What to watch during the final days of the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal

Reviews of two Japanese films, one of them a slow-burn drama, the other dealing with the pressing issue of how to dispose of Godzilla-grade monsters.

​​The Fantasia Film Festival began on July 14 and continues till Aug. 3, bringing a wide variety of genre cinema to Montreal theatres at Concordia University’s downtown campus. Here is our fourth review round-up (to read the others, please click here).

What to Do With the Dead Kaiju?

What to Do with the Dead Kaiju, directed by Satoshi Miki

What to Do With the Dead Kaiju? answers the eponymous question throughout its overstretched running time. It begins in the aftermath of an attack on Japan by a giant monster, or kaiju. This enormous alligator-like beast lies dead, having been toppled by a mysterious light from the sky. As the Prime Minster struggles over what to do with the corpse, a coherent path forward is hindered by infighting between competing factions of the military and the relentless jockeying for position among the cabinet ministers. Capitalism prevails, and ill-fated efforts to preserve the kaiju as a tourist attraction are undertaken. Against this backdrop, we get a love triangle, some frantic slapstick, and an array of eccentric characters of varying amusement value.

Directed by Satoshi Miki of Adrift In Tokyo fame, WTDWTDK may remind Western viewers of Don’t Look Up, with its portrait of a dysfunctional bureaucracy ill-equipped to deal with the disaster and a government inclined to cover up or spin any negative press. Aficionados of kaiju films might think of this as an unofficial sequel to 2016’s Shin Godzilla, in which incessant bureaucratic red tape interferes with the battle against Toho’s venerable monster. Miki’s film compares unfavourably with the latter and its relentless deadpan humour in the face of massive destruction. WTDWTDK vacillates between an increasingly unfunny broad comedy tone and topical grimness, with allusions to the pandemic, global warming, and, inevitably, the spectre of nuclear catastrophe. It’s worth seeing for some treasurable comic performances, notably from Eri Fuse (Miki’s wife), as a scarily ambitious cabinet member and the supercool Joe Odagiri as an explosives expert. (MC)

What to Do With the Dead Kaiju? screens in Auditorium des diplômés de la SGWU (Théâtre Hall) (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 6:35 p.m.

Ring Wandering

Ring Wandering, directed by Masakazu Kaneko

Ring Wandering begins with Sosuke (Show Kasamatsu of Tokyo Vice fame), an aspiring manga artist, sketching a wolf in a field. He is approached by a young boy holding a vintage camera. This lyrical, vaguely dreamlike opening sets the tone for the film, a poetic, delicately paced work about the longings of a young man waiting for his life to begin. Sosuke has a day job at a construction site, where he constantly gets in trouble for slacking off. While digging a pit, he discovers the skull of a canine. That night, drawn back to the site of his discovery, he literally runs into Midori, who is searching for her lost dog. A sprained ankle leaves her helpless, so Sosuke carries her home to her family and is invited to stay for supper. He leaves overjoyed, but things aren’t what they seem.

Ring Wandering is a slow-burning narrative, carefully calibrated by writer-director Masakazu Kaneko (The Albino’s Trees) so the emotions might sneak up on you when we get to the revelations of the last act. Audaciously, Kaneko breaks up the movie with live-action depictions of the period manga Sosuke is drawing, about a hunter searching for the wolf terrorizing his village. These sequences bring to mind the robust action cinema of mid-century Japan (the samurai pictures of Kurosawa and others). They suggest the power of the gentle Sosuke’s imagination. When the film also evokes the aftereffects of World War II on Japan, it’s like Sosuke’s work is being placed in a continuum of Japanese culture and by implication, the director’s work as well. Kaneko is a talent to watch. (MC)

Ring Wandering screens at Concordia’s J.A. De Sève (1400 de Maisonneuve W.) on Wednesday, Aug. 3 at 3 p.m.

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

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