Today at Fantasia

Reviews of a dark thriller from Germany, a seedy showbiz tale from Japan and a kitschy mermaid movie from Poland.

The Dark Side of the Moon

The Dark Side of the Moon

The following films are screening as part of the Fantasia Film Festival, which runs through Aug. 3.

The Dark Side of The Moon

Urs (Moritz Bleibtreu) is a high-rolling lawyer who successfully closes a morally questionable merger between two pharmaceutical companies and celebrates with champagne at a snooty party with his art dealer wife. Soon after, a tragic event leads him astray and into the arms of a beautiful, carefree blonde named Lucille (Nora von Waldstätten).

The beginning of Stephan Rick’s The Dark Side of the Moon (aka Die dunkle Seite des Mondes) plays out like the typical tale of an uptight corporate man who finds freedom and joie-de-vivre thanks to a wild bohemian lady. Instead of going down that familiar path, the film takes a much darker turn. After a bad mushroom trip with his new girlfriend, Urs becomes increasingly mad and violent, sabotaging his life to deal with this burgeoning inner turmoil somewhere deep in the woods.

Rick creates a mysterious and moody atmosphere, set in large part in a forest that could have served as inspiration to the Brothers Grimm. It’s not the only fairy tale-like element: Lucille’s hippie friends are all colourful contrasts, wild hair and ridiculous attire. They live in a hobbit-like hut in the middle of the woods and chant incantations while dancing around on drugs. It serves as an interesting contrast to Urs’s life, which is all sharp suits and monochrome minimalism. This isn’t the type of thriller that’ll have you jumping from your seat — it’s a tense and slow-paced psychological film full of symbolism involving wolves, mushrooms and a sadistic boss who loves hunting (DAS BOOT‘s Jürgen Prochnow). Basically, big business is bad for you, baby — but this time, the manic pixie dream girl won’t save your soul. (Roxane Hudon)

The Dark Side of the Moon screens at J.A. de Sève Theatre (1400 de Maisonneuve W.) today, Tuesday, July 19, 5 p.m.

Lowlife Love

Lowlife Love

The seedy Hollywood scene has made the name synonymous with violence, sexual abuse and overall shitty behaviour, so it comes as little surprise that these recurring dark anecdotes have spread beyond its borders and into the land of the rising sun.

Tetsuo (Kiyohiko Shibukawa) is a self-described auteur who once had a somewhat successful indie hit. Now in his late 30s, he still lives under his mom’s roof, where he sleeps with aspiring actresses in exchange for roles in movies that don’t exist. With his partner Mamoru (Yoshihiko Hosoda), he leads an independent studio/school where he scams budding thespians.

All of this is upset when actress Minami (Maya Okano) and scriptwriter Ken (Shugo Oshinari) are caught in Tetsuo’s schemes. In possession of actual talent, the two starry-eyed artists provide the slimy director with an opportunity for a second chance in show business. But Tetsuo will soon realize that he can be on the wrong end of the stick as he falls for the virginal Minami, who soon has successful directors knocking at her door.

With a diverse and all-around strong cast, Lowlife Love keeps us fascinated until the last minute. Shibukawa, who’s absolutely despicable and yet wins us over in the end, gives an unforgettable performance. You can’t help but feel uneasy while watching these actors, especially those in the female parts, play scenes that may well have happened to them in reality. Director/writer Eiji Uchida brings to the screen a dark, raw comedy with a “stranger than fiction” vibe that’s self-aware and intelligent. (Emmanuel Delacour)

Lowlife Love screens at J.A. de Sève Theatre (1400 de Maisonneuve W.) tonight, Tuesday, July 19, 7:15 p.m.

The Lure

The Lure

For strange mythical creature fun, look no further than Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska’s The Lure, a mad mermaid musical about two fish-tailed sisters with slight man-eating tendencies.

Between its silly songs, dreamy 1980s aesthetic and quirky dance numbers, the film’s plot is pure flimsy and fun coming-of-age fantasy. Basically, Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Golden (Michalina Olszanska), the two sister sirens, get their fish tails charmed off by Mietek (Jakub Gierszal), a pretty blond bass player whom they encounter singing on the shore with his band. They take on human form and follow the musicians to the cheesy Warsaw nightclub where they work. Once the mermaids become the club’s bizarre star attraction, Silver starts struggling with her budding love for Mietek, while Golden struggles with the also relatable teenage desire to eat a lot of dudes.

The film draws its inspiration from the creepy Hans Christian Andersen fairytale (no racist Jamaican crab here), but also from ’80s Communist Poland with sporadic horror elements thrown into that already-weird mix. These aren’t the pretty, sparkling mermaids of our childhood – their tails are giant and slimey tongue-like things that stink and their human form lacks a vagina or butt (in case you’ve been wondering what that looked like all these years, you perv). Clocking in at 90 minutes, the film’s novelty or charm never peters out, unless you don’t like absurd musicals, then the completely non-sensical lyrics might grate on you a bit.

It’s impressive to think that this is Smoczynska’s first feature film. Perhaps she should approach Disney with the idea to turn all their tepid live action fairy tales into wild and erotic Euro kitsch fests. Just imagine the possibilities. (Roxane Hudon)

The Lure screens at the Hall Theatre (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) tonight, Tuesday, July 19, 8 p.m.

Fantasia tickets can be purchased at Concordia’s Hall building (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) for $11 each, or online ($12 each), here.