Shunji Iwai’s White Films – Fantasia International Film Festival

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Shunji Iwai’s White Films – Love Letter, April Story and hana & alice.

criterion logoFew filmmakers capture the wonder and angst of young adulthood like Japanese writer-director Shunji Iwai. With the hazy, sentimental lens of his regular cinematographer Noboru Shinoda, Iwai’s early feature films explore pivotal moments in teenage life through the mundane challenges of the everyday. Audiences quickly embraced Iwai’s treatment of grief and love with his smash debut Love Letter, about a woman rediscovering her late fiancé through letters exchanged with his former classmate. Linked by their cold introductions, Iwai and Shinoda’s subsequent films – 1998’s April Story, about a shy girl’s move to university, and 2004’s romantic con-job hana & alice – trace the changing times as much as the changing hearts of their characters, and collapse style and substance into lyrical poetry. These “White Films” express Shunji Iwai’s unique view on young love and loneliness and exemplify the dreamy landscapes he nostalgically maps in his films.

SPECIAL EDITION COLLECTORS’ SET FEATURES:

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The 2021 Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival is Coming!

SFFF 2021 PosterJust look at that poster and tell me you’re not stoked for the 2021 edition of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival! (And their hoodie for the Fest looks even better!) This year’s schedule is loaded with intriguing titles including MMC! favourites like Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes and Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched. Take a moment and check out the SFFF’s press announcement below:

12th annual Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival is live this month at the Broadway Theatre

Saskatoon – November 1, 2021 – The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival, Saskatchewan’s largest feature film festival, returns for its 12th edition at the Broadway Theatre on November 22-27, and will bring the best in international independent cinema to Saskatoon.

“We heard from our fans that they want to have the theater experience, but safety is our number one priority again this year,” said Festival Director John Allison. “All of the movies will be in-person at the Broadway Theatre, and the theatre’s COVID protocol will be in effect to ensure everyone has a safe and happy festival experience.”

The Broadway Theater will have reduced seating capacity, all attendees will need to be double vaccinated or show proof of a negative test, and everyone will need to wear a mask.

“This year’s theme is ‘folk horror,’ so movies with elements including rural settings, themes of isolation, and the power of nature will be featured,” adds Allison. “On Saturday at noon we have the definitive documentary on folk horror, WOODLANDS DARK DAYS BEWITCHED: A HISTORY OF FOLK HORROR and the new Welsh folk horror THE FEAST playing Friday evening.  We have two retro folk horror movies, CLEARCUT and EYES OF FIRE on Thursday and Friday night. On Saturday we’re excited to have Saskatchewan filmmaker Rueben Martell participate in a live Q&A along with actors Sheena Kaine and Sera-Lys McArthur after their new movie DON’T SAY ITS NAME.”

The festival also features movies outside of the folk horror movie genre, including comedies, the documentary ALIEN ON STAGE, and the Nicolas Cage film PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND opens the festival.

“We are also thrilled to have Canadian filmmaker Danishka Esterhazy participate in a video Q&A after her new film SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE,” says Allison. “Danishka’s first movie screened at our first festival, so it’s great to have her involved again 12 years later.”

This year’s festival features 21 feature length and many short films from around the world. For information on the full film lineup and festival passes, visit www.skfilmfest.com

For more information contact Jeff Drake, Assistant Festival Director, at jeff@skfilmfest.com.

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Office Royale (Kazuaki Seki, 2021) – Fantasia International Film Festival 2021

THE OL BATTLE ROYALE BEGINS!

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddNaoko Tanaka (Mei Nagano) is a 26 year-old office lady – a secretarial and clerical worker in a large Japanese company. Her job at Mitsufuji is reliable, the atmosphere is laid-back, and she has some friendly colleagues, but the fires of war burn brightly beneath the veneer of the office’s calm banality. Cliques of office ladies fight for departmental supremacy like sneering gangsters and posturing delinquents. These warring clans battle daily until a new employee arrives, Ran Hojo (Alice Hirose), armed with the strength and charisma of a manga hero to become the company’s top office lady and unite its competing factions. An unlikely friendship between Naoko and Ran is found, but what will happen to them and their company when powerful OL gangs from other companies arrive to test their honor and resolve? Can Ran, Naoko, and the office ladies of Mitsufuji survive the onslaught?

Director Kazuaki Seki’s debut feature is a hilarious, uproarious, action-packed send-up of workplace pettiness and office territorialism, pitting mild-mannered, pink-collar workers in vicious duels over coffee breaks and alongside photocopiers, all under the oblivious noses of their male superiors. Comedian Bakarhythm’s screenplay riffs on the conventions of Japanese comics with a witty meta-commentary and a furiously paced series of fights. Setting superhero grandeur in an unremarkable context, Office Royale is a hysterically energetic satire and a grandiloquent action spectacle.

Special Edition Contents:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio
  • Optional newly translated English subtitles on both films
  • Introduction by historian and critic Kim Newman
  • Yankees, Yakuza, and Making Copies, interview with director Kazuaki Seki
  • Heroic OL Diary, interview with screenwriter Bakarhythm
  • One-Punch Lady, interview with actress Mei Nagano
  • Ran’s House, interview with actress Alice Hirose
  • Press conference interviews with the cast
  • Behind-the-scenes footage
  • Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ian McEwan

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Mad God (Phil Tippett, 2021) – Fantasia International Film Festival 2021

READY YOUR EYES. READY YOUR SOULS. PREPARE TO MEET YOUR MAKER.

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddFollow the Assassin, Mad God’s silent soldier, on his mysterious mission through Miltonesque worlds filled with grotesque monsters, mad scientists, and savage war pigs. This darkly surreal realm where nightmares roam free is forged from the subconscious mind of legendary visual effects and stop-motion craftsman Phill Tippett (contributor to the original Star Wars trilogy, RobocopJurassic Park, and Battleship Troppers). Commenced over thirty years ago and later resurrected at the behest of animators at Tippett’s Berkeley studio, this ambitious personal project employed hundreds of puppets, dozens of environments, and a crew of more than 60 artists who painstakingly animated every set, creature, and effigy in this macabre masterpiece.

Each element of Mad God is independently created and hand-crafted from its creator’s heart. At times, that heart bursts with love for its craft, while at other times it is morbidly gruesome, punctured and left bleeding. Altogether, Mad God is a testament to the power of creative grit and an homage to the timeless art of stop motion animation.

Limited Edition Contents:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio
  • Introduction by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro
  • Audio commentary by filmmaker Phil Tippett and special effects artist Dan Martin
  • Fantasia International Film Festival 2020 live-streamed tribute, masterclass, and Lifetime Achievement Award with Phil Tippett, hosted by Rupert Bottenberg
  • Phil Tippett: Mad Dreams and Monsters, Alexandre Poncet and Gilles Penso’s 2019 documentary on the life and work of Phil Tippett
  • Worse Than the Demon, a short film by Phil Tippett’s daughter, Maya Tippett, on the making of Mad God
  • Dammit Phil, You Had One Job!, Phil Tippett on his infamous meme
  • Nightmare Music, new interview with composer Dan Wool on the music of Mad God
  • Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Frank
  • Double-sided fold-out poster
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Sam Ashurst and a gallery of exclusive production writing and artwork by filmmaker Phil Tippett

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My Fantasia Top Ten Shorts!

Watching the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival’s packed selection of short films was a major priority for MMC! and nearly 150 short films got screened over the Festival’s 21 day run. And while there were some really fun, creative, and moving short films programmed at this year’s FIFF, only ten could make this list of MMC!’s absolute favourites!

And here they are! Right now!

Vanille (Guillaume Lorin, 2020)

Conceived as a half-hour TV special, Guillaume Lorin’s animated adventure concerns Vanille, a nine-year-old Parisian girl with hair issues sent to visit her aunt in Guadaloupe. There, she embarks on a magical adventure involving a hair-stealing spirit, a half-boy/half-shrub companion, and a mysterious flower. Lorin’s film is nimble and playful throughout, full of movement and expression, and it is wonderfully specific in how it draws on the director’s childhood in Guadeloupe, celebrating its natural beauty and Creole heritage. While strongly representing the art style of European bande dessinées, Vanille brings real Studio Ghibli vibes by capturing the movement and wonder of Hayao Miyazaki and the quirk and caricature of Isao Takahata. The incorporation of photographic backgrounds into animated work often feels conspicuously dissonant, but Lorin makes it feel eminently natural here, deepening the short’s connection to its tropical setting. Someone bring me a Vanille series now!

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My Fantasia Top Twelve Features!

The 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival is now in the books. Online platforms have been accessed, movies have been screened, and awards have been handed out. MMC! is so grateful for the opportunity to have covered this year’s hybrid version. Thanks to all of those that made Fantasia happen! Jusqu’à l’année prochaine!

With that said, lets get on to the good stuff — counting down MMC!’s top ten twelve favourite feature films!

Mad God (Phil Tippett, 2021)

MMC!’s favourite film at Fantasia proved to be the favourite film of many others, as Phil Tippett’s Mad God took home the audience prizes for Best Animated Feature and Most Groundbreaking Film. Tippett’s special effects sorcery has been seen in the original Star Wars trilogy, Robocop, Jurassic Park, and Starship Troopers, and Fantasia celebrated Tippett with a Lifetime Achievement Award and the North American Premiere of Mad God, Tippett’s highly personal masterwork thirty years in the making. This stop motion opus observes a masked figure (equal parts steampunk plague doctor and World War One trench soldier) lowered in a suspended container into a nightmare landscape of industrial horrors and misshapen monstrosities. Tippett’s central character, the “Assassin,” descends from horrifying world to horrifying world in a Dante-esque tour of mankind’s compulsions and degradations made real. The Assassin’s goal is unclear and so Mad God functions as more of an experiential film than a classical narrative, resembling something like a videogame walkthrough if Hieronymus Bosch worked today as a game designer. The variety and complexity of Tippett’s worlds are truly jaw-dropping and Mad God makes the most of its rare moments of live action performance, such as a cutscene featuring Alex Cox playing a fingernail-enhanced mad scientist. Mad God’s abundance of grotesquerie will surely make it an acquired taste, but it is nevertheless a crowning achievement for Tippett on par with the work of Ladislas Starevich, Jan Švankmajer, and the Quay Brothers.

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