What did day five of Fantastic Fest 2017 have to offer? Bumbling samurai, bumbling bureaucrats and fire. Lots and lots of fire.
Top Knot Detective, Dir. Aaron McCann and Dominic Pearce, Australia
This mockumentary and love letter to low-budget martial arts cinema was an unexpected treat. Chronicling the fictional history of the titular early 90s, Japanese television series and its tempestuous writer/director/star, it starts off in straight up spoof mode. The clips we see from the show are hilarious, with absurdly over the top premises (land sharks, giant robots, penis monsters) and low-budget ineptitude, but are clearly crafted with a lot of affection. Later, the film ventures into darker territory as the hero’s personal and professional life falls to pieces, but it never loses its sense of humor and charm. The movie’s a lot of fun, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a cult hit.
Brimstone and Glory, Dir Viktor Jakovleski, Mexico & United States
Sporting a title that sounds like a TV show about an angel and demon who start a detective agency, Brimstone and Glory is instead a documentary about the small Mexican town of Tultepec and their yearly fireworks festival. Tultepec’s culture and industry are centered around fireworks, and the film follows the locals around as they manufacture their ordinance before climaxing with the festival itself. That climax terrifying and gorgeous and inspiring in equal measure, with some of the best cinematography of the festival. It’s awe-inspiring and nearly wordless, buoyed by a stellar score. You could play this music over a YouTube video of a sleepy kitten and it would make it seem epic. I want this score so bad.
The Death of Stalin, Dir. Armando Iannucci, United Kingdom & France
Heading into the Secret Screening, the word on the street was that the film we were about to watch was Eli Roth’s remake of Death Wish. Not being a fan of racist revenge porn, when the title for The Death of Stalin popped up I sighed with relief. Wait… that’s a lie. I let out a loud “Whooo!” and felt a bit self-conscious about it afterwards. Armando Iannucci’s Soviet political satire is the film I’ve been looking forward to the most for the second half of the year. It does not disappoint. Iannucci’s trademark take on bumbling, back-stabbing bureaucrats (as seen in The Thick of It, In the Loop and Veep) slips into the 1950s Soviet setting flawlessly. If anything, it works even better than usual at times, juxtaposed as it is with the horrors of Stalin’s regime, with executions and purges often going on just off screen. It’s lovely to see some terrible, powerful men deflated and reduced to doofuses.
In a few years, I would love to see Iannucci write a film about the Trump White House. Maybe get Paul Verhoeven to direct.
That’s all I got for now. Tune in soon for more!