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FANTASIA Film Festival!

New to the IONCINEMA team roster comes local cinephile Pierre-Alexandre Despatis – who you’ve might have already read as a contributor to the excellent Montreal-based webzine called Synoptique. His insight and maniacal obsession for the 7th art will be apparent in his almost daily overview of Montreal’s ‘05 edition of the FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL. Sleepless nights will be the sum result of the terrifying task of covering a fest which specializes in nightmarish worlds and hellish afterlives. If you happen to stumble across Mr.Despatis, please make sure you give him your support and let him know if the goldfish needs feeding.

Before you read further, let’s make this clear: I’m a self-proclaimed movie geek. If the fact I saw 8 movies on the opening day of a film festival last year doesn’t prove it, perhaps my overtly detailed screening log and its numerous cool yet unnecessary statistical charts will. I have a strong interest for Asian films and since my job allows me to take days off whenever I want, I’ll be going to Fantasia almost daily during the 18 days of its duration (July 7-July 25).

Although some key Asian films seem to be missing from the program— Formula 17, Citizen Dog and the ultra-cool Casshern amongst others—, the line up kicks ass as usual. No less than 90 features will be presented this year including a special Japanese spotlight containing 28 films and several features from Quebec and Canada like La Dernière incarnation and the eerie The Darks Hours.

I can’t describe the 90 films and the numerous short films programs at length here. However, some films to watch for this year include Rob Zombie’s follow-up to the excellent House of 1000 Corpses (The Devil’s Rejects), a hilarious Turkish space sci-fi flick titled G.O.R.A, Cromartie High School, Double, Please Teach Me English, Night Watch a Russian Fantasy thriller and Ashura, a Japanese Epic film set in the 19th-century.

Continuing an established festival tradition, Fantasia 2005 has its toll of Asian horror films. Ju-on: The Grudge 2, One Missed Call 2, Neighbor No. 13, Shutter, Three… Extremes and many other films from the genre will be presented. This year Fantasia will also feature a surprisingly good line-up of about a dozen animation films. Some of the most anticipated animation films include Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, Ghost Talker’s Daydream, Mind Game and Phantom Master: Dark Hero From Ruined Empire.

The 2005 edition will be an intense movie-watching marathon. While Fantasia is the perfect location to see movie geeks in their natural habitat, the festival isn’t just for them. Fantasia isn’t just about Godzilla movies, killer zombie dogs from outer space and obscure kung fu films from the 60s. Fantasia is first and foremost a genre film festival; films from all genres are included in the program. Surprisingly, last year’s biggest crowd pleaser was even a romantic comedy! (the romance was involving a giant squid wrestler and a young Japanese Girl, but that’s a whole different matter …)

When I went to Fantasia the first time, I got instantaneously hooked. Fantasia and its theater of 700 seats with a 40’ wide screen is probably the best place in North America to see movies. Movies are funnier when 700 people laugh their ass off with you; movies are scarier when everywhere you look around you are scared people; movies are gorier when some 700 people are yelling like crazy as the main character of the film gets his head chopped off by a manic psychopath armed with a rusty circular saw. Hell yeah!

Highlights for the first week of the festival include:

2001 Maniacs
USA, Dir: Tim Sullivan
Canadian Premiere, hosted by Director Tim Sullivan & Actress Christa Campbell!
—This gore-soaked and blackly comic updating of HG Lewis’ 60’s grindhouse classic 2000 Maniacs has been dropping people’s jaws wherever it’s unveiled. Travelers take a wrong turn and wind up in a strange Southern town comprised of bloodthirsty Civil War ghosts in this odd satire that trashes both red states and blue states alike!

USA, Dir: Steve Balderson
Canadian Premiere, hosted by Producer Clark Balderson and actress Selene Luna!
—Fantasia proudly presents the Canadian premiere of Steve Balderson’s critically acclaimed and award-winning Firecracker, an experimental Noir set largely in a Kansas circus that stars Karen Black and Fantomas / Faith No More vocalist Mike Patton, both in dual roles! A visually stunning film that is equal parts Truman Capote and Todd Browning.

Japan, Dir: Takashi Miike
Montreal Premiere
—From the hyper-prolific, always surprising bad boy of Japanese pop-art cinema, Takashi Miike, comes Izo —a mind-blowing, metaphysical rumination on the never-ending cycle of life and death and the unshakable drive to violence in our species that just happens to be a ferocious, unpredictable barrage of surreal, gory Japanese action that shifts in time and space as though God himself is channel-surfing. Co-Starring Takeshi Kitano!

Karaoke Terror
Japan Dir: Tetsuo Shinohara
Montreal Premiere
—This supremely subversive social satire, based on a novel by the notorious Ryu Murakami (director of “Tokyo Decadence, writer of Audition), depicts a bloody, escalating street war between angry young “droogs” and wealthy, middle-aged women! A very smart and introspective work, tinged with dark poetry and wit. It is nonetheless perfectly at ease with exploding into absurdist set-pieces and ultra-violence whenever it feels like it, making for a consistently surprising and ultimately apocalyptic viewing experience. Wow!

Mind Game
Japan Dir: Yuasa Masaaki
Canadian Premiere, hosted by Director Yuasa Masaaki!
—A Japanese anime film unlike any other, Mindgame is closer to Yellow Submarine and Waking Life than to anything with giant robots and big-eyed schoolgirls. Its wild, free-association narrative swings vertiginously from one tangent to the next, from a noodle bar to heaven to the belly of a whale to a fantastic planet in the far reaches of space—and right back to modern Japan. A psychedelic animation masterpiece from the director of Cat Soup.

Thailand Dir: Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom
Canadian Premiere
One of the most commercially successful productions in the history of Thai cinema – Fox-Regency have already signed up for a US remake! Following a hit and run accident, a photographer and his girlfriend are haunted by ghostly apparitions in photographic work. Shutter takes its themes to surprising, unexpected places and incorporates actual examples of spirit (or ghost) photography in several key sequences. This is Thai horror in the grandest tradition.

Straight Into Darkness USA Dir: Jeff Burr
Canadian Premiere, hosted by Director Jeff Burr
—A different kind of war film, this haunting auteur epic evokes Malick with the contemplative imagery of Robert Frost and the darker ponderings of Edgar Allan Poe as a group of AWOL soldiers seek recluse in the center of madness. Moody, atmospheric, and completely enigmatic, SID is a genre-bending work with tremendous conceptual audacity.

The Taste of Tea
Japan Dir: Katsuhito Ishii
Montreal Premiere
—An outlandish and entirely unexpected work, this magically mind bending auteur film didn’t fail to stun when it opened last year’s Quinzaine des Réalisateurs in Cannes. Somewhere between magic realism, inspired humanism and unhinged comedy as funny as it is weird, this is a delightful look at the eccentricities hiding just beneath the calm surface of ordinary life. Touching, funny and imaginative.

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The official program is on sale in many stores and boutiques, including all Archambault locations in Quebec. A free DVD containing trailers of movies playing at Fantasia 2005 is included with the catalogue. Tickets are available through the Admission network and at the ticket booth located at the Hall Building of Concordia University, 1455 De Maisonneuve W. Blvd. The price is $7,50 per ticket. Sets of 10 tickets are available for $60. Visit for more information.

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