October has arrived and horror screenings at MMC! have accordingly increased. High marks go to the wonderfully over-determined melodrama/gothic horror of The Curse of the Crying Woman, with gentleman’s threes going to the proto-Saw insanity/bizarro body horror of Evil Dead Trap and the waking folk horror dreaminess of Savage Hunt of King Stakh. Let’s throw Junji Iwai’s All About Lily Chou-Chou in the mix as well, as its feed-bad high school angst gives way to traumatic cruelty and spiritual desolation.
The Curse of the Crying Woman (Rafael Baledón, 1961)
All About Lily Chou-Chou (Junji Iwai, 2001)
The Blue Planet (Franco Piavoli, 1982)
Savage Hunt of King Stakh (Valeri Rubinchik, 1979)
War of the God Monsters (Kim Jeong-Yong, 1985)
Evil Dead Trap (Toshiharu Ikeda, 1988)
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (John Carl Buechler, 1988)
The History of the Atlanta Falcons (Jon Bois, 2021)
The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021)
Of our remaining, non-horror screenings among these last ten films I’ve watched, Franco Piavoli’s The Blue Planet deserves special attention. A slow, contemplative survey of the seasons in the Italian countryside, Il paineta azzurro places flora, fauna, and humans on equal footing, living along the tides of melting ice and flowing water, of waving grasses and golden harvests, and of setting suns and full moons. This is a must watch for those who have discovered De Seta’s brilliant documentary shorts of the 1950s and ’60s and yearn for more.
READY YOUR EYES. READY YOUR SOULS. PREPARE TO MEET YOUR MAKER.
Follow 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, Robocop, Jurassic 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
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!
My post-Fantasia movie hangover has ground my screening schedule to a near halt, but those that did get watched offered some great moments. I loved seeing Stevie Wonder shred a drum set in Summer of Soul, watching Tora-san tragically step around love in Tora-san Goes Religious?, being in awe of those stunning family portraits in The Fall of the House of Usher, and watching young Japanese men cry (a lot) in Koshein’s pressure cooker of high school baseball. Plus, MMC! does love its feel-bad Italian political thrillers and We Still Kill the Old Way definitely scratched that itch.
The Fall of the House of Usher (Roger Corman, 1960)
A final Fantasia shout-out to Ora, Ora Be Goin’ Alone, a lovely and quirky rumination on aging that (potentially) imagines dementia as the burden of a surfeit of memories. Its star, Yuko Tanaka, is gently magnetic as an elderly woman surrounded by companions real and imagined, wanted and not. MMC!’s rundown of its favourite short films at Fantasia will drop tomorrow and from there we start imagining hard media editions of Fantasia’s best and brightest. Let’s go!
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.
November looks like a winning month from Arrow Video with a 4K UHD standard edition of Battle Royale for the UK, a 4K UHD release of The Hills Have Eyes, an impressive limited edition release of The Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge, and Shinji Somai’s Sailor Suit and Machine Gun. Could we see an Arrow set of Somai’s more dramatic works sometime in the future, providing much needed editions of Moving or Typhoon Club and saving us from solid but region-locked releases of Third Window Films? MMC! can only hope.