Our journalist David Harris continues his exploration of the both strange and wonderful cinematic realm that is the Fantasia International Film Festival. Here’s his latest batch of reviews.
La nuit a dévoré le monde
If this review sounds vaguely familiar then you’re not wrong. Imagine yourself as a young drummer living in Paris then suddenly BAM! A figurative cloud envelops the city infecting everyone with the latest zombie virus, and you’re the last remaining survivor in your apartment. This is where La nuit a dévoré le monde begins. Sam is caught surrounded by the undead, and needs to stay preoccupied, otherwise isolation will take over and corrupt what’s left of his humanity.
Its odd watching two movies back-to-back about global extinctions set in Paris. La nuit a dévoré le monde is a very interesting take on the zombie genre, because it focuses on themes of isolation, instead of the group mentality. We see Sam evolve physically and mentally. Luckily for him, the apartment complex he finds himself in gives him healthy, but limited, amount of food and supplies. Along with these resources, he uses his instincts and intelligence to…. wait a minute…. haven’t I written this in my Dans la brume review? Of course I have, but that’s what survivalist movies are all about.
My biggest complaint has to be with the number of survivalist skills Sam has at his disposal. There’s no explanation to where he learned these abilities, he just seems to have them. I wouldn’t have minded a little explanation, like an army tattoo or even a series of books called Camping Basics 101. La nuit a dévoré le monde is a solid movie about taking the apocalypse solo. If you’re a zombie fanatic then I would advise skipping this entry, otherwise, it worth the watch.
Is there one vice, one weakness you are so devoted to that you can’t give it up for anything? What lengths would you go to get a hold of it? What if the price rises to the point that you can’t afford rent? Would you still pursue it? Microhabitat, a South Korean comedy, puts Miso in this exact predicament when the price of cigarettes increases. Her solution is simple, voluntarily become homeless, and bum a bed instead of a bud off of her friends.
Microhabitat is my first South Korean film of the festival. I was warned beforehand that even when they are comedies South Korean movies tend to be heavyhearted. For the most part, it’s a very cute film. It reminds me of the numerous road trip comedies we see in Hollywood, where the protagonist makes her way from house to house with varying hilarious results, none of which last too long. The movie is only able to work because of Esom’s performance. She’s adorable and gentle enough that she’s endearing, but senseless enough to keep her grounded. At times I wanted to give her a stern talking, but I knew that anything I could possibly say would lead to nowhere. As we all know, addiction is a stern mistress. Every shot of whiskey and cigarettes is far too enticing to simply give up on a whim. Even I wanted to partake in the clichéd artists’ breakfast. Microhabitat is an odd take on the struggle between happiness and responsibility. I would definitely recommend it for all audiences.
Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms
Immortality can be a bummer. Maquia is a member of the enchanted race known as the lolph. Her world gets completely turned upside down when the humans, riding dragons, invade her home to steal their secrets to a longer life. Maquia escapes capture, but finds herself lost and lonely, until she stumbles on an orphaned baby, still cradled in his dead mother’s arms. She instantly falls in love, and adopts him as her own, naming him Ariel. What comes next is a tale of self-awareness and heartache.
Ariel grows up from a timid and loving boy into a self-reliant soldier in the waging war. Through the use of time kips, we see technology marches on, political climate boils over, and loved ones pass away. There’s such a rich geopolitical structure to this world, and there are a lot of details to take in. The sweet thing is how the story unfolds. We’re not privy to the seeing the battles, or the political debates. They hide in the background, because the focus of the story is on the human element. “Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms” is plain and simple, a take of a mother’s love.
The film has potential to be base breaking. Some will love the concept and find the story touching. I found it a little too sappy. After it was established that the mother and adopted son love each other for the hundredth time, I started to get numb. Before you go in, prepare yourself for a solid saccharine epic.
I love me a western. So when I saw that Fantasia was showcasing an Indonesian cowboy movie I knew I could not miss it for anything. Buffalo Boys is the opening movie that should have been. It has all the right ingredients: a popular western genre, internationally produced, with enough action and aesthetics to keep the audience interested? It’s perfect an opening flick.
Mike Wiluan, the director, describes his movie as the first of hopefully many “fried-rice westerns”. It stars two brothers, played by Ario Bayu and Yoshi Sudarso, and their uncle, Tio Pakusadewo, on the run on a quest for revenge. They get roped in an adventure after saving a farmer and his granddaughter from a bunch of goons. What awaits them in the next town over is everything they craved for and more than they can chew. Classic set-up.
Buffalo Boys pays homage to the films of Tarantino, Ford, and Leone, while adding its own unique Indonesian flair. It has shootouts, bar fights, deliciously evil villains, martial arts, and an act of epic defenestration. What you see is what you get, a movie with a few layers. But you will get everything you want if you’re in need for a fun western.
Abby is a poor soul. He is the epitome of failure and victimhood. His brother and friends challenge him to ridiculous trials, every one of them ending up in disastrous and humiliating results. His brother gives him one last challenge: Get to level 257 of Pac-Man before the end of the year. The one rule? He can’t leave his seat. Not even to stretch. Also he begins the challenge in July.
“Relaxer” is not a fun movie to watch. It’s at best odd, and at worst, uncomfortable. It contains only one sympathetic character, an abundance of bodily fluids, and lacks entirely of charm. Depending on your personal tastes, this bottle-genre of a film will divide audiences. It definitely stands out to be a dark horse contender for the exceptional camera shots, unique story line, and rare choice to make the audience feel as ill at ease as possible.
I can’t say for certain whether the film was simply intending to shock, or if it was trying to push the boundaries between style and substance. The one thing all viewers can agree on is that Relaxer is not boring. It wasn’t my cup of cherry cola, but I know there are a lot of you eccentric types that will love this film.