After a hectic last few days at the festival (and a slight case of the Fantastic Flu) I’m back with my coverage of day six of Fantastic Fest 2017! This day included group suicides, pretentious installation art and multiple horror musicals!
3ft Ball & Souls, Dir. Yoshio Kato, Japan
Having met online, four suicidal people gather in a shed in the middle of nowhere. They sit around the titular sphere, a gigantic firework shell, and make plans to blow themselves to kingdom come. The complication? Every time the firework goes off, time resets. They loop back around, Groundhog Day-style, to the beginning of the film. As the characters go through each loop, more of them remember the previous loops, and we dig deeper into their reasons for killing themselves. It’s a solid premise and for the most part it’s well executed. The cast is great, and while the film is playing as a dark comedy it works fairly well. Unfortunately, as we learn more about the characters the film tilts further and further into melodrama, with a climax that feels more like a poorly thought-out after school special than anything else, with as many endings as The Return of the King. It’s a shame. If the film had managed dig into the emotional stuff without stumbling into schmaltz, this could have really been something special.
Anyab, Dir. Mohammed Shebl, Egypt
Holy crap, you guys! It’s an Egyptian rip-off of The Rocky Horror Picture Show! From 1981! And it’s not half bad! I went into this expecting something like Turkish Spider-Man: technically inept, while displaying a hazy understanding of the source material and a hazier understanding of copyright law. Instead, Anyab (which translates as “fangs”) is clearly a loving tribute to the original film that also manages to do its own thing. It discards the gender-bending sexuality of the original1 in favor of satire of contemporary Egyptian culture. Granted, most of this satire is in the form of grousing about how much everything costs these days, but that’s charming in its own grumpy way. The movie’s knowingly silly, the songs are a lot of fun, and it’s surprisingly well made. Every self-respecting Rocky Horror fan should catch this at some point or another.
The Square, Dir. Ruben Östlund, Sweeden
The Square is my favorite kind of movie: the kind where I sit down knowing jack squat and walk out in love. I went into Ruben Östlund’s satirical drama pretty much blind (I knew it involved contemporary art somehow) and it ended up being one of my favorite films of the festival. The film follows Christian (Claes Bang), the curator at a new art museum built in what was once the Stockholm Palace, as he plans the launch and promotion of the titular installation piece. “The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring,” says the artist’s statement. “Within it we all share equal rights and obligations.” That Christian (and his culture as a whole) don’t live up to that ideal is perhaps to be expected. The Square is a surreal and at times cringe-inducingly awkward take on art, class, masculinity and hypocrisy. It also happens to be uproariously funny.
Given that this won the Palme d’Or and has been selected as Sweden’s entry for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars, odds are you will be given the opportunity to see this in theaters. Take that opportunity.
Anna and the Apocalypse, Dir. John McPhail, United Kingdom
This is the Scottish Christmas zombie high school musical we’ve all been waiting for. If you winced reading that description2, don’t worry. It’s not as obnoxious as it sounds. In fact it’s not obnoxious. It’s a delight. If this film doesn’t become a cult hit, I give up on the universe. Go see it.
That’s it for now. There’s more to come, I swear!