Fantasia: the National, ghosts & The Machine

The Fantasia film festival’s programming can be overwhelming, so the discriminating minds at Cult MTL will help steer you in the right direction.

L’autre monde

Mistaken for Strangers

Mistaken for Strangers

Mistaken for Strangers is a decidedly unconventional concert movie, less a record of the National’s 2010 world tour, and more a video diary of a frustrated artist.

The film gets underway with an invitation from lead singer Matt Berninger to his brother Tom to come work as a roadie on tour with the the group, who have just started to break big internationally. Tom, an aspiring horror/fantasy filmmaker, decides to document everything on video. What follows is a kind of anti-rock documentary, one that seems constantly on the verge of breaking down (people tell Tom to stop shooting, Matt testily asks Tom mid-interview whether he’s prepared his questions beforehand, a screening of the rough cut goes wrong when the projector malfunctions). The problems with the film mirror the difficulties Tom has on the job, with the tour manager constantly expressing displeasure with his performance. The real subject of the movie unfolds as it goes on, as it apparently did for those making it. While it has enough footage of the National at their emotive best onstage to please fans of the group, the film’s true core is its depiction of a hard-partying slacker whose antics can’t disguise his talent, or his fear of floundering in his famous brother’s shadow. A unique and vivid portrait. (MC)

Mistaken for Strangers plays today, Monday, July 29

L’autre monde

L’autre monde

Veteran cult filmmmaker Richard Stanley (Hardware) directs this doc about a region in southern France home to many ancient castles, runes and legends. Seems this area is a hotbed of occult and mystical activity, as described by its many denizens—now including Stanley, who moved to the area after falling under its spell (possibly literally).

Stanley, a self-described rationalist, has an otherworldly experience in a castle involving the possible ghost of a 12th-century lady. He devotes himself to researching this phenomenon—and trying to repeat it.

What he comes up with is unlikely to convert the skeptical, but it does make for a fascinating anthropological journey into a culture where magic is part of the landscape. The film also features some sweet imagery from Montreal cinematographer Karim Hussain and cool music from composer Simon Boswell, both of which add immensely to Stanley’s spooky tale. (MF)

L’autre monde plays Friday, Aug. 2

The Machine

The Machine

Caradog James’s The Machine is nothing short of brilliant.  It is everything you hope for — but so rarely find — in a sci-fi film.

The narrative centres on Vincent and his machine. Vincent is employed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to create advanced forms of AI (artificial intelligence). These consist of cranial implants and realistic prosthetics for injured vets, as well as AI intelligence operatives/assassins.  The Machine is the latter; she is everything Vincent and MoD have hoped for, and much more — she has consciousness.

Vincent and his machine’s idealism is shattered when Vincent’s motivations (aiding his ill daughter) and morality come into open conflict with MoD. The situation is escalated by the machine’s interactions with the captive AI-enabled vets.

Influences (Blade Runner being the most notable) abound in The Machine, enabling James to produce a rich and reverent original piece. He fluidly blends CGI and practical effects in a beautifully shot, lit, and scored must-see film. (KF)

The Machine plays Saturday, Aug. 3

The Fantasia film festival runs until Aug. 7. For the film schedule and locations, head to their website.

By Mark Carpenter, Malcolm Fraser and Katie Ferrar

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