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Vol. 71 No. 37 (Subscribe) (Contact: micah[at]reeldistraction.com) Wednesday, August 20 2014
Fantastic Fest 2012 - Day 3 - Unit 7, Berberian Sound Studio, Plan C, ABC's Of Death, Tai Chi 0
Genre: Festival Coverage

Here we go... day 3!

Day three started with me filling up my cooler with ice and specialty beers I brought down from Dallas, and then officially started with a 12:45 (love these late starts) screening of Unit 7. I didn't really recall why I'd put this on my schedule or what it was about. Turns out it's a Spanish cop drama (Rodney introduced the film by noting that this was Dirty Cop Saturday) that spans several years and is a blend of Rookie Vice Cop Loses His Smile and Do The Ends Justify The Means thriller/dramas. It was a serviceable enough film, but I was surprised to hear that it's apparently on the short list of films that Spain is going to submit for the Not America Oscar this year. Nothing wrong with the film, but nothing mind-blowing either.

After Unit 7 I grabbed my tickets for Sunday and then headed into Berberian Sound Studio, which was seated crazy early (like 40 minutes early). I killed some time talking to MedialifeT and other old friends until the movie eventually started.

This was another film that I had no idea what it was about. I kinda remember seeing that it was getting good buzz from a recent festival that it played at, so I slotted it pretty much blind. It's set in the 70s at a sound studio that is recording the audio for a violent giallo film. The movie is centered around a timid sound-recording wizard named Gilderoy, who may or may not lose his mind as the film goes on. Because I didn't know what this movie was about, either plot-wise or tonal-wise, I kinda thought at first that it might be a droll workplace comedy about sound engineers. It isn't that at all, but I wish that there was an alternate cut of the film where that's an accurate description.

As for what the film actually was... I'm not entirely sure. Everyone I talked to about this film afterward seemed very lukewarm about what they saw. No one hated or disliked it, but no one seemed to particularly love it. And everyone was puzzled by it. I put it in the same bucket as Beyond The Black Rainbow. I enjoyed the process of watching it, it was effective at being unsettling, but it didn't leave any emotional mark on me and I'll never feel compelled to watch it again.

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER .... so just for the record, my semi-working theory (not that this is a film where there's room for a lot of diverse theories) is that Gilderoy is dead from the get-go, and we're just watching his own personal version of Purgatory.

By far my favorite part of the film is where one character force-feeds another character grapes directly into his mouth. The same thing happened during Miami Connection last night. If it happens once more during this fest, I'm going to call that someone dropped the ball by not making Forced Graping a FF icon.

After Berberian several of us headed to my car and enjoyed some #TrunkBeer as it has come to be known. It's essentially our version of tailgating. I received word as I was walking out of Berberian that I am going to be a finalist tomorrow night in the ShakeyFace competition. I was a finalist several years ago, but that year I was already headed back home when I found out that I was in the running. Since then, they've instituted a "shake-off," which means that the finalists pre-record a slo-mo shakey that gets screened and voted on during the Fantastic Awards. Part of my process of getting a good Shakey is getting a good buzz, so I drank fast to get ready for my showdown shake. Lars filmed it in the parking lot where my car is, and we'll see tomorrow night how it goes! I know I can do a good Shakey when it's distilled into single frames, but I've never seen how I look in slo-mo. I'll be very curious to see how it looks tomorrow.

The Trunk Beer session was a success in any event. I brought down two Growlers of Lakewood beer (Temptress and Hopp Trap) that seemed to go over well, as well as a Pumpkinator, Bitches Brew, and a Mole Stout, and the guys from Florida had some great stuff to share as well. Hopefully we'll be able to have another session tomorrow.

Given that I'd pre-lubricated to do the Shakey, and that the Shakey process itself hurts, I drank more than I otherwise would during the middle of the day. I was worried that I'd end up being overly tired the rest of the day, but luckily that didn't happen.

As we were getting ready to head back to the theater, some people got in the car next to mine and, before they left, the driver got out a bottle of some sort of waxing spray and started cleaning his car.

I took a picture of him, which prompted his passengers to take a picture of me, which prompted me to take a picture of them taking a picture of me. It was all very meta and will no doubt be the premise of Paranormal Activity 6.

Lots of paragraphs. Should probably talk about the next movie, which was Plan C. I knew it was about a cop that needed 10K to pay back some crime people, and because his first and second plan to get the money failed, he had to resort to Plan C. The description called it a "slyly absurd comedy" and referred to it as a "Coen-esque tale of criminal ineptitude" (there's at least one other film this festival that is described in the guide as being Coen-esque, for the record).

Given that description, I expected Plan C to be a comedy. But it wasn't at all. I mean, I guess there's some comedic aspects to the film, but it's mostly a sad-sack drama where the stakes really aren't that dire to begin with. The fucking cop has owed the 10K for literally a year, and although the gang he owes it to gives him a week to finally pay it back, there's never any sense that they're going to do anything to him (other than literally break his child's Lego set) if he doesn't pay. Plus at one point in the film he has a clear-cut chance to walk away with 5K to pay the gang, and he bitches about it and ultimately loses the opportunity. I guess we're supposed to buy that he needs the entire 10K, but really, if he'd showed up with 5K, I'm sure things would have been fine, which makes all of the other late-film machinations irrelevant. Actually, I *know* things would have been fine, because SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER when the guy actually pays off his debt in full, the crime boss just shrugs and says "I wasn't going to do anything to your family anyway."

So... I feel like I'm bitching a lot about this film. I definitely don't feel negative toward it. It's just the third film today that I don't feel much about one way or the other. It did, strangely enough, give me the itch to seek out more Dutch cinema. I seem to really enjoy the feel of that culture.

Oh, and remember the non-Asian government guy from New Kids Nitro? He's a random hotel clerk with 5 lines in Plan C! So weird that I was able to win Spot The Minor Dutch Actor game!

After Plan C I had 20 or 30 minutes to kill and noticed that Fab Press had a table set up in the lobby. I've bought some amazing books from them in the past, but pick and choose what I'm going to order given that shipping from the UK usually ends up costing almost the same as the book itself. And since shipping obviously wasn't an issue tonight and most of the books were discounted, I ended up spending a stupid amount of money to buy seven amazing books. In past years I've spent chunks of money at this fest on posters. I'm sure I'll buy one or two before I leave, but I'm confident that I'll end up getting way more enjoyment out of these books. Not at all regretting this purchase.

Eventually ABC's of Death seated. Before the film Tim did an intro where he praised his crack "Print Traffic" team who makes sure that all of the movies from all over the world make it to FF. But just one film - ABC's - was his responsibility, and he "totally fucked it up. Even though the final version made its world premiere a week or two ago, we neglected to have them send it to us for FF. Instead, it's on its way to Spain right now."


Apologetic Yet Still Awesome Tim

So we ended up watching what was described as a non-finished print. According to Ant, the final version has "30 or so" changes that result in a more coherent film. I'm not sure what could have been changed to make the movie feel like a cohesive whole when you have 26 filmmakers though.

Horror anthologies are one of my favorite genres, so I was very excited about this movie. As it turns out, however, most of the shorts, while violent, were primarily humorous. And that makes sense... with 5 minutes or less, I figure it's easier to be funny than scary. And although there's a lot of misses (G For Gravity comes first to mind, along with M for Miscarriage), which I'll mention below), I thought they were outweighed by the hits, at least in impact if not in overall number. Watching the film is more like watching a FF Shorts Program. It's bloody and offensive (though not as much as some people had been making out to be.... though I'm probably just jaded) and if you don't like what you're watching, something better will be along shortly.

Ok, so my thoughts on Ti West are well-documented on this site. So I should say this. Of all the segments in the film, of only one did I think "this looks really shitty." And when the post-segment credits splashed? "M for Miscarriage - Directed by Ti West." Hm. (And I have to say that during the Q&A, he literally said "I kept it stylistically vacant of everything.").

Even though ABC's isn't a film that enthusiastically love, I really appreciate the concept of the film's structure. In an ideal world, a bevy of FF-friendly filmmakers would make a new ABC's film each year. And although this year's was completely free-form, maybe future entries could have loose themes, kind of like the FF bumpers do each year. I don't know anything about making movies, but it seems like a relatively low-cost, low-effort scenario for each individual director (I'm probably wrong about that), which would make the prospect of churning out a new anthology film each year (I'm thinking literally called ABC's Of Death 2013, ABC's Of Death 2014, etc) a doable concept.

Forgot to mention that before the film we were all given a free Shiner and encouraged to do a mass shotgun. We were also given a shot of what seemed to be spaghetti sauce. No instructions were ever given, and it never became apparent from the film what we were supposed to do with it. Almost all of them went un-chugged.

After the movie there was a solid Q&A where Tim asked each of the present directors questions about their segments. There also was a moment where one of the actresses got naked on stage, which is a Drafthouse 1st for me.


You can't see it, but she has "9/11" written on her chest. Don't ask.


ABC's ran way long, so the seating for Tai Chi 0 (in the same theater) started pretty late. Once we got in, we were treated to an amazing intro by Lars where he talked at length about lollipops, how he'd outgrown them, how kids today don't like them, how dismissive most people are about them, and how the pops passed out by the Asian contingent at this fest caused him to re-evaluate them.

He also mentioned that in the history of kung-fu movies, no one has ever said "watch out, he knows Tai Chi. But after tonight, maybe you'll be the one to say that. Maybe one day you'll be driving by a park and you'll see an old man stretching, and you'll say 'Watch out, he knows Tai Chi.' And your friends won't have seen this movie and won't know what you're talking about, but you'll laugh at your inner joke. Oh, and also this movie features steampunk, which is a thing." It was an amazing intro.

As for the film, it starts off ridiculously strong. The tone of the movie is similar in many ways to Scott Pilgrim (which I didn't particularly like) only better. A major laugh point was that every time a character was introduced, they showed the actor's real name and a legit biographical fact. As in "Master Kim - Played By Wai-keung Lau, Director of Infernal Affairs Trilogy." The intro is crazy kinetic, but unfortunately things devolve a bit into a more traditional Defend Our Village With Kung Fu flick. Every once in a while the pop video-game influences showed up, and they were the highlights of the film. The "steampunk" descriptor is pretty misplaced, but I dug the big mechanical Bad Guy. Reminded me a lot of Wild Wild West, which is a film that I feel like only I enjoy.

The movie ultimately is about a dude trying to learn a particular style of martial arts. He's a Zero here, and the sequel, apparently set to come out in Asia next month, is Tai Chi Hero. Not sure what the in-production third film will be called. Tai Chi Ultimate?

And that was it for the night. I headed back to the HoJo for one last night, and wrote this up by 4:10 am. I should have it posted soon, which is good given that I have a noon screening. Chaos Reigns!

Author: Micah
Post Date: 09.22.12

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