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 first of many review round-ups:
You know that awkward moment when your routine sex in the hospital is captured in an X-Ray? As it turns out, most of the staff at the convent-turned-hospital have had sex in the X-Ray room and they all think it’s them that have been caught in the act. Speculations as to who the couple is turn into paranoia, and no one can face the shame.
The next day no one turns up to work, except Nurse Yoon Young (Lee Juyeong) who only comes in to hand in her letter of resignation, as well as Dr. Kim (Moon So-ri) who feels little shame. “What’s so wrong with having sex in the X-Ray room?” she asks Yoon Young. Together, they contact all absent employees looking for answers only to hear excuses and lies. Disbelieving their reasons for being absent, Dr. Kim and Yoon Young decide to visit two of the employees at random. When they turn up at the doctor’s house, however, he really is sick. From then on, they vow to believe in people — whether this is the thesis of the film is unclear, however, since it never seems to play out to its fullest potential. Concurrently, sinkholes start showing up across Seoul. Yoon Young’s boyfriend (Koo Kyo-hwan), an unemployed waif with wiry hair, gets a job filling them up. But his new job also causes the disintegration of their relationship.
Maggie, named after a catfish left behind by a patient, is a quirky, unpredictable film. Bold and whimsical in its plot and characters, the film is likely to frustrate or beguile its viewers. Following an unclear narrative structure, save for a series of poetically rendered title cards, Maggie has the feeling of a daydream: loosely connected vignettes, rhapsodic phrases and a kinetic score. You wake up a little confused, but you’re left with a feeling of whimsical comfort. (Sarah Foulkes)
Maggie screens in the De Sève Cinema (1400 de Maisonneuve W.) on Thursday, July 18, 2:30 p.m.
Knives & Skin
I had a film professor who once said that “lynchian” was synonymous with “bad.” What she meant, I think, was that all attempts to imitate Lynch fail because they mindlessly copy his tropes hoping to achieve the same effect. Jennifer Reeder’s film Knives & Skin is certainly lynchian, but Lynch is a jumping-off point rather than an end in itself.
Knives & Skin takes place in a quiet midwestern town called Middle River, where everyone has a dark secret just to cope with suburban boredom. One night, and stop me if this sounds familiar, a young girl goes missing. Carolyn Harper, a conventionally pretty blonde and member of the school band, is left on the river’s edge with a bleeding head by gruff jock Andy (Ty Olwin). Like Twin Peaks, the film is interested in how this sudden disappearance captivates the town. One mum makes a “missing girl” flyer with glitter and fake diamonds — except she spells her name wrong. School acquaintances claim her as a close friend. It’s keeping up with the grief-stricken Joneses. No one, except her mum (Marika Engelhardt), seems genuinely concerned. And her mum’s appropriately histrionic display of grief is seen as uncomfortable and frightening.
A neon-soaked parody of cheesy teen dramas and a feminist simulacrum of Twin Peaks, Knives & Skin has moments of inspired cultural commentary but it’s too busy referencing its sources to create something wholly new and affecting. The film seems to be more preoccupied with presenting uncanny imagery (for instance, a scene in which a clown performs oral sex on a heavily pregnant waitress) than creating a consistent tone. But despite its overlong running time and inconsistencies, the film is sure to delight viewers looking to fill the “Riverdale but make it feminist and queer” shaped hole. (SF)
Knives & Skin screens at the Hall Theatre (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) on Thursday, July 18, 9:30 p.m.
For the full Fantasia program, go to the festival’s website.