Friday, 24 October 2008

Toronto After Dark 2008 - "MirageMan"

While out walking late at night, club bouncer and martial arts enthusiast Maco comes across a home invasion in progress. He knocks out one of the thieves, takes his mask and disables the rest of them, saving a number of women inside the house from further torture. One of these women is news reporter Carol Valdivieso and she creates a bit of a sensation by filing a report about her experience and the masked man who selflessly saved her. Maco's traumatized young brother responds well to the news that a hero is roaming the city, so Maco decides to continue his crime fighting ways.

Why is MirageMan, with its rather minimal plot and ultra low budget, possibly my favourite film of Toronto After Dark?

1) The fight scenes in the film are extraordinarily fun to watch. As Todd Brown from Twitch mentioned before the film, there are no wires or CGI in the entire movie - so when you see these guys beating each other up, they are really beating each other up. Huge roundhouse kicks to the head, body slamming kicks to the mid-section and all manner of hand-to-hand combat. Star Marko Zaror (who has been the stunt double for The Rock) is supremely skilled and you can believe it when he takes on an entire gang of 20 and pummels them all.

2) The spoofing of the super hero genre is absolutely dead-on, but it's also pretty gentle. The guys who made the film are obviously fans of the genre, but they certainly don't mind taking its conventions down a notch or two. For example, MirageMan discovers that creating the right outfit is time consuming (he makes lists with items like "light slippers" and "flexible pants") and that it may not lend itself to quick changes in public. And there's a wannabe sidekick who calls himself PseudoRobin that emails him constantly. There's even a few intertitles like:

Mission 1: MirageMan vs. The Gang Of Bilbao

3) The music is 70s waka-chaka waka-chaka funk-tastic! Check it out in the trailer:

The direction for such a low-budget film is very well done and incorporates a lot of the style of 70s action films by using quick zooms in and out and other techniques.

5) I love that "hands like knives" pose. Especially when he runs that way.

The darker tone of the film in the last 20 minutes or so doesn't completely work though - when your unstoppable hand-to-hand combat super hero starts using a gun, it lessens the enjoyment. However, there's an undercurrent of commentary of the state of violence found in many of the large South American cities - the home invasions, kidnappings, etc. If that shift in tone may not match up perfectly with the first hour or so of the film, it likely has a solid reason to be there. I can't say whether the filmmakers believe that vigilantism is a good thing, but if the climate in the cities is bad enough where you can envision vigilantes doing good, then perhaps there's a wider problem.

But as a shared film experience that first hour is still a terrifically fun time that garnered some of the best audience reactions of the festival.

The short film of the screening was Experimental with a capital 'E'. Called "Hydro-Levesque" (all the shorts before the features are Canadian in origin by the way - Bravo to the fest for doing that and getting wider exposure for them), it intertwines the fortunes of Quebec and Manitoba (specifically Winnipeg) with the power generation stations in the North. I was 11 around the time of some of the newsreel footage used in the film (e.g. the November 1976 provincial election victory by the separatist Parti-Quebecois), so it brought back very strong feelings - not all of them good. Say what you want about Rene Levesque though, the man could certainly convey passion. If I didn't quite get what the filmmaker was trying to do in this wildly edited short, I kinda enjoyed spending the time trying to figure it out...

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