Day two here at Fantastic Fest 2012 was a bit more low key than day one. Of course, that was after I dropped my motorcycle, burned myself on the muffler (again!) and broke the clutch lever. But you’re not here to hear about my injured pride…
The day, post motorcycle drama, started out strong with Pusher, a UK remake of the 1996 Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Bronson, Valhalla Rising) film. It’s a pretty solid cocaine and gangster film. Cocaine and gangsters seem to be a pretty consistent theme this year, but I digress. I have not seen the original so unfortunately I have nothing to measure the remake against, but it was most definitely entertaining and I will be seeking out the original once I have a spare two hours.
Richard Coyle (Going Postal) does an excellent job as Frank, the low level drug dealer that gets in way over his head. Everything starts off fine, things are actually looking pretty good for Frank, but one bad decision snowballs into the next and before he knows it he’s in for 50,000 pounds to a middle eastern gangster.
There’s definitely the darkness that I’ve come to expect from Refn’s work. The performances in this remake are nuanced and the ending is unexpectedly ambiguous, which can sometimes be annoying but in this case I appreciated it.
Up next was Short Fuse: Severe Fantastic Fest Shorts. These were severe on several levels and I was happy I had finished my chocolate chip cookies before the more disgusting ones came on (we’re talking pustule popping, self cannibalizing and back-hole fucking… ick and a half!). There were two that did stand out for me though. Legend is a Spanish film about a ten-year-old girl on a trip with her parents. When they stop for a rest there’s a problem with a strange woman who claims the little girl does not belong to them. Claudia, the little girl, takes things into her own hands. Modern Family is a Korean film about some very, um, progressive ways of dealing with a sociopathic child.
After that was Doomsday Book. In full disclosure I actually watched this a few days ago, the screening today was sold out before I even got a chance. Doomsday Book is a collaboration between Korean directors Jee-woon Kim (The Good, The Bad, The Weird, A Bittersweet Life, I Saw the Devil) and Pil-Sung Yim (Hansel and Gretel). It consists of three shorts depicting various possible ways humanity could annihilate itself. The literal translation of the Korean title is actually “Report on the Destruction of Mankind”. First up is Brave New World (Yim Pil-Sung). A young researcher stays home while his family goes on holiday, leaving him a laundry list of things to do around the house. During the house cleaning he finds a container of severely rotten food. The food, somehow, makes it into the food waste processing plant, gets turned into cow feed, is digested by a cow that is then slaughtered and ends up on the very same researcher’s plate three days later while he’s on a blind date. Later on it turns out this chain of events leads to an outbreak of zombieism.
Next is Heavenly Creature (Kim Ji-woon) which takes place in a Buddhist temple where one of the service robots claims to have reached enlightenment. I love the concept of this story as I’m interested in the Kurzweilian idea of self-aware AI and the impending technological singularity. And the piece is beautifully shot with an obvious homage to Asimov’s I, Robot. But I found this segment to be too long, a tad boring, and even a little out of place. The striking visuals saved it for me but I doubt people not interested in the topic will find much for themselves in this section.
The film ended with the most ridiculous of the three, Happy Birthday(Yim Pil-sung). An elementary school student breaks the 8-ball from her uncle’s billiard table. When she goes online to find a new one she inadvertently orders one from another planet and it’s sent in the form of an asteroid that is 10km in diameter, and it’s on a collision course with earth! Yep, awesome.
The day ended with what I have just discovered is the Croatian entry for Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards… Vegetarian Cannibal. The film is about a young arrogant OBGYN who is a vegetarian and gets involved with the Russian mafia by performing illegal abortions for their prostitutes. Things get progressively out of control, but in his arrogance this young doctor thinks he can get away with anything. It’s a cautionary tale about going beyond the bounds of redemption. The film is pretty good overall but didn’t leave me overwhelmed in any way. Ultimately it was something I could kind of shrug off, though I wonder if that has anything to do with the main characters insanely terrible hair cut (or possibly wig… seriously, it was super annoying the entire time).
Check out the trailers!