Fantasia Festival 2017: A Taxi Driver (2017)

A Taxi Driver (2017)

Director: Hoon Jang

Cast: Kang-ho Song, Thomas Kretschmann, Hai-jin Yoo, Jun-yeol Ryu

A Taxi Driver is Korean drama that is based on a true story. It becomes apparent at the end that parts of it particularly related to the said taxi driver especially beginning and ending may be fictionalized mostly because this unnamed brave soul deserved the recognition and yet has never been found since the event. Before we jump too far in, A Taxi Driver is the retelling of how a taxi driver down on his luck decided to take a job to drive a German reporter to Gwangju in 1980 without realizing what was actually happening. The German reporter Jurgen Hinzpeter is an actual person and does have a recording of a clip here made in 2015 before he passed away in 2016 thanking his brave friend who he never got to meet again because he had given a fake name and phone number. This story is a retelling of his story. The best comparison of A Taxi Driver would be to Argo except this is a story about men walking into Gwangju as outsiders and leaving as insiders.

A Taxi Driver starts off in the most lighthearted fashion as we watch this taxi driver drive down the road happily singing along to a song. He makes judgmental comments about university student protesters blocking the road and causing the decrease in clients. Its pretty much an everyday feeling of seeing this man. In fact, it is done so well that it feels like we can connect with his character immediately. Whatever the first half an hour of the film felt like would not prepare you for the rest of it. There is no doubt that the tone gets much more serious as expected with the material and incredibly dramatic but all done effectively. Many will know Kang-ho Song from Korean monster movie, The Host however, its been over a decade and his acting has elevated into this emotional performance as taxi driver, Sa-bok Kim.

The director and the script both hit exactly the right tones. A Taxi Driver is a longer film however, there is only a few moments where we will notice a little drag. This film is about the uprising and seeing how the media released under government and what really happened had a huge discrepancy. The events are ruthless and this movie captures those heartless and confused, not to mention angry and frustrated moments very well as while this is set in a political background, the uprising itself is really talked about in broad strokes but rather focuses on the civilians and these two men who eventually bond together despite their backgrounds to take this hidden story to tell the world. Dramatization in slow motion was also used in parts to accentuate. A Taxi Driver turns into a heavy movie very quickly. It is also a tense experience as we follow these two men escape. However, the script and director adds in car chases to make it more gripping also.

As mentioned before, Kang-ho Song delivered an outstanding performance. However, we have to also acknowledge the great performances by Thomas Kretschmann as Jurgen Hinzpeter. Their parts together truly make this film have their moments as they both struggle to communicate due to language barrier and we see their communication and views align and they understand each other more. The performances overall were truly outstanding and the younger cast, Jun-yeol Ryu takes on a university protester also takes on a supporting role that truly connects as well.

A Taxi Driver is a fantastic movie filled with great performances and the retells a tense, gripping and emotional time in Korea when they struggled for their nation’s democracy.

Fantasia Festival 2017: Origami (2017)

Origami (2017)

Origami

Director: Patrick Demers

Cast: Francois Demers, Milton Tanaka, Normand D’Amour, Alexa-Jeanne Dubé

During one of his many Asian adventures, David, a visual artist who specializes in Japanese art, encounters a mysterious man who makes him discover his latent gift for time travel. – Fantasia Festival

As an extension of the Fantasia event, Les Fantastiques Week-ends du Cinéma Québecois comes the world premiere of Origami by French-Canadian director, Patrick Demers. Before the movie starts, Demers who is present advises the crowd that the least we know about the film the better. He hopes that the audience will fall into the main character’s shoes and wishes everyone happy travels. Upon finishing Origami, we definitely feel the same way hence, we will not only avoid all spoilers but this review will be completely on various technical aspects and stay far away from the story itself. The only thing in regards of the story is that Origami is an absolute treat as both a time travel movie and a dramatic thriller.  The story is intriguing.  It will make the audience ask question after question as we willingly and patiently wait for the answers at the end, without knowing if there really will be one. The best of movies will still motivate you to try to figure it out while waiting, letting the story take us on their journey and Origami achieves that.

Right from the start of Origami, the sound design and atmosphere is already set for a world full of mystery. The tones and the lights are done well. It uses its cinematography cleverly of both capturing an entire scene and zooming in to capture emotion. The score itself is subtle in parts, dropping out in important parts to create the right mood while in other parts, looming and building in the background. The sound also is what creates the time travel transition as well as the visual of it all. What time travel movies mostly have issues with is how to set a believable time travel concept that works. Origami keeps what we know, reinforces that by adding in a simple description and lets us learn about time travel as its main character, David (Francois Arnaud) explores it as well.

While Origami has various characters, it is very much a one man talent show for Francois Arnaud, who plays the main character, David Marceau. A quick look at Francois Arnaud’s filmography and you can spot some familiar titles from TV series Borgias and Blindspot. A key element of this sci-fi thriller goes into finding a great balance of how to present this character and in short, he nails it. He creates the right emotions and feels human. We learn about him during the movie, just enough to connect with the character. Here is where we talk about the other characters’ being one dimensional. They only are there to serve a particular purpose, be it to explain time travel to David or being a parent role, for quick examples. This is where Origami falls short as some scenes automatically become dispensable and even pointless, creating a slight drag, making the parts with David the only ones that cause intrigue and mystery.

Origami is not perfect but it is a rare appearance in the French-Canadian landscape as it dives into the sci-fi territory exploring the realms of time travel. Francois Arnaud delivers a strong performance and the story makes us question and piece together the plot along the way to keep it intriguing. It pulls a few stops that achieved its purpose. While the plot drags a little in the centre stemming from characters that aren’t fleshed out enough, the main character’s journey is still well worth a visit.

**A note here that I am very easily convinced with time travel movies. This one has been one of the few movies to surprise me in the near future with its plot reveals so I’m incredibly happy to have seen it. While there are French-Canadian movies that I enjoy, they have a very dreary air over them, usually taking the most grim takes on events. While this one tiptoes a little in that area, it manages for the most part to create something a little different. For its all its efforts, I appreciated and enjoyed it.**