Friday at Fantastic Fest 2010 featured a movie about a tire that makes people’s heads explode. Then, two other movies almost made MY head explode: one out of sheer awesomeness and the other out of bored frustration. And that’s just part of how day two at the world’s largest genre film festival based in Austin, Texas went. Click here to read about day one, then hit the jump to find out which film did what out of Clement Sze-Kit Cheng & Chi-kin Kwok’s Gallants, Dante Lam’s Fire of Conscience, Quentin Dupleux’s Rubber and Mark Hartley’s Machete Maidens Unleashed.
Two elderly martial arts students are rejuvenated when their master reawakens after a 30-year coma in Gallants, an amazing kung fu comedy with a perfect sense of humor and exciting action scenes. Gallants was, to this point, my favorite film of Fantastic Fest and yes, a small part of that was because it’s funny to see men in their 60s and 70s doing kung fu. Really, though, the characters and script have so much heart and the story is told with so much style and mythology, Gallants jumps off the screen from the very first shot. It’s structured around a nerd and a real estate deal, both of which pay off nicely, but ultimately the film is rewarding on both a pure entertainment as well as emotional level. Here’s hoping everyone gets to see Gallants at some point. I loved it.
FIRE OF CONSCIENCE
Up next was Fire of Conscience, a brand new Hong Kong film by up and coming director Dante Lam. What originally sold me on it was an almost Infernal Affairs pitch in the program promising an exciting chess match between good and bad cops as well as an awesome photo of a guy with a bomb on his chest. As it starts, Conscience surely shows promise and throughout it’sthe slick visuals prove that Lam is a talented director. Unfortunately, the film is overtly confusing with unmotivated characters and confusing subplots. I think it’s about a troubled cop who tries to solve a murder case only to find that a colleague of his is dirty, but I could be wrong. Plus, while some of the action scenes are entertaining, the exposition in between is slow and without magnetism. The screenplay attempts to flush out the characters with backstories and personal quirks, but it never quite adds up into a cohesive whole.
Rubber was the third film of the day and there’s so much to say, but at the same time, the less I say the better. It’s not one of those movies that can be spoiled per se, but it makes you think and flips you on your head. Movies like that should be seen as fresh as possible. On its most basic level, though, Rubber is about a rubber tire that explodes people’s heads. The premise alone sells itself, but the real joy of the film is in discovering its structure and realizing that, despite a hilarious opening monologue to the contrary, the film is really about us, our relationship with the movies we watch and Hollywood as a concept. All of this through a movie whose main character is a tire. Or maybe it has no reason at all. I’m certain Rubber will see the light of day in one venue or another so seek it out.
MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEAHSED
Our last film of the day was the documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed, which was the first half of a double feature honoring Roger and Julie Corman as Lifetime Achievement Award winners. Roger Corman is prominently featured in this doc, which is by the same people behind Not Quite Hollywood, because he was a pioneer in bringing American film production to the Philippines in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s where it was cheap and there were no rules. Girls in prison movies, girls in jungle movies, soldier of fortune movies, revolutionary movies, you name it and a movie was probably made about it on the cheap with a lot of blood, breasts and beasts. I’d be willing to bet the only movie with more breasts than those films is this one, simply because it complies them all. As a film fan, I learned so much watching this movie – such as the influence these films had on effects work, distribution patterns, culture as a whole and that these films existed at all because many of them are long since gone. Most interestingly though, Machete Maidens surmises that these films helped to sustain the feminist movement because of their strong, albeit it exploitative, portrayal of women as action stars. People such as Corman, Pam Grier, Joe Dante, John Landis and many others all make appearances in the movie which has a great energy and wicked sense of humor. Again, it’s another highly recommended film.
After Machete Maidens, Tim League brought out two of his heroes – Roger and Julie Corman – to a huge standing ovation. League said that the Drafthouse was created with the Corman’s films largely in mind, which was a touching moment and the duo took questions from the crowd. Roger talked about how he got his start as a bike messenger on the 20th Century Fox lot, what it was like giving filmmakers like Scorsese, Cameron and Howard their start in the business, his favorite movies he’s done (the original Little Shop of Horrors was his first response) and said that he’s happy producing now, but would direct again if a story struck him enough.
The double feature concluded with the world premiere of the Sci-Fi Channel original film Sharktopus, which the Cormans produced. Within seconds – literally – I knew I wasn’t properly prepared to enjoy this movie. Lack of sleep, mental state and the possibility of an extra 2 hours of sleep won out and so I called it a day 10 minutes in.
Once again, the first rule of Fantastic Fest is expect the unexpected, the offensive and the gross but be ready for the poignant too. Day two provided them all and I’m sure that’ll continue into day three, which begins now.