FanTasia Festival (Day Four) – Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto!

Only four days into Montreal’s FanTasia Festival and Dom’s already seen almost every single movie I’ve been waiting forever for! Todays adventure takes Dom into a twisted short film entitled The Separation and into Doppelganger, which is from the genius eye of Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Pulse, Cure). Read on for todays episode, Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto!

DAY FOUR – July 11th, 2004
By: Dominic F. Marceau
Today’s episode: “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto!”

What a difference a day makes! After the exhausting day I had yesterday, I made a quick dip at the FanTasia film festival as I only had one feature film lined up this evening. Breaks like these assure you that your faithful action reporter gets the proper rest he deserves.

Actually, this evening’s presentation was filled with surprises and a promise of good things to come. The first surprise was that Udo Kier, the amazing character actor, has arrived in our glorious city. I did see him at last night’s premieres of “Ginger Snaps: the beginning” and “Dead and Breakfast”, but tonight he finally addressed the crowd. He told us that it is his first time in Montreal and that so far he is loving every minute of it! How could he not? Those who have been here know what I’m talking about! He then informed us that he would be presenting the film “Gate to Heaven” tomorrow night. “Yeah, we knew that!” you’re probably telling yourselves. Oh, but that’s not all! He brought us FanTasia geeks a nice surprise! He will be premiering a short film he’s recently finished over in England that has never been shown anywhere! What a treat! He will also be presenting the Canadian premiere of his latest film “One Point O”, along with its co-directors, on Tuesday night. I will have the full details in my report that I will be calling “By Birthday with Udo”. He then wished us a great evening and then the lights dimmed for our cinematic entrée: The Separation.

This short film has to be seen to be believed. It is the story of two Siamese twins that get separated and, as they grow older, long to be sewn back together. Literally. Devoid of any dialogue, this stop-motion animation film is very reminiscent of a “Tool” music video. It is dark, moody, horrific, but gut wrenching and beautiful at the same time. Not since Mark Osborne’s award-winning short film “More”, have I been more moved by stop-motion animation. This film’s director, 30-year-old Brit Robert Morgan, is currently writing “The Eyes”, a script for a live-action feature film. I know I can’t wait to see what this man does next. I am very, very impressed. Seek out this little masterpiece. You can find it online… but I’m not telling you where.

Next, for our main course, was a film that I was dying to see: Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Doppelganger. First off, don’t be confused. This film isn’t the piece of crap starring a still-stoned-out-of-her-mind Drew Barrymore. It is a serious study in duality that is told with great artifice, and a hell of a sense of humor. Engineer Michio Hayasaki, some call him a genius, is designing a robot chair that will be truly a miracle for the disabled. He is a man that has but one goal: finish this project before the oncoming deadline. He is tactless, impatient, and quite a bore. He loathes his working environment. Soon, he questions his own sanity when his double, his Doppelganger, appears. This is his charming, riotous, and rebellious side that has somehow materialized. This double is there to convince him, strike that, to force him to recognize that he has all these facets to his personality, and that he will benefit greatly from them. But Hayasaki will not hear any of it. The double will then make sure, through mischief and mayhem, that his boring counterpart does recognize this. Hayasaki loses his job, after his double trashes the place, but continues to work on his project. He is free. He meets a woman whose brother killed himself because he saw his double. He wouldn’t recognize his. This woman slowly falls for Hayasaki. Or does she? Does she like the workaholic or the free spirit? Will Hayasaki finish his project? Will he sell his patent and make millions? Why is he so determined to do this project? All these questions are answered in this very fine film from the director of “Cure” and “Pulse”. The story is told through the use of split-screens. Images double and triple as many cameras are used to do shots that would have otherwise been boring and static. There are some slow points in the narrative but things pick up very quickly and never let up, turning it into a mad caper flick! The performances are all very good. They sure look like they had fun doing it. This film, while exploring some very serious and existential topics, is very funny. Koji Yakusho does deadpan like no other, but also really lets his hair down as the double. There are plenty of references to other films, including a hilarious take on the boulder chasing Harrison Ford in “Raiders of the lost ark” (Don’t ask!). This film is a wonderful surprise that will stimulate your intellect, while tickling your funny bone (Man! That sounded like it came straight out of a People magazine review! Sheesh!). If Nietzche was still alive, and Japanese, and had just seen “Drop dead Fred”, I think he would come up with something like “Doppelganger”.

Well, I sure as hell can’t top that last sentence, so, I’ll bid you farewell, dear bloody-disgusting reader. If you keep reading them, I’ll keep writing them. This year’s FanTasia film festival is still young. There’s truly great stuff ahead. I’ve got plenty of things to see and people to do!

Wait a minute… Ah, never mind…

Cut to credits.

Source: Dominic F. Marceau, FanTasia Festival Coverage