By: Orlok666
Date: February 14, 2012

IFFR 2012 report (1): The Ultimate Pranx Case, Kill List, Kotoko & more

The International Film Festival Rotterdam just rounded up its last screenings so we wanted to give a two-part report of the festival and round of some short reviews of a couple of films.

The festival that is one of the biggest European film festivals that is accessible for the non-industry audience and this year they introduced e-tickets for the first time. It’s quite an improvement because you’re now able to buy tickets at home and print them out yourself instead of booking them via the internet and then wait in line at a central register to get the actual tickets. But on the other hand some people didn’t mind waiting in line that much because it’s part of the charm.

As always the atmosphere was great and the charm of the festival is that the audience has it’s chance to mingle with the creators of the films. It always had good focus on the Asian film industry but of course doesn’t shy away from other countries. Miike Takeshi’s video game adaption “Ace Attorney” had its world premiere at the IFFR as well as the Icelandic crime film “Black’s List” (more of those in part two of the report). Here we have a round up with some short reviews of a couple of movies. Some will get a more extensive review on SlashingThrough as well later. This part contains reviews of “The Ultimate Pranx Case”, “Kill List”, “O Despertar da Besta”, “L' Ultimo Terrestre” and “Kotoko”.

The Ultimate Pranx Case (2012, Canada)

In 2010, three boys played a prank on a girl at school and streamed it all live on Internet. What started as a fairly innocent joke soon got completely out of hand. The recordings that were kept were released so that we can all witness these shocking events.

Producers (or better yet: directors) Sylvain Guy Claude Grégoire said they wanted to show the world an example of what bullying does to people as a warning when you take it too far. Claiming to be constructed of actual footage made by the 3 guys playing a prank on a girl the directors underestimate the audience. Starting off with the first scene (one of the pranksters being interrogated on a police station) you feel you’re watching an actor. What follows is a real time view of what actually happened to a girl.

The girl thinks she’s having a date and one of the boys is her date while the other two comment on events and create some twists and turns in the date to slowly freak the girl out. Even though it’s acted the film starts of well but some events in the movie seem too constructed or hard to understand why the girl still stays. But maybe the biggest fault is to use bullying as a way to sell your film. The producers / directors kept hammering that the film consists of real footage while there are continuity mistakes in the film - just watch the wine during dinner. Pretending to show a real case, while its fake and wanting to make an anti-bullying statement towards the audience is more of an insult than a way to make a statement.

Kill List (2011, UK)

Nearly a year after a botched job, a hitman takes a new assignment with the promise of a big payoff for three killings. What starts off as an easy task soon unravels, sending the killer into the heart of darkness.

There is already much said and written about this UK thriller that gets more horrifying as it proceeds. Opening as a typical kitchen-sink drama it evolves into a thriller when a former hitman get the chance to earn a big sum of money. Jay (Neil Maskell) and Shel (MyAnna Buring) seem like a normal married couple that argue about their health insurance, financial situation but Jay - an ex-soldier and assassin- still is coping with some assignment that went wrong and often has violent fights with Shel. When his friend and fellow ex-soldier Gal (Michael Smiley) comes along and has an interesting job Jay can’t refuse. When they’re getting deeper into the assignment they realize they are entering a far more darker area than they expected.

With this film director and co-writer Ben Wheatley is blending a couple of genres in a well-made film. As the story proceeds it gets more gritty and Jay seems to be losing control, getting more violent along the way. The end brings to mind scenes of “The Wicker Man” in a nightmarish setting and the tunnel chase is good for some goosebumps. Wheatley did a very good job on this surprising mix that will leave you gobsmacked. Ben Wheatley is one director to keep an eye on for the future.

O Despertar da Besta (aka Awakening of the Beast; 1970, Brazil)

During a debate of journalists with the renowned psychiatrist Dr. Sérgio and José Mojica Marins a.k.a. Zé do Caixão, Dr. Sérgio presents several cases of kinky sex and orgy associated to the use of drugs. The journalists defend that the cases are related to perverts and criminals, but Dr. Sérgio blames the influence of drugs for the violence. Then Dr. Sérgio invites four persons from different classes to use LSD and analyze the effect of Zé do Caixão's films in their twisted minds to prove his theory.

“O Despertar da Besta” was shown as a part of the ‘Mouth of Garbage’ festival theme which focused on the more trashy, campy, erotic / porn and underground side of Brazilian films. Due the sexual nature and drug abuse this film featuring Zé do Caixão (internationally better known as Coffin Joe) has been banned for 14 years in Brazil.

The first part of the movie consists mostly of the debate cut with several scenes / examples of drug abuse: some comical, some slightly disturbing and most of them sexual. While most of these scens are funny or amusing it gets a little boring after a while. The second part gets more interesting when some people - influenced by LSD - are having different visions and fantasies in which the iconic Coffin Joe features. It is in these visions that the film goes from black and white to color and brings in more imaginative scenery and nightmares. While it feels a outdated now it isn’t hard to imagine why the military regime in Brazil wanted to have this movie banned. If you’re in for a more slow, psychedelic trip this might be a film for you.

L' Ultimo Terrestre (2011, Italy)

The story of the latest week on the earth before the announce of the landing of an extraterrestrial society on earth seen by the eyes of a misogynist man with only the desire solitude and routine.

While everybody is talking about the arrival of the aliens, Luca (Gabriele Spinelli) is dealing with his own problems. He has problems interacting with other people and his only friend is a transsexual who Luca knows since he was a child. His father is leading a disorganized life and Luca himself is secretly in love with his neighbor. When the aliens’ arrival comes closer events happen that will give Luca’s life some turns for the best and worst.

Director Gianni Pacinotti based his film on the comic “Nobody hurts me” by Giacomo Monti. It’s a mixture of drama with hints of (black) humor and some sci-fi elements. Luca is a character hard to love; he’s very timid, shy and passive and the story meanders quite slowly sometimes added with some light touches of humor and sometimes with some heavy dramatic elements. Luckily it’s not that heavy but the story and characters aren’t engaging enough to fully go along with them.

Kotoko (2011, Japan)

Kotoko is a confused single mother who sees terrifying people and situations everywhere. The only way she can control her fears is by singing. Because she is afraid she will hurt her baby during psychotic nightmares, she cuts herself to prove she is still experiencing reality. In one of her delusory moments, she stands on the roof with her helpless child in her arms. What if she lets go? It isn’t long before she is forced to give up her child. During her contact with a writer, Kotoko’s crises increasingly lead to violent scenes, leaving us wondering whether they are real or part of her gruesome nightmares.

Director Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo, Tokyo Fist) returns with Kotoko, a tale about a mentally troubled single mother Kotoko (played by Japanese pop star Cocco). Filmed with a small cast and minimal means Tsukamoto gives us a glimpse into the mind of Kotoko who often sees people double or imagines situations that aren’t really happening. When she loses her baby because of her psychic situation she meets a writer (played by Tsukamoto himself) who comes obsessed by her. Within the violent relationship things seems to turn for Kotoko…

Tsukamoto never was shy to put in some violence in his films and this one has some gruesome scenes as well, especially during the contact with this writer. Cocco does a good job playing the troubled Kotoko that is sometimes driven mad by het toddler but sometimes it seems the film is made for displaying her talents. In the scenes where Kotoko suffers you’ll be bombarded by a heavy, noisy soundtrack and shot with a loose camera. With such recurring events in the beginning of the movie it can be hard to sit through as they are a bit repeating. It gets more interesting when the writer gets involved in Kotoko’s life. But when it reaches the end with an imaginative scene I couldn’t help thinking that this film could have been much more.

Part 2 of the IFFR report will contain (amongst others) short reviews of “Black’s List”, “Ace Attorney” and “Dernière Séance”.


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