The third day of Fantastic Fest kicked off for me with a large selection of shorts. As is traditional, they ranged from the “meh” to “really good” to “that’s messed up, I need to write that down and use it in my D&D game.” Fard and Cages were my favorites. Pixels is fun but so slick it looks like it should be a Coke/car/something commercial. I was just happy there was nothing as wretched as the “Mexican toilet banger” short of last year.
A small semi-related gripe – they have little Fantastic Fest promo shorts they show before the movies. While last year many were clever, this year they are just trying to make them as gross as possible – we’re talking oral-sex-while-on-period, six-year-old-having-coat-hanger-abortion gross. I don’t mind a bit of gross if they’re actually funny, but these are just stupid. The FF crew needs to rethink their approach next year – I haven’t seen one that entertained me at all, while last year I liked the majority of them. Apparently The Human Centipede has given people the misapprehension that being as sick as possible is somehow entertaining in and of itself, and it’s not.
Next, I tried to get into Red Hill and was rebuffed, so went to see the unexceptional Bibliotheque Pascal (4/10). Some passive Hungarian hobo named Mona gets put into forced prostitution in London, in a special “literary themed” brothel where the inmates are in theme rooms and have to learn lines from – in Mona’s case – Saint Joan. It’s hard to feel too much sympathy for her – it’s really only that she has a daughter she wants to get back to that creates any connection between her and the viewer. And the movie doesn’t seem sure what it wants to be. It’s certainly not “erotic” in any way; it doesn’t really go into the torture-porn vein you might go with such a premise, and the little weird bit (I won’t give it away but it’s why they claim it’s “Terry Gilliam-esque”) was too little and really just served as a deus ex machina at the end. Even the films I don’t rave about at FF are usually a 6/10 or better on an absolute scale, but this one is not. People I spoke with afterwards generally shared my assessment.
Now came the big event of the day – off to the Paramount to see Master Yuen Woo Ping get a lifetime achievement award and see both his newest movie, True Legend (7/10), and his first, Snake in Eagle’s Shadow (8/10), which was Jackie Chan’s breakout film as well! The award was presented by the RZA from Wu-Tang Clan, and was an engraved Chinese sword (a “dao,” I think…). Even through an interpreter he was very charming and got several standing ovations.
True Legend is the story of “Beggar” Su Can, one of the Ten Tigers of Canton, who developed the Drunken Fist style of kung fu. The martial arts action is great, the actors are engaging and the locations scenic – the only weird thing about this movie is, I guess because he was focused on telling the story of a real guy rather than fitting things into one dramatic arc, the third act seems like a “bonus movie” tagged onto the end of the otherwise complete first movie. The first plot arc is Su Can’s family being killed/taken by the Five Venoms Fist-wielding bad guy and Su being wounded and then training and then going back to get him. At the end of that, there’s a scene dissolve and suddenly it’s an unrelated bit from later in his life where he develops drunken style and fights furriners. Which I guess I don’t object to, as the first arc was complete and I thought the movie was ending and I got another half hour instead, but really it should have been a second movie or crafted into a single narrative better.
And I don’t need to review “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow;” it’s a classic of the genre (also starring Beggar So!) and still fun after all these years. Master Yuen’s father played the old Snake master in it, and his stories about what it was like to direct his father (who was also a quite famous martial arts star by the time) in his first movie were funny.