Day Four marks the halfway point for Fantastic Fest, and I've already seen two of the best films of the festival so far. That really makes me wonder what they're going to close things out with. There was Secret Screening #3 on Sunday, and it turned out to be Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and not the Michael Jackson concert rehearsal footage film, This Is It, as everyone expected. Personally, I think we got a good deal. We were able to enjoy Gilliam and Michael Jackson in the same evening... due to the Michael Jackson Dance Party held at midnight.
With only two Secret Screenings left, speculation is running rampant about what they might be. I've heard everything from Kick-Ass to Sherlock Holmes to The Twilight Saga: New Moon. Okay, New Moon was tongue-in-cheek; Let's hope they don't try to kill us with shock from something like that, or the horrendously awful Tucker Max movie. Enough about what we might be seeing, let's talk about what we DID see during Day Four.
Definitely one of the weirder films I've seen in a long time, Kenny Begins ended up being my second favorite film so far. It's a Swedish science fiction movie about Kenny Starfighter, an inept, blonde, longtime cadet in the Galaxy Hero class on a faraway planet. He keeps repeating the classes in hopes of being a true Galaxy Hero one day, and not a hairdresser like everyone else in his family. The film opens with him daydreaming that he's saved the universe in a hilarious American-style sci-fi action opener, as he does battle (in English) against the evil Emperor Zing. He hurls an iron rod through Zing's body and remarks, "You get the point." But then he wakes up in class, and we see what an idiot he actually is. He ends up trying to ticket a speeding spaceship and accidentally falls through a black hole where he lands on Earth, and in the process teams up with a young boy who has received superpowers from a power crystal from Kenny's world.
If it sounds crazy, it is. If it sounds convoluted, it is. If it sounds like it would be incredibly lame, it most definitely is NOT. That's due in large part to Johan Rheborg who plays Kenny with such a lovable dumbness that he makes Patrick Warburton look second-rate.
The first film I've really felt like walking out of at Fantastic Fest was this one. It was emotionally flat, had a twist ending that was completely unbelievable, and relies on two leading men (Martin Donovan and Sakis Rouvas) who are uninspired and tedious. The story is about a father (Donovan) trying to take care of his young daughter, who seems emotionally distant after the apparent suicide of her mother. Things take a turn for the weird, however, when Donovan is held at gunpoint one night at a donut shop, and his abductor starts him on a series of strange tasks, such as disposing of the donut shop clerk's body. He threatens to kill Donovan's daughter if he stops complying, and things quickly escalate. Donovan is pushed into doing things he never thought he'd do, including murder.
In more capable hands, this might have been a good thriller, but the pacing was extremely slow, and Donovan's hangdog expression quickly becomes irritating. You might recognize him as the DEA agent Nancy Botwin was dating for awhile on Weeds. Word of advice: unless you want to feel some duress of your own, skip this one.
Director Kim Nguyen said he wrote this script over a short period by writing down one word at a time on a pad of paer he had next to his bed. These words would be based on his dreams, and then in the evenings he'd try to hammer them together into a script. Suffice it to say, this guy has some pretty bizarre dreams. The story is about a couple, Charles and Alice, who discover rare black truffles on their property - an expensive delicacy that is almost more valuable than gold. However, as global warming heats up the earth, black truffles soon begin appearing everywhere, and they aren't worth nearly what they used to be. Charles toils day and night in the truffle mine while Alice works in the diner they own. Meanwhile, a seemingly normal clothing shop called The House of Fur Collars is revealed as an insidious front, operated by a stoic blonde female terminatrix and a team of strange, furry weasel creatures. They're trying to corner the market on truffles and make them widely available under the banner "Mr. Truffle..."
Sounds bizarre, right? Even crazier than Kenny Begins. Audience members who opted for the Truffe Truffle Feast (I did... when in Rome, right?) were treated to a three course meal featuring truffles in every dish and culminating with truffle gelato and a black truffle chocolate truffle. Decadent, to be sure. Truffe is a fun movie, although the plot is wacky and it's shot in black and white.
THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS
This was the Secret Screening for the evening, and even though it already screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, I was extremely excited to see it. I've been a Gilliam fan ever since I saw Time Bandits, and for me Parnassus did not disappoint.
The film revolves around the titular Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, a traveling show featuring a band of entertainers trying to lure visitors into the Doctor's Imaginarium. They pass into it by stepping through a fake mirror, and on the oher side they really are in wonderland - or at least, their own version of it. However, times are tough, and the Doctor and his crew have fallen on hard times. As they leave one part of London and start traveling to another, they come across [SPOILER!!!] Tony (Heath Ledger), hanging from his neck under a bridge, apparently dead. Which was very eerie to see. They revive him, and he joins their band, but he isn't all he seems to be [END SPOILER].
Tony begins to drum up a brisk business for the troupe, although each time he enters the Imaginarium, he looks different: during his three visits he looks like Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell, which as you know was how they stepped around the fact that Ledger died during production. As Tony's story begins to unravel, and the Doctor reveals that he's been placing wagers with the devil (Tom Waits), the story comes to a climax in a battle of souls. Some people complained that they had problems following the story, and that it was too garish for them. To me, that's just Terry Gilliam. I enjoyed this one and would recommend it, especially if you're a Gilliam fanatic.
Day Four ended with the Michael Jackson Dance Party, and I'm not above admitting that I learned how to dance to "Thriller," whipped my imaginary chain around to "Beat It," and spun around to the tunes of "Bad." There's no denying that Jackson definitely had some amazing dance moves, and it was both fun and funny to see people trying to emulate those. Especially uncoordinated movie bloggers :-P .