Film Festival: Sukiyaki Western Django

I was supposed to see Dr Plonk with Tuesday night, but traffic was stupid and the two hours I gave myself to get downtown weren’t nearly enough. So instead, I wandered around Yonge St, got a chicken shawerma at one of the kebab places (pretty good… they put some weird sauerkraut-like stuff in it, which actually gave it a nice flavour. A little skimpy, though), bought an umbrella and sat out the ensuing thunderstorm in a McDonalds.

Sukiyaki Western Django trailer: You know spaghetti westerns? Well, this is a Sukiyaki Western. All (except one) Japanese actors, with dialog in English (with English subtitles). Throw together A Fistful of Dollars (which includes Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, which was its basis), the Tale of the Heike, Henry VI (I couldn’t tell you which part), and Quentin Tarantino, and you get Sukiyaki Western Django.

Yes, it’s that awesome. It’s not some crazy-ass farce, either. There are some comic relief characters, but it’s mostly played pretty straight (as much as a Takashi Miike movie can be played straight). This is a concept that doesn’t need hamming up. It comes off brilliantly.

When I say “throw in Quentin Tarantino”, I mean that literally. Quentin has a cameo in the movie. He talks very slowly, even matching the speech patterns of the Japanese actors. He loves his sukiyaki. And it his being there makes total sense, in a weird sort of way.

Takashi Miike (the director) is a bit of a fixture at the film festival. It doesn’t hurt that he churns out an incredible number of movies. Every year I’ve been to the festival, I’ve watched whatever movie he had to show. They’re all a bit weird, and they cover an incredible range–from kids movies to incomprehensibly weird homosexual thrillers. I think Sukiyaki Western Django was my favourite Miike movie yet.

I’d keep gushing about it, but I think it’s probably better if I just manage to procure a copy sometime in the future and make people watch it.

Film Festival: Vexille

Vexille (trailers): is a CG anime from the people who brought you (the 2004 CG version of) Appleseed (which I keep meaning to sit down and watch. Great visuals, cool mechs, big explosions… Vexille was pretty cool. For some reason, though, it didn’t do a whole lot for me. Am I getting old and jaded or something? I’m sure my 17-year-old self would’ve thought this was the best thing ever, but the plot stretched credulity and I didn’t end up caring all that much about the characters.

I think I had roughly the same feeling coming out of seeing Wonderful Days. Not that that (or this) was a bad movie. I was just… I dunno… unmoved.

I’d probably call it a rental. It’s worth watching (if you’re into CG mecha anime, of course). It’s something CTRL-A could show without controversy. Maybe it just didn’t meet my expectations (whatever those were).

Vexille was the Midnight Madness showing on Sunday. I stayed over at Rin and Kyle’s Sunday, and Kyle and I went to the Pacific Mall to kill time Sunday afternoon.

We stopped and had supper at the Great Khan Mongolian Grill in the parking lot there, making it a Ghengis Khan weekend. It doesn’t look like it’s affiliated with the Waterloo Mongolian Grill. Same general idea, although they had an additional buffet table, just in case you weren’t able to get your fill from the grill. I think I preferred the layout a bit over Waterloo, although the differences were pretty small. Not fantastic, but I certainly ate my fill (and perhaps a bit more than that as well).

I got home around 3:30 Monday morning. Staying awake for work on Monday wasn’t easy, but I managed to get stuff done. I only had to go back and fix some of it on Tuesday, too.

Film Festival: Mongol and Silent Resident

I went back to Toronto Saturday, hoping I’d get a chance to go to the sci-fi book sale at the Toronto Research Library with Rin, but ended up miscalculating a bunch of things falling behind so late that I had to miss out on that and head to the theatre to find Kyle. Rin was nice, though, and did my shopping for me, including picking up some of the late Madeleine L’engle’s‘s books.

Mongol (trailer): Kyle calls it “Young Ghengis in Love,” which is pretty apt. I had a hard time figuring out what this movie was trying to be. Bits of the first half reminded me strongly of Atanarjuat (Young Ghengis spends a lot of time running across the Mongolian steppes). The ending features a cool, epic, cast-of-thousands type of battle oh so popular these days (although the gathering of that military strength is largely glossed over). There’s a kinda kung fu revenge story going on (without the kung fu). And, of course, there’s the love story between Ghengis and his wife, who he doesn’t actually see very often and who usually ends up bearing other peoples’ children. Odd, unconventional, but still worth watching, I think. It’s a bit of a mishmash, but the way it plays out is still pretty satisfying.

Kyle and I ended up having dinner at Little India on Queen Street. Probably the best butter chicken I’ve ever had. I ate too much.

Silent Resident (website): This movie made no sense. Perhaps it might make more sense if most of the important exposition wasn’t written in white subtitles on a white background, but I get the feeling fixing that wouldn’t help much. It reminded me of the 1987 Doctor Who episode Paradise Towers, although a little bit of cannibalism might have livened it up a little.

It’s a descent into madness story set in a near future fallen utopia. There are some distinctly weird bits, but it spends more time being brooding and not enough time being weird. I could probably forgive it for not making sense if they cranked up the weird a bit more.

Some good points, though: the setting was really cool. It was filmed in a real, honest-to-goodness utopian socialist housing complex in Austria. It was built in the 80s, proving that even in the future we will still have ugly bathroom tiles. That gave the movie a lot more authenticity than if they tried to build their own CG thing or something. Also on the good side, there was lots of boobies. Yes, I said it.

Film Festival: Persepolis

The Toronto International Film Festival is well underway. I’ve been going with Kyle and Rin the last few years. I really couldn’t do it without Kyle, who handles all the really annoying administrative stuff, and points out decent films to watch. I tend to just follow his lead.

Persepolis (trailer): The festival opened on Thursday and I drove down Thrusday night to see Persepolis, which is based on the autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi. My impression of the book was that it was one of those arty, “important” sorts of graphic novels that had somehow managed to find a mainstream audience, so it didn’t strike me as something I really wanted to read. Watching the movie, what I found was a bitter-sweet coming of age story that takes place amidst the tragic recent history of Iran. It was pretty wonderful. I’ll probably be dragging people out to the Princess to see it if it comes out there, and buying the DVD and probably picking up the book too, as apparently the film was very faithful to the source material.

Ms Satrapi was at the screening and received a sincere and warm ovation at the end. I kinda wanted to go over and give her a hug.