raunchy.

2.4 -- THE CHASER, Na Hong-jin
Thriller about a methodical, vicious serial killer being pursued by a former cop turned pimp whose girls are disappearing. The use of typical Korean humour -- especially in the ineptitude of the police -- did not fit the serious nature of the subject.

3.3 -- THE WARLORDS, Peter Chan
Sweeping Chinese war epic set in 19th century giving an account of General Pang (Jet Li - in his return to HK cinema), who leads a band of former bandits in victory over the rebels. Gripping subplots involving friendship, ambition, betrayal, lust for power and love. Excellent production values, especially music and breathtaking cinematography; realistically staged battle scenes.

2.5 -- HELLS, Yoshiki Yamakawa
Japanese anime (animation) adaptation of manga series "Hells Angels" about a girl sent through the gates of hell after an accident. Problem is she is still alive. Not for young children. Features arresting imagery. For hard core fans of anime and mangas.

2.6 -- GS WONDERLAND, Ryuichi Honda
A wild angd engaging ride back in time to late 60s when Beatlemania was sweeping Japan and GS (group sound) was the in-thing. A colourful, kaleidoscopic form of bubblegum pop (recalling the Monkees) that includes lavish costumes and zany that offers most of the elements found in most "band movies."

2.1 -- INSTANT SWAMP, Satoshi Miki
A comedy that makes use of all possible styles -- absurd, wry, obtuse and slapstick -- about a woman trying to break out of her humdrum life. Very funny situations marred by overacting. The plot failed to sustain interest.

2.7 -- LES LASCARS (ROUND A WAY), Albert Pereira-Lazaro, Emmanuel Klotz
Animation depicting Parisian slum life. Raunchy side spitting out adult humour that compares to "The District". Animation design features very effective illusion of depth and dimension.

3.4 -- THE CLONE RETURNS HOME, Kanji Nakajima
Science Fiction about an astronaut who leaves his genetic blueprint in order to be clone-generated in case he dies on a future mission. This happens, he's cloned but something isn't quite right. Deeply reflective and cerebral (as with Andrei Tarkovsky's "Solaris") film that addresses the legal, ethical and spiritual questions surrounding cloning. Exquisite cinematographic shots of outerspace and the Japanese countryside.

2.1 -- BLUE FILM WOMAN, Kan Mukai
One of the earliest (1969) full colour Pink Eiga. About a woman who attempts to blackmail a corrupt banker who caused the death of her parents. Typical late 60s with its psychadelic hues and soundtrack. High historical value despite poor acting and script.

2.2 -- SLAM-BANG, Mark Lebenon
Debut low budget South African independent gangster film about an IT (Information Technology) guy who gets a proposition he cannot refuse from a local gangster. Very violent. Cliched.

2.4 -- SWEET KARMA, Andrew Thomas Hunt
A shy, mute Russian woman, whose sister has disappeared, travels to Toronto on a bloody trail of vengeance. Film was inspired by real human trafficking rings that were infiltrated and shut down between 2004 and 2008. Model and first time actress Shera Bechard gives a relevatory performance in leading role. The script was a letdown.

2.3 -- LEGENDARY ASSASSIN, Wu Jing, Nicky Li
Modern martial arts flic that has all of the elements of Hong Kong's 1980s golden era. Fun to watch but formulaic.

3.2 -- BOOK OF BLOOD, John Harrison
Deftly executed paranormal thriller about how the dead pass on their stories carved in flesh. Based on two short stories in Clive Barker's "Books of Blood" collection. Psychologically mind bending and definitely not for the squeamish.

Off the wall social satire about a group of men becoming pregnant and -- after getting addicted to "experimental" cookies -- giving birth to creatures. Film benefits from inventive flashes of animation throughout. Interesting concept presented irreverently along with an excess of toilet humour that should have been flushed during the editing phase.

3.0 -- THIRST, Park Chan-Wook
Consequent to an experimental treatment gone wrong, a well respected priest becomes a vampire and gives in to sinful lust. Balanced mix of thriller, eroticism and humour. Good performances throughout.

2.5 -- POWER KIDS, Krissanapong Rachata
Thai family action thriller about a group of children battling terrorists in order to retrieve a donor heart for their friend. All the stunts performed by the children. Weekend matinee entertainment.

1.8 -- LALAPIPO (LOT OF PEOPLE), Masayuki Miyano
Soft-core sex farce examining Japanese adult entertainment industry from six points of view. The film includes certain certain fantasies that are innappropriate.

2.8 -- GRACE, Paul Solet
Post-natal horror thriller from the point of view of a Generation X couple awaiting their first child. An atmospheric slow burner that guarantees sustained suspense throughout. Conclusion opens the door for a sequel.

2.5 -- SPARE, Lee Seong-han
Gangster film about a man deeply in debt who offers his liver to a Yakuza mobster who was knifed by a rival. While this is a thoroughly modern tale, it provides effective links to traditional Korean theatre. The noteworthy score features traditional instruments and offscreen commentary by two fictional audience members. Gangsters (both Korean and Japanese) portrayed as too wimpy.

2.4 -- INFESTATION, Kyle Rankin
Giant insects invade. Future of mankind is in the hands of a "hero" (misfit) who has no aim in life. Satirical, humourous and fun. A good diversion.

2.1 -- LOVE EXPOSURE, Sion Sono
God, love, religion and perversion in this overly long (237 min.) complex comedic farce. Extremely funny situations failed to sustain interest.

2.7 -- QUEENS OF LANGKASUKA, Nonzee Nimibutr
Sweeping ancient fantasy about a kingdom beisieged on all sides by hostile forces and the efforts of its queen and her loyal followers to defend it. Georgeous cinematography and music score of epic proportions. Complexity and blurred subtitles made this a bit difficult to follow.

2.2 -- DAYTIME DRINKING, Noh Young-Seok
Low budget debut feature about three drinking buddies convincing a fourth, who is nursing a broken heart, to join them at a winter resort to soothe his pain. He ends up there alone, thus beginning a strange odyssey where he encounters many oddball characters. Absurdly dry humour. Commonly treated subject (for ex."Hangover").

3.1 -- DREAM, Kim Ki-duk
A surreal drama about two strangers drawn together through a dream. He dreams; she re-enacts. Plenty of symbolism -- Freudian versus Bhuddist. Visually stunning and emotionally captivating.

An R-rated "Jerry Springer" type portrait of the most notorious family from Bloom County, West Virginia. Stanger than fiction a la Rob Zombie's "Devil's Rejects." Disturbing yet at times touching.

2.3 -- HOUSE, Nobuhiko Obayashi
First feature film (from 1977) by the veteran director based on a concept by his then 11-year old daughter. Seven teenage girls visiting the "aunt" of one of them in a huge country house. Turns out the "house" is haunted. Full of gimmickery and absurd humour of the "midnight screening" that has now sadly disappeared from our cinemascapes.

One of 13 films presented at the Cinemateque Quebecois in collaboration with Fantasia, from film cycle entitled "Empire of Desire," from the "Pinku Eiga" (Pink Films) genre. Exploitation vs Art -- let the viewer decide. Warning: for hard core (or soft in this case) afficionados only. Extremely popular, prolific genre from the 1960s and 70s.

2.9 -- YATTERMAN, Takashi Miiki
Over-the-top goofy comedy based on 1970's television cartoon series. Miiki makes it his own by giving freereign to his uniquely wild and crazy imagination. Expert use of CGI (computer generated imagery). Not originally intended for children but many came to screenings in Japan.

2.6 -- IP MAN, Wilson Yip
First official film version of legendary Wing Chun master Ip Man (pronouced "Yip Man") who taught Bruce Lee. Focuses on Japan's occupation of China circa 1937. Potentially serious subject slightly undermined by B-grade script, acting and stereotyping. Fight scenes beautifully choreographed.


For 2008 Fantasia Film Festival Ratings, click HERE.

  = shared webhosting, dedicated servers, development/consulting
2008 FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL (Montreal) North America's Premier Genre Festival July 3-21
Festival Nouveau Cinema de Montreal, Oct. 10-21st, (514) 844-2172
Montreal World Film Festival
Montreal Jazz Festival
Couleur JAZZ 91.9
E-Tango: Web Design and lowest rates for web hosting
Armand Vaillancourt: sculptor
Available Ad Space
Valid HTML 4.01!
Privacy Statement Contact Info
Copyright 2002 Robert J. Lewis