MW in Montreal: Fantasia screens movie of Tezuka’s dark masterpiece

The annual Fantasia film festival in Montreal opened on 9 July with Wilson Yip’s IP Man and Takashi Miike’s Yatterman, kicking off a feast of Asian and international film with lots to offer anime and manga fans.

The $5 Festival catalogue is a treat in itself, an impressive 268 pages of full colour with a DVD of 85 trailers for films playing at Fantasia. There are even free open-air screenings in a Montreal park, and transport authority sponsorship means that a local bus pass will get you in to a couple of afternoon theatre screenings free too. It’s enough to tempt you to blow next month’s rent on a plane ticket to Canada.

Miike’s remake of the beloved 1970s Tatsunoko anime series, starring J-popster Sho Sakurai with Kyoko Fukada and Saki Fukada, heads a list of over 35 Japanese movies at the Festival. These include two of the three parts of Yukihiko Tsutsumi’s 20th Century Boys trilogy, based on the manga by Naoki Urusawa. Making their Canadian debut are Sion Suicide Club Sono’s deranged 237-minute epic Love Exposure, Takanori Tsujimoto’s Hard Revenge Milly double-bill (hosted by the director) and Shimako Sato’s K20: Legend of the Mask, complete with Oasis theme song. Hard Revenge Milly‘s SFX wizard Yoshihiro Nishimura contributed to two further screenings, supervising make-up effects on director/screenwriter Kengo Hatsukare Kaji’s Samurai Princess, and co-directing Naoyuki Tomomatsu’s supernatural high school love triangle Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl.

Anime studio Gonzo has provided digital effects for Katsuhide Motoki’s Battle League in Kyoto, in which opposing teams of students command cute little demon armies in ritual martial arts battles, signalling their wishes to their troops by way of elaborately absurd dances. And proving that cultural cross-currents stop for nothing, there’s a Korean live-action version of Fumi Yoshinaga’s manga Antique Bakery, in Korean and French with English subtitles.

Kaiju classics are honoured too, with a screening of the shiny new 35mm print of Ishiro Honda’s 1961 movie Mothra. This is to be introduced by Godzilla expert Ed Godziszewski. Then there’s a fascinating selection of short animation from around the world – I really fancy seeing Patrick Bolvin’s one-minute wonder Black Ox Skateboard. And that’s not to mention some more esoteric delights. From 15-22 July, Britain’s Jasper Sharp is in Montreal to host screenings from a retrospective strand of erotic movies of the 1960s and 1970s from Japan’s Nikkatsu Studios. Behind the Pink Curtain is named after curator Sharp’s book on erotic Japanese cinema, and is supported by an exhibition of 47 original posters on loan from the National Film Centre in Tokyo, most of them rarely seen since they advertised their wares in Japanese adult cinemas over thirty years ago.

For me, though, the pick of the Fantasia goodies and the two films I most wish I could be there to see are Paco and the Magic Book, the 2008 film from Tetsuya Kamikaze Girls Nakashima, and Hitoshi Iwamoto’s film of Osamu Tezuka’s picaresque masterpiece MW, which has its international premiere on the closing day of Fantasia 2009, 29 July.

For those of us who can’t get to Canada, the Fantasia website (in English or French) has links,  trailers and stacks of information. But I still know where I’d like to be on 18 July when the eye-popping insanity of Paco and the Magic Book unfolds in all its technicolor glory, and on 29 July when the opening credits roll for MW!

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