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Fantasia Film Fest: Part II

The first few days of Fantasia are already over. Soon enough the festival will be over too. So, hurry up and see as much movies as you can! I certainly will! During the 2 days of presale before the festival, no less than 40,000 tickets we sold. Obviously Marc Lamothe (the marketing director) was very happy when he announced those numbers at the festival opening. Few minutes later, before introducing the opening film, Mitch Davis promised us that Concordia will change the seats of the auditorium before the next edition of the festival as he gracefully thanked Concordia for saving the festival a few years ago when the former venue of the festival (Cinema Imperial) decided to close its doors for repairs a mere 2 months before the festival. So it looks like the festival found a new permanent home. After a couple of difficult years during which its future wasn’t certain at all, Fantasia is more alive than ever.

ASHURA (Dir. Yojiro Takita, Japan, 2005)

With similar themes than those of Casshern, Ashura is the typical love story you’d expect to see between a demon and a human; boy gets girl, boy loses girl, girl turns into Queen of the Demon overnight, boys has to destroy demon world despite his love for Ashura. As many Japanese directors get older they tend to fill their films with symbolism typical of the Japanese culture. Shohei Imamura’s segment in 11’09”01 – September 11 is a perfect example. Ashura is too filled with obscure symbolism and in addition it’s based a recent stage play which drew on both the classic kabuki theatre and contemporary trends in Japanese pop culture. Needless to say we’re not able to make those connections as North Americans. While Ashura’s cinematography and soundtrack are astonishing, this lack of understanding of the symbolism in the film contributed to its unfortunate letdown. Had we been able to fully understand the symbols in the narrative as the Japanese probably do, the film would have been flourished a little more upon foreign audience. As the credits start to roll, we are reminded of Celine’s song at the end of Titanic – out of no where and in a movie set in the 19th century, a song by Sting is played. Issshhh.

CRYING FIST (Dir. Ryoo Seung-wan, Korea, 2005)

The often crude violence in Korean cinema has become one of its trademarks: just think about the baby that gets crushed by a truck in The Uninvited or the extreme violence in Oldboy and Attack of the Gas Station. Crying Fist and its very graphic (yet sublime) crane incident sequence showcases the overall extreme violence that fits perfectly in this tendency. Tae-shik a former silver medalist in the Asian Games in Boxing decides to revert to boxing as he’s about to lose everything; his house, his family, his life. In the mean time, a young and desperate thief Sang-hwan is sent to jail where he discovers boxing. They both register for a boxing tournament and, one thing leading to another, the last part of the film is their confrontation at the final match of the tournament, from which only one of the two can emerge victorious. The director was quite audacious in having the narrative see both heroes confront one another in such a manner. Ryoo Seung-wan (whose previous films are as equally violent) did an excellent job at breaking conventions of the genre. The standing ovation at the end of the film confirmed that.

Note: I have to say though I’m very disappointed that Crying Fist was presented on the very first day of the festival. It was such a delight that I have the feeling all the movies I’ll see from this point on won’t be able to equal this benchmark pleasure. It should definitely have been shown as a closing film – hopefully, my hunch will be wrong and other masterpieces will make their way in the program …
(*** Crying Fist will play again today, Saturday July 9th, at 9PM.)


Horror cinema is starting to get recognized as a legitimate genre and gets access to governmental funding more easily than in previous years. The Dark Hours starts as a psychological drama à la Lantana – a psychiatrist in her late thirties learns that her brain tumor is getting bigger and that she doesn’t have long to live. Soon after that she announced the bad news to her husband and sister at their cottage, things go awry as a young man played by Dov Tiefenbach (The Delicate Art of Parking) arrives at the cottage. Soon enough the family dog is killed and from that point on, we feel as if the storyline can go in any direction. What a disconcerting feeling! “I wanted to do something that signaled that all bets were off and anything can happen from here on in” said Wil Smak. Such as Conventions of Canadian horror, the story takes place during the cold Canadian winter in a cabin in a forest— the sort of place where cell phones don’t work. The film is no ordinary horror film however; similar in many ways to Haneke’s excellent Funny Games, The Dark Hours successfully breaks some taboos about what is – and what is not acceptable within a film. Its extreme violence won’t please everybody; you’ll most likely not want to play truth or dare after this viewing …

“What was great about thrillers of the 70’s was that they had an intensity, they dealt with emotional issues, they were psychological and they were scary in a fucked up way. It was all about bad chemistry; it was all about people hurting each other in terrible ways… Somehow that got lost somewhere—intensity was replace with irony, the quiet moments and that amazing build up of dread were replaced by motion and noise. Paul and I [Wil Zmak] both liked the idea of a small, quiet, dark, intense type of film. This is what I set out to write” —Wil Zmak.

*** The Dark Hours will play at Fantasia on July 14th, 2005 at 9:45PM. The screening will be hosted by Director Paul Fox, Producer Brent Barclay, Screenwriter Wil Zmak and lead Actors Kate Greenhouse & Aidan Devine. The Dark Hours will be released in theaters in November.

Fantasia Film Festival: Guests
Fantasia Film Festival: Intro

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