Blue Sunshine festival fantasia film 2022 reviews

What to watch at the Fantasia Festival this weekend

Reviews of a psychologically tough manga adaptation, a vintage exploitation horror and a tense Chinese drama, all screening at the festival on Friday and Saturday.

The Fantasia Film Festival began on Thursday and continues till Aug. 3, bringing three weeks of genre cinema to Montreal cinemas at Concordia University’s downtown campus. Here is our first of many review round-ups.

My Broken Mariko

My Broken Mariko Fantasia Film Festival reviews 2022
My Broken Mariko, directed by Yuki Tanada, screening at Fantasia 2022

My Broken Mariko, a near panel for shot remake of the manga of the same name, follows Tomoyo as she grieves the loss of her best friend Mariko to suicide. The film takes its time unfolding the seemingly endless layers of abuse that Mariko suffered from the men in her life, as well as that which she inflicted on Tomoyo. Tomoyo’s trauma, helplessly watching someone she loves live the cycle of abuse and losing her, leaves her subject to violent emotional outbursts and rash decision-making. This cycle culminates in her stealing Mariko’s ashes and seeking absolution by fulfilling their childhood wish to visit the beach.

Despite beautiful cinematography involving light and landscape, this film is not easy to watch. While the abuse of Mariko happens offscreen or is simply referenced, her abusive manipulation of Tomoyo and Tomoyo’s grief is raw onscreen. This feeling is largely due to Mei Nagano’s conviction in the lead role. Complicating matters is the queer coding of Tomoyo and their relationship. Unfortunately, many of the nuances of this drama, and its comic relief, are lost to poor translation (sub-par subtitles). The tone is also erratic, and there are numerous gaps in the plot. Nevertheless, it provides catharsis for those who see it through. (KF)

My Broken Mariko screens in Salle J.A. de Sève (1400 de Maisonneuve W.) on Saturday, July 16, 3 p.m.

Blue Sunshine

Blue Sunshine Fantasia Film Festival reviews 2022
Blue Sunshine, directed by Jeff Lieberman, screening at Fantasia 2022

Blue Sunshine, Jeff Lieberman’s 1977 follow-up to his man-eating worms debut Squirm, is now appearing at Fantasia in a new 4K restoration. It’s an odd, ungainly bird of a movie, an exploitation horror equivalent to the Eagles’ “Hotel California”‘s exploration of post ’60s malaise. 

It begins with a series of vignettes; we see a doctor, a cop and the ex-wife of a congressional candidate, all struggling in their daily lives with anger problems and hair loss. Soon, violence erupts at an archetypal ’70s wild party where one of the guests, Frannie Scott, unleashes a murderous rampage when his wig is accidentally removed, revealing his bald head. The hero, Jerry Zipkin (future softcore auteur Zalman King) fights him off but winds up a suspect in the murders committed by Frannie. He goes on the run, trying to prove that a series of gruesome killings in Los Angeles are connected to an LSD variant called Blue Sunshine. All the mayhem inevitably leads back to the candidate and the climactic political rally/discotheque freakout.

Tone is everything in this genre hybrid, and Lieberman has only fitful success. In general, the oddball social satire elements play better and with more conviction than the rather listless Hitchcockian wrong man-chase storyline, with one ridiculously perfunctory car chase marring the fun. 

Blue Sunshine could be seen as an American counterpart to the contemporaneous low-budget Cronenberg movies like Shivers, with its depiction of social breakdown and science gone awry, creating monsters in our midst. Compared with the awesome formal control Cronenberg displays even in exploitation mode, Lieberman’s movie seems little more than a fun curio. However, some deft transitions and fine deadpan comedy moments mid-chaos make it well worth watching. (MC)

Blue Sunshine screens in Salle J.A. de Sève (1400 de Maisonneuve W.) on Friday, July 15, 11:55 p.m.

One and Four 

One and Four Fantasia Film Festival reviews 2022
One and Four, directed by Jigme Trinley, screening at Fantasia 2022

One and Four, director Jigme Trinley’s striking feature debut, is a wintry quasi-western set in Tibet. It begins with a forest ranger, Sangyue, in his isolated cabin in the woods recovering from a bad, boozy night. We see him transcribing his dreams in a journal. Suddenly bursting through the door is a grievously wounded man with a rifle trained on Sangyue. He claims to be a forestry officer on the trail of a murderous poacher who has killed his partner. His story is presented in harrowing flashback. Even as they search through the wreckage of the officer’s car, with the partner’s corpse inside, Sangyue can’t shake the feeling that the officer is actually the poacher himself. Could the flashback be a lie? Then, another visitor to the cabin, Kumbo, appears — he is an acquaintance of Sangyue’s from the village. He is partly responsible for the ranger’s rough state, as he had come the night before with divorce papers from Sangyue’s wife. Now he claims to have been lost in the woods, but the officer becomes convinced that he could be the poacher’s partner, and Sangyue doesn’t disagree. Meanwhile, a blizzard is approaching, and a fourth person soon appears.

Any narrative involving people at lethal odds in a tight timeframe can’t help but grab your attention. (No wonder Tarantino tried it twice.) Trinley’s work here is anything but pedestrian. He sets the scene with remarkable attention to detail. He stays attuned to the sheer griminess of life in the woods and Sangyue’s bleary perspective as he struggles to comprehend the people who have invaded his life. One and Four is a compelling, assured piece of work. (MC)

One and Four screens in Salle J.A. de Sève (1400 de Maisonneuve W) on Saturday, July 16, 9:30 p.m and on Wednesday, July 20, 5 p.m. 

For the complete Fantasia 2022 program, please visit the festival’s website.

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