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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MMC! Double Feature #39: Budget Christopher Nolan at Fantasia

We all love Christopher Nolan, right? With his high concept structures, embedded narratives, elliptical storytelling, and problematized causalities and memory projects, what’s not to love? If your answer is massive budgets and less than mind-blowing executions, then the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival has you covered with a pair of highly inventive, totally mind-bending, and decidedly handcrafted gems!

Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes (Junta Yamaguchi, 2020)

You would be hard pressed to find anything at Fantasia 2021 as simple and clever as Junta Yamaguchi’s Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes. Cafe owner Kato (Kazunori Tosa) returns to his upstairs apartment one evening and finds himself unexpectedly visited on his computer screen by himself two minutes into the future and speaking from a computer screen in the coffee shop. As Kato tries to make sense this micro-time loop, employees and friends arrive and begin playing with the phenomena, managing to modestly extend the loop by placing the screens in front of each other and creating repeating images of the screen each two minutes farther away than the last. Options for fun and profit remain limited in their DIY time tunnel but shenanigans naturally ensue through the interventions of a potential love interest, a couple of gangsters, and pair of mysterious men.

Strawberry Mansion (Kentucker Audley and Albert Birney, 2021)

Set in a future world where dreams are taxed by the federal government, co-writer/co-director Kentucker Audley plays James Preble, a dream auditor sent to the remote home of Arabella Isadora (Penny Fuller) to assess the elderly eccentric’s vast collection of VHS-recorded dreams. In her dreams, James meets her younger self (Grace Glowicki), traverses a vast dreamscape, and uncovers the sinister truth behind dreams and his love of Cap’n Kelly fried chicken. Time between dreams and reality pass differently and James’ existence is tested as he searches for his dream-Arabella while also negotiating the intrusion of her family in real life.

Strolling Through Dream/Time

Both Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes and Strawberry Mansion explore the stretch and squash of time on causality and reality in deceptively lo-fi terms. Junta Yamaguchi’s film was born from an acting workshop of the popular theatre group Europe Kikaku and was shot on an iPhone, recalling recent Japanese puzzle box films like One Cut of the Dead and Special Actors. Audley and Birney’s film was shot digitally, then transferred to 16mm to give it a home movie haziness, and its thrift store costumes and craft store props give it a Gondry-esque playfulness that is archly twee but still sufficiently foreboding. Buttressed by their own limitations, these films are dreamier, loopier, and more intriguing than any of Christopher Nolan’s massive science fiction epics. And to demonstrate that brevity is the soul of wit, it should be noted that you can watch Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes and Strawberry Mansion in less time than it takes to see InceptionInterstellar, or Tenet.

Both Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes and Strawberry Mansion are on-demand titles at the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival waiting to be watched whenever it is convenient to you, but be warned — less than a week of Fantasia remains and Festival deadlines are far less forgiving that the temporal rules of either of these films.

10 on the 10th – August 2021

MMC! is in full Fantasia International Film Festival-mode, powering through titles to the exclusion of all else! (Sorry, pending Criterion Collection title.) There’s plenty of good stuff here for any film fan. Like subterranean industrial dystopias, body horror monsters, and Tool videos? Check out Junk Head! Prefer decrepit production design, quasi-Biblical allusions, and the uncanny dread of early David Lynch? Spend some time with Hotel Poseidon! Enjoy alternate histories, mockumentaries, and Santo films? Watch Opération Luchador! Have an affinity for coming-of-age stories, samurai movies, and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time? See MMC!’s favourite of these last ten films I’ve watched: It’s a Summer Film!

  1. Giving Birth to a Butterfly (Theodore Schaefer, 2021)
  2. Wild Men (Thomas Daneskov, 2021)
  3. Hotel Poseidon (Stef Lernous, 2021)
  4. Return of the Bastard Swordsman (Tony Lu, 1984)
  5. We’re All Going to World’s Fair (Jane Schoenbrun, 2021)
  6. Bull (Paul Andrew Williams, 2021)
  7. King Knight (Richard Bates, Jr., 2021)
  8. It’s a Summer Film! (Soushi Matsumoto, 2020)
  9. Junk Head (Takahide Hori, 2021)
  10. Opération Luchador (Alain Vézina, 2021)

Let’s also give shout out to Fantasia’s Small Guage Trauma 2021 short film block which screens later today and Thursday! Boasting ten stand-out genre shorts from around the world, Small Guage Trauma is worth seeking out for those who want some blood spilled quickly. MMC! was particularly impressed with Jorge Sistos Moreno’s highly atmospheric and wonderfully vengeful The Darkness (2020) and Michiel Blanchart’s supernatural comedy-turned horror film-turned cathartic romance, You’re Dead Helen (2021). Fantasia’s various short film programs are the unsung gems of the Festival, so do yourself a favour and seek out these great offerings. FIFF’s programs in the My First Fantasia section are aimed for young and old alike and are even free to screen! So what’s your excuse now?!?

Trailer Tuesday – Fantasia 2021

The 2021 edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival is just around the corner and MMC! is happy to report that it will be covering this year’s FIFF once again! Fantasia’s full slate of films and special events are now lined up and its merch store is online and ready to take your money. MMC! will provide round-ups of the Festival like last year as well as find some worthy titles for potential spine-numbering, but ongoing coverage can be found at my Letterboxd list for the Fest. (I’ll try to set up a separate list for short films but there’s sooooo many short films being shown at Fantasia…)

In the meantime, let’s check out a few trailers from FIFF’s various programs that have piqued MMC!’s interest!

“The titan Takashi Miike takes us back to the magical world of the Yokai as a war threatens to destroy Tokyo. An irreverent fairytale!”

Fantasia’s “Cheval Noir” section is its flagship, juried competition and MMC! can’t help but be drawn to Takashi Miike’s The Great Yokai War – Guardians. The film returns Miike to the wacky world of his 2005 movie The Great Yokai War and features a pair of boys who discover they are the last descendants of a legendary fighter and the only hope to save some gentle demons and the city of Tokyo. And in an elegant bit of programming, Fantasia has slotted Miike’s latest to close the 2021 Festival, book-ending it against the director’s earlier film that opened the 2006 Festival.

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