Fantastic Fest

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Zack goes to FF 2007: DAY TWO

Admittedly, Friday's screenings felt slightly less electric as everyone got into a more relaxed, efficient festival mode, but the content is still maintaining the high level of quality violence and genital weaponry that we've come to expect.

Russia's THE SWORD BEARER is a grim, broad epic about a young outcast with the ability to pop a sword out of his wrist when provoked. Though I wasn't immediately inclined to take every "flight of fancy" the film provided, they handled the premise in a really unexpected way...don't expect a superhero, as THE SWORD BEARER's protagonist isn't necessarily concerned with using his abilities for the greater good. Rather, his priorities lie with slicing up deadbeats and evading the police.

NEVER BELONGS TO ME was next, more importantly preceded by the much-ballyhooed short GARY'S TOUCH, which had received many pre-festival whispers regarding its deeply objectionable content. Well...those whispers are deserved. Attendance was strong so I ended up sitting directly next to strangers for the most uncomfortable theatrical experience of my life. I think they were a young couple on a date, and if so, he will never hear from her again. NEVER BELONGS TO ME was equal in weirdness and had some pretty amazing moments, but the story is told in this meandering, dreamlike way that almost lulls you into a daze of anthropomorphic weeping, penile firearms and gender-bent mad scientists.

Man-mountain Marko Zaror presented MIRAGEMAN, which was a sincere exploration of what a real-life Chilean costumed vigilante would have to endure. Zaror is really damn likable on-screen, and the movie won over the room in a big way. A well-balanced mix of action, pathos and some really effective humor. It's an easy bet that these guys are going to build a following once the U.S. audience figures out what's what.

FIVE ACROSS THE EYES was introduced by the directors and star Sandra Paduch. There was a lot of curiosity about this title, and the room was nearly full. I'm glad to say that the whole thing works really well, especially considering the audience is being subjected to spending 90 min in a family van with five squealing teenage girls. Sound like a headache? Surprisingly, no. All the performances were strong and convincing, and though you may not be able to watch this movie every day, it's impressive how many standard horror formula rules the filmmakers chose to not follow.

My final show last night was blunt-trauma Hong Kong action opera DOG BITE DOG, which is likely the only movie I've ever seen that opens with the protagonist pumping three bullets into a 60-year-old woman's skull. The action was intense and the violence obviously severe, though like many HK films, the story took a couple head-scratch-inducing turns into emotional territory, sometimes accompanied by tender AM radio jams. Still, the strength of the fight segments and chase scenes kept it at pretty high marks. And I'll never hear "You Are My Sunshine" or ventilate an elderly woman the same way again.

See you soon,


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