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Fantasia Film Fest: Part III

With a line-up of 90 films, it’s impossible to like all the films presented at the festival. Festival goers who have to buy tickets can hand-pick a selection of the best 10-20 films or so. However, my philosophy when I have a festival pass is to see as many films as I can, even movies that look less interesting based on their picture and 300-word summary in the catalogue. I think that having a pass is necessary to fully enjoy a festival; this can be a wonderful way to discover new films that we wouldn’t have picked had we had to pay for individual tickets. It’s unfortunate that Fantasia doesn’t offer any passes to the public.

However, the drawback in having a pass is that a lot of films that really aren’t very interesting make their way to our schedule. It can be deadly to have 2 not so interesting films back to back when we have 3 or 4 films remaining later during the day. Fortunately this hasn’t happened at the festival yet and while there weren’t any masterpieces, I have yet to not find a film that wasn’t worth watching. Hopefully the rest of the festival will be like that.

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Arahan (Ryoo Seung-wan, Korea, 2005)

A young clumsy policeman is recruited by a strange group of chi masters with supernatural powers called the seven masters (although they are only five!) and together they have a mission to protect the world against a demon who recently was set free after centuries of captivities. This supernatural comedy in the likes of Running on Karma (Fantasia 2004) was directed by Ryoo Seung-wan who also directed Crying Fist. It has all the elements one could hope for in a Film at fantasia; a clumsy and nerdy male lead like in most Korean romantic comedies (Sex is Zero, My Sassy Girl, …), a cute female lead, a rather problematic romance and several supernatural martial art sequences. Arahan doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, and after a while the endless combat sequences become rather long and pointless; it’s not a masterpiece by any means but it’s still entertaining throughout.

Karaoke Terror a.k.a. Complete Japanese Showa Songbook. (Tetsuo Shinohara, Japan, 2003)

Who doesn’t like senseless violence, black humour and over the top musical numbers? Adapted from a novel by Ryu Murakami (Tokyo Decadence), Karaoke Terror is a very unique movie that is unlike everything you’ve seen before. The film starts as a typical realist violent Japanese film like Blue Spring but as the violence takes epic proportions – the story quickly becomes surrealist. The plot of the film is very simple; after a young teen kills a middle-aged woman because she was too stuck up, friends of the victim who all share Midori as their first name decide to kill the young boy in return. From that point on, a war between the two clans emerge and ultimately the young boys decide to eliminate all middle-aged women. Needless to say the film is very controversial. Leaders of the two clans in the film are two of my favourite Japanese actors; Ryuhei Matsuda (Gohatto, Blue Spring) and Kanako Higuchi who incidentally also played a woman called Midori in Casshern. The film works very well and obviously it is not to be taken literally. Rather, it cleverly shows how there is a big generation gap and a lot of misunderstanding between teens and older generations in Japanese society.

The Taste of Tea (Katsuhito Ishii, Japan, 2004)

The Taste of Tea is a psychedelic homage to Yasujiro Ozu’s portraits of Japanese family life. For this film, Ishii left the violence behind to follow the normal lives of the Harunos, a family living in the outskirt of Tokyo. There is no plot per se as each segment is based on a separate character; Sachiko for example tries to get rid of her giant double throughout the film. The film is filled with hilarious surrealist sequences that don’t make any sense. Yet the film as a whole forms a very cohesive portrait of the family. From an extravagant flashback to another, we discover each characters and their own crooked inner world. It took me a while to catch on; during the first few minutes of the film I wished I had rather gone seen the other film instead. However, as each new segments unfolded, I became more and more captivated by the film and at the end of the film I felt it could have lasted another 90 minutes or so. Definitely a must see.

*** The Taste of Tea will play again at the festival tomorrow night, July 13th at 9:30PM.

Fantasia Film Festival: Part II

Fantasia Film Festival: Guests

Fantasia Film Festival: Intro

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