Some people say the "never say die" attitude is dead. I say come on down to Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas and discover how wrong you are! Faced with receiving a Japanese-language film print with no English subtitles -- and no time to get another -- most film festivals would either cancel the screening altogether or project a DVD, which looks pretty ghastly when blown up on a big screen. But not Fantastic Fest.
Yatterman, directed by prolific Japanese master filmmaker Takashi Miike, arrived on a beautiful-looking HD-CAM, complete with a special video introduction by the director for Fantastic Fest, but, sadly, without the requisite subtitles. Quickly realizing that not everyone one in the audience was fluent in Japanese, the festival folks came up with a unique plan on the fly. They would project the print on the top 4/5 of the screen, and then project the English subtitles from a DVD on the bottom 1/5 of the screen, masking off the rest of each respective image.
I know, it sounds absurd. Introducing the film, programmer Zack Carlson explained the problem and asked the audience if we would be willing to try to watch it under these circumstances. Everyone agreed -- we'd already ordered food and drinks anyway, and I, for one, figured that Miike had probably created some rich, imaginative imagery for the film, which should look great on the big screen even without subtitles. As it turns out, the unwieldy combination worked incredibly well.
Watch the trailer for Yatterman after the jump!
That indefatigable spirit is not unique to Fantastic Fest, of course, or even to Austin. But it's typical of how the fest deals with problems that arise, especially when you're dealing with dozens of films prints arriving from all corners of the globe.
Even with subtitles, Yatterman is well-nigh incomprehensible, its story strung together around the basic idea that four pieces of a sacred stone must be reunited to defeat an evil threat. It doesn't really matter; it's a delightful assault on the senses, with oversaturated primary colors popping out of every frame and an amazing variety of silly little creatures dancing through the background, foreground, and middle ground. We laughed, and giggled, and then laughed some more.
And we were happy that the folks at Fantastic Fest came up with a solution to a problem that was beyond their control, because the film had a lot of funny one-liners, none of which can be repeated here (mainly because I didn't write them down). The absurd spirit of the film fits in well here, where strangers can meet and mingle and become friends at the end of a day of screenings, and giant robots seem perfectly normal.
Check out the film's Japanese-language official site and watch the official trailer below!