Tenth Report | Fantasia 2015

tales-of-halloween 75Tales of Halloween is a film that horror fans will definitely want to see.

 

 

 

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One of the most anticipated events at this year’s Fantasia was the world premiere of the anthology horror film Tales of Halloween, made up of ten short stories written and directed by notables like Darren Lynn Bousman, Axelle Carolyn, and Neil Marshall. While each story is complete in itself, the film achieves a sense of unity through the Halloween theme as well as common locations and shared actors. It’s a delight for horror fans, with many in-jokes and references to prior horror films. The use of actors like Adrienne Barbeau, Barry Bostwick, John Landis, and Joe Dante also affirms this film’s sense of standing on the shoulders of giants. The soundtrack was written by Lalo Schifrin (his son Ryan directed one of the stories), and the other technical elements are strong as well.

Tales of Halloween, which opens nationally in October, should be required viewing for young directors because any one of the stories can serve as a model of how to tell a story and pay it off with no wasted time screen time (the entire film is 92 minutes, so you do the math). There’s a little bit of everything in these stories, and many capitalize on the strong connection between terror and humor, with the tension built up by fear often released by laughter. Because many of the stories rely on the horror equivalent of a punch line, I’m not going to spoil any of them here, but I will say that this is one film that fans of horror will definitely want to see.

MISS HOKUSAI_75If there’s one piece of Japanese art familiar to most Americans; it’s Hokusai’s “The Wave” (officially, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”), which has decorated many a dorm room as well as having been reproduced in numerous art history books. Miss Hokusai, an anime directed by Keiichi Hara and based on the manga series Sarusuberi by Hinako Sugiura, focuses on the daughter of Hokusai, O-Ei (voiced by Ann Watanabe), a talented artist who devotes herself to taking care of her father and her blind younger sister O-Nao. Dad barely acknowledges O-Ei’s efforts, however, and doesn’t seem to realize how much she has put her own life on hold to see that he is free to be.

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Set in Edo (Tokyo) in the early 19th century, Miss Hokusai offers an interesting view of life in Japan in the half century before the Meiji restoration. The beautiful animation is a strong selling point: it’s detailed and realistic, with some frames deliberately echoing well-known prints by Hokusai. Despite what we might consider the unfairness of O-Ei’s life, she and the other characters in the film accept the customs and expectations of the time in which they are living, and thus she does not focus on her thwarted talent but instead concentrates on making life better for those around her. Clearly, fulfilling one’s appointed role in life is a priority for these characters (O-Nao worries that her blindness prevents her from being a good daughter, for instance), and any social criticism in this film remains implicit rather than explicit.

princess-jellyfish 75Princess Jellyfish, directed by Taisuke Kawamura, is a live-action adaption of the popular josei manga of the same name by Akiko Higashimura. The main characters are a group of oddball women in their 20s who live in the same apartment building in Tokyo. All are NEETs (“not in Education, Employment, or Training”) and each is an otaku (obsessive fan) of something: Tsukimi (Rena Nonen) is fascinated by jellyfish, Chieko (Azusa Babazono) by traditional Japanese clothing and dolls, Mayaya (Rina Ota) by the Three Kingdoms period, Jiji (Tomoe Shinohara) by older men, and Bamba (Chizuru Ikewaki) by train schedules. All are socially awkward and frightened by what they call “fab humans,” which includes anyone with a sense of fashion or self-possession, to the point where they briefly turn into blocks of stone when confronted with ordinary social demands.

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Things get stirred up with the arrival of Kuranosuke (Masaki Suda), a young man who likes to dress as a woman. His father is an important politician, but Kuranosuke takes after his absent mother, a fashion designer. When the otaku’s living situation is imperiled by an urban renewal project led by Kuranosuke’s father, they decide to put on a jellyfish-inspired fashion show to try to raise the money to buy their building. The humor in Princess Jellyfish is frequently over-the-top, but the film’s spirit is inevitably sweet, and it’s impossible not to pull for the otaku as they battle the forces of conventionality and homogenization. | Sarah Boslaugh

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