Fantastic Fest 2022 wrap

One of the best run film festivals you could hope to attend, Fantastic Fest 2022 wrapped last week. Despite a sincere effort to see more films than humanly possible I logged 21 films viewed while nearly 100 unwound.

One highlight occurred at the US premiere of “The Menu” a delicious black comedy that sends up foodies as well as exclusive restaurants. About ten minutes before the end of the film the entire audience was served desert, bespoke s’mores to be exact. “The Menu” was playing on three screens at the same time.

Holy Spider” was made by Iranian filmmakers but was shot in Jordan because many of the film’s tenets are taboo in modern Iran. Celebrating its Texas premiere the plot unwinds, per the director’s intent, like a post-modern Silence of the Lambs.

Taking place in Iran’s second largest city Mashhad the depictions of sex, nudity and general murder mayhem are unknown in Iranian cinema.

The actress who plays an investigative reporter Zar Amir Ebrahimi won the Cannes Best Female Actress award earlier this year. More to the point she was a top tier personality in Iran a generation ago mainly from her role on a popular television series and then she was banned because she didn’t conform to governmental ideals of women.

Zar Amir Ebrahimi currently lives in Paris. Likewise Mehdi Bajestani who plays the killer, and is an accomplished actor in Iran, and may have killed his home country cred as he performs  in defiance of the conventions of Iranian dictated censorship.

His character, and all this is based on true events, was convicted of murdering 16 prostitutes. Yet a portion of the population was in favor of his jihad against ill repute.

An amazingly propelling action film, where 97-percent of the shots are from the point-of-view of inside of a car “H4z4rd” never feels confined. 

Dimitri Thivaios who in a separate music career as Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike stars as a guy with a dream and a brand new Lexus.

First thing off, the car starts to get dirty when his girlfriend’s daughter trashes the back seat with a lollipop. That’s nothing as our hero, despite a pledge to pick up his girfriend’s daughter from school, agrees to be a getaway driver during his lunch hour.

Much of the heat and energy of “H4z4rd” revolves around Dimitri and his dim pal played for maximum volume as a failed musician by Jeroen Perceval. Both Perceval and Thivaios have played bit parts in multiple box office hits as well as art house titles. Quite a bit of energy in this Euro-thriller courtesy of director Jonas Govaerts.

There has been no shortage of “Hellraiser” films since the 1987 original from Clive Barker. The 2022 “Hellraiser” is better than most at observing the time honored tradition of taking an old shoe and giving it a new sole.

Director David Bruckner also did the recent “The Nighthouse,” which was a more subtle version of a horror film. In the new “Hellraiser” all gore is set free, but at least the characters who are seemingly doomed are a nice cross section of the type of people we like to see terrorized.

A subversive genre flick that blends different animation styles along with traditional western motifs into a true psychedelic western “Quantum Cowboys” would’ve been perfect as a 1971 midnight movie. Director Geoff Marslett puts the psychedelic in westerns, especially if you recall films like “El Topo” or “Zachariah.”

A crazy action film with tons of gunfights (mostly automatic weapons) and spy treachery from South Korea “Hunt” moves with such intensity you feel like you’re locked into the bank robbery scene of “Heat” for the entire film.

A plot to assassinate the President of South Korea and a mole from North Korea deep in South Korean spy agencies leads to gunfights, torture, reunification-fu, betrayal-fu, and even more gunplay.

The highest rating for the documentary “Lynch/Oz” a kind of film essay that breaks down of one of the greatest films in cinema history (“The Wizard of Oz”) and the cinema of David Lynch.

You’d be surprised at the various references to Oz in every one of Lynch’s films both feature length and shorts

Written and directed by Alexandre Philippe, the film is divided into chapters narrated by fellow indie film makers and critics like Amy Nicholson, Rodney Ascher, John Waters, Karyn Kusama, Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, and David Lowery.

Philippe has done previous docs exploring film in relation to Monument Valley (The Taking) and Hitchcock’s “Psycho” shower scene: “78/52.”

There’s not a false note in this doc, and repeat viewings will reward the viewer with previously unthought of connections between Lynch and Dorothy.

Country Gold” is the first film by Mickey Reeves that I’ve seen but I now want to watch some of his other films.

Reeves seems to make films on the periphery of movie making, and “Country Gold” was shot in Oklahoma. The title is taken from the name of George Jones branded cat and dog food that was sold in the 1980s.

Reeves’ cinema is best described as comic tongue in cheek. To wit: this film is about a thinly disguised Garth Brooks (Reeves as Troyal) who hangs out with George Jones on the eve of Jones being cryogenically frozen.

Pure fiction made about real life people, oddly just like the current film “Blonde,” but played for laughs. And laugh you will.

A sullen French drama about a young girl who collects smells “The Five Devils” asks more questions than it answers.

Some of the smells will knock you out if she opens a certain jar. The young girl seems to be collecting the smells by burning dead animals and collecting hair and other traces of the people around her.

Her mother and father must deal with her as well as the father’s sister, an arsonist who’s served time, that comes to live with them.

The film’s previewed at this year’s Fantastic Fest will no doubt pop up in welcome theatrical releases and streaming services over the upcoming months.

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