Today at Fantasia

A Quebec softcore porno from the vaults, Japanese anime and oddity and possibly the ultimate Fantasia midnight movie.

Miss Hokusai
Miss Hokusai
The following films are screening as part of the Fantasia Film Festival, on through Aug. 4.

Miss Hokusai

Japan is known worldwide for a culture that’s often (for better or worse) re-appropriated by foreigners. So it’s nice to have the Japanese perspective on this matter, especially when it concerns one of its first pop art icons, Hokusai, best known for his Ukiyo-e (woodblock prints).

The film follows O-Ei, daughter of Tetsuzo, famously known under the artist name Hokusai. Herself a talented painter, she struggles to reconcile her admiration for her father with his lack of interest towards his family, including her younger sister O-nao, who has been blind since birth and whose health is precarious. Hokusai’s notoriety attracts all kinds of aspiring artists, including goofball ex-samurai Zenjiro and Hatsugoro, who has a soft spot in O-Ei’s heart. They all live in this tiny squalid room where they draw all night and day. Hokusai and his daughter seem to have an eye for the supernatural, a skill that could explain their ability to draw gorgeous scenery and portraits that (quite literally) come to life.

Miss Hokusai doesn’t unfold like a biography nor is it a story in the traditional sense. The characters do have an arc, but this movie is more about the experience than it is about the narrative. The events are only loosely based on Hokusai’s real life (ie. it’s not known for sure if he had a second daughter). The animation is gorgeous, as expected for a feature film about such an important visual artist, and the indie rock soundtrack surprisingly fits very well with the traditional Japanese setting.

You shouldn’t go watch this movie if you’re an art history buff — you won’t learn new facts about Hokusai’s life, the incursion into the character’s psychology being artistic at best. However, if you want to spend an hour and a half living and feeling the art itself, Miss Hokusai will give you what you need. (Emmanuel Delacour)

Miss Hokusai is screening at the Hall Theatre (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) today, Saturday, July 25, 12 p.m.

Haruko’s Paranormal Laboratory

Haruko’s Paranormal Laboratory

There’s something so alien, yet so enticing about Japanese pop culture that it’s often the butt of jokes in the West. The omnipresence of otakus, weird porn and good ol’ cultural dissonance have made it into our mainstream humour. I always find it fascinating to know what the creators of Japanese cultural product think of themselves, and Haruko’s Paranormal Laboratory makes it more than obvious that they are quite self-aware.

Haruko (Moeka Nozaki) is a special young woman. Her brother was abducted by an UFO when she was in high school, and like another famous character whose sibling was taken by aliens (rhymes with Box Folder), she’s obsessed with the supernatural. Her life is relatively mundane until she curses for the 10,000th time in front of her television set, causing it to transform into a beautiful young man (Aoi Nakamura) whose head is fused with the appliance. Being ever the loner, Haruko falls in love with Terebi (which happens to be the katakana translation for television). However, this animated cathodic anomaly becomes a celebrity and the young woman soon learns that she’ll have to fend off hordes of horny housewives and a travelling freak show if she wants to keep Terebi for herself.

The above description doesn’t do justice to the nonsensical qualities of Haruko’s Paranormal Laboratory. Writer-director Lisa Takeba has created a goofy collage of pop-culture references and sketch comedy supported by a palette of colourful characters. It’s quirky to death, but enjoyable if you let yourself get into it. The humour is absurd, with touches of Monty Python here and there. There’s a good rhythm to jokes, and while it’s not a laugh riot from start to end, it provides a healthy amount of laughs. Some puns might be obscure to us non-otaku, while other take jabs at western pop-culture (Terebi’s TV brand is Videodrome…), but there’s something for everyone.

If you want to set your mind to a neutral position and park it for 75 minutes on a more zany plane of existence, I can recommend Haruko’s Paranormal Laboratory. (Emmanuel Delacour)

Haruko’s Paranormal Laboratory is screening at the J.A. de Sève Theatre (1400 de Maisonneuve W.) today, Saturday, July 25, 3:15 p.m


scandaleThe world of Québécois sex comedies is a truly mind-blowing one. For a period of nearly 10 years, they were practically the dominating cultural force. Films like Deux femmes en or were seen as a courageous antidote to the repressive influence of the church in previous decades, even if they mostly consisted of naked people falling out of windows. Scandale was released at the very tail end of the period some have dubbed the Maple Syrup Porn era and it has a more sly and hip sensibility than those films, though it ultimately proves to be about as boneheaded.

Scandale follows a handful of government employees who take a solid hit when the Ministère de la culture suffers heavy cuts (sound familiar?). Wanting to maximize profit before they find themselves potentially out of work, they decide to use government resources to make a quickie porn film they can sell for a profit. The film unfolds as a series of vignettes, intercutting the scenes from the porno with low-brow skits (dildos, nutshots, surprise transsexuals and farts abound) and cameos from a gaggle of incongruous celebrities like la Poune (in a surreal cooking-show sequence), comedic folk duo les frères Brosse (doing some kind of Sparks shtick), Nanette Workman and disco king Douglas “Coco” Leopold.

Scandale was made quickly to capitalize on a real-life Pornobec scandal and it shows throughout. The comedy has the feel of ramshackle theatre and the porn scenes (most of which would qualify as soft porn, though there are a couple of surprises) feel like low-budget videos, complete with laser backgrounds and dry ice machines. While a lot of the humour hasn’t aged very well (and a good chunk of it seems like it would never have been particularly funny in the first place), Scandale does predict some aspects of MTV (or MusiquePlus, in this case) culture with its fast-paced and (relatively) skillful melding of disparate parts.

For the longest time, Scandale was nearly impossible to find. It was barely released and never popped up on TV. I had to rent a pretty raggedy copy at Boîte Noire (possibly the only one available for rental anywhere in the world at this point) in order to see it before this screening was announced. While I wouldn’t say that Scandale is at any level a must-see, it certainly is a thing. And now that thing, that improbable cultural UFO that was likely to be relegated to that one raggedy ass copy with a drawn cover at the back of Boîte Noire, is available to see in an even more improbable 35mm version, the best you can ever reasonably hope for this movie. You be the judge. (Alex Rose)

Scandale is screening at the J.A. de Sève Theatre (1400 de Maisonneuve W.) today, Saturday, July 25, 7:30 p.m

Bunny the Killer Thing


Bunny the Killer Thing is a film made for an excited, hollering Fantasia crowd. It is not, however, a film made to view at home, all alone, in screener format, with a cup of tea and a really bad hangover.

With a tagline like “coming for your pussy in 2015,” I’m guessing you know what you’re in for. If not, then let me enlighten you. A man gets kidnapped by weird, burly Finnish men and injected with a giant syringe, which obviously transforms him into a half-man, half-bunny with a giant schlong. He starts prancing around the woods growling for pussy with his giant ding-dong hanging in the wind. Meanwhile, a group of young Finns are heading to a cottage for binge drinking and LOLs. Guess what happens! Murder by penetration? You are correct!

Super gross and super goofy, there are so many weird elements, I don’t really know where to begin. Obviously, the titular killer bunny is just a man in a really cheap, wooly rabbit costume with a dick hole. There’s odd lesbian fetishism thrown in with some light rapey finger-banging. There’s an Asian guy who seems to go from Scottish to Northern Irish to American. There’s a girl who wears a face mask, because of unexplained scars around her mouth. There’s a fat Finn who simply refers to a black Brit as “Mister Black.” There’s the young dude who just can’t seem to stop wanking off. There are a whole lot of cocks.  And then, there’s the grand finale. In short, it’s a world-class horror masterpiece that deserves nothing but your best behaviour: get stoned, yell or meow at the screen and hold on to your genitals! (Roxane Hudon)

Bunny the Killer Thing is screening at the Hall Theatre (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) tonight, Saturday, July 25, 11:55 p.m.
Fantasia tickets can be purchased at Concordia’s Hall building (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) for $10 each, or online ($11 each), here