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Fantasia 2011 ending has left me pretty much devoid of
purpose, and I have to admit I’ve been struggling quite hard to come up with
words for these last write-ups. After taking a few days off, I decided to
compile a short “short film highlights” article, which is criminally slim
considering the amount of short film I could’ve—and probably should’ve—been
watching during the festival. Per example, missing the annual Small Gauge
Trauma collection was as big a journalistic misstep is it was a personal
mistake, and would’ve added great content to this article.
Robert Morgan’s intensely creepy
stop-motion animation work, which I wasn’t aware of before Mitch Davis took the
stage to introduce the outrageous BOBBY YEAH, remains one of my favorite
discoveries of this year’s Fantasia. Morgan’s latest short—which played in
front of SAINT, of all things—blew my mind, insuring I’d never sleep again…or
dare look at stop-motion in the same light. Dark, dense and extremely
well-made, the four-years-in-the-making experimental work tells the story of
its mischievous titular character and the terrifying consequences of curiosity.
After stealing a disgusting wormlike creature from God-knows-where, Bobby (as
is rightfully assumed from the title, considering the whole film is
dialogue-free) finds a red button on the creature, which, when pressed,
triggers a horrifying transformation…which in turn spawns new monsters with
more buttons to press. Bobby, motivated by a delightful cartoon curiosity,
can’t resist the urge to keep pushing the buttons, unleashing further
explosions of claymation body horror…
Structured like a downward spiral into
madness, BOBBY YEAH is set in a kaleidoscopic world which furthers Morgan’s
fascination with body as abject object and physical transformations (going as
far as showcasing creatures made out of what I only assume—but most
probably—are hundreds of fingernail clippings), as well as his characteristic twisting
of spaces, creating another isolated character seemingly living in an inward
world of his own fabrication. Slime and sexual suggestion cohabit in this
monstrously skin-crawling realm, and amusement leads to horror and back again,
as each scenario put in motion by Bobby’s button-pushing unleashes a creation
speaking to our natural, culturally ingrained aversion to alien bodies, shapes
and impure textures—from genitalia to tentacles, organs to nail clippings,
which the creatures all suggest and exhibit to varying degrees.
Nightmarish in the best way possible, BOBBY
YEAH is a 23-minute adventure I will never forget. For its pervasive horror,
structure of infantile exploration, tackling of themes of morbid, deathly and
self-sacrificing curiosity as well as its unbelievable visual bravura—known
monstrous elements colliding with pure inventions, in a beautiful blue, purple
and pink palette—this film stands out among Morgan’s impressive oeuvre as a
major step forward and a unique piece of work in the landscape of experimental
film and stop-motion animation as well.
THE LAST POST
Better known for her horror journalism
(including for Fango) and occasional acting, Axelle Carolyn proved to Fantasia
audiences with her first short film THE LAST POST (screened with Shunji Iwai’s
VAMPIRE) that she can deservedly add director to her growing résumé. Colette
(Jean Marsh), an old woman in a nursing home, starts seeing a ghostly figure,
but no one seems to see him but her. The encounters accumulate, and slowly, the
apparition’s identity becomes clear…
Dealing with the age-old theme of mortality
and subverting common ideas about the fabled Grim Reaper, the film could only
peripherally be considered horror, as it takes basic elements and
preoccupations from the genre (ghostly visitations, death) to craft a touching
dramatic tale about facing the end. Working at a very calm and controlled pace,
Carolyn exhibits talent in how she gives her main character life in a mere 17
minutes—character cemented by the legendary Marsh, who provides a great, quiet
and appropriately melancholic performance. The nursing home offers a touching
backdrop of solitude—planting the seed of possible mental illness, thus making
the viewing experience more ambiguous.
Despite a somewhat predictable outcome, THE
LAST POST is a successful, contemplative mood piece, as touching as it is
effective, and hopefully a mere taste of what this promising director might
have in store next.
Playing before Sion Sono’s COLD FISH was
one of the most-anticipated short films of the year, namely the return to the
screen of one of the greatest and most popular Korean directors of the last
decade. This effort from PARKing CHANce (a.k.a. the acclaimed Park Chan-wook of
the VENGEANCE trilogy and THIRST with his brother Park Chan-kyong) is an
expectedly masterful film that has one particularity: It was entirely shot on
an iPhone 4, using proper lighting and consumer-market DSLR lens adapters.
Benefitting from the low-fi aesthetic, which, instead of hindering the film, brings
it a unique dreamlike texture, NIGHT FISHING finds Chan-wook’s
characteristically brutal narrative obsessions taking a metaphysical turn.
Starting off like a weirdly inexplicable music video, the film quickly finds
its subject, a fisherman (portrayed by Oh Kwang-rok of OLDBOY and LADY
VENGEANCE) who catches a mighty big fish…perhaps the biggest of them all.
Shot on a considerable budget with a
professional crew, not to mention the many gadgets enhancing the iPhone4
workflow, NIGHT FISHING is nonetheless fascinating for its showcase of the
possibilities of filmmaking on highly portable home-video formats. A
fascinating and profoundly folkloric story of what happens at the boundaries of
death, the absolutely mesmerizing NIGHT FISHING is, in imagery and tone, as
dark as Park’s previous work, but ultimately deals with more hopeful and
beautiful themes, drawing from rarely dramatized Korean traditions that imbue
the film with a sense of exoticism quite novel in the usually globalized
landscapes of contemporary Korean cinema.
THE DUNGEON MASTER
Every year sees films tailor-made for
Fantasia audiences (like THE LEGEND OF BEAVER DAM, which I reviewed here).
In particular, THE DUNGEON MASTER (part of the closing-film night before DON’T
BE AFRAID OF THE DARK) rocked the crowd and made the hundreds of geeks in the
audience particularly happy. Directed by actors Shiloh and Rider Strong (both
known for CABIN FEVER, the latter of BOY MEETS WORLD fame), THE DUNGEON MASTER
is concerned with a group of friends, led by BUFFY’s Adam Busch, deciding to
relive their “geek” days over a game of Dungeons & Dragons. But when they
solicit the help of an experienced game master, who shows up wearing a cape and
carrying a suitcase, things get uncomfortable.
Not revolutionary by any means, the Strong
brothers’ heartfelt celebration of geekdom is nonetheless an extremely
enjoyable punchline movie, finding its strength in the humor of its writing,
the wit of its performers and the swiftness of its pacing. Received with
roaring applause, the payoff is brilliantly executed, and THE DUNGEON MASTER
ends on a high note, deserving of a sequel—and would make one hell of a
Also, both Dahci Ma’s GHOST and the
charming, kid-friendly stop-motion film THE LAST NORWEGIAN TROLL (which I
previously mentioned here and here, respectively) were particularly memorable.
FANGO AT FANTASIA
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