Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 16, No. 3, 2017
  Current Issue  
  Back Issues  
Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Lynda Renée
Gary Olson
Jordan Adler
Howard Richler
Oslavi Linares
Ivan Nonveiller
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
  Music Editor
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque
Denis Beaumont
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
Paraiso Travel
Necessities of Life
For a Moment of Freedom
Blood River
By the Will of Genghis Kahn
The Concert
Weaving Girl
Into Eternity
When We Leave
Le Havre
Presumed Guilty
A Separation
Take This Waltz
Beyond The Walls
The Place Beyond the Pines
Da Sweet Blood of Jesus





So far, A & O film reviewer Oslavi Linares has seen 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.


PREAMBLE: From the poster commemorating Montreal’s 375 years, to the roster of politically charged films, this 21st edition of Fantasia is ripe with symbolism reflecting the challenges of 2017. Perhaps it is the nature of the films themselves that turns many of the programs into a fantastic collective unconscious; perhaps it is the programmers’ decision to highlight our world’s struggles through Fantasia’s diverse categories; whichever the case, the usual genres of horror, action, science fiction and fantasy are anything but escapist.

Starting with Tilt (Farahani, 2017), one of this year’s openers, Fantasia acknowledges the nefarious reality of the Trump era and its turn towards violent right-wing ideologies (a horror story in its own right). This trend continues with other international films: Spoor (Holland & Adamik), a Polish ecological revenge thriller; the French Le Serpent aux mille coupures (Valette, 2017), an action drama that mixes immigrant and racial issues; M.F.A. (Leite, 2017) another revenge thriller but about and against rape-culture; and the closing film, A Taxi Driver (Jang Hoon, 2017), an international premiere tragicomedy that takes place in Korea (1980s) under military rule.

All this in addition to established sections like Asian cinema (including Fantasia’s first Cambodian action film, Jailbreak), documentaries (from nuclear fusion to Tokyo pop-stars), and animation (ranging from the light-hearted anime Night is Short, Walk on Girl (Yuasa, 2017) and the dark-comedy Have a Nice Day (Liu Jian, 2017)). Moreover, add the international premieres and guest directors of the likes of Takashi Miike and Larry Cohen, who will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award as will Turkish director Cüneyt Arkin. To this ecclectic mix are genre films, old masters, unfinished projects, women in film, and several networking events, notably the Frontières International Co-Production Market (in partnership with Cannes Film Festival) and a section for women filmmakers.

Among the festivals many highlights are Canadian premieres for Luc Besson’s latest blockbuster Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) and the official Cannes Selection The Villainess (Jung Byung-Gil, 2017) and the action spectacle Atomic Blonde (Leitch, 2017).

3.2 -- A TAXI DRIVER, Director Jang Hoon
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] Is it a statement of intent that Fantasia screened for its 2017 closure the socially charged, historical film A Taxi Driver? Set in Korea during the actual Gwangju Uprising of May 18 to 27 (1980) against the dictatorship, the film re-enacts the perilous quest of taxi driver alias Kim Sa-bok (played by Song Kang-ho) as he drove German reporter Hinzpeter (based on reporter Jürgen Hinzpeter and played by Thomas Kretschmann) to, through, and back from the besieged city of Gwangju where democratic protesters faced off a brutal military repression unknown to the rest of the country and the world.
Song Kang-ho delivers a moving performance as the widowed father whose greedy opportunism leads him to steal a foreign client from another driver, but whom he supposes is a rich tourist is in fact an undercover reporter for the German press. Soon, the initially apathetic Kim Sa-bok finds himself embroiled in the social struggle. As he learns more of the injustice that he carries in silence, the taxi driver's attitude serves as a metaphor for the changing public opinion in Korea and abroad, contrasting his former naïveté and selfishness with the state violence and the solidarity and sacrifice of the people of Gwanju, not least his fellow taxi drivers.
Taking liberties with the fictional aspect of the film, the Gwanju taxi drivers that Kim Sa-bok gradually befriends help drive the plot. This is especially true in respect to the Hinzpeter's character who is initially somewhat passive, in part due to the language barrier between him and his driver. However, much of the comedy derives from this as does the partly sad ending. The rest of the plot follows this transition. What begins as a comedic road trip full of misunderstandings evolves into a social and political thriller shown from the point of view of the various participants, including the self-censored Korean press and the political police who are hunting the reporter and his driver. These narrative interventions help build the story's social context without neglecting to give dimension to most of its cast, even portraying some soldiers in a sympathetic light.
The sound track accentuates the drama, though at times overdoing what is already visually self-evident. The cinematography is relatively conventional, providing some atmospherics for the highly symbolic portrayals of protests and persecution amid tear gas and the burning of a local TV station.
Despite the passage of time and relatively happy ending, the film's events bear comparison with today's political climate, from the USA to the Philippines, from Saudi Arabia to Venezuela, and even South Korea itself. Despite his fame, Song Kang-ho (a regular of director Bong Joon-ho (
Memories of Murder (2003), Snowpiercer (2013)) was added to an infamous government black-list for his participation in this movie. Unsurprisingly, the film received two standing ovations at its Fantasia premiere, confirming that the festival and its audience are concerned not only with films that appeal to the imagination but real life truth and consequences.

3.1 -- LU OVER THE WALL, Masaaki Yuasa
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] With Lu Over the Wall director Masaaki Yuasa offers another example of his crazy animation style: line drawn characters with cartoonish flexibility, an animated camera diving through drawn depths, and flat textures with painterly qualities. These techniques are used to humorously tell the story of Kai, a teenager in the small fishing town of Hinashi, where there are few career prospects other than fishing and tourism and where legends of mermaids haunt the nearby waters. Kai's secret passion for music draws Lu, the mermaid, who gets attached to him and leads Kai to join his friends' indie-rock band, accidentally unleashing a touristic fascination and a clash between land and sea. Filled with fantastic creatures, absurd situations and youth romance, this comedy feature can be praised more for its craft than its plot. The themes of social media and fame provide an interesting contemporary referent, but the story's momentum climbs without much to add other than the scaling mermaid powers and Kai's change from an introvert to a happier lad. The feature reminds one of Studio Ghibli's Ponyo (2008) and My Neighbor Totoro (1988), but somewhat lacks Yasuo's own irreverent wit, as in his Mindgame (2004) and Night is Short, Walk on Girl (2017, screened at Fantasia/reviewed below). Despite this, there's enough humour to keep one entertained, if not for the beauty and fluidity of the animation itself.

3.7-- NIGHT IS SHORT, WALK ON GIRL, Masaaki Yuasa
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] Enter the nightlife of Kyoto, a place of endless bars, legendary substances, secret societies, used book fairs, and other festivities cruised by the happy-go-lucky heroine 'the girl with black hair' and her relentless but wacky suitor, 'sempai.' As he follows and tries to get the courage or luck to meet his love interest, they encounter all sorts of colourful characters and crowds: the mischievous god of old used books, a villainous but lonely loan shark, a romantic vowing to never change his underpants, a guerrilla theatre troupe, a cross-dressing student director, a pornography collector, a dubious second-hand seller, old and young drunks, and many more socialites comically portrayed from frame one. A well paced but labyrinthic story, Night is Short, Walk on Girl's stylized anime narrates through its very graphic quality. Its character design is both realist and iconic, funny whether still or moving, morphing according to the situation and status of the cast. Their city is equally evocative, drawn with 2D patterns and textures that expertly play with the flatness and depth typical of Japanese anime. This flatness pays tribute to older media like woodblock prints, picture scrolls, and evokes the animation of UPA and previous Yuasa works, like Mindgame and the series Tatami Galaxy. This last was written by the same author, Makoto Ueda, but Yuasa's adaptation of Night is Short not only gives life to the comedic romance but fuses it with Ueda's idiosyncratic approach to animation, adding music, additional plots, and a flexible use of animated space that is not shy to simplify or render cartoonish when the situation demands it. A mature auteur of anime, Yuasa will also have the North American premiere of his Yu Over the Wall at Fantasia.

3.2 -- FASHIONISTA, Simon Rumley
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] Fashionista strikes the viewer with a non-linear narrative of human desire and obsession with fashion, where clothes take the form of fetishes or wholly shape the protagonist's fate. The protagonist is April (Amanda Fuller), a thrift shop owner in Austin, Texas, minding her own and her husband's (Ethan Embry) business until jealousy and cheating drive her to despair, perilous encounters, and insanity. The film's editing quickly pushes the story to each stage and beyond, as well as before in a collage of fragments that appear as non-sequiturs, recurrent clothing motifs, and parallel narratives which eventually add up to form a nightmarish puzzle. This collage is held in place through the themes of addiction to clothes and the diverse soundtrack accompanying April's different attires and fortunes. Music overlays the film to colour it, as does the lighting of ominous scenes; both add to the unconventional camera angles, closeups, fast-forward and overlay compositions, and jumps between present and future. Nevertheless, these cuts often verge on the ridiculous, and the viewer is left to wonder their place on the ongoing narratives. Considering that the film was shot in 18 days and written in less than a month, Fashionista stands out as an unconventional art-house thriller.

2.8 -- COCOLORS, SCARECROW ISLAND, VALLEY OF WHITE BIRDS, Yokoshima Toshihisa, Park Hyemi, Cloud Yang
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] Named after the longest of its animated shorts, this program showed three remarkable examples of independent animation from China, South Korea and Japan. Each bearing a different style, nature and/or its demise ran as a common theme. The first, Valley of the White Birds, from Chinese director Cloud Yang, was a minimalist story of two sorcerers fighting for control over nature. Rendered through rich watercolour compositions and 2D cel-animation for its characters, the short makes up for its obscure plot through the beauty of its visuals and the symbolism of its elements, which evoke a blend of indigenous cultures. This short was followed by Scarecrow Island, a post-apocalyptic allegory by Korean director Park Hyemi. Although relying on some limited animation and a bit over-dramatic in its plot, Hyemi's piece addresses ecological devastation, nature's capacity to regenerate and militaristic culture. This last topic is often celebrated in anime, but Hyemi deviated it and rather showed the de-humanizing target view of air forces and the possibility to escape this perspective through an empathetic humane look. Third and last, was the elaborate and equally metaphorical long-short Cocolors, by Japanese director Yokoshima Toshihisa from studio Kamikaze Douga. Set in the aftermath of a global cataclysm, the short tells the story of a group of children living in an underground city. Living their entire lives inside steampunk-looking suits, the children dream and fear the outside world, in particular Aki and his mute but creative friend Fuyu. A science fiction drama, the short follows many of anime's narrative conventions, including themes of personal relationships, death, and dreams. Its world is intricately brought to life through cel-shaded 3D-CG animation and dramatic music, sometimes a bit redundant. Despite their limitations, all three works offer animation lovers with alternatives to mainstream anime and, likely unintentionally, touch of themes relevant to our present-day crises.

2.8 -- LET THERE BE LIGHT, Mila Aung-Thwin, Van Royko
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] In this clear and informative documentary, the viewer receives a crash course in the principles and history of nuclear fusion: from the processes driving the sun to the scientists at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) (and a multitude of other labs) who are pursuing the dream and making it happen. It is a decades old quest, funded by the major world economies, with scientist from over 37 countries, and that, like a cathedral, won't be seen by many of its contributors. Told through interviews, archival footage, aerial takes and animation, the film takes us from the leading physicists to the construction workers, from the high-level government meetings to Do-It-Yourself fusion labs. Its plot meshes nuclear fusion's historical timeline with the present challenges facing ITER and other projects, as also arguing for its importance in the face of climate change. Accompanied by minimalist music, the documentary is what it is -- well-crafted. This relative simplicity allows it to focus on the message fusion proponents have for the public, ". . . we have to prove that we have the intelligence to prevent our own extinction."

3.2 -- NOVEMBER, Rainer Sarnet
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] A dark fairy tale dealing with two lovers' unreciprocated feelings, pacts with the devil, and human misery. Based on the best-selling novel Rehepapp by Estonian writer Andrus Kivirahk, November (an Estonian-Polish-Netherlands co-production) is a melancholic, atmospheric film that adapts and combines the original plot's paganism with poetic black and white imagery. Almost every frame, every event and every dialogue bears a tragic symbolism that overrides the ridiculousness or grotesqueness of its circumstances. Through these images and the mystical music, we enter an impoverished village where the poor steal from each other, where superstition and magic blur, where the dead walk among the living, and men sell their souls to command hideous servants. But amidst this dreamlike remoteness, the supernatural serves human desires, particularly the love and jealousy of Liina (Rea Lest) for Hans (Jörgen Liik), two young peasants whose predestined bond is compromised by the indifferent daughter of the local baron. A love tale with macabre undertones, the simple story's drawbacks are the frequent stutter of its plot, which at times appears disconnected from the main narrative. Moreover, the music is sometimes redundant, overemphasizing what the cinematography already achieves (a pity, because Michal Jacaszek electro-acoustic compositions are a perfect fit for it). Nevertheless, November is a delight to watch and to listen; it reminds one of Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev (1966) as well as of Kafka and Borges. If you missed this gothic art-house fantasy, November will be released in cinemas later this year.

3.2 -- ATOMIC BLONDE, David Leitch
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] Charlize Theron rivals James Bond as MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton, pursuing an 'atomic bomb' of intelligence on the eve of the Berlin wall's fall. Pairing with the dubious fellow agent David Percival (James McAvoy) and meeting a host of enemies and allies, including the sensual French operative Delphine Lasalle (Sophia Boutella), Lorraine must play every trick in the spy book to survive the ruthless quest, always with style. Undoubtedly, the film's action sequences are masterly choreographed, including the memorable single shot staircase fight. These action scenes beat to the tune of synth-pop and post-punk bands like New Order, Depeche Mode, and AuSSchlag, but also Queen and David Bowie. Add to these the dynamic camera work, the vibrant cinematography (coulored with neon lighting, dissolves, and play of mirrors), and the non-linear narrative and one can pass over the limited character development and predictability of the plot. Most of the players are introduced in square one and the numerous trailers already prepare the audience for one-liners, exhilarating fights and lesbian sex. Nevertheless, underlying this graphic novel adaptation (The Coldest City, Johnston and Hart), this blockbuster features feminist premises and Theron joins other female actresses taking the lead in genre films. As an action film, Atomic Blonde meets its purpose and its Canadian premiere at Fantasia is like the agent to the MI6, a 'crown jewel' of this edition of the festival.

3.5 -- KARMINA, Gabriel Pelletier
[reviewed  by Oslavi Linares] As part of the Fantasia festival, Karmina, the classic Quebecois film, received a homage screening last Monday, 24 of July.  For those unfamiliar with the Quebecois classic (such as myself) the film is the story of Karmina (Isabelle Cyr), an eastern European vampire who flees her aristocratic family and her fiancé, Vlad (Yves P. Pelletier), for the freedom of Montreal. There she meets her aunt Esmeralda (France Castel) and falls in love with Phillipe (Robert Brouillette), while her communist suitor tracks her down and tries to find her, with ridiculous results. A horror romantic-comedy (Polanski’s 1967 Dance of the Vampires comes to mind), the film highlights its national locale. Montreal and Quebec culture contrast comically with the antiquated ways of the vampires as they adapt to modern life and being human. The humour is well paced, outmaneuvering the drama of the plot while sustaining it; the special effects have aged well, and the story is easy to follow, offering a few surprises. Screened to a faithful audience, the film was shown through a restored copy, the work of the preservation organization Éléphant, and in presence of guests from the cast and crew, notably director Gabriel Pelletier, actor Yves P. Pelletier, and producer Nicole Robert. Robert herself was the subject of her own homage and was given Fantasia’s Denis-Heroux award for her contributions to Quebec cinema. With the award and this screening of Karmina, Fantasia proves that it is not only an international but also a Quebecois festival.

3.1 -- ALMOST COMING, ALMOST DYING, Toshimasa Kobayashi
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] With dynamic editing and heart-warming humour, Almost Coming, Almost Dying offers an alternative to the mostly action films from Japan at Fantasia. Set in Sapporo, the film introduces us to Manabu Nakagawa (Misoo Nou), an unemployed 29-year-old living at his parents place. After he lands a teaching job, Manabu celebrates by going to a massage parlour but suffers a brain hemorrhage in the mid of a blowjob. The story evolves around this incident, going through Manabu's risky recovery from surgery as he deals with his family's queries into the actual location of his stroke. A tale that mixes surrealism with everyday reality, the film was adapted from the autobiographical manga Kumoman, named after the ominous teddy bear that beats the author in the head. To adapt this graphic novel, director Toshimasa Kobayashi inventively uses music and its interruption, fast forward montages, animation, and special effects to deal with the awkward subjects of sex and bodily functions and to join these with a cozy family story. As Manabu's father admits, ". . . no man lives without embarrassing himself."

[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] Among the cult films that Fantasia has this year is the beloved el Santo vs. The Mummies of Guanajuato (Federico Curiel, 1970), a film so bad it's not only good but a classic. Filled with absurd coincidences, ridiculous legends and the colourfulness of Mexico, the best-known luchador film verges on Commedia dell'arte. The simple plot has the three famous luchadores (Mil Mascaras, Blue Demon, and El Santo-playing themselves) fighting the evil-dead in the provincial city of Guanajuato. More than seeking coherence or continuity, the narrative showcases the wrestling prowess of the fighters and Mexican culture; meanwhile, the exaggerated camera shots, poor music editing, and self-conscious dialogues carry a certain naivete that along with the absurd premise give the film an unintentional humour.

2.0 -- AZTEC REVENGE, Aaron Crozier
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] To what extent does Aztec Revenge live up to its ancestor (Santo vs. The Mummies)? It would be tempting to call the newest film by director Aaron Crozier another update on the genre; after all, the story features the original Mil Mascaras luchador fighting a supernatural and ancient foe, but the film is not so much larger-than-life as overdone. The expositional dialogues, predictability, and dubbed voice of Mil Mascaras become a bit too self-conscious and formulaic. Nonetheless, there are some funny aspects, like luchadores fighting ninjas or a robot with an Aztec head. However, the film's location and cast prevent any of this from taking hold. Besides the already ridiculous premise, the story occurs in the Columbia University campus and all the main characters, except Mil Mascaras, are European-American. This makes the film feel unhinged, as disconnected as the Aztec head of its plot. Perhaps those more friendly to B-movies and luchador films might differ from this judgement.

2.8 -- LOWLIFE, Ryan Prows
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] A twisted tale of redemption bearing the realities faced by Latino immigrants, substance addicts and former felons. Lowlife's dark humour and action stunts allegorize real social problems and the horrors of human trafficking. The story centers around former wrestler 'El Monstruo' (Ricardo Adam Zarate), a Mexican luchador obsessed with continuing his father's larger-than-life legacy, and his pregnant wife Kaylee (Santana Dempsey) as they deal with mobster boss Teddy (Mark Bunrham) and encounter other social outcasts, Crystal (Nicki Micheaux), and two former gangsters (Jon Oswald, Shaye Ogbonna). The films divides its narration according to each set of characters and their aptly titling sections, each of of which are as engaging as they are probing. The scenery itself is subject to examination. Set in Californian suburbia, the film suggests the nefarious underbelly of the American Dream. The camera (often hand-held) mimics the horizontality of the landscape, avoiding aerial long shots and panoramic takes, opting instead to follow the different movements of the cast. The very apropos script and dialogue reveal the characters' social origins and the effects of their immediate environment, with Spanish and slang being strategically used. The music and sound effects in a similar fashion, often diegetic or used as accents for El Monstruo's rage . . . rage against living a lie, against ICE's raids, against corruption, against inner weaknesses. Ryan Prow's directorial debut is set to please fans of luchador and low-profile crime films, and socially concerned cinephiles.

3.5 -- FREE AND EASY, Geng Jun
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] Minimalist but hilarious, a tale of too many con-men trying to fool each other and falling prey to their situations. Rogue soap salesman Gang Ge walks into a deserted industrial town to prowl its frozen streets in search of unaware victims; nearby, travelling monk Yong Ge offers divine favour in exchange for a donation; the police are unable, and rather unwilling, to track either crook, but as the wandering leads to odd encounters it becomes unclear who the real fools are. Missing people and trees, unusual friendships and striking moods enhance a satire that, like its characters, strays into the empty streets and twists in unforeseen corners. It is a voyage enabled by a cinematography championing the desolation of the town and by camera shots concealing a sucker punch, a gun, or the character's shifting attitudes. Yet, for all its jokes Free and Easy is a tale of spirituality. With a nod to Jim Jarmusch, Geng Jun's drowsy characters and their pathetic actions evoke Herzog's Heart of Glass (1976), but not only for the acting but because the poignancy often turns into poetry and the absurd foregrounds a sense of tragedy. Jun's film is also comparable to other crime tales set in modern China, like A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhangke, 2013) or Have a Nice Day (another Fantasia screener reviewed below); however, Free and Easy's minimal take on action and décor set it as an art-house crime comedy, rightfully earning it a Special Jury Award for Cinematic Vision at Sundance this year.

3.2 -- HAVE A NICE DAY, Hao Ji Le
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] "What's going on today? Everything is fucked up." Asks mob boss Uncle Liu as he tries to recover a bag full of chairman bills that can make dreams come true in a nameless city where every low-life and treacherous looser has a dream, tacky or not. An anti-morality tale of greed and confusion full of anti-heroes, from the unlucky thief, Xiao Zhang, to the impassive hitman Skinny, to an odd inventor or a murderous couple. Have a Nice Day is as ironic as its name promises, providing mordant commentary on modern Chinese society but also current world developments, from Trump to spirituality seeping through the radio or the casual conversation of the characters. Indeed, the feature's soundscape contributes to populate the decaying urban environment already rendered with intricate realism, down to the last stain. The mundane scenery, from an Internet Café to a passing hotel, offers constant crossroads for unexpected and bizarre encounters. Unfortunately, the animation is limited and often reduced to still vignettes, but Hao Ji Le's story more than makes up for these constraints. Along the lines of A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhangke, 2013) and Free and Easy (Geng Jun, 2017), another Fantasia screener, Have a Nice Day addresses modern China's ugly side, while also exemplifying emerging Chinese independent animation.


Fantasia has been one of the few spaces where new animated shorts receive a public viewing. The festival happily continued this tradition with Au-Delà De l’Animation, featuring a variety of politically engaged international animations from fantasy to documentary, with an emphasis on the state of the world in 2017.

Perhaps most notorious was the world premiere of Skin For Skin by NFB animators Carol Beecher and Kevin D.A. Kurytnik. This work of seven years in the making reflects in the painterly 3D characters in a partly historical and partly fictional fable based on Canada’s fur trade. While its tale of ecological devastation, human pride and redemption evokes indigenous lore, it is actually based on the Celtic culture of its protagonist. But this is an after the film fact, and the directors’ message that, “We [Canadians] have always been out of balance, our culture is a commercial culture . . . ” can easily transpose to other mythologies and to today’s ecological dilemma.

Equally critical of current capitalist society and likewise historically fed, was the collection of Belgian shorts in Inhibitum, by Atelier Collectif. The compilation used different animation techniques to tell the histories of discarded inventions and scientific developments which were decommissioned by corporate interests. This critique continued in the satire La Bite, by the French Jérôme Leroy and Pierre Tolmer, speaking on the dynamics of oppression, social change, and repetition propelled through the joke of a graffiti dick. Though concerned with other social issues, Quebecois animator Lori Malépart-Traversy’s Le Clitoris and Birdy Wouaf Wouaf by the French Ayce Kartal, addressed female sexuality and (gender?) non-conformity.

Other less socially concerned but dazzling animations completed the program. French animation had additional presence with the party tale Décibels by Léo Verrier, the childish aesthetics of Il Était 3 Fois by Julie Rembourille and Nicolas Bianco-Levrin, and Sébastien Laudenbach proved that animated movement can be erotic with Vibrato. Animators from other parts of Europe and the US were present with the bizarre The Absence of Eddy Table from Norwegian Rune Spaans; Sam Chou’s nostalgic He-Man: First Snowfall; Yin by the Belgian Nicolas Fong drew on M.C. Escher’s impossible geometries; U.K.’s Sophie Marsh’s Untamed Truths revealed the odd facts of animals, while Richard Twice by Matthew Salton from the USA offered tribute to 1960s folk-singer Richard Atkin.

Somewhat disappointing was the absence of the Mexican The Garden of Delights by Alejandro Garcia Caballero, offered in the Festival’s program. This missing work would have been the only one outside of Europe, Canada, and the US – in a festival seeking international scope and politically engaged representation.

3.2 -- TOKYO IDOLS, Kyoko Miyake
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] A look into the uncanny world of young Japanese girl performers, 'idols,' and the middle-aged men that adore them; Tokyo Idols offers a critical but highly empathetic look into an unusual fan culture. Director Kyoko Miyake takes no side on her comprehensive documentary but rather lets the idols, fans, and critics speak on the billion-dollar industry where cuteness and innocence are the most valued attributes. The film follows the steps of aging idol Ryo (Ryo Hiiragi, at 19 already old) and her fan base, or 'brothers,' to address the dynamics behind the idol phenomenon. From the economic recession and social male fantasies, to sexual grey zones and the need for human contact, Miyake conjoins the opinion of critics and experts with those of the men abandoning everything to follow their ideal of the feminine. It is a story of co-dependence and gender conformity that is shown through interviews, pre-performance rehearsals, autographed merchandise and music videos. But while Miyake aims for a neutral point of view, her camera can't help to note the age gap between the ever-younger performers (some starting at 13) and the older men who 'want to feel childish.' Evocative of Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue and of Japanese anime's sexualized depiction of young girls, Tokyo Idol's presence at Fantasia could be considered self-conscious. A staple of the genre festival are films about fan cultures, usually fictions with nerdy protagonists or documentaries celebrating a certain filmmaker or landmark picture, less often a self-reflective look at the fandoms themselves-Tokyo Idols is one such film.

3.6 -- A GHOST STORY, David Lowery
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] A Ghost Story is a melancholic tale of loss and remembrance but also an inventive essay on the metaphysics of cinema, on seeing and being unseen. The film's subtle but swift start introduces the main protagonists and plot elements within the first quarter of the film, illuminated by atmospheric daylight and centered by a 4:3 screen ratio -- all of which renders the fantastic story on the plane of the everyday. C (Casey Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara) are an enamoured young couple living in a suburban house. Without great drama, their lives are interrupted by C's unexpected death, which turns out to be not the end but the start of C's contemplative afterlife. Manifest under a simple but iconic ghost shape, unseen to M, C's ghost returns to their house and observes M mourn him and then carry on with her life, leaving the house that haunts her with memories and leaving C's ghost behind. Although his lover is gone, C continues to be a presence in the house, watching the succession of tenants, haunting them or just listening, until even the house is gone, too, and C's spirit is confronted with time itself. The passage of time is inventively presented and serves to illustrate C's spectral subjectivity but mimics the audience's relation to cinema. The ghost's point of view is akin to the narrative time experienced by the audience and its limitation to observe. As days turn into years, C's experience is divided by singular events and encounters, invisible to the living yet susceptible to their doings. Director and writer David Lowery paces the story through these visits and interventions in C's haunted house, drawing from its inhabitants' beliefs to speak for the spectre and for the audience. The minimal dialogue is expertly aided by the selective use of music (diegetic and non-diegetic), camera positions, and even subtitles which blend to convey a surreal but quotidian experience. A surprising turn from his last feature (Pete's Dragon (2016)), A Ghost Story retakes the romanticism and talent from Ain't Them Bodies Saints (2013); however, while Lowery's phantasmagoria departs from the action of his two other films, his minimalistic style attains a new transcendence and universality.

2016 Fantasia Film Festival Ratings
Fantasia Film Festival Ratings




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