Cinetalk ended its viewing in style with the zany Fly Me To the Saitama (a poorly translated Tonde Saitama) from Fantasia’s Classic section.
It features visual key musician Gackt as the multilingual, androgynous Asami Rei. Initially, his name is made fun of by new rival, Momomi, the son of very important high society folk. But Momomi…isn’t that also a “girl’s name”? And for this gender-reversed casting we should be thankful. Fumi Nikaido, whose face appeared in several other films at this year’s festival (see our reviews of No Longer Human and Tezuka’s Barbara), plays the role of the male but quite feminine Momomi.
This is what fantasy is all about. The humor and mishmash of thematic styles makes the viewer come to accept that the gender of Momomi is indeed male. Based on a manga by Mineo Maya, director Hideo Takeuchi takes things to another level of bizarre, mixing European aristocracy with futuristic wardrobe and settings. The anachronistic comedy paints Saitama as a righteous (but boring) place of history and art, while Tokyo is where sexy women writhe around in nightclubs, and Saitamaggots are expelled if they don’t have their Visas.
The urban legend retelling of so-called history is a blast, if you hadn’t already seen it at Fantasia 2019.
Also worth mentioning is one of our top picks, I WeirDo (Liao Ming-Yi). Alas, it only had one live screening and was not available On Demand. However, its Instagram-like palette of turquoises and blues drew us in. Shot on an iPhone, it starts off square-frame and gradually takes over the full screen as we watch the central character’s journey of growth. Po-Ching has extreme OCD. While seeking treatment for it, he stumbles across what would seem to be his match made in heaven. The pair move in together, and things seem to go well as they share house-cleaning duties and errands. Fitting for 2020, they spend a large part of the film cloaked in masks, gloves, and other protective gear. As we get swept away with their bizarre little quirks, the film takes on a more serious note. Relationships are still relationships. They all face hardships. Liao’s play on personal perspective is what makes the conclusion so moving.
Another bittersweet moment comes from Takeshi Yashiro’s Gon, the Little Fox. The short film is a stop-motion version of the famous children’s tale by Nimi Nankichi. Straight out of the Uncanny Valley, comes Gon. The mangy little fox walks upright on his hind legs and has a child’s voice. Though there is a quiet beauty throughout, there’s something just a bit unsettling too. Without offering spoilers, the ending is just heartbreaking, no matter which way the story is told.
There are two more days left to catch your last Fantasia flicks – don’t let them slip away! It’s been a very pleasant experience from the comfort of our own homes. Who knows what 2021 will bring to the festival circuit. At-home popcorn deliveries would be nice, but if not, a cinema setting might be fun to experience again one day! Stay safe.