Only two film screenings on Day Four: an amnesia-led revenge drama from South Korea, and a berserk multi-styled hip-hop-animated French/Japanese collaboration.
With only two screenings available to me due to my delayed decision-making and personal good fortune, the fourth day was the least hectic so far. The first enamored with its own complexity to live up to its borrowed premise, and the second faring better with multiple reversals of style and tone. Both heavily adopted the styles and themes of other, better films, but only one of them managed to forge their own identity along the way.
With a film such as Memento wholly ingrained in cinematic consciousness, there’s only space for imitators if they can justify their existence outside of tribute. Memoir of a Murderer (C) – the latest nihilistic South Korean revenge movie – fails to do just that, ending up as a frustratingly dire amalgamation of Nolan’s timeless mystery, and the disastrous, turgid Dexter series. In it, we have a former serial-killer-cum-veterinarian, Byung-su (Sol Kyung-gu), whose murky justification of murder was to ‘cleanse’ his town of those undeserving of life, until a car accident sent him down the path toward dementia. 17 years later, there’s a new serial killer in his town, and it’s up to Byung-su to figure out if it’s him or a copycat. Far too early in the game it’s shown that it’s not him, but Won Shin-yun and screenwriter Hwang Jo-yun don’t have the confidence in their audience to follow their byzantine plot, blowing their reveals prematurely, allowing the remainder of the film to be a stupidly contrived ‘did he or didn’t he?’ riddle that we can pretty much predict the answer to.
Purely speaking of the positives; the cinematography is unquestionably well-framed; a smoggy, snowy bleakness permeating every location gives the story an extra layer of cheerlessness, but this really isn’t anything unusual in South Korean cinema, so even in these properly mounted attempts to be something distinctive, it simply replicates everything else. Commendable, too, are the actor’s efforts to give weight to this preposterously elaborate story, specifically Kim Seol-hyun as Byung-su’s daughter, Eun-hee. Byung-su’s story is filled with such insignificant detours, his repetitious visits to a poetry class and road-side conversations with the inept police are tediously slow and only detract from the main cat-and-mouse structure. Not helping matters is the introduction of several trivial details that seemingly hold significance in the murder case, but by the film’s end, they’re rendered as pointless red herrings (e.g. Kim Nam-gil’s utterly wtf moment as he rearranges a toupee, never to be mentioned again). The finale is an enlivening showdown, made tense by some crunchy choreography, but with all the choppy editing and needlessly obtuse storytelling it took to get to that point, by the time it gets to the final, pointless sequel-teasing shot, you’ll be wanting to forget it.
Try to envision a blend of the variously stylish Animatrix shorts, the iconic cel-shaded roller-graffiti video-game Jet Set Radio, and the grungy dystopia of Akira, and what you’ll come up with is only a fraction of the oddity on which Mutakfukaz (B) thrives: it’s a Japanese/French animated co-production based on a graphic novel, based on a fever dream of its mad creator, Guillaume Renard. Set in the fictional American West-Coast hovel Dark Meat City, we’re introduced to a slum full of violence, corruption, and cockroaches, where dead bodies decompose in the streets, and gangs ransack and murder whatever gets in the way. Angelino is an out-of-luck orphan, drifting between jobs every three months and cotching with his friends – flame-headed Vinz and cowardly mammal Willy – whenever he’s not delivering pizza. After a vehicular accident (a comparison between today’s films that wasn’t lost on me), Angelino starts to see bizarre ghouls populating his city, and sets out with his friends, his cockroaches, and a team of legendary luchadores to stem the flow of evil ravaging his home city. Explaining what goes on further would do the film’s eccentric creativity a huge disservice: watching its own brand of wacky humour and crazy, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them sight-gags breaking its own rules time and again is a large part of its charm. A lot of these idiosyncratic flourishes work, and a lot of them miss their target, which makes for a truly diverse genre mash-up of undecided tone and personality. It’s deranged, belligerent, and fast-paced, brimming with a know-it-all adolescence, but it’s primarily an impressive 90 minutes of artistic originality, even if it knowingly appropriates its wealth of influences. Angelino and friends probably wouldn’t think twice about that kind of thievery.
It was a bizarrely short day, and though neither were a true waste of time, they made me really pine for a film that would bowl me over completely. This LFF, I’m still waiting for that above-B grade.