Five treats for Fantasia fans

Crazy Samurai Musashi, The Oak Room, Time of Moulting, Fried Barry and Slaxx

by Jennie Kermode

There's a strong line-up at this year's Fantasia International Film Festival, making it difficult to narrow down a must-see list, but these are five films you won't want to miss. There's a little something here for every kind of genre fan, and even those who rarely venture outside the mainstream will find much to admire about them. This is fantastic filmmaking.

Crazy Samurai Musashi
Crazy Samurai Musashi

Crazy Samurai Musashi

77 minutes, most of them a single take. One legendary samurai assassin. 588 foes. One of those feats of filmmaking almost as astonishing in its ambition as in its execution, this is a film that's hard to look away from even for the average viewer, but simply breathtaking for those with some experience of the craft involved. The sheer stamina displayed by Tak Sakaguchi in the title role is awesome to behold, never mind the fact that he manages to act at the same time. He and everybody else moves through a complicated set with perfect timing, brilliantly choreographed (so that no-one was actually killed making it) as the camera team account for changing light and even engineer a rain scene. This is cinema at its boldest.

The Oak Room
The Oak Room

The Oak Room

From non-stop action to non-stop...talking? Filmmaker are always stressing the need to show rather than tell, yet Cody Calohan's rambling conversation piece (scripted by Peter Genoway) breaks all the rules and remains compelling. It's a dark and stormy night. A man walks into a bar. You may think you've heard this one before - but perhaps you haven't been paying attention. There's magic here of the theatrical kind, masterful misdirection, and what may initially not seem very meaningful will leave you chilled to the bone. It's all the more insidious because, though we get a clear idea of the location, it really could be set anywhere, at any time in human history. It does what cinema does best and reminds us of the power of stories.

Time Of Moulting
Time Of Moulting Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia

Time of Moulting

Growing up in Seventies Germany in a house that nobody is allowed to visit, with an ailing mother and distant father, young Stephanie attempts to find her own way through life, playing with knives and saws, trying to get animals to eat each other. on the surface she's a sweet girl but underneath she's deeply troubled and as the years go by with no apparent way out of her frustrating predicament emerging, the fantasies that have sustained her seem less and less adequate; something dark and terrible is ready to bubble up into the world. Sabrina Mertens' film is acutely observed and shot in absorbing verité style, with strong performances all round and a stunning début from young Zelda Espenschied.

Fried Barry
Fried Barry Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia

Fried Barry

What might an alien experience on its first day on Earth? Imagine it landed in one of the scummier parts of Cape Town with no plan, no money and only the borrowed body of an utter bastard called Barry to get it through the night. Sex and drugs and techno, small town thugs and serial killers and run-ins with the police are just a few of the delights in store for this befuddled visitor from the stars in a feature adapted by Ryan Kruger from his multiple-award winning 2017 short. Gary Green makes a marvellous lead, the possessed Barry at first blank-faced and unsure how to make his body work, then ready to try a bit of everything, but it's his growing empathy for humans that will ultimately win viewers over - even though we never learn the real reason for his visit.

Slaxx
Slaxx

Slaxx

Where do killers come from? Are they a product of society, or of their genes? Ahem. This film about a pair of killer jeans, and you may well go into it expecting the most ridiculous kind of trash. Whilst it certainly delivers on silliness, however, it has a lot going on upstairs. It's beautifully structured and very well acted, and it has some sharp points to make about the fashion industry. Young Libby (Romane Denis) gets a lot more than she bargained for on her first day in a new job selling clothes that adapt themselves to flatter the body, with an increasingly desperate manager (Brett Donahue) who will do anything to further his career. Slaxx will have you in stitches, and will teach you not to take anything for granted.

Fantasia runs from 20 August until 2 September and there's a great deal more to look forward to, so keep your eyes open for our ongoing coverage, including interviews with some of the talents behind these films.

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