Due to time constraints, we decided to do a summary of favorite picks rather than review the following films one at a time. The FNC runs until October 31st and we wanted to make sure our readers were still able to catch some of these gems.
The first thing that caught our attention was the Nikkatsu 30th Anniversary restoration of Hiruko the Goblin. Adapted from Morohoshi Daijiro’s manga, it certainly feels cartoonish. A mystical goblin has been unsealed from the depths of the creepy-monster hell it came from. A high school teacher goes missing after venturing into Hiruko’s underground lair.
One of Tsukamoto Shinya’s early works has remarkably stood the test of time. It is campy and a bit cheesy, but all things considered, the film is from 1991 and still looks rather modern. Only the music sounds incredibly dated. Think 1980’s, not 1990’s. Gory fun with a touch of Ito Junji horror-manga flair.
The Pink Cloud is a fitting segue, because there’s something very Japanese about it. Especially in the first half, the city establishing shots with the peculiar flute soundtrack is very reminiscent of old Japanese apocalypse-monster movies. It may even remind viewers of Alfred Hitchcock’s Room with a View at times.
An accidental couple goes into lockdown after toxic pink clouds invade the planet. Parallels will of course be drawn to the Covid19 pandemic. The catch here, is that Iuli Gerbase’s ode to existential crises predates the 2020 pandemic by 3 years. The script was already written before the big Corona hit.
The entire length of the film, one has to wonder where this is going. How will it end? Will there be a miraculous happy conclusion? A humorous twist? Characters growing old and dying of natural causes? A very powerful look at how people interact with one another, and what we now in 2021 refer to as a mental health crisis. It would have been seen as absurdist literature, but thanks to the collective Coronavirus experience, it just feels realistic.
Cinetalk fell in love with Harry Cleven’s Mon Ange at the 2017 FNC. It’s no surprise that his latest offering became our 2021 top pick. Zeria is a creepy and Uncanny Valley-esque smorgasbord of live action seamlessly blended with 3D model animation (the kind created with bare hands as opposed to with a modern modeling software). At first glance, it’s hard to tell exactly how it was made. Is it papier-mâché or humans wearing lugubrious masks? Apparently, it is both, but this mystery adds to the unsettling atmosphere.
Shot mostly in black and white, Zeria‘s aesthetic harkens back to the animation of Jan Svankmayer. A grandfather on a dying Earth narrates a letter to Zeria, the grandson he has never met. Assuming that Zeria lives on Mars, the protagonist wishes he has a better life than the one that shattered Gramps. A survivor of extreme abuse, Grandpa has seen sick, human perversion, while also watching a planet deteriorate so much that earthlings have been carted off to that red planet.
Zeria is theatrical and gestural, and its characters share the Cleven family name. At times, the male characters even bear a striking albeit distorted resemblance to Cleven himself. This is a beautiful piece of work, but its beauty is hidden under layers of human hideosity.
Hiruko the Goblin
The Pink Cloud
Zeria – All are On Demand until October 31st, 2021