Fantastic Fest

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fantastic Fest Day 3: Geishas, Hatchet-men, Martial-Arts, Torture and Chimpanzee-On-Midget crime!

So, yesterday was my Day 3 and I'm starting to feel the wear and tear a bit. I may pull back a little but but actually I probably won't.

My first movie was MAIKO HAAAAN! (I may be missing an A or two there.) It's a spectacularly weird comedy about a man who has an obsession with geishas. He maintains a website about them and his fondest dream is to play strip baseball with a geisha. He develops an unbelievably intense rivalry with a baseball player who seems to be having all the fun he himself should be having. The rivalry assumes toweringly absurd proportions as each man tries to one-up the other and then the film takes some unexpected serio-comic turns. It reminds me of the kind of comedy Jerry Lewis used to direct and star in, and that's no insult. The star of this thing, Sadao Abe, is spectacular and the movie works really well.

Then it was DEVILS-HELPER: THE FOLK ART FILMS OF PHIL CHAMBLISS with Mr. Chambliss in attendance. The films are molasses-paced with a kind of very eccentric humor that I loved. There's even a moment of real cinematic beauty in the short SHADOWS OF THE HATCHET MAN where a dog, who is chasing the hatchet man in a tracking shot runs right past the hatchet man and keeps running and running after the camera car. It's a really, really beautiful shot. I had seen these films before but it was nice to see the audience warm up to their humor. See them! And as Stretch says, "Don't hit me hard!"

I didn't watch the AICN Special Secret Screening of SOUTHLAND TALES because I didn't want to deprive a paying badgeholder a seat and honestly, unlike everyone else I know, I don't really care to see it - so I went with Donnie Yen's latest Kong Kong action movie FLASH POINT. It's really a throwback to early '90s HK Action and it's even set in 1996. The movie kind of percolates in a more or less predictable way until about an hour in and then it's pure action all the way. The fighting style is Mixed Martial Arts/Takedown style and the big fight at the end is glorious and super violent. I love those little moments when you can tell that an audience is totally in synch with the film and there was one of those moments when Donnie Yen took his jacket off about 10 minutes and 7 broken bones into the fight as if to say, "now it's just getting started."

Then I watched JACK KETCHUM'S THE GIRL NEXT DOOR. I had seen the screener months ago but I was eager to see how an audience took it. I like the film pretty well but the rest of the audience LOVED IT. It's extremely rough stuff, based on a true story. The physical violence is minimal compared to some of the other movies in the (admittedly violence saturated) fest but the spiritual violence is second to none. There were several walkouts and at the end of the film at least one audience member was sobbing out loud. I talked to one staff member who was furious that the movie had been made, and was doubly furious that people were lining up to watch it. It's likely to create controversy wherever it is shown. There are a number of strong performances in the film but it's Blanche Baker (Carrol Baker's daughter!) who holds the film together with an intense and terrifying performance.

Then I went looking for Uwe Boll so I could get him into the theater for the POSTAL screening at midnight-ish. He was out talking to a KLRU TV crew and I waited while he wrapped up then spoke to him for a bit and we were on with the intro to postal. After Uwe and actor Zack Ward did the intro we pulled out a vintage Osama Bin Laden pinata and Uwe whacked the schiessen out of it with a rebar, spilling inexpensive and unpalatable candy everywhere. Soon audience members were enjoying POSTAL (and 3 year old Jolly Ranchers).

POSTAL is berzerk, lightning-paced and provocative. In a way it served as a mirror of our times. Especially when Mini-Me Vern Troyer is being sodomized by chimps, or Dave Foley is waving his dangle at the camera. Some of the most witty dialogue in the film is spoken by the terrorists who subsequently fly a 747 into the World Trade Center. It really does seek to offend everyone but I think the Fantastic Fest crowd was offense-proof because they laughed and howled throughout.

The Q&A afterwards was so crazy and chaotic it made POSTAL look like a Robert Bresson film. Uwe Boll was incredibly candid about the critics, Hollywood and his own complex feelings about Jean-Claude Van Damme, whom he wishes to someday face in the boxing ring. Star Zack Ward was like a rabid dingo, yelling about how much he hates babies, challenging the audience to fellate him, declaring war against mom and apple pie, etc. It was one of those Q&A's where every mouth in the audience is hanging wide open. It was the shazbot! Yeah!


  • At 10:31 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Lars, you didn't miss anything by skipping Southland Tales, believe me. On the other hand, thanks to your enthusiastic write-up regarding the "Devil's Helper" screening, I rolled the dice on Saturday and was rewarded with four little gems of folk-art meets Ed Wood weirdness, and I thank you for that. The exact same shot you described (with the dog running down the road) was the one that floored me as well. I couldn't be more proud of the festival for bringing those films to us.


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