AFI FEST: Day 2 (Saturday)

Getting to the Box Office was much easier on the second day. It helped to know where it was and that I could actually go in when I got there. As with the day before, I attempted to get the next day’s tickets but failed due to excessive site fail. Pity. Might have to wait in the Rush Line for Heartbeats and 13 Assassins.

After a much needed lunch, I got in line for the first film of the day to start. A few thoughts crossed my mind as I stood there, such as what to expect from a full day’s worth of films and if I’d be able to handle the marathoning.

Directed By: Sang-Soo Hong
Starring: So-ri Moon, Sang-kyung Kim and Ju-bong Gi
Rating: ★★★★☆

I can count the number of Korean films I’ve seen on one hand, and each one has been quite awesome. Of course, both films featured violence, mayhem and some moments of WTF. I went into Hahaha with an open mind, especially considering this was a straight relationship drama and not a super violent romp in the wild west or a WTF-inducing revenge flick. This film didn’t disappoint. The first thing that stood out to me was the structure of the film. Everything is told in flashback, with the present depicted in still photography. Each character gets a turn to tell their point of view and we’re never on one person’s story for too long.

The character work is strong too, and each actor gives a great performance. They manage to keep the film from feeling too melodramatic, and they each have their own little quirks that really paint the world they’re in.

I’d love to see this again when I get the chance, especially considering I had to duck out before the ending to get in line for another film. If you get a chance to see it, I suggest you do. Good stuff.

Directed By: Alex Stockman
Starring: Sien Eggers, Vincent Lecuyer and Matthias Schoenaerts
Rating: ★★★☆☆

This film is conflicting for me. The acting was superb and the ominous mood was masterfully handled. But since it was a slow burn with a rather ambiguous ending, I had a tough time getting into it. Not to mention I was quite tired from the other day’s screening, which combined with the slow burn equals the rating you see here. Would like to see this again at some point to see if my thoughts on this film change. Maybe a clearer head will appreciate the meandering near the end of the film.

Directed By: Taika Waititi
Starring: Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu, Ei Kura Albert and Taika Waititi
Rating: ★★★★☆

Out of all the trailers I saw before coming out to the fest, this one stood out the most. The film seemed like it would be a fun coming-of-age tale with quirky characters and some interesting locations. I remember even saying to myself that “this is going to be fun.” How right I was. The film started with the main character, Boy, stepping into frame and reciting his school report on both his dad and his love of Michael Jackson. Just this sequence alone was enough to hook me in.

The rest of the film kept in step with the opening and was a fun ride overall. I really enjoyed the performances and never felt them to be unbelievable. The father, played by director Taika Waititi, was a pure delight. It’s a role that would oftentimes be played very one-dimensional and here Waititi managed it well. Even in the some of the more ridiculous moments there was a tragedy to the character. I liked that.

The Weather Station
Directed By: Johnny O’Reilly
Starring: Pyotr Logachev, Vladimir Gusev and Sergey Garmash
Rating: ★★★☆☆

The Weather Station was a solid thriller with an interesting structure and good performances overall. There wasn’t really anything new brought to the table with this film, especially since we’ve seen thrillers like this before. But it was entertaining and I had fun seeing how the story resolved itself. The way the main character grew in the film from being a young brat to a strong protagonist was interesting and quite enjoy that he was rather unlikable at the start. A few things could have been handled better in the structure, but for what it was I had fun.

Julia’s Eyes
Directed By: Guillem Morales
Starring: Belén Rueda, Lluís Homar and Pablo Derqui
Rating: ★★★★★

Guillermo Del Toro came out before the screening to introduce the film. He mentioned that it had influences from Mario Bava (The Girl Who Knew Too Much) and various Dario Argento films (Deep Red, Opera, etc.). Not knowing that beforehand, I suddenly became super-stoked for this film. What followed was a really strong and creepy thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end. I don’t think I’ve been that stressed while watching a movie in awhile. Every moment the main character found herself alone and in the dark, I was in agony. Just goes to show that you don’t have to see ANYTHING to still feel scared.

Props to the cinematography, which is a homage to the aforementioned Argento films. Pretty much every cinematic trick that I loved from those films is in play here and there’s a particular scene in the end that’s tough to forget. There’s no question. You need to see this film!

(Stay tuned for Day 3, which has me delighted by crepes and short films and worried that I might not get into a movie about Shogun assassins!)