Today at Fantasia

Our critics found hits and misses and deeply weird shit in this batch of Fantasia films.

infinite man
The Infinite Man
The following films are screening as part of the Fantasia Film Festival, on through Aug. 6.

The Infinite Man

The Infinite Man, from first-time Australian feature director Hugh Sullivan, is about a man trying to recreate the “perfect” past with his girlfriend in an attempt to guarantee their future in this rom-com version of Primer. As in the earlier, superior film, the movie’s central character, Dean (Josh McConville) is a neophyte genius, unable to manage the endless series of paradoxes that stem from the time travel device he has invented. His plan is fairly simple at the outset: he is trying to recreate his last anniversary experience with his girlfriend Lana (Hannah Marshall), when their relationship was still gratifying. Impossibility aside, they find themselves in an abandoned outback hotel, with her other javelin-throwing love interest ready to spirit her away.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to sustain much sympathy for Dean when he is such a maddening control freak extraordinaire with seemingly no purpose in life other than Lana. McConville has quite a lot of comic dexterity, and is clearly wholeheartedly committed to his character’s tics and flaws, but the overriding tone is so deadpan and distanced that the humour all but evaporates in the scorching sunshine. What you’re left with is a guy who you want to see sucked into a black hole vortex, never to be seen or heard from again. You can’t help but side with Lana for having lost interest in him.

One point of interest is how the film turns a longstanding rule about time travel on its head; one constant is that you cannot share the same physical space as a past or future self without risking vanishing into some kind of wormhole. In The Infinite Man, people argue with themselves, take phone calls from themselves, and stuff themselves in car trunks. The confusion this sometimes generates is more fatiguing than hysterically funny. While some may find the film fascinating, we found it tedious, alienating and downright painful to sit through. (Katie Ferrar & Mark Carpenter)

The Infinite Man screens tonight, Wednesday, July 23, 7:15 p.m. and on Friday, July 25, 5:20 p.m.
bag boy lover boy

Bag Boy Lover Boy

The spirit of grimy, pre-Giuliani New York is alive and well in Bag Boy Lover Boy, an otherwise rather familiar horror thriller from first-time director Andres Torres. It’s easy to forget the sleazy character that New York once had when you look at movies shot there these days; now that Manhattan is a playground for millionaires, its streets don’t really have the same dirty-fingernails-and-dirtier-cinemas aura. Director Torres harkens back to the grimy streets and shady characters of William Lustig and Abel Ferrara’s New York — but it’s a pity he doesn’t have more to say once he gets there.

Albert (Jon Wachter) is probably Swedish; Albert is probably on the spectrum. Albert is real weird and he works as a hot dog salesman out of a dingy truck in NYC, where he meets a famous photographer (Theodore Bouloukos) who immediately takes a liking to him and uses him in photoshoots. Being a subject isn’t terribly interesting to Albert, though; he prefers the power that being a photographer grants him, and he begins half-assedly using Ivan as inspiration for an art project that soon turns deadly.

If it sounds familiar, it’s because it’s an overused horror structure that dates back to Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (if not earlier). Torres has a great sense of space and a keen visual eye, but apart from casting a weirdo right right out of the Harmony Korine school of protagonists in the lead, he doesn’t bring much more than that to its overly tired, familiar proceedings. I’d certainly like to see what Torres has in store next, but this feels more like a demo reel than a fully realized film. (Alex Rose)

Bag Boy Lover Boy screens tonight, Wednesday, July 23, 7:15 p.m.
open windows

Open Windows

Open Windows is the new film by the director of the brilliant, darkly funny Timecrimes, Nacho Vigalondo. It’s a similarly twisted narrative, founded on an ingenious gimmick: the film unfolds in real time, with 90 to 95 per cent of it consisting of video feeds from various windows on a laptop screen, while the remainder is zoomed footage from these feeds. This is all too appropriate, as all of the central characters’ lives revolve around what they film or do in front of a screen, allowing the film to serve as commentary on increasingly overly public lives.

Elijah Wood plays Nick, the webmaster of a fan site devoted to movie star Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey). He has won a contest to have dinner with her, and is in the midst of capturing images of her, for the site of course, from the live feed of a press conference at SXSW, when he receives a call informing him that dinner is cancelled. The voice on the line provides Nick with a link to the feed from a surveillance camera in the conference room, which can be adjusted for a better view of Jill’s cleavage. Nick is then given a link to access Jill’s cell as well; he soon finds himself the pawn and fall guy in an elaborate scheme that involves assault, extortion, kidnapping, international hackers and terrorism. Wood is surprisingly effective as the reluctant action hero, and Grey’s very presence adds credence to the film’s meta-critique of Internet objectification, given her past career as a porno star/performance artist.

The film’s voyeuristic theme marks it as a clear 21st century descendant of Hitchcock’s Rear Window. With the emphasis on the nefarious uses of surveillance technology, queasy sexuality and an innocent pitted against a master manipulator, it is reminiscent of the work of Hitchcock disciple Brian DePalma, even surpassing it for much of the film. For the first two thirds or so, Vigalondo juggles all the visual elements and character development like a master, allowing us to follow Nick on one hell of a ride. However, by the final act, Vigalondo seems to have a few too many balls in the air. It’s at this point that the film falters considerably, a victim of its own conceptual brilliance. Vigalondo`s plot devices and twists eventually fail him, leaving the viewer questioning plot developments. In the end, suspension of disbelief becomes far too hard to sustain, and Open Windows seems less than the sum of its excellent parts. (Katie Ferrar & Mark Carpenter)

Open Windows screens tonight, Wednesday, July 23, 10 p.m.
Fantasia tickets can be purchased at Concordia’s Hall building (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) for $10 each, or online ($11 each), here.