By Bears Rebecca Fonte
The last film I saw for Fantasia was Robert Krzykowski’s THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN BIGFOOT and it saved my whole festival. Having watched a number of features big on blood but lacking heart, this Sam Elliott drama shook me by the soul in a way films rarely do. A far more brooding think-piece then the hilarious title would lead us to believe, the film offers a stunning late-in-life portrait of a man who lived through violence that changed him in a way he still, decades later, has not come to grips with.
Effortlessly dancing back and forth between timelines, Krzykowski’s film follows Elliot’s Calvin Barr, a ‘grumpy old man’ who can still kick the ass of three would-be carjackers. Years ago, Barr snuck into Nazi High command and (no further spoilers than the title) killed Hitler. Long since retired, he lives his solitary life on bar stools and arm chairs until the FBI and the Canadian government tap him for a save-the-world mission, killing a virus-laden Bigfoot.
There are so many ways this film could have gone wrong, but I’m happy to report, actually ecstatic to report, they never do. The film becomes an essay on violence against a magical landscape of first anonymous small-town America and then picturesque Canadian wilderness. Elliot is a man lost in this world who wants nothing more than to get more lost. He is haunted by a past that he can’t escape nor explain and his own morals only serve to undermine both his understanding of self and ability to move forward in this world. It’s the kind of film I would expect from somebody who had made 30 Films but this is the first-time filmmaker. Obviously, Sam Elliott brings the depth of his own personal history to a role that demands it. The film has some interesting tone shifts and pacing shifts, especially when it transplants Elliott into the Wilderness but instead of sidetracking the audience, they allow for deeper introspection as the film goes from dialogue-centric to a more visual experience. This is an art house film masquerading as a genre piece and Fantasia is uplifted by the sentiment in it. See this film, on the big screen if you can, but see this film.
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