Friday, July 13, 2007

Fantasia Reviews Pt. 4

OFFSCREEN (Christoffer Boe, 2007, Denmark)

This mockumentary (or is it?) opens with a montage of Danish newspaper clippings on the disappearance of actor Nicholas Bro, the discovery of video footage shot by Bro beforehand, and the announcement that director Christoffer Boe has assembled this footage into a film. The rest of OFFSCREEN, a la THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, is that footage.

Bro (playing himself), who’s comedy ADAM’S APPLES also screened at Fantasia, has caught the filmmaking bug. He borrows a camera and equipment from his pal Boe to make a “love film”, a document of his wonderful marriage with wife Lene (Lene Maria Christensen). He begins filming, oblivious to the fact that Lene has no interest in the film, or, at this point, the marriage. She walks out, moving to Berlin without leaving a forwarding address. But Bro continues filming; now chronicling his attempts to find her and win her back.

This could be the set-up for a romantic comedy, and there are some funny scenes early on, such as when Bro finds an actress to portray Lene so he can finish the love film as originally planned. But soon it’s clear that Bro’s obsession isn’t movie world wacky, but real world dark. He sinks deeper into the depths, friends urge him to seek help before they drift away, alienated by his bizarre behavior, and the viewer starts to wonder just how dark this is going to get. Spoiler: it gets really dark.

That an affable Bro was on hand at the Fantasia screening to introduce the film thankfully answers at least some of the questions of how much of what we are seeing is real. But the fantasy vs. reality issue is ultimately irrelevant. OFFSCREEN feels real, from beginning to end, thanks to Bro’s fearless performance and the equally fearless way Boe documents his disintigration. Playing like a cross between SHERMAN’S MARCH and IRREVERSIBLE, OFFSCREEN was the most disturbing movie I saw at Fantasia, and the one that may stay with me the longest. – Rich Osmond

WOLFHOUND, THE / Volkodav iz roda serykh psov (Nikolai Lebedev, 2006, Russia)

A throwback to the better sword and sorcery films of the ‘80s (KRULL, THE SWORD & THE SORCERER, DRAGONSLAYER, et cetera), THE WOLFHOUND begins like CONAN THE BARBARIAN before mutating into an amalgamation of CONAN THE DESTROYER and BEASTMASTER. The film stars Aleksandr Bukharov as the titular warrior. His family was killed by the evil overlords Ogre and Zhadoba who sent him to the mines to work as a slave. Wolfhound won his freedom and, now, walks the path of revenge against those who wronged him.

Along the way, Wolfhound collects a bunch of misfits such as blind seer, a bookworm, and a bat with a torn wing. Rather than forming a wacky, rag tag group of adventurers (like WILLOW), these compatriots stay out of the way when Wolfhound needs to tie back his hair and kick some ass. He has ample opportunity to do so as he escorts Princess Helen (Oksana Akinshina) to her betrothed.

Ancient curses, angry gods, magic, revenge, swordplay and chivalry abound throughout the 136 minutes of THE WOLFHOUND. This film is ideal for a Saturday afternoon cable television extravaganza. -- Mike White

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