Fantastic Fest 2016: Day Six

Day six’s offerings included documentaries about Stanley Kubrick and movie posters, the latest effort from Benny Chan, and more.


24×36: A Movie About Movie Posters

Canada, 2016. Directed by Kevin Burke. 83 minutes. ★★★

The title is slightly misleading; 24×36 is specifically about…artistic movie posters, I guess; illustrations rather than the photo-montages that have been standard-issue for the last couple of decades (although there is some brief discussion of those). The first third of the documentary, which covers the history of the poster within the greater context of film advertising, is absolutely essential (assuming you’re a complete dork like me who finds things like lithography fascinating).

From there the film moves toward the modern poster illustrators and design studios, with some sidelines into the mechanics of the screen-printing process, the ins and outs of IP licensing, the business of the collectible “secondary market,” and such. I found this a bit less interesting, particularly the more self-c0ngratulatory coverage of the Mondo studio. Still, I did learn some stuff and the film overall was a lot of fun.

Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl

Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl

United States, 2016. Directed by A.D. Calvo. Starring Erin Wilhelmi, Quinn Shepard, Susan Kellerman. 76 minutes. ★★★★

My favorite “throwback” films–House of the Devil, The Signal, The Duke of Burgundy–are the ones that copy the style but not the content of the ’70s and ’80s movies they pay homage to. Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl is like that, with a story that feels like a mix between Hill House and a fairy-tale. Erin Wilhelmi plays the title character (or who I assume is the title character), a young woman tasked with taking care of her shut-in aunt but finds herself torn between her duties and her infatuation with local bad-girl Quinn Shephard. It isn’t always coherent, but it has a gorgeous waking-nightmare atmosphere that I absolutely love.

Short film: The Eternal

United States, 2016. Directed by Daniel Stuyck.

Supernatural thriller about a woman who finds a taped message from her dead love. Mournful (been getting that a lot this festival), stark, and beautiful. Also, lead actress Grace Marlow equals extremely cute.

S Is for Stanley

S is for Stanley

Italy, 2016. Directed by Alex Infascelli. 82 minutes. ★★★★

Emilio D’Alessandro’s first job for Stanley Kubrick was driving a gigantic dong across London in a taxi during a snowstorm. (It’s the sculpture Malcolm McDowell uses to violate Miriam Karlin in A Clockwork Orange.) From there, D’Alessandro was hired to be Kubrick’s chauffeur, but over the years his duties developed so he became a sort of unofficial P.A.; he worked for the director during the production of Barry Lyndon, The Shining, and Full Metal Jacket before retiring to Italy only to return to Kubrick’s employ in time for Eyes Wide Shut.

The portrait D’Alessandro paints of his boss is that of a perfectionist and a control freak. Surprise surprise, that’s not something we didn’t already know. What S Is for Stanley shows us is how the personality traits we associate with Kubrick manifested in his personal relationships, largely divorced from Kubrick’s reputation as a “genius”; D’Alessandro didn’t even see any of Kubrick’s films until his first, brief retirement. We already know what Kubrick was like as an artist; S shows us what he was like as a person.

Call of Heroes

Call of Heroes

Hong Kong, 2016. Directed by Benny Chan. Starring Ching Lan Wau, Louis Peng, Louis Koo. 120 minutes. ★★★★

I don’t think I’ve seen a better action film this year than Benny Chan’s wuxia Call of Heroes. Set in the fractured China of the early 20th century, Chan delivers a potent martial-arts epic with a heavy dose of western stylization. The fight sequences, choreographed by the legendary Sammo Hung, are exhilarating; the location work is gorgeous; the performances (particularly Louis Koo as the villain and Eddie Peng as the more roguish of the film’s two heroes) are incredible. Even the story has more thematic depth than some Star Wars movie. This is a film that is truly all things to all people.

Top Five Movies of the Festival

As of the end of day six:

  1. Buster’s Mal Heart (Day 5)
  2. Belief: The Possession of Janet Moses (Day 3)
  3. Call of Heroes (Day 6)
  4. Arrival (Day 1)
  5. Toni Erdmann (Day 2)

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