J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Fantasia ’17: Highheels (short)

It sounds like a Cosmo punchline, but it is acutely human. For millennia, mankind has only survived as remnants within androids. Yet, by the year 4015 that little piece of humanity has started to covet luxuries again. Designer shoes are in particular demand among fashion-conscious androids, but Kai is one of the few artisans capable of crafting something worth obsessing over. Her perfectionism also manifests itself through obsessive behavior in Inchul Lee’s darkly beautiful science fiction short film, Highheels (trailer here), which screens during the 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Highheels must be the most fashionably fabbest science fiction since Luc Besson and Jean Paul Gaultier collaborated on The Fifth Element. For proof, check out the ensembles donned by Blue, Yellow, and Red, three customers of Kai’s retro-retro showroom (you should be able to tell which is which). When Blue commissions Kai to make a custom-made shoe, the android-shoemaker produces something so elegant, it catches the eyes of both Yellow and Red. Of course, Kai will keep faith with her original customer, so she’d better appreciate it.

This is a terrific speculative short that takes a rather dark turn, but that is what you get when human nature reasserts itself. Frankly, this would have been a great selection for MoMA’s current Future Imperfect series, because it is very definitely an example of science fiction exploring the question of what it means to be human. Plus, it has the star-power of Rinko Kikuchi, who amazes as the increasingly driven (and perhaps consequently human) Kai.

Highheels also looks incredible thanks to Remi Yanai’s eye-popping, runway-worthy costumes and producer Mutsumi Lee’s carefully crafted art direction. This is a triumph of mise-en-scene that might be described as Fifth Element with dashes of Bladerunner and Black Swan, but the action is entirely confined to the carefully controlled environment of Kai’s boutique.

Very highly recommended, Highheels screens today (7/30), as part of the Fragments of Asia shorts block at this year’s Fantasia. There are several great shorts in that block, but Chai Siris’s 500,000 Years is somewhat disappointing. The hybrid-documentary shows an itinerant projectionist showing a lurid 1970s Thai horror film at a forgotten shrine, but it really just makes us want to watch the film they are screening instead. However, Highheels and Matasaburo of the Wind make Fragments a can’t-miss ticket.

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