The Return of the Real – First films announced

Less than two months from the first Fantastic Weekend, we have much pleasure in unveiling a first look at some of the films chosen for the official selection.

After a bleak spring of confinement, cancellations and close-call overdoses of platform cinema, the real thing is back with “Three Fantastic Weekends”, organised by the Strasbourg European Fantastic Film Festival. The first of these 3-day events – a powerhouse programme of new genre features, retrospectives, shorts and VRs – runs from 18 to 20 September. Here’s a sneak preview of the September bill, starting off with two explosive, out-of-control, extravagant comedies.

Stop-motion masters Oskar Lehemaa and Mikk Mägi take us on a tour of the Estonian countryside where two thoroughly urbanised kids are sent to soak up the placid life of a rural summer at their alcoholic grandfather’s “dairy” farm. But when his abused cow runs off, a wild chase ensues through a backwoods rife with monsters, hippies, cults, and film makers. Pastoral perversion and subversion at its best – The Old Man Movie is one of the most hilarious films of the year.

South African tourism takes on new vistas in Ryan Kruger’s Fried Barry. After taking over the body of a drug-addict loser and bum parent from the lower dregs, an alien experiences the weird world of humans in a joyride of drugs, sex and violence through Cape Town.

With Grimm, Dutch director Alex van Warmerdam spins a contemporary fairy tale shaped as an adventurous, high-tension road movie. It’s also a movie steeped in humour, black and otherwise, with plenty of nods to a variety of the Grimm brothers’ tales, starting with Hansel and Gretel. Abandoned in freezing winter woods to fend for themselves, two siblings set off for sunny Spain where they are taken in by the rich Don Diego in his lavish hacienda. But unsuspected ogres are not far behind.

Corrective beauty surgery turns ever so bad in Yummy, Lars Damoiseaux’s midnight-fun feature from Belgium. A mother and daughter, accompanied by the latter’s bland boyfriend (he shines later on!) sign into a beauty clinic of rather questionable quality in eastern Europe. But the clinic’s experimental rejuvenation treatments lead to an outbreak of a virus which, you get the drift, gives rise to a gory onslaught of cannibalistic zombies.

Kurt Kunkle, a ride-share driver obsessed with achieving fame as a social-media influencer, concocts a scheme that begins with livestreaming his passengers. Spree is a fast-paced, carnage-packed comedy satirising today’s social media culture. But behind the horrific humour of American director Eugene Kotlyarenko’s latest feature is a scathing commentary on contemporary America’s numbing violence.

An obese young woman discovers a revolutionary beauty product that will remodel her entire body, but what follows is a nightmarish descent into hell. Beauty Waterfrom South Korea’s Kyung-hun Cho, is a scathing mockery of the pursuit of the perfect body driven by contemporary consumer societies. A dark fairy tale with no good fairy to intervene.

For some serious darkness, try The Dark and the Wicked, from American director Bryan Bertino. Two siblings are summoned back to their parents’ farm as their father lays dying. What starts out as a film about a family ritual of loss and remembrance turns into a bone-chilling story of a rural community in the grip of obscure forces.

From Austria, Sandra Wollner’s The Trouble with Being Born is a grim but moving portrayal of an eerily-perfected, pre-teen android called Eli. She lives with an older man she calls her father and unable to forge memories of her own, she can only share his. And yet, one night Eli follows a fading echo coming from the woods.
This disturbing and richly layered film depicts a near future in which humans cope with absence and loss through a dehumanising and perverse use of technology. Winner of the Special Jury Prize (Encounters) at the 2020 Berlinale.

The Old Man Movie, Estonia, Oskar Lehemaa et Mikk Mägi

Fried Barry, South Africa, Ryan Kruger

Grimm, Netherlands, Alex van Warmerdam

Yummy, Belgium, Lars Damoiseaux

Spree, United States, Eugene Kotlyarenko

Beauty Water, South Korea, Kyung-hun Cho

The Dark and the Wicked, United States, Bryan Bertino

The Trouble with Being Born, Austria, Sandra Wollner

First-weekend retro

Our first fantastic weekend will also hold a fitting tribute to the late French actor Philippe Nahon, who died on 19 April 2020. A special friend to the Festival, he sat on its very first jury in 2008.

Nahon was endowed with one of the most unforgettable mugs in French cinema, a distinctive gravelly voice and looks that could penetrate a bunker. Originally a stage actor, his film career was launched in 1962 in Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Doulos, where Nahon expires in the arms of Serge Reggiani. In 1998, Gaspar Noé cast him as the horse-meat butcher in I Stand Alone, a part that gave full reign to Nahon’s considerable acting talents and marked a turning point in his career. He went on to make films with a variety of well-known directors in a succession of landmark roles that have left an indelible mark on genre cinema.

Discover and rediscover some of his standout performances in 35mm.

I Stand Alone directed by Gaspar Noé (1998)

High Tension (Haute Tension) directed by Alexandre Aja (2003)

Calvaire directed by Fabrice du Welz (2004)

More of September’s Fantastic Weekend delights to be announced shortly. Stayed tuned.