Multi-talented writer and director Mathias Malzieu, who is known for his success as a novelist and musician as well as filmmaker, returns to this year’s virtual Fantasia Film Festival with a delightful grown-up fairytale. Malzieu’s previous animated film, Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, which he co-directed with Stéphane Berla, was featured at the festival in 2014. This year, his live action A Mermaid in Paris captures the charm and adventurousness of an animated feature and recalls the hopeful optimism of childhood with a romantic fantasy story. The film’s plot is unashamedly straightforward and simple, borrowing from familiar mermaid mythology and popular romance movie formulas, but it places this tale on a fantastical and colorful backdrop that makes the predictable story seem fresh and heartfelt.
The word “nightmarish” is one of those terms frequently thrown around when describing horror films. While the jump-scares, villains, and gore of the horror genre can certainly haunt us in our sleep, oftentimes, the plots of horror movies are quite meticulously designed and follow a much more logical story than real nightmares. Despite their terrifying nature, narrative horror films make much more sense, and are therefore much easier to follow, than our dreams. Unless you have some higher form of subconsciousness that employs a team of award-winning writers to plan out your dreams, real nightmares are so bizarre, fragmented, and convoluted that they probably wouldn’t bring in a lot of cash at the box office. While most horror movies don’t accurately represent the experience of a nightmare, anthology horror films can come pretty close. Just like a nightmare that pulls your mind back and forth among a hodgepodge of strange and unlikely situations, even tricking you into thinking you are someone else for a while, anthology films guide us through a series of loosely-connected and bizarre short stories. These stories, like a nightmare, frequently switch protagonists and force our minds to work harder to make connections between everything we are seeing. In that sense, writer/director Ryan Spindell’s feature debut, The Mortuary Collection, is a nightmarish anthology horror film. Screening at the Fantasia International Film Festival, The Mortuary Collection is both a tribute to classic cinema and a unique creation of its own.
Originally Published on Elements of Madness
One of film’s unique narrative strengths is the camera’s ability to manipulate perspective. A movie can put us behind the mask of a serial killer on Halloween or on the tip of a shark’s nose just before it attacks. Point-of-view shots are both riveting and revolting. They force us to confront stomach-turning visuals, and yet, as we share the perspective of a character who we care about, we can’t turn away. In the case of Patrick, a selection from this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival, cinematographer Frank van den Eeden capitalizes on the power of perspective to create a detailed and accessible portrait of the emotionally unavailable title character. Patrick is a stylized, darkly comedic thriller that hones in on the anxiety of its antisocial protagonist, exposing (in more ways than one) the ridiculousness of the world around him.
Among the list of things that you might expect to save your life one day, perhaps one of the least likely is a night with an escort and a headfirst dive into the world of feminist pornography production. For middle-aged housewife Morgana Muses, who had silently suffered through a loveless, sexless marriage for years, it just so happened that the simple act of holding hands with an escort while on a date to the theatre was exactly what she needed to start fighting back against overpowering suicidal thoughts. In a fantastical documentary about her life, which is simply titled, Morgana, this housewife turned porn-star shares the story of how she left behind a hollow, meaningless life to pursue a career in adult films, embarking on a healing journey that would give her the identity and community she had always craved. Directed by the feminist dynamite duo of Isabel Peppard and Josie Hess, Morgana is not just a documentary about porn and sex-work, but an invitation to flourishing self-love. As an official selection of this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival, Morgana gives women of all shapes, sizes, and ages permission to seek out people and communities that can meet their basic human needs, sexual or otherwise.
Anyone familiar with rape-revenge films knows that the formula for this horror sub-genre can be particularly tricky. While the genre continually offers up new ways for audiences to process and discuss trauma, rape-revenge films can be quite problematic when not handled correctly. Writer/director Teddy Grennan’s latest film, Ravage, thankfully avoids one of the most common and offensive clichés of the genre: sexualizing the protagonist as a victim of violence and trauma. Unfortunately, however, Ravage also manages to create new problems of its own.
The 2020 American presidential election is well underway, one that may prove to be the most interesting (or frustrating) elections of the past few decades as the candidates navigate campaign strategies in the midst of a global pandemic. As voters tune in to the presidential debates and our social media accounts flood with political ads and memes, it may seem like the next chapter in our country’s history all depends on the winner of this next big election. It can be easy to forget about the smaller, local elections and the changes we can make in our communities by researching and voting for local officials. As Marc Levin’s new documentary, Stockton On My Mind, shows, local elections can be a catalyst for social justice and meaningful changes in our own backyards. In 2016, on the same day that Donald Trump won the presidential election, 26-year-old Michael Tubbs became the first black mayor, not to mention the youngest, of Stockton, California. Stockton On My Mind highlights not only Tubbs’s journey and the positive impact he has had on his hometown, but the strength of local communities and the power of reform from within. It’s a thought-provoking film that seeks to tell a different narrative about low-income, high-crime communities and to inspire audiences to pursue lasting changes in their own towns.
For those who enjoy the soft whispering, feather-like brushing, and light tapping of ASMR videos, the idea of “ASMR horror” may be especially unsettling. Horror works extremely well when it invades our safe spaces, and directors often succeed by setting their horror films in places where we don’t expect to be scared. However, for those who find ASMR annoying or even anger-inducing, this popular internet sensation may create horror all by itself. If you’re in this second category, you may find yourself yanking off your headphones or muting your device while watching Alexandra Serio’s new short, Tingle Monsters, an ASMR horror film. Shot like a livestream, the 10-minute film is a creative and original piece that speaks to both online sexual terror and the dangers of the internet in general.
From Rebel Without a Cause (1955) to The Breakfast Club (1985) to Lady Bird (2017), each generation has its special coming-of-age films that it can claim as its own. These are the movies grounded in a cultural milieu that take us back to a certain time and place with a nostalgic soundtrack, dated fashion trends, and short-lived catchphrases. As new generations emerge with their own lingo, music, technology, and psychological baggage, filmmakers always seem to find fresh new soil for exploring timeless themes about growing up. Writer and director Emily Cohn has certainly created an exciting new take on those themes with her feature debut, CRSHD, which premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. In CRSHD, Cohn dives headfirst into the world of social media to reexamine the troubles and triumphs of the young adult years.
Swedish writer and director Jimmy Olsson, who is known for short films like Repressed (2011) and 2nd Class (2018), examines some difficult subjects in his latest short, Alive. Running at just twenty-three minutes, Alive deals with ableism and relational boundaries in its story of two women, Viktoria (Eva Johansson), who has a neuromuscular disorder, and her caretaker Ida (Madeleine Martin). The short is a feel-good tearjerker with a heartwarming lesson, but it also covers new territory in its take on disability and opens the door to some very important and necessary discussions.
"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."