Five films to catch at Fantasia

Highlights of the Montreal festival

by Jennie Kermode

This year's Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal opens on 12 July, and there's a fantastic line-up to look forward to. As always, there's an impressive line-up of premières accompanied by a few retro classics you won't want to miss (Body Melt is a particular treat), and there are also films that have been making a splash on the festival circuit around the world. We look at five of those you won't want to miss.

Blue My Mind
Blue My Mind

Blue My Mind

Growing up is never easy. Lisa Brühlmann's raw, unflinching début feature takes us uncomfortably close - both physically and metaphorically - to a girl for whom the changes brought by adolescence are rather more extreme than usual, for whom finding her own direction means not only coming to terms with physical difference but embracing the cruel streak essential to her nature. Blue My Mind explores horror and fantasy themes through abruptly realist performances that remind us of the innate monstrousness of our pre-civilised youth. A stunning central performance by Luna Welder makes the troubled heroine all too easy to sympathise with even as her peers reject her. Drug use and sexual experimentation help to clarify the boundaries of womanhood and make room for something else.

Maquia: When The Promised Flower Blooms
Maquia: When The Promised Flower Blooms

Maquia: When The Promised Flower Blooms

There's a lot of animé on the menu at this festival, but nothing quite as astonishingly beautiful as Maquia: When The Promised Flower Blooms. The story of a lonely immortal exile from her homeland who rescues and then becomes responsible for a mortal boy - a boy who will grow up whilst she stays the same - it takes on complicated issues around love and revenge, and although the story doesn't contain many surprises - at least for those familiar with the genre - the imagery is spectacular. We take a walk by night through a forest full of flowers, encounter vivid sunlit oceans and trespass in the realms of the Iolph, in the meantime asking questions about the overlap between our world and the mythical that have implications for the relationship between our world and the fictions of cinema itself.

Chained For Life
Chained For Life

Chained For Life

A beautiful, blind young woman. The disfigured man she falls in love with at her father's clinic, only to reject him when her sight is restored. Tragedy and romance intermingle in this old fashioned Hollywood horror yarn, but all is not what it seems, for this is a film within a film, and Aaron Schimberg's astute satire rips it open to expose the exploitation that saturates it at every level. With the audience often deliberately left guessing what's 'fiction' and what's part of the film's reality - which, of course, also overlaps with our own reality - this is a film that draws out the ludicrousness of many people's attitudes to disability and makes them visible to everyone. Chained For Life is a film about guilt in the absence of shame, about musing on the human condition in the absence of humanity, and it's vicious and funny and gorgeously shot.

Cold Skin
Cold Skin

Cold Skin

At a pivotal point in history, when the world stands on the brink of war, one man is left on an island thousands of miles from anywhere. His job is to observe the weather, but something is observing him. Forging an uneasy pact with the lighthouse keeper who is the only other resident, he must face off night after night against slimy things with legs that crawl out of the sea, shadows out of far away fog-shrouded Innsmouth, until he comes to doubt his own humanity. Meanwhile, the morality of his actions is called into question by his developing connection with the cold-skinned creature who shares his accommodations, the lighthouse keeper's frequently abused companion. Colonialism, misogyny and a crisis of masculinity lie just beneath the surface in the haunting Cold Skin, brilliantly brought to life onscreen by Xavier Gens.

Anna And The Apocalypse
Anna And The Apocalypse

Anna And The Apocalypse

Already the talk of the festival circuit, this exuberant little film about what happened the day the end of the world came to Greenock is winning the hearts of exactly those people who most expected to hate it. High school musicals are not normally a big hit with horror fans, and adding random zombies to otherwise tired film formulae has proven less popular than many filmmakers hoped, yet somehow this gutsy little production pulls it off. That's thanks in large part to an energetic young cast with a very Scottish sense of humour, forced to navigate the perils of teenage crushes and horrible headmasters whilst dealing with the undead at the same time. Anna And The Apocalypse is smart, punchy, full of great songs and another entry in the list of genuinely fun Christmas films for when you're all Die Harded out.

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