Today was another beautiful day in Vancouver. The sun was out and the air was crisp. As one local put it, it’s been a remarkable October weather-wise, with sun triumphing over rain. It’s too bad then that I spent another eight-hour day in movie theaters. Six of those hours were not the most eventful, especially compared to the stellar lineup I had the day before.
Luckily, two of those hours were spent with Sawako Decides, a idiosyncratic comedy with enough quirky glee to brighten any autumn afternoon. Actress Mitsushima Hikari is too young and cute to be accused of being a mentally arrested alcoholic with self-esteem problems (which is what she is). And the supporting cast and director Ishii Yuya’s knack for blistering reactions and offbeat songs sends us off in candy-colored style.
Tanwarin Sukkhapisit’s Insects in the Backyard certainly has the color palette to bring both visual charm and Sirkian emotional depth, but the poppy colors here don’t do much to move the narrative. Instead, Insects in the Backyard largely works because of its content (family turmoil as a result of homophobia and self-hatred) rather than the craft.
Kimu; the Strange Dance could stand to borrow a bit of the punch of the short film that preceded it, Jung Yoonsuk’s museum piece The Home of Stars, a Kenneth Anger-like collage of kitsch, rock, and fascism. Kimu, on the other hand, is an overly straightforward essay film that could use some weather — either sunny or rainy — to depict the contradictions of preservation projects in contemporary Korea. The voiceovers are a bit too academic, the onscreen text to sparse, and the visuals and sounds of everyday life too uninspiring.
And then there’s Jo Sung-hee’s post-apocalyptic thriller End of Animal, a US$50,000 disaster film with monsters, rapists, and a very pregnant teen mother. This late into VIFF’s Dragons and Tigers competition (and at a late 9:30pm screening slot), a straight-up suspense film was a welcome addition to a lineup of coming-of-age stories and identity politics. The sold-out crowd was for the most part riveted, though this is definitely one of those films that dooesn’t hold up as well under closer scrutiny. (The ending is a bit too wacky, given that recent years saw the frighteningly minimalist The Road.) Jo is too young to have any Cormac McCarthy-esque reflections on human desperation, but he’s clealry seen his share of Spielberg and Shyamalan (and possibly Bong Joon-ho, who was in the audience as a juror).
Tomorrow, come rain or shine, will be a big day for the festival, as the Dragons and Tigers Young Cinema Award will be revealed. Odds, commentary, and announcement to follow…
[Check out part 2 of our capsule reviews of VIFF films (Hahaha, The Fourth Portrait, I Wish I Knew, Don't be Afraid Bi!, Sandcastle, Single Man, Icarus Under the Sun, Good Morning to the World!) at Asia Pacific Arts.]
[Check out part 1 of our capsule reviews of VIFF films (Winter Vacation, The High Life, Seven Days in Heaven, Cold Fish, Crossing the Mountain, Pinoy Sunday, Red Dragonflies, The Drunkard, R U There?) at Asia Pacific Arts.]