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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

"Fantasia Retro"

Fantasia Retro: Fantasia International Film Festival’s 25th Edition Features a Pack of Retro Premieres
by Joseph Perry

The Fantasia International Film Festival, Montreal’s premiere genre-film fest, features a ton of new horror, thriller, action, and dark comedy titles from around the world from August 5-25, but this year’s edition also boasts a fine series of films from the past that gets Uphill Both Ways’ seal of approval. Following are the festival’s official film descriptions, with comments from yours truly in italics.

In 1989, Stephen Sayadian, aka Rinse Dream, released one of the most iconic and fantastical works in American exploitation cinema. For the first time since its release, thanks to a new restoration, it will finally find its audience and retroactively be appreciated as the Underground masterpiece that it is. Bizarre, stunning, goofy, and unsettling, DR. CALIGARI embraces the avant-garde in its exquisite and hilarious exploitation of America's repressed libido. As the film's title might suggest, the feature is a loose remake of the German expressionist classic, centered on Mrs. Van Houten, a woman who seems to be losing touch with reality, and her treatment under Dr. Caligari, who diagnoses her with a "disease of the libido." 

Somehow seeing Dr. Caligari has eluded me all these years, though it has been on my radar since its release.  As a big fan of the original silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, an out-there 1980s version is right up my alley and I am thrilled that Fantasia is giving viewers a chance to finally see it, and in a restored version, no less!

In addition to DR. CALIGARI, Fantasia is proud to announce the following classics, resurrected in stunning new transfers.

Japan, 2000 – Dir. Higuchinsky
Higuchinsky’s elusive adaptation of Junji Ito’s cult classic UZUMAKI (SPIRAL) returns to Fantasia after 20 years, screening in a brand new 4K restoration. Decadently stylized and as beguiling as ever — practically dripping with blue-grey grime and oozing slime — the film stands out for its cosmic horror stylings and the ways it comes closest to the haunted tape at the centre of RINGU. The film itself now appears to us as cursed — full of shifty details and disturbing artefacts — as it unfolds with an almost experimental slice-of-life logic. One of the more peculiar films in the J-horror canon. World Premiere of Toei's new 4K restoration.

Uzumaki (Spiral) may be outside the 1970s-1980s wheelhouse of Uphill Both Ways, but it is a classic of J-horror, of which I have been a huge fan of for decades. It also hits the nostalgia buttons for me because it was one of the early titles in that genre, like Ringu and Ju-On (The Grudge), that I used to buy through mail order on third-generation or so VHS tapes long before those and other movies were officially released in the States.

TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (La noche del terror ciego)
Spain, 1972 – Dir. Amando de Ossorio
One of the most gloriously mythical, highly original zombie films ever made bursts from the grave, fully uncut in a striking new restoration from Synapse Films scanned from the original camera negative. The film re-envisions medieval Catholic military order the Templar Knights as satanic monks living under an occult curse, forced to walk the earth as eyeless undead in need of human flesh. In an imaginative twist, given their blindness, they are able to track the living by listening for their heartbeats.
World Premiere of Synapse Films’ new restoration.

Frothing at the mouth for this one! Seventies Eurohorror is my bag, baby — well, one of many bags of mine — and I’m looking forward to this restored version!

MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN (Il mulino delle donne di pietra)
Italy, 1960 – Dir. Giorgio Ferroni
The first Italian horror produced in colour, Ferroni’s landmark Italian Gothic boasts an impressive saturated signature, a style which was later picked up by Mario Bava when he made BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964). As a result, much like the later features by Bava, the film stands out stylistically for its bold painterly qualities, in this case layered in gorgeous, dark, fairy tale artifice. Picking up the baton from Gothic romance-tinged mad science films, such as HOUSE OF WAX (1953), MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN takes the staple “woman-into-wax” trope into unconventional territory with strange experiments, weird vampirism, and the dead coming back to life. World Premiere of Arrow Video’s new restoration.

If there’s one thing I dig more than seventies Eurohorror, it’s sixties Eurohorror! This film was one of my many  coveted “want list” items during my Sinister Cinema VHS-buying days, and one look at the original movie poster or lobby cards will tell you why!

Switzerland, 1967 – Dir. Jean-Louis Roy
This long-lost mid-1960s Cold War super-spy thriller is a marvelous and surreal hall of mirrors– part DR. STRANGELOVE, part ALPHAVILLE– with sly nods to British TV shows like THE AVENGERS and DOCTOR WHO. All mod sunglasses and bizarre architecture (including Antoni Gaudi’s famed La Pedrera/Casa Mila), the long-unavailable SHANDIGOR has been beautifully restored by the Cinematheque Suisse. Starring Marie-France Boyer, Daniel Emilfork, Howard Vernon, and Serge Gainsbourg! North American Premiere of a new 4K restoration by the Cinematheque Suisse. Presented by Deaf Crocodile Films. 

I  have never heard of this film before, but with a description like that, it is now one of my most anticipated films of this year’s Fantasia! 

Japan, 2005 Dirs. Katsuhito Ishii, Hajime Ishimine, Shunichiro Miki
If you look at them just right, the most mundane elements of daily life can seem utterly bizarre. That's the lunatic logic behind 2005’s fan-favourite cult classic FUNKY FOREST; a sprawling omnibus of the obvious and the oddball, the casual and the completely insane. Collaborating with hotshot advertisement directors Hajime Ishimine and Shinichiro Miki, director Katsuhito Ishii set them loose to confuse you, amuse you, repulse you, excite you, and just plain freak you out. World Premiere of Error 4444’s new HD restoration. 

I remember reading quite a bit about Funky Forest: The First Contact when it first came out but never had the opportunity to catch it. Sounds like this is my year! Yours truly is a sucker for weird Japanese cinema, and this films certainly sounds like it fits the bill.

Japan, 2011 – Dir. Shunichiro Miki
We’re not out of the woods yet! Witness the wonders of time-warping and dream-tinkering! Giggle at bellybutton sex and pornographic fruit snacks! Squirm when the local baker sneaks out for an illicit encounter with a furry little nipple-sucker and so much more. Shunichiro Miki flies solo on THE WARPED FOREST, an essential, long unavailable, work in the millennial new wave of radical, hallucinogenic Japanese comedies that blend deadpan humour, delirious dream logic, creeping paranoia and empathic, easygoing optimism into the strangest of cinematic brews. North American Premiere of Error 4444’s new HD restoration.

See above re: outré Japanese cinema!

The Fantasia International Film Festival will launch its 25th edition this summer as an exciting virtual event composed of scheduled screenings, on-demand library, panels, and workshops, taking place from August 5th to August 25th. The festival will be accessible across Canada, geo-locked to the country, and will maintain unique film admittance quantities in line with the cinema experience. For more information, visit https://fantasiafestival.com/en/.


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