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FANTASIA 2001: MORIARTY Lands In Montreal and Sees BRUCE LAW: MY STUNTS, DEAD OR ALIVE 2, and DEAD CREATURES!!

Published at: July 27, 2001, 1:38 a.m. CST

Hey poor souls about to read Moriarty, Harry here. If you happen to be in Montreal and want to know what Moriarty looks like and how to reach him Click Here! Not that I recommend any of you to do that. He's an evil evil man. If you have small children, keep them away. He's been known to perform strange medical acts for his own bemusement that could leave them scarred for all time. However, if you want to talk movies... and have strong clothing that cannot be torn or bitten through... Contact him.

Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.

Jet lag just barely begins to describe it.

After the events of Monday night, I was determined to make it to LAX two hours before my flight was scheduled to depart. That means Harry Lime and I were standing outside the Continental terminal at 7:30 in the evening, my trusty blue backpack with the computer inside slung over my shoulder, my giant green bag stuffed with ten days worth of clothes already on the curb. I checked in with no problem, found my way to the gate, and broke out my reading material for the flight, Salman Rushdie’s new novel FURY which will be out in September. I’ll be reviewing it next week, once I’m back in LA and I can organize my thoughts, but I’ll say this: it’s an extraordinary piece of work by one of the finest writers working, and it’s one of the only reasons the flight was manageable for me. 9:30 at night, we’re off the ground and on the way to Newark, where we landed just after 5:00 in the morning. You know what’s fun when you have a two hour layover at Newark at 5:00 in the morning? Nothing. Not a damn thing. Especially when that two hour layover becomes a three hour layover for no discernable reason. Still, I can’t complain, even if I did end up sitting next to a guy who farted and drooled for the whole hour and a half we were en route to Montreal. He couldn’t help it. He’d either taken a very strong muscle relaxant or had a lobotomy just before the flight. Either one absolves his behavior, I suppose. At least he wasn’t awake when I reached the end of Rushdie’s book and found myself surprised by the intensity of my own emotional reaction to it. I would have had to explain in very tiny words, and that would have taken all the fun out of it.

Besides, none of that mattered once I finished with Canadian customs and was greeted by Pierre Corbeil, the director of the Fantasia film festival. I’ve been hearing about this fest for the entire time it’s been around, six years now, and I’ve wanted to attend each one. As I rode into Montreal with Pierre and we chatted, it was immediately obvious why I’ve heard such good things about the fest over the years. He’s an unabashed genre fan, someone who can speak with equal authority and passion about Toho monster movies and slasher flicks, a kindred spirit if you will. Our first stop was at the Delta Hotel, where I checked in. As I was standing at the desk, a tall lean guy who could have been anywhere from 40 to 60 went strolling by, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, sweating from exercise. He recognized Pierre and walked over to say hi at the exact moment that I recognized him. It was Lloyd Kaufman, grand poobah of Troma Films and director of CITIZEN TOXIE, Saturday night’s midnight offering. Harry’s met Lloyd many times over the years, but this was my first opportunity. We chatted for a few minutes, and it turned out he was staying directly across the hall from me. "Don’t mind the moaning and other noises. It’s just the hotel porn," Lloyd cracked on the way upstairs. Pierre invited us both for lunch in an hour, which gave me just enough time to walk around the room for a half hour making fists with my toes in the carpet (thanks, John McClane), shower, and change.

Feeling almost human again, I joined Lloyd in the lobby, where he introduced me to Heidi Sjursen, the female lead of CITIZEN TOXIE. Picture a younger, hotter Courteney Love, and you’ve got Heidi. She’s no mere bikini stuffing, either. On the ride to the restaurant, we talked about her band, her short film she’s directing, and a million other interests she’s pursuing. I’ve always said Lloyd is a genius at publicity, and bringing Heidi along to represent the film proves that. We found ourselves the first people to arrive at a small two story pizza restaurant, and Pierre dropped us off to go back and pick up some more guests. By the time all of us had piled into the place, our party had spilled over from four tables to seven tables, and the one poor waitress on duty was literally sprinting to try and keep up with everyone, screwing up orders and missing people entirely. Didn’t matter, of course. It was a great lunch due to the conversations. I found myself sitting between Heidi and the editor of French PREMIERE, while across from me were several of the volunteers who make Fantasia possible as well as Jorge Olguin, the director of ANGEL NEGRO, the first commercially released horror film ever from Chile, who was seated next to the director of the Sitges Festival in Spain. It was an overload of good conversation, and everyone had that same passion for films that aren’t part of the mainstream, the small treasures that surface from time to time in the genre.

Back at the hotel after lunch, I think I managed about an hour of sleep before my wake-up call came. Bleary eyed, I stumbled downstairs and made my way to the Imperial Theater, a five minute walk from the Delta. Pierre had given me a VIP pass, and all I had to do was flash it at the door and I was in. I found a seat down front, maybe eight rows back, and almost immediately found myself in a series of conversations with readers of the site. Kevin turned out to be a guy who had sent me e-mail before I left LA, while John was just a film nut who happened to recognize me. As has been the case with every AICN reader I’ve ever met at an event, they were both friendly and interesting, and I quizzed them about their favorites in the fest so far. We just had a few minutes to talk, though, since the first program began right at 5:30.

I’ve been aware of Bruce Law’s work for some time now, and when he showed up at the lunch earlier in the day, I was almost intimidated by him. This is a guy who cheats death on a regular basis, who choreographs some of the most insane stunts I’ve ever seen. He’s known for his driving stunts, in particular, and you’ve seen his work in Hong Kong films like POLICE STORY, THE KILLER, and FULL THROTTLE. BRUCE LAW STUNTS is a 48 minute documentary that highlights some of his work, focusing on his recent move into directing with EXTREME CRISIS. As much as I loved the footage from his films and seeing some behind-the-scenes material, I felt that too much of this documentary focused on talking heads, Bruce’s HK contemporaries going on and on about themselves and their relationships with Bruce. No offense, but in a film called BRUCE LAW STUNTS, that’s pretty much all I want to see. There’s no denying this guy’s inventive eye or his daredevil nature, though, and the film is worth seeing if you’re not familiar with his work. Once you see what he’s capable of, you’ll never take a Joel Silver movie seriously again.

That documentary was doubled up with an episode of what appeared to be a French television show called CINEMAS OF THE WORLD focusing on the Hong Kong industry. And this is where it really hit me. I was exhausted. Not just tired, but punch drunk. I found that by alternating which eye I closed, I could at least partially fool my body into thinking it was awake. It didn’t help that the focus of the special seemed to be proving that there’s far more to Hong Kong cinema than action and stunt work. As a long-time supporter of Wong Kar Wei, I am already well aware of this, and I began to lose the fight, slipping into brief flashes of unconsciousness. When some behind the scenes footage from Tsui Hark’s upcoming LEGEND OF ZU was shown, I perked up for a few moments. That film looks incredible, and the trailer we had here on the site a few days ago made me determined to see the film as soon as possible. But fatigue was winning the war, and since I’m still completely sworn off caffeine, I didn’t have any weapons to fight it off.

Walking around the lobby between films helped a bit, and by the time I found my seat for the next film, I was armed with a large Sprite and a renewed determination to be awake and alert. It helped that DEAD OR ALIVE 2: BIRDS was my introduction to the work of Takashi Miike, a fucking lunatic of the highest order. When talking to everyone after the film, they kept saying DOA2 was mild for him. If that’s true, then I am afraid of this guy. DOA2 is a marvelous piece of kinetic filmmaking, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense at all points. At the start of it, the film seems to be a simple programmer about Triad/Yakuza warfare. Mizuki, a hipster with dyed blonde hair and a penchant for Hawaiian shirts, is hired to kill the leader of one of the gangs in an effort to spark all out warfare that will allow a smaller organization to move in once the Triads and the Yakuza have taken each other out. Mizuki sets up in his hiding place with a sniper’s rifle and is about to do the job when a mysterious stranger pops up and kills everyone in the alley. Mizuki collects his money anyway and skips town. He’s bothered by the stranger, bothered by the fact that there’s something familiar about him, and it’s not until Mizuki makes it all the way back to his childhood home, a small island, that he pieces the whole thing together. The stranger has made the same trip to the same island, and Mizuki confronts him, realizing it is Shu, his best friend while growing up.

The two of them reunite with another friend, and for a time, it looks like the movie is going to be about their attempt to rediscover the innocence of their youth while the betrayed gangs all attempt to track them down for revenge. Miike doesn’t do things that simply, though. Instead, his movie takes insane left turns, constantly forcing you to redefine what you think you’re watching. By the time angel wings start sprouting from the backs of the two friends and they start contract killing so they can send medicine to impoverished children around the world (shown in montage footage), I was convinced that Miike is either a brash young genius or a complete nutcase. Based on the ending of the film, I’m still not sure which he is. I know I need to see VICTIM Q, the other Miike film that played Fantasia this year, and that I’ll be checking out AUDITION, a film that played here last year to great response, evidently. DOA2 is soaked in gore, incredibly vulgar, juvenile in places, and somehow balances broad humor with bitter nostalgia. It’s the work of a genuine talent, even if he is touched with madness.

The adrenaline rush that comes from discovering a new voice in cinema kept me wide awake throughout DOA2, and I felt good as we headed into the night’s final offering, DEAD CREATURES, a film by Andrew Parkinson. I’ve had a chance to meet Andrew now, and he seems like an affable, quick-witted chap. I like the concept of DEAD CREATURES, especially the shorthand description of it as a "Ken Loach zombie film." That’s fairly accurate, and there is much to like about the movie. Unfortunately, the combination of deliberate pacing and my own near delirious condition turned a 90 minute film into what felt like a four hour ordeal. In Parkinson’s world, there are no answers to explain why people are turning into zombies. They simply are. This is a slice of life (or death, as the case may be), a look at how these poor broken souls cope with a horrible half-life of eating human flesh and hiding from the law. There are no big action beats, no giant suspense set pieces. There’s not even really anything I would call "horror" in the conventional sense. Instead, this is an observational drama about the daily routine, the lousy, shitty little apartments where these girls slowly rot away, doing what they have to do to get their daily pound of flesh. There are any number of metaphors one could read into the film: life in modern England, AIDS, drug addiction. The "creatures" of the title are creatures of habit, trapped in a pattern they hate, trapped in bodies they despise. I wish I could say the film worked across the board, because there is much to like about it, and perhaps I should see it again sometime when I am not so tired I’m starting to hallucinate. At 90 minutes, I can’t imagine there’s much he could cut from the film to help with the pacing. Maybe the nature of the film demands this sort of slow, plodding feel. Considering how cheaply the film was made, I think it looks great, and the performances are above average for this sort of material. It looks like the film is being unceremoniously dumped to video in North America sometime next month, so this may be one of the few times anyone sees a 35mm print of it. Like GINGER SNAPS, this is obviously a film that deserves better, and with a little judicious work from Parkinson, it could be a film that deserves real attention.

I somehow got talked into joining Anthony Timpson, my buddy from New Zealand, as well as Don May from Synapse Films, a great DVD company, and a bunch of the Fantasia staff and their friends at a bar up the street after DEAD CREATURES let out. I tried to hang for a while, but it was starting to turn into the end of 2001. About the time I had an out of body experience and saw myself as a baby, a 30 year old, and a 90 year old man all at once, I decided to make my way back to the hotel. I spent a few minutes listening to the warm, sweet whisper of my Argentian girlfriend via long distance, then drifted off to a dreamless sleep, determined to get enough sleep to face day two without complaint.

"Moriarty" out.





Readers Talkback

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  • July 27, 2001, 2:06 a.m. CST

    First

    by thinboyslim

    dead creatures sounds really interesting, and the paralells that moriarty draws make it sound like a docu-soap based on zombies, cool.

  • July 27, 2001, 3:54 a.m. CST

    Dead or Alive, Audition, I.K.U

    by Frank Black

    Thanks for such a nice piece. I am glad you guys are able to go to these festivals and let us know what is out there so I can buy it on DVD from Europe. I don't have the time or the money to go to festivals all over the world, but I sure am glad someones covering it. I recently saw the first "Dead or Alive" and have to say from beginning to end it was one of the coolest movies I have ever seen with an ending that pretty much gave a collective heart attack to our stunned audience. I also recently bought "Audition" on DVD and was genuinely creeped out by it. Although the beginning may be too slow for most American horror fans, I think fans of good psychological suspense will love this. My new favorite movie was one that played that festival last year and is called I.K.U. Asci-fi porno that puts to shame most of the Hollywood movies this year with it's stylishly hot sex scenes and amazingly cool soundtrack, this riff on Blade Runner makes me rethink what I want from a movie entirely. We desperately need an uncut DVD version of this in America and the beautifully packaged 2 cd +1 cd rom soundtrack set. Now that I think about it, isn't it about time for AICN PORN reviews?

  • July 27, 2001, 5:13 a.m. CST

    Takashi Miike

    by 0711243997

    Victim Q!?! It

  • July 27, 2001, 7:40 a.m. CST

    It

    by Blake Falls

    by they way, they will also show VISITOR Q tommorow at the fantasy filmfest in germany. cu there!

  • July 27, 2001, 7:49 a.m. CST

    Miike Takashi

    by momo021

    I envy you! I managed to see DOA (1) and Audition in last years London film festival and they blew me away. I had heard positive things prior but they were way better than expected and very original. In both case the audience was left a bit shell shocked. DOA 2 sounds as good especially from your reaction and the review over at www.midnighteye.com hopefully it will play in some festival since distribution of his films in Europe either Cinema or Video is almost zilch. (For anyone interested in his films: Audition is easily found on DVD with subtitles as well as City of Lost Souls, theres also Fudoh on vhs - an earlier film. Most of his other exellent films can be ordered from Japan on DVD but they SADLY have no subtitles.)

  • July 27, 2001, 8:18 a.m. CST

    This line is SO Ebert: "As has been the case with every AICN re

    by Wesley Snipes

    Everybody is aping Ebert's style these days.

  • July 27, 2001, 8:19 a.m. CST

    Fantasia 2001

    by FeeHung

    Nice report from Montreal! But if you want to read another great journal about fantasia with picture, video and msg Board, you can go to http://www.kfccinema.com/fantasia2k1/journal/week1.html See ya at Fantasia!

  • I'm definitely gonna see it at the Egyptian next month.

  • July 27, 2001, 2:23 p.m. CST

    Where's the 90's lists?

    by jalora

    Very nice report, sir. Now, how about addressing what happened to those wonderful 90's lists you were doing? I was so looking forward to reading them all.