July 6, 2009 – The 2009 Montreal Fantasia Film Festival has begun and runs through the rest of the month. From July 9th to July 29th, local cinephiles will be treated to a varied selection of inspired, unusual and innovative filmmaking. The festival’s opening night was on Thursday, July 9th and featured Wilson Yip’s IP MAN and YATTERMAN by Takashi Miike. Tickets for all of the festival’s remaining shows are now available for purchase at Concordia’s Hall Theater. Fantasia’s official program is also in stores now. The 268 page full-color catalog comes with a DVD of 85 trailers of films playing at the festival. Fans can also consult fantasiafestival.com for a complete list of films and screening dates.
The 2009 edition of Fantasia is proving to be memorable, with special guests ranging from porn star Sasha Grey, who stars in the Canadian comedy/horror film SMASH CUT, to Brazilian director Jose Mojica Marlins (ENBODIMENT OF EVIL), who will be awarded with a lifetime achievement award for a career in film spanning almost 50 years. Special events include outdoor screenings at Parc de la Paix, a return of the Documentaries From The Edge series, and a retrospective of Japanese erotic film from the famed Nikkatsu studios, entitled Behind The Pink Curtain, which is being shown in collaboration with the Cinémathèque Québécoise.
The following is a breakdown of some of the highlights at Fantasia 2009, beginning with films from Japan. Fans of Japanese cinema have a lot to look forward to this month, with over 35 feature length films being shown. Leading the way is the new Takashi Miike film YATTERMAN, a remake of the ’70s Tatsunoko television anime of the same name. YATTERMAN premiered in Japan in March 2009, and makes its Canadian premiere at Fantasia. The plot of YATTERMAN revolves around a mysterious relic called the skull stone, which is pursued by the evil Dorombo gang, and safeguarded, by the film’s titular hero, Yatterman, and his team of allies. The J-pop star Sho Sakurai, actress Saki Fukuda and Kyoko Fukada from the RING 2 comprise the film’s main cast.
Another film with significant buzz is Director Yukihiko Tsutsumi’s 20th CENTURY BOYS, a faithful remake of a popular Japanese manga. Starring Toshiaki Karasawa, Etsushi Toyokawa, and Takako Tokiwa, the film centers on a group of young boys and their childhood prophecies about the end of the world. When their premonitions come to pass nearly 30 years later, the boys, now men, are pressed into action and must stop the machinations of a malevolent cult lead by the charismatic and enigmatic “Friend.” One of the biggest budgeted films to come out of Japan this year, 20th CENTURY BOYS comprises a trilogy; parts 1 and 2 will be shown at Fantasia.
Of the trailer’s shown on the June 29th press conference, the one that arguably got the biggest reaction from the audience was the trailer for LOVE EXPOSURE, written and directed by Sion Sono, whose film SUICIDE CLUB won the Jury prize for Most Ground-Breaking Film at the 2003 Fantasia Festival. A film that belies description, LOVE EXPOSURE contains some bizarre and compelling images: Upskirt fetish photography. A guy dressed like Meiko Kaji in Sasori. Explosions. Tattooed Japanese school girls kicking ass. Lesbian kisses. Christian iconography. A teenaged villainess who’s always stroking a pet parakeet. All accompanied by Ravel’s Bolero. I have no idea what is going on in this movie but it looks epic and weighs in at a whopping 237 minutes. LOVE EXPOSURE stars Takahiro Nishijima, Hikari Mitsushima, Sakura Ando, Makiko Watanabe, Atsuro Watabe, and features a great soundtrack by rocker Yurayura Teikoku. I would like to add that Sion Sono’s LOVE EXPOSURE should not be confused for the 2007 Korean movie by same name, but I don’t think that Sono’s film could be confused for any other movie ever made. Sono may also be familiar to Fantasia audiences for his 2006 film STRANGE CIRCUS. LOVE EXPOSURE will be making its Canadian premiere.
Fans of MACHINE GIRL should line up to see the double-bill of HARD REVENGE MILLY and HARD REVENGE MILY: BLOODY BATTLE. Director Takanori Tsujimoto will be in Montreal to host the two-part HARD REVENGE series. Set in a not-too-distant future where gun control laws are eradicated, HARD REVENGE MILLY tells the tale of a woman seeking revenge for her slain family. To that end, the film’s heroine gets weapons implants (shotgun leg, sword-arm, and unique kind of breast implant that will leave the audience stunned), and sets off to settle the score with the evil Jack Brothers. Part LADY SNOWBLOOD and part TOKYO GORE POLICE, HARD REVENGE MILLY is violent and bloody, but also has a sense of humor, albeit a twisted one. The special effects director is Yoshihiro Nishimura, who is responsible for the on-screen carnage of VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL, which is also showing at this July’s Fantasia. The HARD REVENGE series stars Miki Mizuno.
A film which shows some promise is K-20: LEGEND OF THE MASK. Set in alternate 1949 where World War II never took place, a circus performer named Heikichi (played by THE WARLORDS Takeshi Kaneshiro) is framed by the infamous bandit, K-20, AKA The Thief With Many Faces. It’s up to Kaneshiro’s character to prove his innocence, leading to a showdown between Heikichi and the real K-20. K-20: LEGEND OF THE MASK made its Japanese premiere last February, and is directed by Shimako Sato. The film features a theme song by British band Oasis. The poster, may I add, looks wicked.
A brand-new 35mm print of the 1961 Toho classic MOTHRA will be shown at Fantasia this July. The screening will be hosted by Godzilla expert Ed Godziszewski, editor and publisher of JAPANESE GIANTS magazine. A classic of the tokusatsu genre, MOTHRA is directed by Ishiro Honda, who directed many of the GODZILLA series of films, including the original GODZILLA. MOTHRA features performances by The Peanuts, a Japanese vocal group consisting of twin sisters Emi and Yumi Ito. It is their sweet singing that awakens the giant Mothra, bringing her to Tokyo to rescue the twins from the unscrupulous clutches of entrepreneur Clark Nelson (Played by Jerry Itou). Rounding out the starring cast is Frankie Sagai, Kyouko Kagawa, and Hiroshi Koizumi
BATTLE LEAGUE IN KYOTO is the latest offering of Katsuhide Motoki, director of the manga adaptation of the KITARO series. Adapted from the hit fantasy novel by Manabu Makime, BATTLE LEAGUE IN KYOTO is about a group of Kyoto University students who participate in “Horumo,” a combat game in which players control miniature demons called “oni,” reminiscent of Pokémon. BATTLE LEAGUE IN KYOTO is a mix of romantic comedy, gentle satire, and supernatural CGI battles. Starring Takayuki Yamada (TRAIN MAN), Yoshiyoshi Arakawa (FINE, TOTALLY FINE), Chiaki Kuriyama (KILL BILL), and featuring effects by Gonzo Digimation studios.
Coming from the Stylejam production house, who brought you last year’s critical darling ADRIFT IN TOKYO, is the comedy FINE, TOTALLY FINE, directed by Yosuke Fujita. An off-beat romantic comedy about three likeable eccentrics and their bungled love triangle, the film features performances by Yoshiyoshi Arakawa, Yoshino Kimura (SUKIAKI WESTERN DJANGO), and Yoshinori Okada. Winner of the Audience Award at the 2008 New York Asian Film Festival and of best film honors at Germany’s Nippon Connection festival, FINE, TOTALLY FINE will be making its Canadian premiere.
A Parody of the Olympic Games, TOKYO ONLYPIC is a mix of live action and animated sketches, which depict hilarious and surreal athletic competitions. The film takes the form of a sports news broadcast. The games include a marathon run through Hell, an obstacle course that’s set inside someone’s home, extreme table tennis, high-speed text messaging, and robotic sumo wrestling. TOKYO ONLYPIC features contributions from an international crew of animators as diverse as they games they depict, including Takanobu Mizuno, Bill Plympton, Keiko Sootome, Toru Hosokawa, Takashi Taniguchi, Richard Fenwick, Tetsuro Kodama, Ignacio Ferreras, Yutaro Sawada and Hiroyuki Nakao. Mashima Riichiro directs.
From special effects impresario Yoshihiro Nishimura, of TOKYO GORE POLICE fame, and co-director/screenwriter Naoyuki Tomomatsu, comes VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL, the latest blood splattered contribution to Japan’s neo-gore genre. An unusual take on your typical high school romance, VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL tells the story of two girls, one a vampire and the other genetically mutated monster, in love with the same boy. Broken hearts lead to severed limbs and buckets blood – Two tons of fake blood reportedly went into the film’s production (If that alone doesn’t sell you, nothing will!). Eri Otoguro from last year’s ONECHANBARA stars, along with Yukie Kawamura, and Takumi Saitoh. VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL eschews political correctness for the sake of some hilarious gags – check out the ganguro girls, and the “National High School Wrist Cutting Rally.” Nishimura may be familiar to Fantasia audiences for his F/X work on last year’s MACHINE GIRL. He is also responsible for the special effects direction in the HARD REVENGE MILLY series, LOVE EXPOSURE, and SAMURAI PRINCESS, which are all playing at Fantasia 2009. VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL will be making its Canadian premiere at Fantasia, with Director Nishimura as a special guest.
The pinku eiga (pink films) retrospective, Behind The Pink Curtain, will feature films mainly from the 1960s and 1970s, the period which comprises the golden age of Japanese erotic cinema. Thirteen films are scheduled to be shown, which include the first pink film to be shot entirely in color, BLUE FILM WOMAN (1969), GUSHING PRAYER by Masao Adachi (1971), Director Shuji Kataoka’s S&M HUNTER, SECRET HOT SPRING RESORT: STARFISH AT NIGHT (1970) by Mamoru Watanabe, and 2008′s YARIMAN. Hosting the screenings of GUSHING PRAYER, SECRET HOT SPRING RESORT, and BLUE FILM WOMAN will be Jasper Sharp, author of BEHIND THE PINK CURTAIN: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF JAPANESE SEX CINEMA. In addition to the films, fans have the rare opportunity to check out an exhibition of film posters celebrating the history of pink films. On loan from the National Film Center in Tokyo, the exhibition showcases 47 original movie posters seldom seen outside of the Japanese adult cinemas where the films were shown. The posters are to be exhibited in the Norman McLaren Gallery at the Cinémathèque Québécoise. They will be on display from June 10 to August 21.
Fantasia will once again be screening films outdoors as part of their Fantasia Under The Stars program. The screenings will be taking place at Parc De La Paix on St-Laurent Blvd between St-Catherine and Rene Levesque, and they’re all completely free! Check out Miki Satoshi’s ADRIFT IN TOKYO on July 18 at 9:00 PM. ADRIFT IN TOKYO was a hit at last year’s Fantasia and should not be missed. Did I mention it’s FREE!
Rounding out the Japanese selections are:
- THE CLONE RETURNS HOME, an introspective sci-fi film directed by Kanji Nakajima and starring Mitsuhiro Oikawa, Eri Ishida, Hiromi Nagasaku.
- CRIME OR PUNISHMENT?!?, a comedy directed by Keralino Sandorovich and starring Riko Narumi, Kento Nagayama, Yasunori Danta, Inuko Inuyama, and Sakura Ando of this year’s LOVE EXPOSURE.
- CYBORG SHE, a sci-fi love story directed by Kwak Jae-yong. Starring Haruka Ayase and Keisuke Koide.
- EUREKA SEVEN: GOOD NIGHT, SLEEP TIGHT, YOUNG LOVERS, An anime feature by director Tomoki Kyoda
- HELLS, an animated feature directed by Yoshiki Yamakawa.
- HOUSE, directed Nobuhiko Obayashi, and hosted by New York Asian Film Fest programmer Marc Walkow.
- INSTANT SWAMP, director Miki Satoshi’s follow-up to last year’s critical success, ADRIFT IN TOKYO.
- M.W, a thriller directed by Hitoshi Iwamoto, making its international premier. Starring Hiroshi Tamaki and Takayuki Yamada. Adapted from Osamu Tezuka’s manga.
- NIGHTMARE DETECTIVE 2, a horror film directed by Shinya Tsukamoto.
- OROCHI, directed by Norio Tsuruta (RINGU 0: BASUDEI).
- PACO AND THE MAGIC BOOK, directed by Tetsuya Nakashima (KAMIKAZE GIRLS).
- SAMURAI PRINCESS, directed by TOKYO GORE POLICE screenwriter Kengo Kaji, special effects by Yoshihiro Nishimura (VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL, HARD REVENGE MILLY), and starring Aino Kishi, Dai Mizuno, Mao Shiina, Miki Hirase, and Takeshi Ayabe
The STM, Montreal’s local transit authority, is one of the sponsors of Fantasia 2009. Showing your Opus bus pass will gain you free admission to the 1:00 PM screenings of all films at the J.A De Seve Theater! Come out and see CYBORG SHE & THE CLONE RETURNS HOME for FREE at the De Seve Theater on July 28th and July 14th!
In the coming days, watch this space for a summary of the Korean, Thai and international programming featured at this July’s Fantasia.
Fantasia International Film Festival • Film Festival