The marathon viewings of films went on six days with 23 films viewed. It became a bit of an endurance trial after a while. I’d like to do as many as 25 next year, but we’ll see. Here are a few more quickie reviews for some of the films screened.
Regional Premiere, 98 min
Director – Károly Ujj-Mészáros
In a bright and colorful 1970s Budapest (which was actually during the height of the communist regime at the time), a live-in nurse named Liza (Mónika Balsai) wallows in a lonely life. Other than the woman she cares for, the wife of a late Japanese ambassador, the only person she interacts with is an imaginary friend, who happens to be a dead Japanese singer named Tomy Tani (David Sakurai). Liza inherits the apartment after her patient unexpectedly dies, and sets out to find her one true love. There’s just one catch–she may be a fox fairy, a cursed creature of Japanese folklore doomed to be alone forever. Why would she think that? Because every potential suitor she meets dies in peculiar and grisly ways. The deaths catch the attention of Sargent Zoltán, who begins to investigate Liza while also renting the spare bedroom in her apartment. Soon enough, he starts to fall for her. But will that fall bring along his death? Watch to find out.
This film is delightful. It’ll draw many comparisons to Amélie and other Jeunet films, but I found it to be much closer in spirit to the charms and macabre of Bryan Fuller’s Pushing Daisies. Each frame is a visual delight and the smart writing (screenplay by Ujj-Mészáros and Bálint Hegedûs) confidently uses the visuals to elevate the humor. The subtle reveal of how Liza made her fancy white dress is a perfect example of the care and precision this film takes. It doesn’t hit you over the head, but through the camera work, leads you to the joke. Balsai is perfect as Liza, absolutely endearing without sliding into manic pixie dream girl territory. More than once, she reminded me of Kristen Wiig, who would most likely be the candidate for the role if there was ever an English language remake (as unnecessary as that would be). Liza the Fairy Fox placed 2nd at Fantastic Fest’s Audience Award. The distinction is well-earned.
US Premiere,99 min
Director – Eric Hannezo
Yes, it’s a remake of horror maestro Mario Bava‘s original Rabid Dogs, but don’t let that dissuade you from giving this film a watch. Hannezo makes the story his own in this fun and nasty update. When a robbery goes awry, five criminals hit the road with hostages– a honeymooning woman and a father with his gravely ill child. Catching few breaks, circumstances grow increasingly hopeless for both the criminals and the hostages. The twist is the same as the original, so if you’re familiar with Bava’s version, it won’t be a big surprise, but that shouldn’t take away from your enjoyment. Like the film itself, the score by Laurent Eyquem draws from the original by Stelvio Cipriani, creating a distinct sound that celebrates its Italian horror roots with a modern electronic spin. It’s loud and chaotic, and perfectly matches the dire, violent and unpredictable situations in which the characters find themselves.
Texas Premiere, 120 min
Director – Avishai Sivan
Woah. Meeting up with a friend after the screening, I said to him, “I wish you watched that movie. You probably would have hated it.” That’s certainly no critique of the film itself. It’s an arthouse film from start to finish, and not for everyone. I was left slightly troubled and bemused by what I had just watched, but didn’t regret it for a second. The top prize winner from this year’s Jerusalem Film Festival is truly an experience. The plot follows Haim-Aaron (Aharon Traitel), a devout Yeshiva student who has a near death experience that affects him to his very core. He begins to seek out new experiences in life and allows his studies to fall to the wayside. The changes Haim-Aaron goes through are unsettling to his equally devout father (Khalifa Natour), a kosher butcher, who was responsible for saving his son’s life–continuing to perform resuscitation when the paramedics were ready to give up. He’s plagued by visions that lead him to think he should have let Haim-Aaron die.
The performances of Traitel and Natour anchor the film. Tikkun is Traitel’s first credit, but you’d never guess that from watching. It’s not easy to play “cold and detached” naturally, but he does it well, especially when sharing scenes with Natour, a more established actor. The two carry their individual scenes flawlessly and manage to heighten each other’s performances when sharing the screen. The film itself is a fever dream of religion and self-discovery, with gorgeous black and white, ethereal cinematography. It placed me within a world about which I knew very little, and left me wanting to learn more. Films like Tikkun don’t come around often, which makes it extra exciting to watch them.
World Premiere, 85 min
Director – Bo Mikkelsen
The debut feature film by Bo Mikkelsen follows a family as their serene suburban life crumbles after a mysterious infection rapidly spreads throughout their town, causing the neighborhood to be quarantined with little explanation. Soon come the zombies.
The film is well-shot, well-acted, and has a strong score, but ultimately feels somewhat lifeless. It simply adds nothing new to the zombie genre. Everything in this film has been seen before and not a single character stands out as memorable. So while What We Become is competently made, there’s little to help it stand out among the multitude of similar films. Perhaps there isn’t anything new that can be done with the genre, but I don’t want to accept that just yet. I know it’s weird to praise a remake of Rabid Dogs and then criticize this film for being unoriginal. Expectations are everything. I knew exactly what I was getting into with Rabid Dogs. In this case, I was hoping for an original film that was, in fact, original.