FNC 2017: Animated Features Spotlight

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There are many animated shorts and features at the 2017 FNC. Two full-length films worth noting are Mutafukas (Shoujirou Nishimi, Guillaume Renard), and Tehran Taboo (Ali Soozandeh).

In Tehran Taboo, if you’re a woman, you will always need a man’s written validation to make any serious life decisions. So, you landed that great job! Your husband must sign a waiver giving his permission for you to work. So, you want a divorce but your husband is in jail and high? Still, his written authorization is obligatory.

This is the lifestyle in Iran. Soozandeh’s insight into the male dominated society reveals things outsiders may not expect. Sure, it’s socially acceptable to smoke shisha and cigarettes, but is it commonly known that students and starving artists smoke weed just like in North America and Europe? Young adults can’t go to a nightclub without recreational drugs and promiscuous sex. Is Iran’s society then, so different than others? Well, there are some glaring differences. Public hangings are legal. Holding hands in public with the opposite gender if you Continue reading

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FNC 2017: New Works by Landmark Directors

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Festivals being an occasion to catch up with the latest works of international film directors from every corners of the world, here’s some notable picks:

 

The Other Side of Hope

(Sunday October 15,7:10 PM Cinéma du Parc 2)

Finnish living legend Aki Kaurismaki (Leningrad Cowboys, Le Havre, The man without a past, etc) unique style is at work again, still on a surprising shoe string budget for such a major contemporary director. He fully demonstrates that when creativity is part of your DNA you don’t need 50 million dollars. Back are the loony situations wonderfully enhanced by Kaurismaki regular, Sakari Kuosmanen, supported by a strong ensemble cast that seem at times to have been hypnotized. But that is part of the director’s signature. As we follow the story of refugees and outcasts evolving around the restaurant of a local entrepreneur, issues about immigration, Rock n Roll, love, life and death are introduced with a light touch into his always simple but beautiful framing. As always with Kaurismaki odd choices (his assumed colorful Art direction is all there) and while we don’t know if we should cry or laugh, he moves us and we leave the cinema pretty much with a feeling of happiness. It should not work, but it does because he is a brilliant film maker.

This work of love is like candy. Best left to melt in the mouth.

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Outrage Coda

(Wednesday October 11, 5:00 PM – Cinéma du Parc 2)

With Outrage Coda (the third episode of his Outrage trilogy) actor-director Takeshi Kitano (Sonatin, Hana-Bi, Kikujiro) takes us, once more, into Yakuza intrigues.

This time around, Otomo (Takeshi) is on a killing rampage to rub out almost everything that walks on two legs in order to settle a dispute between rival gangs.

A kind of safe choice where you know what you’ll get as a spectator. It doesn’t cover any new territories for Takeshi who gives himself minimum screen time, so when he appears you are in for stylish violence delivered with offbeat humor. Business as usual.

 

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Samui Song

(Tuesday October 10, 4:00 PM Cineplex Odeon Quartier SALLE 10)

In Thailand’s Pen-Ek Ratanaruang (Last life in the Universe, Ploy, Invisible Waves) Samui Song, a soap opera actress, who’s husband is under the spell of a charismatic cult leader, sets a scheme to escape dark destiny that will lead to a chain of tragic results.

Although the ending (that I won’t display here) is not fully convincing, Ratanaruang’s direction pace and overall signature, with his usual odd shifts into the storyline, offer an intriguing insight into the grey zone which lies in us all. It is specifically this talent to create unsettling changes that makes this director as interesting as he is overlooked. And Samui song certainly worth a look.

 

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Frost

(Sunday October 15, 8:00 PM –   Quartier Latin  10)

Lithuanian director Sharunas Bartas filmography is an ode to unsettling minimalism. With FROST, Bartas ventures into the Ukrainian war.

A couple of insouciant young Lithuanians, accept to bring humanitarian aid from Vilnius to Ukraine without real understanding of what they are up to, until reality catch up with them.

Their relation and motivation being unclear right from the start, we get nearly no characters development, apart from the fact they are obviously very naive in taking this trip like an adventure. Bartas takes us on the road with limited background information. He uses close shots, no music. All along we are strangers to the conflict and it is difficult to understand where we are exactly, until it is too late. This was dubbed by various critics as an absence of dramatic build up. They are wrong.

Bartas quiet minimalism and foggy situations lead us into an abyss. Like its characters (or occidental audiences and critics), he can’t pretend he fully understands this complicated conflict (like too many directors do with a war subject). Further more if the first half of the film is kind of quiet, the director demonstrates that you do not have to show much (he is pretty restrain) to expose horror , and in its later section, which definitely takes a darker tone, the violence is not gratuitous. Frost display a sense of decency, in tackling a difficult subject, that is quite honorable.

Fantasia 2017: Cocolors (Japan, 2017)

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Blind faith in the reality of an outside world pushes Cocolors’ protagonists ahead in a mission to see what they’ve been told that they cannot. Toshihisa Yokoshima’s animated gem constructs a dystopia where children still act like kids despite their full-body protective gear, and the frailness their society’s inhabitants have inherited. Living underground after a natural disaster, Aki tries to bring hope to himself and everyone around him, but his words fall flat. His friend, Fuyu (re)invents the traditional Japanese art of woodblock printing. He is missing just one special ink color to complete his piece. Alas, it only exists “out there”.

Fatalism is pit against naive optimism in a toon shaded digital animation world (toon shading creates flat color areas – similar to woodblock printing techniques – instead of rendering objects with 3D volume). Set to a lovely score by Abe Ryudai and Hirose Kiyoshi, Cocolors premiered in Japan as a multimedia performance where Continue reading

Fantasia 2017: Rage (Lee Sang-il, 2016)

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DARIA GAMLIEL for Cinetalk.net

Without knowing in advance about the premise or plot, Rage throws at-first disjointed events and characters at the viewer. The connections slowly unfurl with a manhunt revealing three possible identities of a murderer. If however, the viewer goes into this 142-minute drama cum suspense thriller with the notion that it is a horror film, this isn’t the case. Perhaps by design, the mis-typing of Lee Sang-il’s film gives it the advantage of surprising its audience. It is Shunji Iwai-esque in its epic-length and treatment of subject matter. It follows multiple characters – misfits – whose confusion and grief propel their coming-of-age. Scenic Okinawan locations are juxtaposed against the neons of Tokyo, and the viewer is drawn into the relation between characters and environment.

Rarely seen in Japanese film, the gay community is surprisingly well showcased. Rage tackles several still-taboo subjects in this area, such as online hookups, what constitutes a ‘family’, and how to deal with chosen-family burial. The exchanges between characters in this story arc are Continue reading

FANTASIA 2017 : Tokyo Idols (Japan, 2017)

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DARIA GAMLIEL for Cinetalk.net

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