Tag Archives: Shinsuke Sato


La Première Leçon de Fantasia

I’ve never had such a cordial time disagreeing with people.

7/24: Hard-Core

Poster for Hard-Core (2018)Notice to the authorities: this actually could qualify as Apocrypha. Nobuhiro Yamashita’s melodrama concerns a pair a brothers: the younger, Sakon, is a successful day trader; the older, Ukon, has fallen from grace and is forced to work for an eccentric millionaire, digging in a hole looking for the legendary “shogun’s gold.” Ukon’s only friend is a simpleton also in the millionaire’s employ—that is, until they stumble across a retro-futuristic robot with a ridiculous face and a quantum processor. What makes this one weird isn’t that they stumble across the robot and wacky things happen; rather, they stumble across the robot, and it just blends in. The incongruousness of its appearance does lead to some funny scenes (the trio going to a karaoke bar was particularly hilarious), but in general the robot ends up more as a witness of the unhappiness around him—save for on two occasions. So yeah, Hard-Core is a moody, darkly funny, drama about men who have trouble relating to the world. And their robot friend.

7/25: Shadow

This is a two-hour period action drama. My feeling is that it should have been closer to ninety-minutes (as period-action) or closer to three hours (as a straight-up period drama). As it stands, Yimou Zhang’s piece is fairly satisfying on both counts, helped in no small way by the dominant palette of grey. The weather throughout the movie is rainy; the costuming ranges from white to black; and the only colors to speak of are red and occasional earth tones in the final battle. Now, the combat was fun, but didn’t quite earn its place in a political chamber-thriller; the politics were intriguing, but far too truncated, especially when interrupted by the neat-o combat spectacles. I suspect you can now see the problem. Shadow is, I assure you, good. It could have been great by going further one way or the other. Or, considering everything that it hints at, it might have done better as a miniseries.

Culture Shock

Still from Culture Shock (2019)Gigi Saul Guerrero is such a genuinely fun and adorable person, and knowing she was going to introduce and field questions after Culture Shock was actually the main reason I attended. (That, and last year’s La Quinceañera, which she co-created, was Continue reading 2019 FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL: OMNIBUS FIELD REPORT #3



Last year there were three fully scheduled screening rooms. This year there are only two. With a flood of dramas from Southeast Asia clogging the Festival, pickings were a little slim. But hope springs eternal as it heads into its second half.

Short: “Hooligans” (dir. Adam-Gabriel Belley-Côté)

After a match that could at best be described as a qualified success, three members of the blue team (the fourth is in hospital with a concussion; the other three are also injured to varying degrees) discuss the prospect of letting the leader’s cousin into the group. The controversy? It was that same cousin that caused the blue team their injuries. Presenting violent European football fandom as a sport of its own, “Hooligans” eschews social commentary in favor of rib-tickling reveals about competition, induction, and club-house procedure. Beware appendix 1-A.

Short: “A/S/L” (dir. Benjamin Swicker )

A horror film about American Sign Language? Heck no. I was immediately reminded of my age when I saw this short that hearkens back to simpler times of Windows 95 and AOL 2.5. Doug ill-advisedly makes the titular inquiry of a thirteen-year-old girl he meets online. He compounds his error by taking her up on her offer to visit her place. What could go wrong; her parents are “gone for the weekend.” Upon arrival, things turn sinister/awkward. With the appearance of the girl’s “sister,” they gets doubly so—doubling again with the appearance of yet two more under-age girls. In their way, the girls have a feisty-good time; Doug, however, should have stayed at home.

7/24: Inuyashiki

Still from Inuyashiki (2018)In the tradition of Kodoku: Meatball Machine and others, Shinsuke Sato presents another in the genre of “Superannuated Superhero”: Inuyashiki. By chance, a put-upon father who has just been told he has fatal cancer and a disenchanted young man end up at the same park by chance and are struck by a blinding light and massive object. Coming to the next day, the father is first surprised to find himself alive, and then to find he no longer needs his glasses. Slowly he discovers he has a a shiny, new interior: a “switch” in his wrist releases a high-tech weapon; another node in his neck flips his head open to reveal some very impressive central processing power. The young man, on the other hand, learns about his new self faster, but chooses a more destructive path than the older man’s healing spree.

Inuyashiki deftly combines sky-high action sequences with down-to-earth ruminations on the nature of good, evil, and the feasibility of forgiveness. Both the father and the young man have understandable gripes with reality, but the former never ceases to try to do the Continue reading 2018 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: A THIRD SLICE OF STRANGE