Leeds Film Festival 2009 - Day 12

I hadn't realised, but the Return of the Dead screenings echoed the film list of the Night of the Dead screening a couple days before (except in reverse order) and that also included some extra short films.

The Horribly Slow Murder with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon (US) - An ordinary joe is attacked constantly by a hooded figure, with a teaspoon in a hilarious trailer for a nonexistant 9-hour movie. 8/10

Welgunzer (US) - When Donald invents a time machine to sort out his past, he encounters a pair of his temporal dopplegangers who have different ideas of how he should go about things, leading to arguments, complex time paradoxes, and at least one body. 7/10

Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (Jpn) (trailer)

A whole 100 minutes of pure WTF. Really it was. Only the Japanese can mix high-school angsty romance, conformity and individuality, sexy, deadly schoolgirls and a swimming pool's worth of blood used liberally by mad scientists, zombies and vampires, and get something that you cannot help but laugh at, even in the bits that are hugely poor taste. On valentines day, cute and quiet schoolgirl Monami is the only one to smuggle through a choccy present for her crush, the school heart-throb Jyugon. Turns out, she is a vampire and likes the thought of eternity shared with him, so the choc is laced with her vampire blood to turn him. When Keiko, spoilt rich girl sees that her choice of boyfriend is being led off, she gets some background information and is intrigued with what she sees. So too are the furtive-looking science teachers who do strange experiments in their basement.

It all culminates, via a bit of Frankenstein-style body stitching into the titular battle halfway up the Tokyo Tower, but not before an awful lot of blood has been sent gushing improbably from many severed limbs, and some hilariously ridiculous stunts and body modifications have been attempted first. As one example among many, one girl chops off her arm and screws it into her head, to provide a rudimentary helicopter blade so she can chase after the heroine. It's that sort of mental.

Aside from a couple of aspects of the story which were pretty hard to find funny (the members of the 'Gonguro club' - Japanese girls who have put on make-up and false lips to look like various African races, and the Wrist Cut Rally where suicidal [or attention-seeking] teens get to practice 'safe' wrist slicing), it was non-stop too-stupid-to-be-scared-of horror comedy that has to be seen to get any idea of what it's about. 7.5/10

Wolfy (Rus) (synopsis)

A very brutal film, without a single drop of blood spilled. Wolfy is the name of the only toy that an unnamed child has been given by her mother, and she values it accordingly. Born and then abandoned to her grandmother, her mother remained absent until she was seven. When she did begin to visit, there was no love returned for the affection the girl attempted to give, and the mother treated her as nothing more than a reminder of a mistake, and a tether to the ground when she wishes to remain 'young' and without responsibility. With decreasing regularity she visits before having the girl forced upon her by the grandmother, sick of her irresponsibility.

Wolfy is told in a deliberately impersonal manner so to heighten the sense of alienation and extreme loneliness of the little girl, who innocently fell in love with her mother as soon as she saw her for the first time, but the natural bond that she feels is missing and replaced by selfish greed. It gave me a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach to see the abuse being meted out, but it is a very well scripted and acted film, and very affecting. 7.5/10

The Nail (Iceland) - Robert, a high-ranking official, fancies a bit of a go with the simple art of painting his window frames when the workers take a break. Unfortunately, he falls and ends up with a six inch nail in his forehead. Gradually, his behaviour changes, right as he is about to have an important business meeting. 7.5/10

The Revenant (US) (site)

Bart was a young soldier serving with distinction in Iraq in the US army, when he was killed and brought back to his home town for burial. Girlfriend Janet is distraught and prays by his side, leaning on their close friends at the lowering of the coffin. Fortunately later that night before the earth is put on top, he re-animates and breaks out of his coffin, his zombie-like mumblings coming from his sewn-together mouth.

Instead of terrorising the neighbourhood, Bart just wants to know what has happened. He is a Revenant, a hybrid undead that still has his brains and morals plugged in, and for the most part is still human, except he now has scary eyes, and bits of him are decaying. He also finds that come sunrise, he drops down dead again, only to come alive the following night. Fortunately, he made it to his best friend Joey's house on time, and after a bit of screaming and swinging with a baseball bat, he has calmed down enough to listen to Bart's situation.

There is relatively little gore in The Revenant, in favour of a tale of friendship and love between friends beneath a large slab of sometimes quite intelligent humour. I would recommend this film even to those who aren't keen on horror films, because it did well to bridge the gap and bring a new perspective to the usual zombie gore. 8/10

Slovenian Girl (Slo) (site/wiki)

While taking English classes to improve her job prospects in the future, Alexandra sells her body in the small ads, under the trading name 'Slovenian Girl' in the city of Ljubjana. The trade pays well, allowing her to not only pay for tuition and expenses, but get a mortgage secured on a fancy apartment as well. Naturally, she keeps this other part of her life completely secret from her friend Vesna, her re-married ex Greg, and her father Edo, currently trying to bring back his small-time band of fiftysomethings, 'Electroshock'.

The death of an important dignitary from viagra overdose while Alexandra is entertaining him is the first of a handful of events that throw this situation off course. Once the mysterious 'Slovenian Girl' is mentioned in the papers, people try to trace her, including a shady pair of pimps who pose as punters, forcing her in a tense, uncomfortable scene to give over her entire life to their 'company' with quiet, but forceful tone that is truly chilling.

Much more happens besides; a sometimes uncomfortable, often empathic film about a person forced to split herself in two and keep isolated as much as possible from those she loves, and then trying to heal those wounds when things begin to go wrong. 8/10

Puccini and the Girl (Ita) (a more lucid synopsis)

Giacomo Puccini is a much loved opera composer, especially in his native Italy. The film apparently had to go through many hoops in order to be made, since the government were keen not to have his name dragged through the mud. With a film describing Puccini's relationship with a young housemaid Doria Manfredi who later went on to commit suicide, this obviously required a delicate hand.

The main selling points of this film are the beautiful locations and the use of nearly zero dialogue to tell the story through actions and expressions. Most of what is said, is in the form of letters between Puccini and Elvira, his wife, detailing the events of the time. This lends a more authentic feel to the film, but unfortunately also makes it a little harder to follow. I liked the film, but too few obvious signposts as to what was going on hurt it (and admittedly my wavering concentration) a bit, although I might have come out with a better opinion had my mind been more alert and receptive, which by day 12, it isn't. However, even then, I wouldn't really consider the subject matter to be of interest to a general audience. 6/10

Film Count: 139/150

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