French Indonesia, 1953, a war orphan gets hired as a housemaid at a plantation house. As she falls in love with the Captain who owns it, he discovers a new interest in life. As things evolve something is clearly off with the people at the plantation and its past.
2017 is was a crazy year for films with so many good titles that picking only 10 was difficult and took much too long. That being said, here are my top 10 independent and foreign films which was gathered with much thinking and trying to figure out which films to keep, which not too. The list could easily have been a top 25 and it has been evolving everything it’s being worked on. The order is constantly changing, the titles that keep coming back are the ones found below.
In this film that seems to be a Thai take on the Jurei ghost story type, directors Piraphan Laoyont and Thodsapol Siriwiwat take a sub-genre, the vengeful ghost, and go to a point of insanity that is quite enjoyable. The film does not create much in terms of new aspects for the sub-genre, but it has some truly inspired moments, some really creepy sequences, and kills that are original and sometimes insane. The way they use each nurse’s obsession against her works quite well which helps the film feel fresh in its kills. The characters they create here are not particularly original or deep, they are fairly ditzy nurses completely obsessed with themselves and their love interest. The characters are even annoying at times, something that hinders any kind of sympathy that might be needed to truly care about their deaths. However, the way they die is entertaining and this helps a ton with a film of this sub-genre.
This piece of Japanese weirdness was written and directed by Shin’ya Tsukamoto almost 30 years ago and it still maintains its shock and awe. The film has a fairly simply story at its basis but is constructed and directed in such a way that it’s dizzying and purposefully messes with its viewer’s angle on it. The film is somewhat hard to follow but that’s part of how it works in the end. It is messed up and messes the viewer up. It’s one of those oddities that don’t feel like it was made just for the shock or just to disturb, but it still achieves both with flying colors. The way Shin’ya Tsukamoto tells this story is masterful yet filled with lunacy.
This year was a huge year for myself in terms of coverage I was able to do at Fantasia. Having moved back to Montreal (albeit temporarily), I was able to see a huge number of films at the fest, which led to an average of 2 films per day most days with just a few days off to recharge. 2 films per day may not seem like a lot, but when you factor in the reviews being written to publish as soon as possible and networking every night after the fest, the best festival of the year for this reviewer becomes the most exhausting. Your schedule shifts to live between 12noon and 4am most days, waking up then writing reviews, sending reviews, going to the fest in the afternoon or at night, then to the official pub to meet with filmmakers, reviewers, staff, and fans, then bed at 4am-ish most days, the schedule takes a toll. Kudos to the staff of the fest who are up all day working, then all evening and part of the night before doing it all over again the next day, this for 21 days. I know I could never do that for that long. Even with a few full days off to handle life and try to survive, it was an exhausting yet exhilarating experience to be able to be there from the programme launch the week before the fest to post fest goodness with friends.
The Vampire Cleanup Department is a task force that deals with Goeng Si, Chinese vampires, while being disguised as a regular trash and cleanup department. Not long after Tim Cheung joins his uncle on the force, he meets with a sweet vampire named Summer who changes how he wants to do things.
A young fighter goes on a quest to learn as much as he can to perfect his fighting skills following a hard loss. He travels his province in search of many masters to learn from and makes friends along the way.
Written by Suwan Takongkaew and Preayaporn Boonpa and directed by Bin Bunluerit, Broken Sword Hero is an action film with a quest at it center and a philosophical angle to how it approaches some of the fights and the learning the lead does during his travels. The way this is approached is interesting here but ultimately feels a bit long. The story around the fights makes this a film about more than just the fights, but also about the different techniques and the human element. Unfortunately, the film feels a bit uneven between the fighting being very strong and entertaining and the story parts feeling a bit slow and a lot less entertaining. This leads to the whole of the film feeling a touch long with some pacing issues.
A talented samurai is cursed by a witch to live forever following a battle for the ages. Haunted by the past, he accepts to assist a young girl with her quest for revenge. As he goes through with his mission, he discovers a few things about the world and himself.