Out of my five picks from yesterday, all five were gems. Behold…
JOURNEY TO THE WEST: CONQUERING THE DEMONS
Dir. Stephen Chow
Stephen Chow’s first film in seven years is a hoot and a half, and it is certainly up to the caliber of previous Chow favorites like Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer. Journey to the West is fast, funny, silly, and up to its neck in memorable oddball characters. The film runs out of steam a little by the end (a flaw seen in almost all of Chow’s films), mostly because everything that lead’s up to the CGI-laden climax is so high-spirited that there is nowhere left to go. In fact, it’s hard to follow up on the 20-minute opening sequence, which is a nearly perfect Rube Goldberg machine of comedy and action.
THE UNKNOWN KNOWN
Dir. Errol Morris
I have no idea how Errol Morris gets some of his subjects to talk to him. I suspect he doesn’t know either, but he keeps on giving us film after film of incredible interviews.
The Known Unknown, wherein Errol Morris somehow got Donald Rumsfeld to talk about his career and particularly about the War on Terror, is an amazing companion piece to Standard Operating Procedure (where Morris talked to the Abu Ghraib guards) and Fog of War (where Morris plunged into the life of another US Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara). To say The Known Unknown isn’t quite as piercing as these other two films is like saying Julius Caesar isn’t as good as Hamlet or King Lear — this is a incredible movie on its own. The only reason it seems less intense is because I don’t think Morris knew what he was going to find in Rumsfeld when they started filming.
The resulting film reveals a man with a long and storied career, whose view of reality has been twisted by many years of plunging so far into the details that he has lost track of the big picture. The interview goes straight to the heart of what Morris does best: questioning what truth really is.
Dir. Hitoshi Matsumoto
Oh man. This may be the perfect Fantastic Fest movie. It’s a Japanese film about a man who is stalked by dominatrixes. Oh wow, is it ever funny.
Director Hitoshi Matsumoto is a megastar of comedy in Japan, and this film is a fine glimpse into his talent. R100 starts very, very slow, carefully building its story and main character until a point about 30 minutes in, where a scene in a sushi restaurant launches the movie headlong into hilarity. By the end, people in the theater were laughing themselves into tears, and ever since, we’ve been identifying each other at the festival by… wait, was that an earthquake?
Dir. Frank Pavich
This is a documentary about what may have been the most dazzling movie never made. Back in the early 1970s, surrealist director Alejandro Jodorowsky (the man who gave us El Topo) obtained the rights to make Frank Herbert’s Dune into a film. He then set about assembling an army of “spiritual warriors” (everyone from H. R. Giger to Moebius to Salvador Dali to David Carradine) to help him design and create the movie. After two years of pre-production and design, the project fell apart.
This documentary aims to give insight into what went on during the production, and wow, is it ever interesting. It becomes clear that this was a bird too heavy to fly, but it sure is fascinating to hear all of these deeply passionate artists reveal the depths of unbounded creativity. Doubly fascinating is the man at the center: Jodorowsky, now in his 80s, has an intense charm to accompany his strange spiritual ideals; in another life, he could have been a cult leader.Even if you don’t know Jodorowsky’s other work, this documentary is fascinating. It’s almost a who’s who of creative mad geniuses of the 1970s.
HENTAI KAMEN: FORBIDDEN SUPER HERO
Dir. Yuichi Fukuda
Boy oh boy. Japan just gave us a superhero who gains his powers from putting used women’s panties on his head. He vanquishes villains by shoving his bulging crotch in their noses. It’s a spoof of Spider-Man.
I laughed a lot. So did everyone else in the theater. I suspect we’re all bound by blood now.
Hentai Kamen could have been a one-trick pony, but it somehow keeps the silliness churning until the last frame. Some bits drag a little, and the budget seems to be the spare change found inside a couch, but if you are looking for something truly ridiculous on Netflix some night and you are not opposed to the sight of bare Japanese man-ass, this is probably perfect.