Monday, January 8, 2024

PSIFF 2024 Reviews: Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person & Shame on Dry Land

 By Jonathan Bilski
I have two reviews in this post from the 2024 Palm Springs International Film Festival, going on now. Some quick praise and some notes on how the festival could be better.
First off, wanted to thank the volunteer staff, everything moved very swiftly through the nights proceedings when seeing both films.

A few errors that I have to bring to the attention to the Film Festival staff:
-Not scheduling blocks of themed movies by genre or country was a bit of a mistake. I'm not going to be able to see many new South Korean films I was looking forward to and certain genre films because they are at different times and locations and don't lead into another. Don't get me started on anything at 10am on a weekday for an average person to see.

-There's older South Korean films at the festival and other movies that staff selected from the 1990's as part of a retro look back. There's no problem with this, except no indication on those individual movie pages online. The only reason I know, is I happened to read an article about it in the Coachella Valley Independent. There is a suggestion page with that info, but individual online pages don't say, "Hey, this is part of the retro collection." That needs to be plastered somewhere on each movies page. Liked seeing Q&A's on individual pages. It would be nice to see if films were part of collections though.

Let's get into the films themselves.
Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person

"Aren’t those the most adorable vampires you’ve ever seen?," was what a PSIFF staff member asked the audience as director Ariane Louis-Seize came up for a Q&A after her film. Ending that session with her fears of death-such a happy note-you could tell how she was perfect for taking a bite out of the vampire rom-com genre.

Just with the name alone you'll be entranced by her film. Pulled off by the wonderful actors Sara Montpetit as Sasha, the biter and Félix-Antoine Bénard as Paul, the bite-e. This is a coming-of-age story of a vampire, love, death and bullying by nacho cheese.

Ariane Louis-Seize's has us follow Sasha as a young vampire not able to live up to her blood hunting family after one birthday clown gets eaten. Sasha suffers from empathy and her family can no longer handle feeding her. The way this is shown to us through a vampire dentist and doctor is just too funny.

Now a teenager, relative in vampire terms, she's actually in her 60's, her parents are fighting over what do with her and forcing her to hunt. At the same time Sasha notices a young man, Paul. After an incident, while seeing him contemplating suicide, on an nearby roof, she changes physically with fangs and certain pangs.

We see Paul's very sad high school life where bullying by nacho cheese is so standard he is nicknamed "nacho man." And, at the same time we see Sasha unable to kill for her food and now forced to live with her older female cousin as push  to kill for her food.

Sasha and Paul come together through a suicides anonymous meeting, once again showing how fate seems to be pushing them together. Paul is ready to die to feed Sasha, but hesitation puts on screen what one might consider an awkward first date/first time.

Instead of Paul's demise by vampire we follow Sasha and Paul getting Paul's last wish, standing up to his bullies. And, so deeper to we go into an a-typical love story as the two do this together.

This vampire story was so good I feel the characters could be part of the What We Do Shadows movies/TV series. No way a zany as everything is delivered in those properties, as it's so dead-pan. It's very reminiscent of Tim Burton before his CGI addiction in the vein of Edward Scissorhands.

Sara Montpetit as Sasha captures you to the screen with her long hair, pail skin and adorable sucking of blood packs like Caprisuns. There's an amazing scene of her sharing her favorite song with Paul and singing along that could be considered more memorable than anyone getting eaten in the film and possibly someone's favorite moment from a rom-com.

That's what so good about the film, it blends vampire and horror with a teenage rom-com so well.

During the Q & A, hearing the director explain how the two leads were crying thinking they didn't get their roles, shows how humble they are as they both went up to bat and knocked it out of the park. (Terrible bat pun, I know.)

My other favorite bit from the Q & A was the hardship of only filming at night as the director is a morning person. She said its ruined her.

You can see the film later this March in theaters.

Shame on Dry Land
Who doesn't want to feel very good and bad about themselves? I do, me! Me! Don't empathize with Joel Spira's Dimman character then in director Axel Petersén's Shame on Dry Land. A depressing, twisty, neo-noir film set in Malta within the Swedish population inhabiting the area. What follows is a down-and-out tech bro, Dimman trying to get forgiveness from his best friend Christopher Wagelin as Fredrik as he's about to be married. What follows is seeing Joel Spira's Dimman twist and turn as he tries to reconnect with his former best friend days before his wedding and spy on a great creep performance by Michal Axel Piotrowski playing a weirdo named Krumm.

It is hard to see how low Dimman has sunk and at the same time you're following him as he's pulled into a strange mystery over money and some online gambling in an attempt at some sort of redemption or maybe just trying to ease his way back into the graces of his best friend. A hard film to watch, but for those into the genre of neo-noir or just wanting some great performances, a good watch.
*Did not expect that song at the wedding and it's not what you think.