I really dug how the first and final film I saw today had "a love story" in their titles. They couldn't be more different.
Milocrorze: A Love Story (dir. Yoshimasa Ishibashi, 2011, Japan)
Invasion of Alien Bikini (dir. Oh Young-doo, 2011, S.Korea)
Extraterrestrial (dir. Nacho Vigalondo, 2011, Spain)
What exactly is the "extraterrestrial" in Fantastic Fest darling Nacho Vigalondo's new film Extraterrestrial? Is it the dozens of several mile-wide UFOs hovering over Spain, resulting in a citywide evacuation one quiet Sunday morning? Is it Julio (the excellent Julián Villagrán), the new visitor waking in a bed that's not his, after purportedly sleeping with a woman he doesn't really know? Is it Julia (the stunning Michelle Jenner), the obvious subject of attention for Julio, next-door neighbor/weirdo Angel (Carlos Areces), and — oops! — her live-in boyfriend Carlos (Raúl Cimas)…you know, the whole "women are from Venus" angle? Despite Julio's obvious attraction to Julia — at one quietly intimate point turning the DV camera he'd had trained on a nearby UFO to instead record Julia asleep — once friendly, trusting dude Carlos arrives, it becomes clear that Julia's warmed to Julio. Vigalondo deftly portrays the intricacies and difficulties of a love triangle, or Julio loving Julia, Julia loving Julio but still with Carlos, Carlos trusting Julio and loving Julia…and Angel discovering the two J's affair and trying to alert Carlos (at one point, Angel installs himself at an adjacent balcony with a ball-machine, launching tennis balls inscribed with "JULIA FOLLA CON JULIO" into their flat). The two J's tender, growing affection, despite the possible futility of it all, is really the key here, and that big spaceship outside is more a metaphor for that mysterious thing called "love".
Sleep Tight (dir. Jaume Balaguero, 2011, Spain)
Revenge: A Love Story (dir. Ching-Po Wong, 2011, Hong Kong)
Ching-Po Wong's Revenge: A Love Story — truly an apt title — is, in my opinion, right up there with Tom Six's The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) in terms of onscreen brutality. Violent dispatches filmed from above bookend this whirlwind of decimating retribution, set off by a bunch of abusive cops. We're not allowed to breathe: Wong dives straight into the murder targets, young pregnant women, their unborn babies ripped from their wombs, hemorrhaging a slow death. The women's husbands are killed too, and they're all police officers. The cops locate the killer Kit (Juno Mak, co-writer of the film) and torture him into talking, at one point shoving a long needle into his ear. But Kit's got little to say except that the cops are trying to set him up AGAIN. Meanwhile, a young woman Wing (J-AV idol Sora Aoi, and full disclosure half my reason for attending the film) eviscerates her own womb, instilling an alibi for Kit's supposed killings. Cue the backstory: Kit the steamed dumpling seller, Wing the space-case cutie who runs away with him after he saves her from a torturous life in a squalid girls' home. Their moments of revery at a Christmas light-illuminated playground at night is fleeting, though. They crash with a neighbor, who just happens to be the madam of a prostitute ring, and when Kit leaves to open up his nearby dumpling stand, Wing receives a "guest", the chief of police. When Kit and Wing report the attempted rape to the neighborhood police, the full reveal ensues, as Kit is beaten and handcuffed to watch the officers take turns with Wing. Then the violence is pinned on him and he's sent away to prison for six months.
Damn! When he emerges, fingerprint-less (thanks to a gruesome sequence of him tearing each one off), he and a very pregnant Wing reunite, but revenge consumes him and that's what we're going to get and then some. There's an outrageous slo-mo chase sequence in a field, where a squad car does a midair flip just next to Kit as he sprints away, that must be seen to be believed, it's that awesome. But happiness on this earth isn't in store for the lovers, their blissful existence forever shattered by the very uniforms who are supposed to be protecting them. Wong's film was produced by Josie Ho and 852 Films, the same company behind Pang Ho-cheung's harrowing Dream Home. If that one was Hong Kong's best take on the slasher genre, then Revenge is its torpedo to true love.