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‘The Fantasist’ Is a Fascinating-Ish Follow-Up to Robin Hardy’s ‘The Wicker Man’

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The Fantasist

Welcome to The Prime Sublime, a weekly column devoted to the underseen and underloved movies buried beneath web page after web page of way more in style fare on Amazon’s Prime Video assortment. We’re not simply cherry-picking obscure titles, although, as these are films that we discover lovely in their very own, usually distinctive methods. You may even say we predict they’re elegant…

“Sublime /səˈblīm/: of such excellence, grandeur, or magnificence as to encourage nice admiration or awe”

The idea of the sophomore droop is one thing most related to artists — filmmakers, singers, writers — who’ve adopted up an acclaimed debut with one thing far much less stellar. Robin Hardy‘s debut, The Wicker Man (1973), had a bumpy premiere however shortly discovered its footing as a people horror masterpiece and cult favourite amongst style followers with a style for merciless, atmospheric sluggish burns, and it’s a fixture now on lists of the perfect horror movies from the 20th century. Hardy’s follow-up, although, wouldn’t see the sunshine for an additional 13 years. The Fantasist got here and went in 1986 with nobody the wiser, however whereas it may possibly’t contact its predecessor on even a single entrance it stays a memorably bizarre creation all the identical.

What’s it about?

“I’m the one who’s speculated to do the heavy respiratory, Cathy,” says the elegant caller because the exhausted younger lady solutions her cellphone. She’s used to those calls and no fan, however so far as nameless, stalkerish cellphone calls go this man sounds pretty well mannered and erudite. He nonetheless breaks into her flat, strips her nude, and stabs her to demise, although. The homicide stuns Dublin, nevertheless it’s not sufficient to cease younger Patricia (Moira Sinise) from leaving the nation behind for a educating job within the massive metropolis within the hopes of increasing her horizons. She quickly finds herself entangled with a trio of oddball males as she explores her romantic choices, however may certainly one of them be the killer? Probably.

Patricia’s no shy, virginal wallflower, although, and she or he’s simply as prone to slam a beer with the boys as she is to flash her underwear to a sleazy American (Timothy Bottoms) after she overhears him making a unclean cellphone name. Danny’s knife assortment is equally suspicious, however may a author attempting to pitch a narrative to The New Yorker truly be a assassin? Maybe. Then there’s Inspector McMyler (Christopher Cazenove) whose breath smells of basil and whose limp suggests a person who’s identified ache. Weird sufficient to be a madman? Possibly. And let’s not neglect her fellow instructor, Robert (John Kavanaugh), who desires to impregnate a specific lady and palms out balloons just like one discovered at the latest homicide scene. Off-putting alongside the traces of a killer? Could be. Or possibly, and bear with me right here, possibly Patricia herself is the one stabbing girls within the again!

Look, something’s doable in Ireland.

What makes it elegant?

The Fantasist is a component giallo, half character comedy, and half coming of age film as a younger lady finds her means in the actual world. Does all of it work? That’s going to be as much as you to resolve, however for my cash even a flawed try at attempting one thing totally different can usually be extra attention-grabbing than one thing that’s profitable at being extra of the identical. Hardy, who writes and directs right here, might not have been totally conscious of what he was aiming for tonally, however when you’ve seen any of his three movies it’s equally doable this result’s precisely what he meant.

Patricia is the movie’s focus, each as a result of she’s the lead and since it’s her journey that viewers are following together with, and Hardy’s objective appears to incorporate making her a completely fashioned character. We see her household struggles as an uncle falls into the bottle when she leaves for town, we watch her makes an attempt at participating with males round her, and we observe her efforts to navigate a world the place her subsequent date may finish with a pointy knife in her naked again.

There are a handful of killings right here, however Hardy by no means focuses on blood or gore and as a substitute appears extra involved in different characters’ responses to the murders. Patricia is understandably disturbed, particularly as she discovers one of many victims, however she’s additionally direct about confronting males who get out of line. She shuts them down with a easy mixture of grace and anger, however that stated, she’s additionally clearly up for somewhat playing around with these sketchy characters too. One tells her to strip to her knickers so he can exhibit his expertise with a dowsing rod — sure, after all it’s the American — and she or he’s not having it. Later, when she involves consider she’s within the presence of the killer, she makes use of her female wiles to blindside him with intercourse permitting her to get away after. It’s atypical and arguably progressive, nevertheless it additionally marks her as a contemporary character in a sub-genre highlighted by virgins and ass-kickers.

The movie does an attention-grabbing job with its pink herrings making it wholly plausible that any of those guys might be the killer, and to that finish it’s saying one thing as a lot about males normally as this man particularly. Patricia’s uncle falls aside as a result of she leaves, one other will get offended by her resistance to his “charms,” and one more makes an attempt to say one thing of an possession over her magnificence — and she or he’s not having any of it.

There are laughs all through, however two of the most important happen within the third act. First, after convincing — ie threatening — a lady into stripping bare and mendacity on his sofa, the killer’s rambling reaches the purpose the place he voices concern for her pores and skin rising too chilly. So, just like the gentleman that he’s, he proceeds to play bongos on her butt cheeks. And the scene… goes on… perpetually. The lady strikes from scared to confused to decided over the course of what appears like a number of minutes, and it appears unlikely that Hardy didn’t envision audiences laughing on the absurdity. The second lands within the movie’s remaining moments and options essentially the most hilarious rendition of “man overboard” that you just’ve ever heard. It’s ridiculous, however whilst you’re smiling Hardy throws one final beat at viewers that depart them rethinking most of what they’ve simply watched.

And in conclusion…

As was the case when The Fantasist first launched again in 1986, its tonal ambiguity will nonetheless depart most viewers chilly. The opening kill is tense and disturbing, however later character interactions really feel playful resulting in a finale that delivers each fun and a notice of uncertainty. It’s an odd movie, nevertheless it works if you will get on its barely skewed wavelength as an offbeat thriller extra involved in character selections than the anticipated thrills, and it’s effectively value trying out for followers of Irish shenanigans.

Want extra elegant Prime finds? Of course you do.

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