Fantasia 2019: Week 1 Review

The 23rd edition of the Fantasia Film Festival has taken over Concordia University's downtown campus until August 1st. Defining itself as a premiere genre film festival, there is truly something for everyone. When I attend Fantasia, I always create a master list of all the films that I want to see. This year it took close to two hours to create, as the festival's list of films stretches more than 130 titles from all across the globe. I tend to gravitate towards the films in Documentaries From the Edge and Camera Lucida. There is a method to the madness in making a master list - doing so allows me to track my free days with the screenings of the day.

The first film I checked out was from the Documentaries From The Edge section. Blood & Flesh - The Reel Life & Ghostly Death of Al Adamson from director David Gregory tells the true crime murder story of prominent B-movie director Al Adamson. Once an actor in his father film Victor Adamson film's, Al found his calling as a director. He would go on to direct Blood Of Ghastly Horror, Satan’s Sadits, Dracula VS Frankensein, and Blazing Stewardesses, just to name a few (which were highlighted in this documentary). As a director, he worked with a usual cast, exploited them for as much as he could, and even recycled his own movies and re-released them. This would later earn him the title of the King of B-Movies. The second half of the film discusses what lead to his murder, and his personal contractor Fred, who was convicted for the crime. Most of the cast and crew interviewed for this documentary remember Adamson for the opportunities he gave them. Adamson’s ultimate goal with his films were to entertain the audience.

The Art of Self Defence is a dark comedy from director Rily Sterns. After a routine night stroll to the store ends up with Casey (Jessie Eisenberg) getting mugged, he decides to take matters into his own hands. Realizing he is a defenceless human being, he decides to purchase a gun. In the process of waiting for a background check, he wanders into the dojo of Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), a black belt in karate. Upon learning rule number one: “Guns are for the weak,” he decides to join the class. Casey learns to become more of a defensive person, given a few set backs. These set backs provide great comedic moments for Eisenberg, which included crying in the car or experimenting with metal music. The film takes on a darker, more sinister tone in the later part, but Eisenberg plays the modern-day B-Fight Club character with comedic grace or full on bravado. Currently playing in select theatres, I recommend checking out this modern day B-Fight Club; one of my favourites from the festival so far.

Letters To Paul Morrissey is four short vignette stories shot in black and white. The narrator of each vignette ends up writing a letter to film director and associate of Andy Warhol, Paul Morrissey. The vignettes involve themes on wrestling with religious convictions, drug addiction, relationship problems, and even a sensitivity condition to particular sounds and songs. The third section was my the best executed; it involved actress Olena Wood coming to terms with being an ageing actress, and finding love. There are some interesting techniques in this black and white art house picture with the split screen in the first vignette, or even the sound design of the last vignette.

I'm looking forward to seeing more films in the coming weeks of the festival. I have my master list ready for next week, so making time for more screenings will not be a problem. Hopefully the madness of my scheduling will work in my benefit.

As always: bon cinéma! 

Remi Caron is the host of At the Movies, which airs on CJLO every Tuesday at 8:00 AM.