Fantasia 2014: Cold in July, The Infinite Man, Predestination & The Creeping Garden

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Cold in July

While I’d have been more than happy with Matthew C. Hall in a mullet, Sam Shephard being a lethal but loveable old dog, and Don Johnson reliving Vice-era novelties with a car phone the size of an attaché case and a red convertible the size of a tugboat, there’s a lot more to Cold in July than that.

Set in 1989 Texas, this Jim Mickle picture nimbly skirts a number of lines. It’s ghoulish, funny and, for lack of a better term, literary. For instance, it punctuates the shock of murder with a couch purchase and “I thought we’d agreed on floral patterns.” It buttons a contemplation of impending mass murder with Shephard’s character snapping “Get that gun out of my ear!”

Cold in July is an instance when compound talent has managed to deliver. The direction, screenplay, the stellar trio of actors at work and the noir magic of veteran genre and comics writer Joe R. Lansdale’s original novel all make their mark here. It makes for one of the most self-aware thrillers in a while, and it plain works, continually tussling between light and dark.

The Infinite Man

Remember that time you screwed up that one relationship so very bad? Well, The Infinite Man is the solution to that screw up, if you were an awkward-as-hell dork with the sweetness of a three-legged pup, an urge to overcompensate and control, and a TIME TRAVEL MACHINE.

Set at a deserted hotel in an Australian sand-scape, this impressive little film is both ruthlessly nipped and tucked and a ton of unbridled fun. Between Josh McConville as Hugh, Hannah Marshall as Lana, and Alex Dimitriades as the asshole ex with a javelin, it is overflowing with doubles plotting around each other and trying out a myriad of shoulda/coulda/woulda schemes. And just thinking about keeping the editing together as well as it was cut is enough to make my eyes bleed.

Director Hugh Sullivan makes it look deceptively easy, and delivers one of the smoothest time-travel rides encoutered since Back to the Future. I figure he has control issues, too, and they pay off on the screen.

THE INFINITE MAN Trailer from The Infinite Man on Vimeo.

Predestination

First thing that comes to mind when I think of the Spierig Brothers is how horrible Daybreakers was. All evidence pointed to them being expert stylists and otherwise null and void. But with Predetermination, the Brothers’ third feature, I get a feeling they’re gaining a grasp on, you know, narrative.

Still slick and spiffed as ever, but now way more lyrical than previously imaginable, this Spierig time-travel thriller had just enough variables to keep you engrossed, and enough textual heft to keep you interested once you’d figured it out. Doesn’t quite follow fellow Aussie production The Infinite Man, but as a different, much more action-driven piece, it carries its own slickness rather well and delivers swimmingly on the critical dramatic mass.

I could have done without the predictable action faux-pas, not to mention the transgendered character that didn’t want a sex change (what a way to present an underrepresented community . . . ), but it’s hard to find a deal-breaker with Predetermination. It’s an epic, really, complete with significant lushness and a patient puzzle that will suffice. Even Ethan Hawke doesn’t make himself unbearable, which is a directorial feat in itself. One thumb up!

The Creeping Garden

the creeping garden

This documentary isn’t even on IMDB (yet) and is likely the best you’ll see this year if you manage to see it. Out of post and flown to Montreal less than a week before it world-premiered at Fantasia, Jasper Sharp and Tim Grabham have been working on The Creeping Garden for three years. What starts as a documentary about slime mould ends up a film essay about the assignation of meaning an understudied, fascinating, reductive and mysterious life form has attracted.

Whether they be amateur naturalists, scientists, bio artists, time-lapse historians or computer engineers, everyone in The Creeping Garden has an expansive interpretation of what the life form means, and what it might mean going forward. Punctuated by a Jim O’Rourke score, a gorgeously careful film—this thing is beyond fascinating. A must-see.

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