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By Film Threat Staff | July 8, 2004

The eighth edition of The Fantasia Ubisoft Festival, North America’s premier genre film festival, opens today, July 8th, with “Wonderful Days”, a groundbreaking new Korean film. Budgeted at $10 million, “Wonderful Days” is a blending of CGI, cel animation, miniatures and live footage. The film aims to do for Korean animation what the massive hit Shiri did for Korean action blockbusters. Director Moon-Saeng Kim has found a distinct voice and look that’s unlike Japanese or American animation and he has applied it to a sci-fi eco-thriller that harbors a tragic love story at its core.

The other opening night film, Ju-on, a crowd-pleasing international horror phenomenon in the tradition of “The Ring”. This spooky little ghost story has been scaring audiences all over the world and now it’s Montreal’s turn.

Many other significant films will be shown during the first week of Fantasia’s 25 day extravaganza. Among these titles, the following are particularly noteworthy:

Azumi (Japan), directed by Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus). Wounded and vibrating with life, AZUMI brings the samurai picture into the present. It’s an ugly antidote to the glossy samurai revival currently underway in Japanese cinema. From his first independent features, Ryuhei Kitamura has quickly progressed to cult status with films that usually feature gangsters, zombies, and enormous samurai swords.

Blessing Bell (Japan), directed by Sabu (“Drive”). With this surprising film, largely free of dialogue, Sabu continues the arc from his last film, Drive. His sensibility is less youthful and hip than before but Blessing Bell is anchored by an impressive, unexpected humanity.

Doppelganger (Japan), directed Kiyoshi Kurosawa (“Cure”, “Pulse”). The Canadian première of rising art-house horror auteur, Kurosawa, who made his mark with the highbrow horror films “Cure”, “Pulse” and “Charisma”. In Doppelganger, he eschews experimentation and embraces a trashy split personality, ingeniously employing and re-defining split screen techniques.

Gate to Heaven (Germany), directed by Veit Helmer (“Tuvalu”). For the Canadian première of this highly anticipated follow-up to the internationally adored “Tuvalu”, Veit Helmer has come through with an operatically charming oddity that is essentially a German Bollywood film.

Ginger Snaps : The Beginning (Canada), directed by Grant Harvey. This is the world premiere of the third installment (actually a prequel) in this popular Canadian horror series. Special guests Paula Devonshire (producer) and Emily Perkins (star) will be present for the event.

Godzilla (Japan, 1954), directed by Ishiro Honda. Enjoy the artistry of Ishiro Honda’s taut, documentary-like direction, his powerful anti-war themes, and top-rate performances for the first time, as Godzilla is shown in its original, un-edited form. The film also combines Eiji Tsuburaya’s innovative special effects and Akira Ifukube’s chilling musical score to create one of Japanese cinema’s greatest achievements.

Gozu (Japan), directed by Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer). This “yakuza horror film” was presented at Cannes 2003 during the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs. Even by Miike standards, “Gozu” is an extreme piece of work, arguably Miike’s most extreme work to date.

Haute Tension (France), directed by Alexandre Aja (“Furia”). This film has spent the past ten months punching holes through cinema walls across the world, amassing a reputation as fierce as the unstoppable killer at its core. It won’t be opening in North America until early 2005 so be sure to catch this early Montreal Premiere.

Last Life in the Universe (Thailand), directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang (“Fun Bar Karaoke”). This is the highly anticipated Canadian premiere of this award-winning Thai film. Distinguished by the mood-enhancing photography of Wong-Kar Wai cinematographer Christopher Doyle, “Last Life in the Universe” is a visually stunning, unpredictable, and original piece of work.

Natural City (South Korea), directed by Byung-chun Min (“Phantom”). The Korean film industry has been trying to make a great sci-fi movie for years and “Natural City” is the latest in a string of beautifully made, big budget Korean sci-fi flicks. Taking cues from “Blade Runner”, it’s not a copycat but a twisty riff on that film’s futuristic themes.

One Point 0 (USA), directed by Jeff Renfroe and Marteinn Thorsson. The Canadian premiere of this truly original, American science fiction film. Star Udo Kier will be a special guest for this screening.

Sword in the Moon (South Korea), directed by Ui-seok Ki (Holiday in Seoul). Choreographed by Korea’s action maestro, Weon Jin, and Hong Kong’s Yuen Bin, this is an impressive 17th century epic.

For more info, visit the FantAsia website.

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