Several years ago, "Antichrist" went from being the scandale au festival at Cannes to the breakout hit at Fantastic Fest, which spawned the popularity of the now-famous "Chaos reigns!" catchphrase. This year, another Cannes title that may not have seemed like the prototypical Fantastic Fest selection made its way into the lineup: The Cannes-acclaimed "Force Majeure" — Sweden's Oscar submission — which involves the experiences of a family on a ski trip in the wake of a near-death experience that tests their bonds. Far from a typical genre entry, the movie nevertheless played quite well, proving that Fantastic Fest audiences will watch and appreciate good movies irrespective of whether they fit the particular slant of the lineup.
That was also the case for "Man From Reno," Dave Boyle's classy mystery-thriller that previously won acclaim at the Los Angeles Film Festival over the summer. Featuring the great under-appreciated character actor Pepe Serna (a spry 70-year-old who actually won the festival's "Nerd Rap" competition over the weekend) and Takashi Miike regular Kazuki Kitamura, the subtle noir tale unfolds across the backdrop of San Francisco, where a crime novelist (Kitamura) and a trenchant sheriff (Serna) attempt to track down the antics of a mystery drifter. The twisty narrative foregrounds its actor's textured performances and an endearing atmosphere riddled with ambiguity, resulting in a cryptic experience about the nature of obsession pitched somewhere between Raymond Chandler novels and David Fincher's "Zodiac." Its subtle, patient quality may have prevented "Man From Reno" from finding U.S. distribution yet, but buyers should consider trusting audiences' enthusiasm for intelligent storytelling and taking the risk. Fantastic Fest viewers certainly thought it was worth it.