FANTASIA 2017 : Tokyo Idols (Japan, 2017)



Japan’s idol industry may appear very strange to Western music fans. In North America, it’s common for the star to be guarded and fenced in, away from their fans’ grubby paws and selfie sticks. In Japan, idols hold events specifically designed to allow human contact and photo ops. Japanese pop stars (and their management) in the Internet era attempt to bridge the communication gap with face-to-face interaction. The relationship between idols and their fans is portrayed as “a religion” in Kyoko Miyake’s Tokyo Idols. The story about real-life idol Rio begins at a concert. The screen fills with lightsticks while audience members perform synchronized dance moves. This scene would be familiar to anyone who has attended pop concerts in Japan. It is so very Japanese that Western viewers may not recognize or understand the strange fandom behavior.

Tokyo Idols gives a glimpse of many behavioral concepts that would be entirely foreign to non-locals. Without elaborating too much of the whys, Miyake has created a little gem of a documentary about the sometimes absurd rituals in Japanese pop culture. Even to locals who don’t follow what’s ‘cool’, the interaction between fans and their idols might seem obsessive and unhealthy. However, idols have given a place in society to many people who otherwise would never fit in. Such commusho appear in the lyrics of one of Rio’s songs. A fan explains that commusho are people with “communication disabilities”. In recent years, these socially awkward folks have become more Continue reading

Fantasia 2017: 78/52 (US – 2017)



78/52 is a film tribute to the infamous shower sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). Hitchcock devoted an entire week to film the three minutes iconic scene which required 78 camera setups and 52 cuts, hence the title of the documentary .

Director Alexandre O. Philippe (The people VS George Lucas) illustrates the influence of the segment with interviews, archival Hitchcock audio commentaries (some excerpt from the landmark Hitchcock/Truffaut tape) and simulations.

The spectator gets every angle (fact is you never see the blade penetrate the skin) from Saul Bass’ shot by shot storyboard comparison to great editor Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now) exposing its influence when he Continue reading

FANTASIA 2017: Liberation Day ( Norway-Latvia, 2016)



In august 2015, as part of the 70th anniversary of Korea’s independence from Japanese ruling, Slovenian Industrial-rock band Laibach played a gig in Pyongyang, North Korea. Morten Traavik Ugis Olte’s Liberation Day chronicles this surrealist event in an entertaining and comprehensive way, thus being careful not to leave behind viewers who may not be familiar with this iconic group.

Born in Tito’s 1980’s Yugoslavia, Laibach, with its use of provocative iconography (Malevich’s black crosses, military outfits, etc) were dubbed as fascists right from the start. So, 30 years later, when it came to a first time open doors of North Korea to pop-rockin’ concert from Westerners, they seemed like the oddest choice. And they were. But, Continue reading

The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography (Errol Morris, 2016)



The moment 80-year old Elsa Dorfman graces the screen, we are taken in by her youthful presence and unmistakably Massachusetts accent. Most known for her large format Polaroid photography, she gained notoriety shooting portraits of local rock n’ rollers (Jonathan Richman, Aerosmith), and beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Her relationship with the latter spanned decades, and  The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography by Errol Morris (The Fog of War, Mr Death, etc) showcases their friendship as having been tender and upbeat. Their artistic collaborations were an inspiration to the up-and-coming photographer.

Morris has created a poetic and photographic journey through Dorfman’s career. Fittingly, the opening credits are a collection of aesthetically pleasing closeups, employing a short depth of field with eye-catching foreground elements, such as urban architecture, and darkroom and studio signage. It is the perfect analogy of Continue reading

MANIFESTO (2015 – Germany-Australia)



Contemporary artist Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto, in which Cate Blanchett, playing multiple characters, is the main attraction, gets a theatrical release in a feature format.

Originally, Manifesto is a video installation. It introduces thirteen different characters, all portrayed by Blanchett. They are to be played simultaneously in the exhibit form. All characters are on a mission statement about Art and freedom. We get some beautiful shot with a sense for motion. We get Cate Blanchett times thirteen. We get the timeless, endless debates about Art and its purpose in society.

In the feature mode (sitting in a theatre for 90 minutes with the editing mainly on the narrative mode), Manifesto if far from being convincing. The conversion of Blanchett into various characters may be Continue reading