Sunday, August 15, 2021

Fantasia ’21: Night Bus (short)

This will be the last bus of the night. Its route runs from the end of the line to the end of someone’s life. It will be a bumpy ride, but don’t buckle up, because some of the other passengers are suspect. Beware of the monkeys too in Joe Hsieh’s remarkable Taiwanese animated short Night Bus, included in the Things that Go Bump in the East shorts block, which screens as an on-demand selection of the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival.

It is late, so there are few passengers on the provincial bus headed back to the big city. The two laborers are used to traveling this way. The rich elderly lady is not, but since luxury car boke down, she is forced to make do. The pregnant woman and her husband also look like they are accustomed to better traveling accommodations, but here they are. They also do not appear to be very affectionate with each other. Everyone’s fate will become with that of another solitary traveler inside the bus and a mother monkey with her baby on the outside.

Night Bus
is one of the best film noirs, of any length, that you could hope to see all year. It is basically a tightly concentrated thriller in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents tradition, but the incorporation of the monkeys gives it added genre dimensions. You could even call it horror without much fear of contradiction.

Arguably, Hsieh’s monkeys are also the most memorable to ever appear in animation. I have come face-to-face with real-life monkeys in Rio’s Tijuca National Park that make the monkey thieves in the
Rio parrot-movies look shy and retiring, but I wouldn’t want to cross paths with these primates.

Hsieh, who was one of the “animation directors” on Yonfan’s
No. 7 Cherry Lane is a terrifically talented animator, who has really earned a shot at his own animated feature. You can easily tell why from Night Bus and Cherry Lane. Very highly recommended, Night Bus screens within the Things That Go Bump in the East program, an on-demand selection of this year’s Fantasia.