FanTasia 2003 Preview
The long wait is over. After a one year hiatus for economic and logistical reasons, the FanTasia International Film Festival is back (July 17-August 10, 2003). The Fantasia faithful, and there are many, will have to re-route their travel about 15 blocks west to the new Fantasia location: the Concordia University Hall-110 building and neighboring (across the street) J.A. De Seve theatre on 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd West in between Mackay and Bishop streets. After being in the regal Imperial Theatre from 1996 to 2001 the Fantasia organisers had to relocate because of continuing extensive renovations to the Imperial Theatre. People who are familiar with the Hall 110 Building from the days of the old Cinematheque
Onward to the main dish, the films. FanTasia is back with a vengeance this year, with 90 features and 50 shorts, their biggest total yet. Leading the pack is Japan, with 22 features, four alone from the prolific Takashi Miike (Man in White 2003, Shangri-la 2002, Graveyard of Honor 2002, and Ichi the Killer 2001), Hong Kong (16 features), Korea and the US (11 each), and Spain with 5. Oddly enough, there are no features from
Ichi the Killer
In the Korean section one of the most anticipated films is Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002). Director Park Chan-Wook (director of JSA) borrows a page from Kim Ki-Duk’s staple of mute/taciturn characters in this harrowing study of obsessiveness. Throw away your notions of quaint and polite Korean girls when you go to see the irrepressible My Sassy Girl (Kwak Jae-Yong, 2001). Although not quite in the league of Attack the Gas Station, director Kim Sang-jiin returns with his mega-popular action comedy Kick the Moon (2001). Another successful Korean comedy is Saving my Hubby (2002, Nam-seob Hyeon), with actress Bae Doo-na taking a break from her usual dark roles (Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, The Ring Virus) for the central role in this light hearted Run Lola Run inspired madcap comedy.
Represented in the Korean section are both of
The specter of misogyny also appears in the
Martial arts fans should be wetting their lips for the long time coming Shaw Brothers retrospective. The time was right, with this year’s UCLA Shaw Brothers retrospective Heroic Grace on tour. The works selected are the great King Hu’s Come Drink With Me (1967), Chang Cheh’s influential One-Armed Swordsman (1967), Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan (1972, Chu Yuan), and 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978, Liu Chia-Lang). Read scholar and Shaw Brothers fan Peter Rist’s inspired introduction to Heroic Grace.
It has been a while since the undead have lumbered across our movie screens, but they are well represented at FanTasia 2003. Once dominated by the
For those seeking a reprieve from the fast-paced, explicit, and kinetic zombie films, the Spanish tradition of low-key, subtle, atmospheric supernatural thrillers (Tesis, The Nameless, The Others) continues this year with Norbeto Lopes’ Nos Miras (They Watch Us).
FanTasia tradition is such that it always presents at least one truly ‘nasty’ film, that infamous film which die-in-the-wool fans have read about and, if lucky, seen on bootleg video. Previous years have included such ‘nasty’ classics as Man Behind the Sun, Untold Story, Cannibal Holocaust, Dr. Butcher MD, Mark of the Devil, Wife to be Sacrificed, Ebola Syndrome, and Cannibal Ferrox. This year it’s the sleazy 1981 Puerto Rican slasher film Pieces (directed by Spanish Juan Piquer Simon). FanTasia is clearly a populist festival, but it is also all about showing cutting edge films that defy description and have as much commercial potential as a dead battery. This year’s perverse masterpiece is Da mon Packard’s Reflections of Evil. This one-man romp through sunny LA is as anti-mainstream, misanthropic, and subversive an American film as you are likely to see. I’ve seen this twice on DVD but can not wait to see it with an audience. I expect some walkouts, catcalls, and anger, others will love this and talk about it for days.
FanTasia is also proud to welcome back Chilean director Jorge Olguin, who introduced his feature debut Angel Negro at FanTasia in 2001. Olguin will be presenting his interesting follow-up feature Sangre Eterna, an existentialist fable about teen identity crisis disguised in “Goth” clothing. Olguin stylishly crafts a modern day vampire story by weaving together the modern (Goth subculture, role-playing gamers) with the religious (Catholic iconography, the apocalypse, religious conversion). Sangre Eterna is heads above the usual teen supernatural thriller because of its purposeful use of formal complexity and its challenging narrative structure (shifts between reality and role-playing, objective and subjective point of view). Teen identity crisis takes a more surreal twist in the Japanese Suicide Club (2002), where enigmatic teen suicides become the next big youth craze. In this bizarre horror satire we can see the lingering influence of Hideo Nakata’s The Ring and the burgeoning of an inspired sub-genre of dark, surreal Japanese horror (Uzumaki, The Ring, Audition, The Cure, Pulse, Gemini).
Also returning to FanTasia, somewhat of a conquering hero, is Richard Stanley, who enthused audiences with his films (Dust Devil and Hardware) and charisma back in 1997 and 1998. This year he is set to introduce three different documentaries that are united in their intelligence and profundity: Voice of the Moon (1990, on the 1989 Russian invasion of
I have no doubt that FanTasia regulars will easily adjust to the new location, and that they will be as enthusiastic and dedicated as usual. But the burning question is, will FanTasia survive Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Campbell in the same year??!! Please visit the FanTasia website for more information on the complete schedule and up-to-date news.