Fantasia Film Festival 2021: Satoshi Kon, The Illusionist (2021)

Satoshi Kon, The Illusionist (2021)

Director: Pascal-Alex Vincent

A look at the life and work of Japanese animator Satoshi Kon. – IMDB

Satoshi Kon, The Illusionist is a documentary that takes a look back at Satoshi Kon’s film and TV work one by one and the influence and collaborators along the way and their impression of both his person, career and imagination. Telling the story of his beginnings and inspirations from Akira that lead him to creating manga in the start that were greatly influenced his art style to this later projects that charted a new direction for adult animation as he both directed and wrote stories that blended reality and imagination.

Made as a tenth year anniversary remembrance of Satoshi Kon’s passing in 2010, Satoshi Kon, The Illusionist is a great overview of his work and a fantastic homage to an animator that brought a different angle to Japanese animation with the stories that he told. Having only seen one film of Satoshi Kon, Paprika was my starting point which happened to be his last feature film released. However, the documentary does a great job at making sure that even those who aren’t thoroughly familiar with the filmography can still be able to be engaged as it talks about each project’s meaning to Kon and where his inspirations came but also how these films marked its place in Japanese animation, adding the intrigue to check out any missed filmography.

The documentary focuses on his career which starts off from his beginnings as a manga artist and gradually the opportunities that lead him to his first notable project, Perfect Blue which was anything from perfect when looking at the box office which incurred a loss and how the company wanted to prove others wrong and took another chance with him. Satoshi Kon’s films in discussion are rather multifaceted which on one hand discusses a societal issue, usually relevant to the Japanese population whether its idol group formations to films and actress to the underbelly population of Japan. At the same time, the main characters always held a part of himself as well while also revealing that Kon’s current projects sometimes even reflected ideas of his next project.

The execution of the documentary is pretty good. The layout of going from one project to the next and having different people involved being part of the interviews and sharing their experiences to tell their analysis or the actual progression of the projects shed a lot of light from behind the scenes. At the same time, the influence of Satoshi Kon was better emphasized as the interviewees expanded to people from the film industry outside of Japan including Darren Aronofsky who talks about how he asked Kon for permission to use one of his scenes in Requiem For A Dream and how director Rodney Rothman aspired to make Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse comparable to the experience of Kon’s films as two examples, moving to interviews from animators, voice actresses, producers, and others from USA, UK , Japan and France that crafts a good picture of Kon.

As the film ends with a quick look at what’s known about his unfinished final project, Dreaming Machine that didn’t end up being released, it further emphasizes the loss of a talent who was about to move away from his normal themes in his previous films and chart another path with his limitless imagination in family animation films. Plus, it has a final note from praise that other people in the industry interviewed throughout who either drew influence from his work or was able to work with or be acquainted with him during his career. Well-rounded, respectful and thorough: Satoshi Kon, The Illusionist is a great journey through this acclaimed Japanese animator’s career.

*Satoshi Kon, The Illusionist is available on demand on Fantasia’s virtual platform throughout the festival running from August 5th to 25th, 2021. Check out more info here.*

Opinion Battles Round 10 Best Anime

Check out Round 10 of Opinion Battles! This time we’re sharing our choice of Best Anime. It seems like Studio Ghibli’s movies are taking a lot of the spots here. My choice is My Neighbor Totoro. Head over there to see the other choices and drop a vote! 🙂

Happy Monday (or Labor Day, if it applies) everyone!

Movie Reviews 101

opinion battles

Best Animé

When it comes to animé we have had some of the most beautiful animated movies of all time, usually coming Japan we have decided to pick the our favourites from the amazing cinema that just doesn’t get the praise or chance in mainstream cinema.

So far we have only ever done Best of films but for the next Opinion battles we are going to pick Worst Sequel, if you want to take part email by 20th September 2015

Darren – Movie Reviews 101

The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)castle

I have to pick this one because even though I do feel certain films could be more complete films but this one could easily be the most fun I have had watching an animated movie. The action adventure side is so perfect for animation while the comedy is nailed down brilliantly. To further my case for this…

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Fantasia Film Festival 2014: Hal (2013) & Sonny Boy and Dewdrop Girl (short 2013)

As my friends would say, seeing anime at Fantasia is where the roots are at.  I don’t remember what the roots are of Fantasia.  In my book, if a film festival offers good movies, I don’t really care what genre we’re looking at.  Maybe thats what makes me passionate about movies and diving into that new world.  Regardless, I was intrigued by this North American premiere one in particular called Hal (Haru for the Japan title). Its a short little one hour long movie and was accompanied by a short called Sonny Boy and Dewdrop Girl to start things off.  Plus, we had the trailer/gameplay of Rainbox Six Siege which was pretty cool.  You can actually find that trailer on Youtube.

First of all, I feel like I should talk a little about the short: Sonny Boy and Dewdrop Girl.

Sonny Boy and Dewdrop Girl

This is just a cute little story about a boy who has a crush on a girl in his class and then she announces that she has to move away for whatever reason so he has to find the courage to tell her how he feels.  Its silly, fun, cute, innocent and so funny to watch.  A lot of people (if not everyone) had a good laugh with this short.  Sonny Boy was just hilarious in how clumsy he was and then the animation and imagination was totally adorable. It was a beautiful way to start off before the actual movie.

Now for a little synopsis for Hal 🙂

Hal 2013Director: Ryoutarou Makihara

Cast: Yoshimasa Hosoya, Yoko Hikasa, Mamoru Miyano

In a future world in Japan, technology has been advanced to the point where robots can behave completely like humans.  Hal’s sudden death took away Kurumi’s will to live and that is when her family sends in a robot who looks like Hal to remind her what living is.  While Hal tries to fulfill her wishes and help her step back into society as herself, he struggles to understand what it is like to be human and how to feel.

Hal is quick and to the point anime at around 60 minutes.  I haven’t dived into the world of anime in a long time and other than Miyazaki’s world, I’m pretty much new to this side of it.  Whether its original or not, I don’t know.  However, this love story between Hal and Kurumi and just how she rehabilitates after the loss of Hal is a touching one.  For one, its definitely not easy to watch and actually leans on the heavy side.  There are some heartwarming moments and some funny ones because not only is Kurumi’s actions awkward at times, Hal is a robot and he also has his funny moments when he learns the little things that humans only learn over time.  Everything is new to him and he has to learn to live also.

Hal 2013

Hal is quite interesting and it all comes down to whether you like how they end this.  There is a twist in this one and I think the appreciation for it comes down to how predictable you felt it was.  I personally was shocked by it and actually thought it was pretty clever.  Along with the fact that everything is very nicely animated and there is a cute meaning behind it, I had a good time watching this.  A girl two seats down from me was bawling her eyes out because she was so touched but no, I didn’t hit that territory.  I felt like the premise was good and they had a good layout but somehow the execution could have been a little bit better.  Maybe its because it was so short that I didn’t get time to really connect with any of the characters and then it ended. I haven’t really pinpointed it yet.

Don’t get me wrong though. I’d definitely watch this again some time but it does lean on the heavy side with themes of life and death being in the front seat. Despite my little complaints, I really don’t see a lot of problems with this.  The characters are done well and it keeps us guessing because if you saw the trailer, it pretty much points to the question of whether Hal was really such a great guy.  I won’t say more because then its going to hit spoiler territory and I want to avoid that.

I have no recommendations but at such a short runtime, I’d say that Hal is worth it.  Maybe it’ll tug at your heartstrings a little more than me but it did have some touching moments along with a handful of awkward and funny ones.  All in all, its a good movie experience and the background music is pretty sweet also.  Plus, I put the end theme song up there and I like it a lot! Its no Hayao Miyazaki story or Joe Hisaishi music but I’d say it still has its charm.

Are you an anime fan? Have you seen or heard of it?