måndag, september 30

FFF 2013

I've just come home from a full day of movie-watching at this year's incarnation of Lund's Fantastic Film Festival; having already seen all the movies on my 5-card together with meimei, I don't know if I'm gonna see any more; I already feel quite satisfied, never before has the average grade of the movies I've seen at FFF been this good (which is ironic, considering that at first I wasn't too impressed with this year's program). If I do see any more films, I'll update this post later, right now, I just need to get something of what I've seen out of my system because I feel so inspired and affected and wanna share some great films with my friends. The main function of this post will actually be to give more or less spoiler-free recommendations, but certain friends of mine; if you don't want even the slightest spoiler, you'll just have to take my word on that you need to see the movie in question.

This friday, we started out strongly with The Machine. It's a moody british cyberpunk movie that does an absolutely amazing visual job out of a tiny-winy budget, and manages to both look and seem like the production values were ten times greater. There's only a short teaser trailer out this far:

The plot is not very original (and yes, the military-industrial complex is evil...), but it does handle some themes in slightly new and inventive way, and because I've just spent a year or more writing Neotech X, it's great to see a good cyberpunk movie that, just like NX, tries to re-invent the genre a bit, take it away from the dated 80s feeling, and make use of more up-to-date issues and sentiments regarding technology. The movie especially might surprise you a bit on how the 'doomsday' theory of technological singularity, as seen in for example The Terminator franchise, is handled rather differently.

My rating: In the end I gave it a 4 out of 5. It's very good, and has good acting and a great atmosphere, but the world felt a bit too constrained, and I really dislike the ending scene for some reason.  

People I know who needs to see this one: Martin Fröjd, Joel, Björn

Next in line; OXV: The Manual, also from Britain. This is a quirky philosophical/scientific romance story set in an alternate world with weird natural laws. I don't want so say too much about it as I feel certain people I know will absolutely adore it but should see it with an open mind and heart, but the basice premise is that people have certain frequencies, and people with pronounced frequencies are geniuses. If their frequency is really high, they'll be extremely lucky and succesful in everything, but completely emotionally dead. If their frequency is really low, however, they'll be unlucky losers with lots of emotions. The main characters are a boy with the school's lowest frequency and a girl with the scool's highest; whenever they meet, nature freaks out because they are so incompatible, and bisarre things happen.

This is not a truly bizarre movie, it has a miniscule budget and does not rely a lot on special effects, so don't come expecting the special effects/high concept-type of quirkyness. The odd premise is instead primarily used to explore the psyches of the main characters, and later on the potential consequences of certain radical discoveries they've done. It actually manages to have something in common with the italian book/film The Solitude of Prime Numbers, in how it portrays the main characters and their psychologically impossible relationship develop from childhood to adulthood (In the italian book/film, the main characters has the idea that he and the girl are different prime numbers and therefore they can never meet). As far as I know there's no trailer released yet, so I give you a picture of the main characters as adults for filler instead, isn't that guy just dreamy?:

My rating: The acting is great both in the child actors and the adults, the plot is intelligent and emtional, if a little bit disjointed at times, the premise is tought-provoking and utterly brilliant, and in generally they've done such an amazing job with tiny resources to make this movie outstanding. I didn't hesitate to give it a 5 out of 5.

People I know who needs to see this one: Joel, Björn, Alva, Elin, Kalle, Bunny

Then came Mars et Avril, a french-canadian movie that I can only properly describe in swedish: gubbsjuk och totalt spejsad. To try to put it in english, it's the kind of surrealist pretentiously freudian move where young girls somehow randomly has an uncontrollable lust for the flesh of fat bearded old Hemingways who spend their time making celebrated music on handmade instruments designed like voluptuous women's bodies. At the same time, there's a Mars landing going on, and these two themes are drawn together by the Music of the Spheres, and of course I adore that they used that supermega-awesome ancient philosophical concept, and the movie is visually amazing and ethereal beyond the level of even The Fountain, and creates a visually compelling portrayal of a distant future Montreal with fashion and hairstyles that all look like they were designed by Alexander Bard on crack. All these good things, unfortunately, does not take away from the fact that this movie is essentially about boring old men having gubbsjuka and navelskådande existential crises relating to the freudian connection between their overblown ego and the universe, or something, and the pretty girl that randomly gave them a blowjob last night before being accidentaly teleported to Mars.

My rating: So no, it doesn't really work, and while very, very special and visually interesting, most of my friends would cringe if they saw it, and so did I. I gave it a 3 because it's so beautiful.

People I know who needs to see this one: None, you are all too feminist. But watch the trailer, that way you'll get to see a sample of the gorgeous visuals.

Next up was Chastity Bites, an american high-school horror flick made on, to quote the director, "the catering budget of The Avengers". While the lack of budget shows a bit in this one, and the actors are a bit uneven (most critically the actress playing the villain is not very good), it's made by a writer and a director who are true horror freaks and put so much love in this movie that it's about to burst from all the obscure references. The dialogue is great, which is very important to high school movies, the absurdity at just the right level, and when they have gotten the casting right, it's amazing; the main actress is absolutely fantastic and her embittered hipster feminist genre-savvy character one of the hottest and most likeable I've seen in a long while. A cool, anti-stereotype thing they did, very consciously the writer told me, was to put an asian girl as the leader of the classical evil bimbo-girl posse. Certain geeky friends of mine will also recognize the actress of that character...

 Chastity Bites is not great because the plot is amazing or anything, which high school film is? It's great because it has a feminist slant throughout, combined with dark humor and meta-jokes. Also, it has a wild sex scene which starts with the couple discussing Simon de Beauvoir...

My rating: At FFF I gave it a 5. It's really more like a 4, and that's what I'll give it on filmtipset later, but it was extremely fun to watch and basically made with the target audience of swedish feminist geeks (this was the european premiere, and the producers were impressed by us seemingly getting all the Simone de Beauvoir references that the audiences at american film festivals didn't understand).

People I know who needs to see this one: Everybody who likes feminism and high school films, but in particular Cornelia, Joel, Alva and Maria. Also Mika because the main character looks like her.

Last but not least, and the only movie I knew about before the festival; the british vampire movie Byzantium. When I first heard about it long ago I wanted to see it because it had Gemma Arterton in it (I've liked her since the excellent 'The Disappearance of Alice Creed', shown on a previous FFF), was about vampires and was namned Byzantium, though to my disappointment I later realized it would have nothing or extremly little to do with the byzantine empire, instead being set in contemporary Britain. But I then learned it would also have the likewise excellent Saoirse Ronan and it and she and Gemma Arterton would play like vampire sisters or something...and then it was of course a must-see anyhow.

But I never expected it to be, y'know, good. I expected it to be some kind of Underworld-style movie with Gemma Arterton in tight leather pants slaughtering millions of mooks in super-effects-heavy action scenes. But even though the movie starts with a lot of Arterton in a thong, it quickly turns out to be something...very, very, very different. Byzantium has almost no action scenes, the vampires have almost no super powers, it relies heavily on dialogue and moody monologue scenes, it's more close to that british 'I'm arranging matches'-style of film, as vampire films go actually most similar to 'Let the right one in'. Without spoiling to much, it's a tale of two renegade female vampires shunned by a misogynist vampire society, being alone, hunted and haunted for two hundred years. Their contemporary life on the run is juxtaposed with flashbacks to the Regency era when they became vampires, gradually building up the series of events that led to their current situation. But  the younger of the two vampires (Ronan) is fed up and tired with their deadlocked life patterns, which builds up to a conflict with the older (Arterton), who is hell-bent on protecting the younger but don't know how (or can't muster the strength) to do it any other way.

Though of course not completely without flaws, this is among the best vampire movies made, alongside Let the right one in and Interview with the Vampire (which had the same director). The acting is amazing (Arterton in particular makes one of the most compelling performances of her career), the characters psychologically and morally complex yet very likeable, the plot is intriguing, the production values high, the lighting gorgeous. But what really sets it apart is the theme of patriarchal opression, running like a dreadful red thread between the two time frames of the story. The movie's script is apparently based on a play by a female irish playwright, which maybe sort of explains certain themes and the dialogue-driven narrative.

My rating: 5. It's among the best vampire movies ever, a huge positive surprise, entertaining and thought-provoking, but, though not exactly a pure tragedy, likely to make you somewhat depressed. It passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, though I think maybe a few people might take slight issue with the ending, as it could be argued that it robs Arterton's character of some of her agency.

People I know who needs to see this one: Alva, Frans, Björn, Joel, Bunny.

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