Tonight’s secret screening was Sightseers, which I already saw and recapped at TIFF. That freed me up to see more Fantastic Fest programming, including significant films from returning festival filmmakers and one that I did miss at TIFF when it played there.
Berberian Sound Studio
I wish I’d seen Berberian Sound Studio at TIFF. It would have made Toronto just a little bit weirder. This Euro-horror style thriller is about a British sound artist, Gilderoy (Toby Jones), who visits an Italian studio for a job. Berberian is really about the politics of the post-production industry and I love it. I really could watch 90 minutes of foley artists squishing vegetables. But Gilderoy is a guest and the Italians don’t like his style, and Gilderoy doesn’t like the content of the film for which they hired him. The producers and directors versus the actors provide juicy drama too. Then it gets weird. I love the weird parts too so it’s a win-win.
Bring Me The Head of The Machine Gun Woman
Chilean director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza has been making grindhouse action movies for years now, most recently the Fantastic Fest winner Mandrill. Mandrill was a vehicle for a martial artist. With Machine Gun Woman he creates an action heroine out of Latin TV star Fernanda Urrejola. She doesn’t have much training but she can handle a gun, which is impressive for one day’s training. The stars of D.E.B.S. couldn’t get it down. Espinoza sticks to a lean story about bounty hunters and crooks. He really builds the mystique for Machine Gun Woman and he sure can shoot a woman’s walk. A lot of the film is conveyed with movement and when there’s dialogue, it addresses genre clichés. You know when characters on the run expect their loved ones to just pack up and leave with them? This movie comments on how nobody would really do that. There’s also a good old bullet removal scene, and all I could think was now Machine Gun Woman is going to have a really hot scar. Espinoza gives parts of the film a grindhouse polish, or de-polish rather, and uses ‘70s style music. It still cuts together like a high-class production, proving a do-it-yourself production doesn’t have to look sloppy. I love that he references Mandrill so that these movies could possibly exist in the same world. The action is sparing but it makes its impact and you just can’t wait to see Machine Gun Woman shoot again.
New Kids Nitro
New Kids Turbo rocked Fantastic Fest last year and the New Kids gang already has a sequel for the fest. This Netherlands comedy troupe from a TV series is relentlessly immature. The jokes still involve cars crashing and running over people, people falling down, fireworks and calling each other homos or c***s. This silly style pays off every time they set up a dangerous stunt, because you know it’s going to end badly but it’s never not funny. It’s sort of ADD comedy. They can’t hold still, but with epic music it feels like t he most important life or death action movie. In Nitro, a rivalry with a neighboring village intersects with a zombie infection outbreak. I’m surprised a Euro-comedy group would try their own zombie movie, but I guess the style is different enough from Shaun of the Dead that no one will be worried that it’s as good. People here rave about the political incorrectness, but that’s just shock value. The humor that got me was the immaturity, lusting after a pregnant drunk and such. It’s not highbrow but it’s also not worried about likeability like too many American comedies.
Shorts programs are always a mixed bag, but this program at Fantastic Fest had a bunch of standout talents. Sleepover has really good dialogue and it’s well shot, so director Chris Cullari and writer Jennifer Raite have the makings of a filmmaking team. At the Formal by Andrew Kavanaugh has an impressive long tracking shot with a lot of actors interacting. Game by Josh MacDonald is a respectable slasher horror movie (and you can see it for yourself here). Leyenda by Pau Teixidor is a really well shot movie. We should definitely look for more from him. Now I’m against showing three shorts by the same director like Chris Nash’s Skinfections series. Mainly because none of them are very good, but at least the first one “My Main Squeeze” is cute. They’re all too long and the dialogue is not as edgy as Nash or the characters think it is. Also a three part series isn’t a short. It’s a long. Also, to shorts directors, don’t put your title at the end. Your title is not the twist. We need to know the name of what we’re watching if we’re going to tout your work.