The Fantasia Festival began on July 11 and continues till Aug. 1, bringing genre cinema to the theatres on Concordia’s downtown campus. Here is our latest review round-up:
Blood on her Name
Blood on Her Name is a raw little noir indie that packs an insightful meditation on our fundamental natures, and how we see ourselves, into its 94 minutes. Much of this is due to its stark realism, which manages to yield a few narrative surprises. It’s also an examination of intergenerational criminality, heredity and family bonds.
In the opening scene, Leigh Tiller must decide what to do about the bloody wrench in her hand, and the body on her garage floor. While an objective observer might harshly judge her choices in the story that follows, her decisions have an authenticity, especially given that her ex-husband is in jail, her son is on parole and her father is a cop. Nevertheless, you’ll find yourself in her shoes, pondering, “What the fuck am I going to do now; can I face a manslaughter charge?”
Bethany Anne Lind, from the Ozark series, not only plays Leigh, but carries every scene of the film on her back, and she does it brilliantly. Whether you empathize with or criticize her choices, her performance will have you rapt. She’s flanked by a fine supporting cast, including veteran character actor Will Patton as her estranged father, and relative newcomer Jared Ivers as her son. Rich in Southern small-town atmosphere, achieved with limited means, Matthew Pope’s first feature is a promising debut. Blood on Her Name fills you with claustrophobic dread and sporadic moments of decision-related panic from start to finish, and you’ll relish every moment. (Katie Ferrar and Mark Carpenter)
Blood on her Name screens in the J.A. de Sève cinema (1400 de Maisonneuve W.) on Friday, July 19, 4:15 p.m.
Alien Crystal Palace
An ageless cosmic being (Michel Fau) concocts a plan to meld a visionary director (Arielle Dombasle) and an alcoholic rockstar (Nicolas Ker) into “the Androgyne,” a perfect melding of man and woman, in Dombasle’s kooky throwback Alien Crystal Palace. Melding sleazy Eurotrash and the kind of kitschy art films made by Paul Morrissey, Ken Russell and various self-indulgent rock stars in the ’70s, Alien Crystal Palace is the kind of film that simultaneously can’t possibly be serious and seems to have no sense of humour about itself.
Let me out myself right away: I’m a sucker for this type of thing, and yet I also have to admit that even careful reconstruction of this kind of navel-gazing madness has a very limited shelf life when brought outside of the ’70s. As it turns out, the film is a sort of meta-reflection on a music project that Dombasle and Ker worked on together — the music, which appears throughout the film, is unsurprisingly a kind of electro-swathed take on Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s work together — which, in the case of a movie like this one, is actually a net positive.
It’s a very strange melding of Europop sensibilities and coked-out ’70s American sleaze that can’t quite sustain its feature-length runtime, but the copious sex scenes, strange appearance by a Klaus Kinski-like cop (played by Théo Hakola of Orchestre rouge and Passion Fodder fame), chintzy sci-fi elements (which include Jean-Pierre Léaud as a literal god in a wig/headdress combo that I can only describe as “dollar store space raven”) and overt reliance on pseudo-spiritual mumbo-jumbo are at the very least in the spirit of the thing. (Alex Rose)
Alien Crystal Palace screens in the J.A. de Sève cinema (1400 de Maisonneuve W.) on Friday, July 19, 11:55 p.m.
Another Child is a tragicomic coming-of-age story in which two teen girls are bonded by their parents’ affair. First time writer-director and well-known actor Kim Yoon-seok has produced a decidedly feminist film, in which female resilience trumps male ineptitude.
Joo-ri (Kim Hye-jun) is your average upper middle class, academically focused student, while Yoon-ah (Park Se-jin) spends much of her time working at a convenience store and is not so concerned with her studies. Their lives collide because Joo-ri’s father (played by Kim) has been having an affair with Yoon-ah’s mother, who is now quite pregnant. The ensuing debris entwines all of their lives.
The bulk of the film revolves around the equally impressive performances of the two young leads and their mothers. They navigate the considerable emotional demands of the narrative with authority and skill. Of particular note is Park Se-jin, who creates an indelible portrait of a bitter, somewhat mercurial teenager forced to grow beyond her years. You care about her even when she behaves horribly because Kim Hye-jun always shows you what’s behind it with great economy. Yeom Jung-a’s stoicism as the scorned wife is deeply moving. Kim should be singled out as well, not only for staying in firm control of his tone with such delicate subject matter, but for his fearless portrayal of the hapless father — possibly one of the most wretched beta males to appear on screen in a while. The only real criticism of Another Child is that it meanders a bit in the final stretch as if it’s a bit unsure where to go, but on the whole this is one domestic drama that delivers a punch equal to any thriller. (KF & MC)
Another Child screens in the J.A. de Sève cinema (1400 de Maisonneuve W.) on Saturday, July 20, 12:50 p.m.
The Prey is the kind of taut thriller that you wish Hollywood could make/still made, but is straight out of Cambodia. This edge of your seat ride doesn’t let up from its opening scene to the closing credits.
Xin (Gu Shangwei) is an undercover Chinese agent working to expose a mafia phone scam when he’s arrested during a raid. Swiftly incarcerated, he finds himself brutally initiated not only into the prison culture, but also by the warden’s sadistic practices. These extend to running hunting games where wealthy individuals hunt select groups of prisoners for prize money and bragging rights. Xin finds himself amongst these prey, and must find a way to outwit his hunters if he is to survive, at least until his coworkers arrive.
Directed by Jimmy Henderson, who made the 2017 Fantasia favourite Jailbreak, The Prey is a phenomenally fluid blend of shoot ’em up and martial arts combat that should satisfy most viewers. The unrelenting pace is amplified when one of the hunters becomes delusional: his nightmarish visions heighten the already hallucinatory quality of the jungle setting. Anchored by an astounding debut performance by Gu, The Prey is one bad but exhilarating trip and is not to be missed by action fans. (KF & MC)
The Prey screens in the Hall Theatre (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) on Saturday, July 20, 1:50 p.m.
For the full Fantasia program, go to the festival’s website.