The last time I attended the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, it was 1999. I had a great time, but for various reasons (the biggest being that I moved to the West Coast and the San Diego Comic-Con is a money-drain smack-dab in the middle of Fantasia Fest) I never made it back. Until now…
Despite Montreal being easy driving distance from the Philadelphia area, I opted to make this a trip as similar to 12 years ago as I could, choosing to “Go Greyhound” instead (something I swore, 13 years ago, I would never do again; silly oaths of youth). Theoretically it’s a great idea: tickets are around the same range as gas would’ve been to and from anyway, you can relax the whole way and it doesn’t add THAT much time to the trip. In practice, however, it’s very boring and uncomfortable. At least Greyhound has wi-fi, which I certainly abused (check yesterday’s Twitter stream), and I’m sure it would’ve been more tolerable had folks not insisted on sitting next to me (why they always chose my row, in a sea of half-empty seaters, is beyond me). 11 hours and change of bus travel later, I got to Montreal… only to remember that I don’t speak a lick of French, and need to navigate from the bus terminal to the hotel.
Luckily, the bus terminal is attached to the metro terminal, so I was able to figure out the stops on a map, follow the arrows no-doubt put up for a******s like me and bought a subway ticket via an automated kiosk (sure, that too was all in French, but I guessed my way to the cheapest one-way ticket). Was at the hotel in less than 30 minutes. Which is good, because I had to get freshened up quick before heading over to one of the main screening halls to catch the opening night film, Red State.
As I made my way to the theater, I saw a huge line running up the street and wrapping around the building; folks were going to be turning out in force for opening night. Once inside the building I had to make my way to pick up my press credentials, but not before spotting Udo “Lars von Trier shot a close-up of my face bursting and being birthed through a giant vagina for The Kingdom” Kier. In fact, for the rest of the evening, Udo Kier was everywhere. He may even be staring at my back right now while I type this; I wouldn’t be surprised if he was.
Eventually I made it into the theater for Red State, and that’s where I met up with Film Threat mainstay Jeremy “my family nickame is Cunthead” Knox (for the rest of the evening I became a part of the Knox Krew, following Jeremy, his wife and their friends around like a lost (fat) puppydog from place to place). After a rousing festival introduction, in both French and, thanks to Mitch Davis, English, the first screening got underway.
Since Kevin Smith couldn’t make it to the fest, he sent along a video introduction apologizing and endearing himself to the audience. It was hilarious, and the crowd was along with every joke, whooping and laughing (this was a very animated crowd all night; they were loud all through Red State too, but in a “we’re loving this” kind of way). It was a great atmosphere to settle in for a festival, and Red State got underway.
While there were a few tweaks from the Sundance cut to what I saw last night, for the most part Red State is the same film, and I enjoyed it as much the second time as I did the first (maybe even more, because I knew what was coming and could see how others handled the surprises). The crowd really enjoyed it as well, as I mentioned above. All around, the movie plays strong, I dig it… great way to start a festival.
After the flick, the Knox Krew and I made our way to the opening night party at Club 1234 (not before annoying Hobo with a Shotgun director Jason Eisener for his autograph, however; something I mused about doing on Twitter the night before). While there was going to be live entertainment in the form of DJs and a band known as the Hypnophonics, the party handled really gotten going while we were there for the first hour. Lots of hanging outside and chatting with great people like Shade Rupe, stalking Udo Kier and taking random pictures. Eventually, however, the day caught up with me and having gone without food for most of the trip to Montreal, I needed sustenance so we cut out of the opening night party for food and drink at the Irish Embassy.
More fun was had, and new friends met, while at the Irish Embassy and despite being pretty tuckered out, two hours later, we wandered back to the opening night party to see if much had changed. Outside, not really. Inside, the Hypnophonics were destroying eardrums with their punk-a-billy insanity, and I had a blast. So much so, I made sure I purchased a CD from the band after the show, even though I don’t have a CD player with me (and this netbook is sans drive). Fun for when I get home.
Some more socializing was had outside, then it was time to call it a night, which got me back to the hotel around 2:30am. Not too notable until I realized I had gotten up at 4am the day before to head out for the festival, and by the time I fell asleep I had been awake for 24 hours. Considering I had been up for a 72 hour stretch two weeks ago, this was nothing but… I hadn’t planned on pulling these types of hours for a long time after that Tweetathon. Oh well, best laid plans…
Tonight the festival doesn’t really get back underway until 7pm. Sure, there’s a BBQ going on around 4:30pm, but I’m talking about the movies. From what I can tell, this festival ramps up a little slowly before exploding in earnest tomorrow with way more screenings, panels and festival revelry. Since Fantasia goes into August, pace yourself, friends, but make the effort to check out the fest. I’m only here for the long weekend, so I’m going to miss a ton; entire fest looks loaded with quality throughout, so if you can make the journey to Montreal for some genre film fun, it’s worth it.
And now, pictures from Day One: