Wednesday, July 3, 2019

2019 Fantasia Film Festival--The Schedule is Up!!!

2019 Looks to be a Fantastic Festival!!
Summer is here, and that means the Fantasia Film Festival is just around the corner (8 days from now, and a couple metro rides away, but whatever).  As usual, the festival is headlining way too many films that I desperately want to see, so I'll give you my must sees for this year.  The festival is always full of discoveries, and my abbreviated stay last year meant I missed out on some great films--I caught them later (and I'll be posting on some of my favorites), but nothing beats hearing the crowd go nuts in one of the two main screening venues.  Here we go!

Riley Keough is trapped in Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala's The Lodge (2019)
In 2015, only my second year of attending the Fantasia Film Festival, I went to a film that was generating a lot of buzz on the festival circuit--Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala's Goodnight Mommy (2014).  This stunning and deeply unsettling film blew my mind, and I not only reviewed the film then, but presented on it at a conference and exposed my students to its wonders.  So at the top of my list for films to see this year is their follow up film--The Lodge (2019).  Again, the film follows a stepmom dealing with a couple of kids who aren't thrilled with her, but this time they are snowed in some remote lodge while Dad is away, leaving all kinds of supernatural things to creep around.  Synopses and the trailer suggest that Grace (Keough) is the sole survivor of some suicide cult, so that info puts a spin on things.  I can almost guarantee that this heroine is haunted by some trauma from her past.

The Duchess (Milla Jovovich) keeps her wayward schoolgirls in line in Alice Waddington's Paradise Hills (2019)
I recently read a discussion of Ari Lester's Midsommar (2019) by Charles Bramesco in The Guardian regarding some critical drubbing of the film as "overlong" (at 140 minutes).  Bramesco claims that "Personally, when a horror film gets dinged on the grounds of being “overlong” or “full of bizarre tangents that go nowhere," I take notice and pay attention. The unwieldy, the inexplicable, the ambitious-to-a-fault – this is my cinematic happy place."  For me, a film that draws complaints regarding its gorgeous cinematography and production design "at the expense of narrative" sounds exactly like something I'm going to like.  So Alice Waddington's Paradise Hills (2019) seems ideal.  This dystopian film about a reform school for girls, on a mysterious island, run by The Duchess (Mila Jovovich) has been called "beautiful," "gorgeous," "stunning." As Adi Robertson explains in reviewing the film's Sundance screening, "The film both critiques and revels in an aggressively feminine high-tech aesthetic that’s tinged with eerie surrealism."  Sign me up.

Teens react to the disappearance of Carolyn Harper in Jennifer Reeder's Knives and Skin (2019)
You may be noticing a pattern here, and my frequent readers have already sussed out that the films about which I'm most excited are directed by women.  This predilection is not always wide-ranging, as I tend to avoid horror comedies even if they are women-directed, but award-winning short filmmaker Jennifer Reeder's feature Knives and Skin, touted as a "feminist teen noir," has me quite enthusiastic!  This brief clip not only showcases the stylish imagery, but gives us some Cyndi Lauper love as well.  Reeder will be in attendance as well, so YAY!  I also had to chuckle because one review (written by a man) claims that the film emphasizes "style over narrative."  Yep, I'm in.

Arielle Dombasle is the writer/director and star of the wondrous Alien Crystal Palace (2019)
Speaking of women-directed wonders, I'd see Arielle Dombasle's Alien Crystal Palace (2019) no matter who directed it.  One look at this gorgeous trailer, and I was overwhelmed by vibes from The Hunger, Wim Wenders, with a dash of Liquid Sky.  The film's screening is at midnight at Fantasia.  Honestly, I don't care what time it's showing, I have to see it! Oh, and it's a musical, which would usually send me scurrying away, but if the trailer is any indication of the kind of music on display, I think I'll be fine.

A Mother shoe masquerades as a man in order to raise her daughter in SHe,
One of the more outstanding facets of the Fantasia Film Festival is their animation offerings, and they program innovative animators from around the globe that often use very unique and painstaking techniques to tell their stories.  This year I have my eye on two films that look incredible.  The first, SHe by 28 year old Chinese animator Shengwei Zhou, masterfully employs stop-motion to create a sumptuous tale of a mother (embodied in a red high heel pump) passing as a man (in a leather boot) raising her daughter in a repressive patriarchal culture.  The director illustrates these social concerns with shoes!  Amazing.  The trailer is really opulent.

The Psychedelic Visuals stand out in Son of the White Mare (Marcell Jankovics, 1981)

I know as much about Hungarian animation as I do about Chinese animation (umm, nothing), but after watching a trailer for Marcell Jankovic's Son of the White Mare (1981), I am excited to watch this psychedelic trip.  Seems like the perfect film in which to indulge in Canada's legal psychedelics.

Mia Wasikowska plays Judy, an abused puppeteer, in Mirrah Foulkes Judy and Punch (2019)
Another women-directed project, Mirrah Foulkes' Judy and Punch (2019), has been described as a whimsical and skewed revenge-driven fairy tale; and honestly, Wasikowska's take on characters gives them an extra-special something.  Her role as Jackie in Nicolas Pesce's Piercing (2018) really stole the film from Christopher Abbott's bland murderer wannabee, and I haven't seen Damsel yet, but I've heard that she is magnificent in that as well.  The first time she caught my attention was back in 2008, when she had a major role in In Treatment.  Although I think Burton's Alice films (in which she stars) are just Burton sending his kids to private school (cashing in), she's always riveting, even in dreck.

One wonders what this creepy kid has been munching on in Abdelhamid Bouchnak's Dachra (2018)
This Tunisian horror film, Dachra, has been receiving waves of buzz since its debut in Venice, and the trailer's pacing made me very, very tense (a feeling I quite like).  This film is Bouchnak's first, and I'm excited to fall under its spell, especially so I can figure out what on earth I'm looking at in terms of Dachra's poster.

Alba finds herself repeating the same day, less an hour, in Jon Mikel Caballero's The Incredible Shrinking Wknd (2019)
From my very first attendance of Fantasia in 2014, I've noticed that they have a wonderful habit of programming original and innovative "time travel" films.  From The House at the End of Time (2013) to Predestination (2014), Animals (2017), and A Day (2017), I simply love them!  I also teach a Confusion Cinema/Puzzle Films class, and I'm always adding films screened at Fantasia to my list--every single year. This Spanish thriller by Jon Mikel Cabballero, The Incredible Shrinking Wknd, comes across, from the clip, as more of a thriller than a comedy.  Will Ada be able to close the time loop before she runs out of hours in the day?  I must find out.

Is Jade as "crazy" as her boyfriend makes her out to be in Jade's Asylum (2019)
In May of 2018 I flew to Scotland to present at, and attend, a conference on representations of mental illness in cinema--unsurprisingly, there were very few, if any "positive" or thoughtful representations of madness, especially in horror cinema.  I am fascinated by these representations, especially if they are embodied in female protagonists deemed to be crazy--whether "crazy violent" or "crazy and seeing things, aka ghosts."  Alexandre Carrière's Jade's Asylum (2019) is exactly in my wheelhouse--Is Jade having a psychotic episode and delusional, or is the supernatural present?  The film's trailer does not provide any easy answers.  I just hope it doesn't end up demonizing Jade too much.
Super Cool Poster!
After trauma, Luke resurrects his imaginary friend, Daniel, in Daniel Isn't Real (Adam Egypt Mortimer, 2019)

A film that's also getting a tremendous amount of buzz since it's debut at SXSW is Adam Egypt Mortimer's Daniel Isn't Real, which from its title and synopsis, suggests that maybe, just maybe, he is (real.)  Comes as no surprise, dear readers, that a film about a guy is going to attract so much more attention since the link between women and madness is seen by society as normal.  Especially if we get uppity, have opinions, and claim power for ourselves.  Heavy sigh.

I've just touched upon what the 2019 Fantasia Film Festival has in store for us this year.  More to come!!