Powerful filmmaking is all about reaching people emotionally. Two films at this year’s Fantastic Fest provided harrowing emotional journeys. by Edgar Wright Last night in Soho and Gabriele Mainetti Panic transcend the “genre film” label. They are both amazing on many levels.
Fantastic Fest, the nation’s largest genre film festival, showcases horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action, and unusual films that don’t necessarily fit one genre. The 2021 edition screened primarily at the famed Alamo Drafthouse Theater in Austin – South Lamar.
Surprise, it’s Edgar
Film festivals often schedule “secret screenings”. These, of course, only stay secret until people can access Twitter, but you never know what you’ll see when you take your seat. Fantastic Fest pranked the audience for this secret and displayed a slide on screen showing a Chill Madness style poster for a black and white expose on prostitution in London, announcing that Edgar Wright had done a frame-by-frame restoration of this ‘classic’.
I considered sneaking in, but they went straight ahead and said we’d really see Edgar Wright’s. Last night in Soho. It was closed. As a director and screenwriter, Wright has an impressive list of cinematic accomplishments, including baby driver, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, The ant Manand Shaun of the Dead.
He was there to talk about the movie.
Last night in Soho stars Thomasin McKenzie (JoJo Rabbit), Anya Taylor Joy (The Queen’s Bet) and Diana Rigg (The Avengers, game of thrones).
McKenzie plays Eloise, a young girl who wants to become a fashion designer. Eloise moves to London to go to school. She meets some mean girls at the dorm and to escape them, she rents a room in Soho. Her landlady, embodied by Rigg with charming tenacity, has secrets that will trap Eloise.
Eloise soon begins to encounter supernatural forces that repeatedly transport her to 1960s Soho. There, she encounters strange men and observes Sandy, an aspiring nightclub singer played by Taylor-Joy. Identities, self-esteem and reality then come into flux.
Like many young men of my generation, I fell in love with Diana Rigg’s character, Emma Peele, in The Avengers. Wright, although much younger, admitted to sharing this infatuation. He talked about how honored he felt to have been able to work with Rigg in what turned out to be his final performance. He expressed his admiration for her spirit and professionalism during the production.
McKenzie, who might be this generation’s queen of craze, creates a character you care about and whose chilling ordeal will live on in your memory. Last night in Soho will both scare you and touch your heart.
Last night in Soho hits theaters (no streaming) on October 20. You can watch the trailer below.
by Gabriele Mainetti Panic takes viewers further back in time – to the 1940s. In Rome, a group of four circus performers, each with unusual talent, face isolation when war hits their circus.
The manager of this group, Israel, goes in search of a way for them to escape to America. With Israel gone, the personalities and demands of a wartime environment drive the four into distraction and life-threatening situations. When Israel does not return as expected, they come to its rescue.
The desire to save Israel is driven by Matilde, the only woman in the group, played by Aurora Giovinazzo. For her, Israel is like a father. They continue, but fall into a trap set by an SS soldier, also gifted with supernatural powers, who chases them away. Along the way, they encounter Italian anti-fascist guerrillas and death camp trains.
The twist that makes it more than a war movie involves each character’s special talents that put them on a freak show to begin with. The four of them are each vulnerable and good at heart in their own way. Under pressure, their talents begin to develop. Instead of facing the public, they face bombs and Nazi soldiers. Monsters become superheroes.
Two of the scenes, which I won’t spoil, have intense emotional power.
One involves military action. We’ve all seen many war movies, but the contrast between the before and after of this attack is stark. I don’t remember ever seeing anything like this.
The second scene involves a moment when Matilde confesses something about her superpower. At this point in the film, we are totally on his side. His confessions are unpredictable and heartbreaking.
Panic was on the European festival circuit where he won nine prizes including, at the Venice Film Festival, Best New Young Actress for Giovinazzo.
For updates on future Fantastic Fest events and ways to watch its films, check out its website.
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