On the heels of Comiccon comes another major Montreal genre event of the summer: Fantasia. Fans of genre films from horror and sci fi to fantasy to action to anime, can get their fix of big screen time. It’s the only event I know of where spectators meow in expectation of the film to come, and that alone makes it unique. The event takes over Concordia University’s theatres, all of which are quite comfortable and offer a decent selection of movie snacks to munch on.
This year’s event features an artist talk by none other than the spirit animal of Fantasia, John Woo. This Hong Kong-Hollywood director popularized Asian cinema in North America with his big budget action flicks. It’s an honour to have him here and he is the recipient of Fantasia’s Career Achievement Award. Several of his classic films will be showcased during the festival.
As for films, while there are films in every genre, special focus goes to Queer genre cinema, Korean animation, and films associated with the book, “House Of Psychotic Women.” There are also free retro nights with the December-May romance cult classic Harold and Maude and Quebec classic Bingo. For those wishing to indoctrinate their children into alt-culture, My First Fantasia series has shorts that are a little less gruesome but way better than the kind of crapola your offspring catch by scrolling through YouTube videos on kid iPads.
Other major events during the festival include a look at filmmaking’s impact on the planet and how film makers can decrease their carbon footprint and reduce waste, an artist talk with Kier-La Janisse who works in horror-fantasy, and a stop-motion masterclass with Kim Kangmin, from Los Angeles-Korea.
Of course, the highlight of the festival are the films themselves. There are so many to choose from, but here are some of my picks that will delight, horrify, engage, or entertain your brains.
Polaris — The opening film of Fantasia is a sci-fi eco adventure that has a young woman, Sumi, who is separated from her polar bear mother and must use her wits to survive in a wintery land as she makes her way to the north star.
My Broken Mariko — Based on the manga of the same name, this Japanese film tackles memory and loss, when Tomoyo’s childhood friend kills herself. She steals her ashes and attempts to come to terms with the relationship, only to find that perception and memory are not constants.
Next Sohee — A gem of the Cannes film festival, Next Sohee follows Young Sohee as she begins her working life only to face cruel and unreasonable demands. She is threatened and pushed until she takes matters into her own hands. The fate of Sohee becomes a crusade for the detective who takes on the case.
Sharp Stick — Leena Dunham is not one to shy away from sex, and Sharp Stick is no exception. The Girls creator presents a modern-day fairy tale about the impact of pornography and readily available sex on relationships.
Hard Bodied (John Woo) — Granted, this film came out in 1992, but this classic brings together guns, guns, guns, Kung fu, and cinematic choreography that will blow your mind. Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai became recognizable stars after the release of this film.
The Mole Song Final — For all the cartoonish violence and Yazukas you can handle, Takashi Miike is back again. If you’re watching it for the plot, you’ve missed the point of a Takashi Miike film. These are about two hours of ridiculous and comedic violence.