25th Fantasia International Film Festival: ‘Strawberry Mansion,’ ‘It’s A Summer Film!’

by Rachel Bellwoar

Strawberry Mansion

Written and Directed by Albert Birney and Kentucker Audley

Very few things in life are free, but that doesn’t make the prospect of a world where dreams would cost money any less obscene. It’s a future that Audley and Birney see coming in their film, Strawberry Mansion, which takes place fourteen years from now. On the surface, it’s not a bad future to look at. Especially compared to the post-apocalyptic visions that a lot of movies are presenting right now, a world where people drive classic cars and live in isolated, hot pink houses doesn’t sound unbearable, but then the film explains what James (Audley) does for a living. He’s a tax auditor, except instead of going over people’s finances he goes over people’s dreams, to figure out what they owe the government. It’s why everyone’s dreams are recorded – so they can be charged based on what they dream about.

Bella (Penny Fuller) never switched over to recording her dreams digitally, so James has a lot of VHS tapes to watch, but along the way he starts falling in love with young Bella (Grace Glowicki), even though she is literally a dream girlfriend.

Strawberry Mansion is far from the first movie to use the manic pixie girlfriend trope, but I wish the film spent as much time in the real world as it does in Bella’s fantasies. Maybe then it would’ve had trouble trying to launch a romance, but at least Fuller would’ve been able to steal more scenes as the dotty but impish Bella.

Strawberry Mansion makes its Canadian premiere at Fantasia Fest.

It’s A Summer Film!

Directed by Soushi Matsumoto

Written by Soushi Matsumoto and Naoyuki Miura

Unable to muster much enthusiasm for the rom-com her school’s film club has decided to back this year, Barefoot’s dreams of directing a teen samurai film seem doomed to fall to the wayside. Her friends, Kickboard (Yuumi Kawai) and Blue Hawaii (Kilala Inori), don’t think she should give up so easily, though. With a script already written, all Barefoot (Marika Ito) needs is a budget and a male lead, but no one at school seems up to the task. No one, that is, until Barefoot spots the perfect guy at a samurai film festival. She just has to catch him first.

So Barefoot literally runs after Rintaro (Daichi Kaneko) and what follows is an amazing, feel-good movie that isn’t afraid to add the occasional heightened flourish. Would Barefoot have tied Rintaro to a chair to get him to accept the part? Probably not, but Matsumoto isn’t afraid of exaggeration (or, as it turns out, sci-fi, in a delightful twist).

Filled with references to samurai movies that fans will enjoy recognizing, It’s A Summer Film! is the first must-see film of the fest. The best part, though, is how the film avoids the usual conflicts. Normally in movies, Barefoot and her friends would start fighting or Barefoot and Karin (Mahiru Coda) would start trying to sabotage each other’s film shoots, but in It’s A Summer Film! the conflict comes from the enormous effort it takes to make a movie. With fury and passion, Ito is incredible as Director Barefoot and I’d love to see the film get a streaming premiere on the Criterion Channel, alongside all of the samurai classics Barefoot adores.

It’s A Summer Film! makes its North American premiere at Fantasia Fest.

The 25th Fantasia International Film Festival runs from August 5th to August 25th. Click here for the full program.