Fantasia IFF 2017 Part 3: Dead Man Tells His Own Tale, Fritz Lang, Attraction

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Dead Man Tells His Own Tale 

Angel is a professional photographer who can’t sleep with just one woman; a very unfortunate fact for his wife. His philandering ways come to an end when he is killed by Scottish Fairy women who turn him into an undead slave. Now he is unable to be a misogynist or even speak bad words about women aloud and he must spend his nights toiling for the fairies. He teams up with some of his fellow undead men and gathers some wooden stakes to go find the fairies and try to free himself.

In the past, I have called out at number of Argentinian and Chilean Genre films because of what I would describe as a tendency to objectify women and have a casual attitude about domestic violence. It’s fun to see an Argentinian film that is taking that very problem and turning the tables a little bit. It’s amusing to watch the men struggle to circumvent the spell disallowing sexist language and to debate what words are permitted and why. However, the film never gets much beyond that basic premise. It’s a short feature that feels like a short film stretched out to an 80 minute runtime. It’s not a bad film and has a few good laughs in it; I would recommend it as a palette cleanser after watching an especially heavy drama if nothing else.

 

Fritz Lang

Fritz Lang, the famous German director behind Metropolis, is searching for the subject of his first ‘talkie’ movie in pre-war Germany. When he sees a headline about a child killer in Dusseldorf; Lang becomes obsessed and hops the first train to begin his pursuit of the monster. He is given access to victims and evidence and interviews people involved. This leads him to look into his own past and eventually come up with the plot for his next film.

This is a fictionalized retelling of the events leading up to the filming of Lang’s famous murder-thriller “M”. Shot in black and white and with the old square formatting, Fitz Lang tells its story in a noir, dreamlike way. The film then rewrites much of Lang’s fascinating life to support a bizarre fictional examination of Lang’s psychological motivations; which they then fail to make compelling. I found myself asking, if it didn’t happen and these scenes don’t properly represent the man; what was the point? The actual crimes fall second to Lang’s proposed obsession and fetishizing of murder. The film also suffers from inserting footage from old German movies (Including Lang’s ‘M’ itself) to fill in exteriors that are clearly a mismatch to the new footage (which has a distinctly video quality to it).

 

Attraction

Yulia is just a typical Russian teen, living in a vast concrete apartment block in the Moscow with her colonel father and sneaking out with her friends to watch meteor showers. However, in this shower a crashing alien spaceship rains down, killing her best friend. The aliens are peaceful enough and just want to repair their ship and leave. Yulia and her boyfriend Artyom decide to break into the quarantine zone with the goal of getting a little payback. While they’re there an alien saves Yulia’s life and is injured in the process. Turns out that underneath the suits, the aliens are hot (it reminded me a lot of Earth Girls are Easy) and Yulia abducts the alien Hekon and nurses him back to health. Meanwhile, Moscow starts to riot because the ship is using all of their water (for repairs), Yulia has to help Hekon recover all his equipment and escape back to his ship.

What is this film like? It’s like a Russian ‘Day the Earth Stood Still’, ‘E.T.’, and ‘Twilight’ all rolled into one and it’s pretty entertaining. Attraction sports some really top level special effects and a surprisingly touching romance. Instead of taking an easy ‘Independence Day’ action route, there is a much more nuanced ‘Starman’ like story in play here. It’s a genuinely enjoyable film, but I must draw some attention to the other media reports that have called out nationalistic themes in Director Fyodor Bondarchuk’s previous work and the Russian government support of his films. Quoted in the Independent, Fyodor refers to the theme of Attraction as “It’s about the theme of the immigrant – different people, different color of skin, different sexual orientation, different religion. Let’s try to hear each other. This is the main message for me as a director.”; so far as I saw in the film there were no people of color (save one background character of the gang who is Asian), LGBTQ, or openly different religious ideals anywhere in the film. Even the alien is a traditionally handsome, clean-cut white Russian lad. A theme of tolerance rings a lot hollow when your best stab at embracing diversity is a completely homogeneous population that reacts with maximum xenophobia to any perceived ‘other’ that trespasses on their territory.

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Adam RuhlFantasia IFF 2017 Part 3: Dead Man Tells His Own Tale, Fritz Lang, Attraction