theengineer

The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons


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Film Festival Roundup

Here's a brief and very late look at the Film Festival this year.

It started out pretty mediocre this year, but really picked up at the end. Biggest hits:

The Sky Crawlers - Mamoru Oshii's (Ghost in the Shell) latest film. Adolescents fly fighter planes and kill each other. To say more would be a crime, as it was watching this film slowly unfold and secrets revealed that made such an impression on me. It's got his trademark long slow sequences, but I found they really added to the mood of this very moody, but I think quite brilliant, film.

Public Enemy Number One - One of my favourite French actors, Vincent Cassel, plays Jaccques Mesrine, a gangster for the 1960's and 70's. After serving in Algeria, he robbed banks, shot a few people, fled to Montreal with his girlfriend, kidnapped a guy and got caught, was thrown into the Worst Prison in Canada, broke out of the Worst Prison in Canada, went back and tried to break some other guys out of the Worst Prison in Canada, and generally engaged in mayhem. Gorgeously shot and filled with manic energy. Based on actual memoirs, this picture was Part I. Hope we get Part II next year.

Chocolate - Only one crazy Korean movie in the Festival this year, and it was an overpriced Gala, so I saw a crazy Thai movie instead at Midnight Madness. An autistic girl learns martial arts by watching Tony Jaa movies (the film was produced by the director of a couple of Jaa's films) and playing video games. This comes in useful when her ex-gangster mother falls ill and she tried to collect old debts to pay for mom's treatment. The final battle on the outside wall of a four story building, with people jumping up and down from windows, ledges, fire escapes, and signs owes much to Donkey Kong and has to be seen to be believed.

A Film with Me in It - Irish slacker black comedy. A struggling actor and would-be playwright end up with more dead bodies then they can handle. Awful, funny, and very sharp.

Pontypool - Bruce McDonald's latest. 90% of the film takes place in the radio studio of a station in a northern Ontario town during a snowstorm. Something is going on outside, and our characters struggle to try and figure it all out as increasing bizarre reports come in. Very smart and effective film. Support Canadian cinema and see it when it lands in theatres for a week.

Killing Kastner - Dr. Israel Kastner bribed a bunch of Nazi's and managed to save 1600 Jews in WWII. Afterwards, he was accused of collaboration and in 1958 was shot and killed by right-wingers. His family has been working for 50 years to rehabilitate his name, and are finally making some progress. The range of opinions presented in the film was scary, especially the woman who was one of those saved by Kastner but doesn't think she owes him a thing, said she found the whole experience very unpleasant and doubted she was in any danger to begin with. The director said the cameraman nearly dropped the camera.

The Worst:

7915 km - That's the length of the Paris - Dakar road rally. This documentary consisted of interviews with people living in Africa along the route of the race. Nice idea, but it just came off like a bunch of random interviews with a bunch of random people, with nothing stringing it together.

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I wasn't really taken with Sky Crawlers. Oshii seems to be becoming a parody of himself; at this point I could just make an Oshii film myself with the following ingredients:

- long slow pans across scenery
- people standing (or sitting) perfectly still (save on animation!) while having long, long conversations about the nature of existence
- fast, dramatic action sequences
- fish-eye lens
- basset hound!
- a whole lot of nothing happening.

I think Roupen put it best when he described the movie as "impenetrable". It was like there was an interesting story there somewhere but he was so focused on bringing the characters' sense of floating emptiness to the audience that it got pushed to the side.

Plus the decision to have so much English dialogue that was clearly both written and delivered by people whose first language is not English was a very bad choice IMO. I'm sure Japanese audiences didn't notice or care about the incredibly stilted English but if they're trying to market it to an international audience it's really distracting.

Plus the decision to have so much English dialogue that was clearly both written and delivered by people whose first language is not English was a very bad choice IMO. I'm sure Japanese audiences didn't notice or care about the incredibly stilted English but if they're trying to market it to an international audience it's really distracting.

Well, English is the language of international air traffic, so it was accurate to use it, but yeah, that's a point that would be lost to 99.5% of the viewing public and so could easily have been changed.

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