It’s that time again for my sojourn to Fantastic Fest, the annual Alamo Drafthouse week long love letter to horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and just plain fantastic movies from all around the world. This year’s festival runs from Sept 24-October 1, here in Austin at the South Lamar location.
As in year’s past, I begin my coverage with a multi-part/day preview.
Fantastic Fest Preview Day One
David has recently become single. The rules of The City dictate that he must be taken to The Hotel, where he will have 45 days to find a matching mate. If he does, he can go back to his life. If he fails, he’ll be transformed into an animal of his choice and sent into The Woods. However, there’s a splinter group of renegade Loners living within The Woods who oppose this system violently. With a ticking 45 day clock, David will struggle to survive and maybe just maybe find his true love.
Yorgos Lanthimos continues the singular vision he presented in his previous films DOGTOOTH, ATTENBERG and ALPS with a dystopian science fiction tale that’s as funny as it is twisted, dark and insightful. A brilliantly deadpan exercise, THE LOBSTER is surreal wonder at its best.
Working in English language exclusively for the first time, Lanthimos utilizes an all-star cast, led by Colin Farrell as the downtrodden David. John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman and Lea Seydoux all appear in the film, but we also see the director’s usual Greek cast members, including Angeliki Papoulia stealing every scene she’s in as “The Heartless Woman.”
What could easily be a one-dimensional farce is played out as a much more intricate and emotionally insightful black comedy, with laughs milked out of some very dark moments. Lanthimos’ deliberate use of classical music to underline these moments works beautifully, and the film’s lone musical number features Olivia Colman performing an unexpected pop song in brilliant fashion.
Destined to become one of the top titles of 2015, THE LOBSTER is visceral cinema brought to life. It’s a journey into a twisted mirror image of our own world where the reflections reveal much more about ourselves than perhaps we want to know. (Evrim Ersoy)
Daniel Barber’s sophomore feature opens in a familiar way; just not in a way you’ve seen in many war movies. It shares its setting with films about the apocalypse. Most of the population has been wiped out. Food, medicine and other basic resources are in short supply. The main characters – two sisters and their former slave – are desperate and down to their last reserves. Most importantly, the few people that are left don’t trust each other. And they shouldn’t, because as any good apocalypse movie will show you, the most dangerous enemy to survivors are other survivors. Into this desperate scenario, enter two Union soldiers (led by Sam Worthington) who have broken away from the main army to rape and pillage their way through the devastated South. When the oldest sister (Brit Marling) goes into what’s left of civilization to find medicine for her younger sister (Hailee Steinfeld), she immediately catches their eye and they track her back to her farm.
THE KEEPING ROOM, based on Julia Hart’s memorable 2012 Black List screenplay, expertly uses the backdrop of a shattered country to tell a tale of strength in the face of adversity. As recent events attest, we still haven’t fully recovered from the culture divide that led to secession and rebellion, but Hart and Barber emphasize the transformative nature of that time and apply it to the three strong main characters of the film. The men they’ve relied on their whole lives – their fathers, brothers and husbands – are freshly dead. They have no choice but to find strength inside themselves and with each other. This was not a war that these women created, but the ones responsible are all dead, and the society they’ve left behind is filled with madness, an environment not unlike the women are left with in this summer’s FURY ROAD. “Who killed the world?” is frequently directed at the men in Miller’s film. It’s very much the same here with Barber’s and Hart’s three female leads. The result is a terrific film that excels in both its cinematic qualities and its feminist subtext. (James Shapiro)