My final day of MIFF was pretty intense, but I was prepared for it by reducing the number of screenings I attended in the last week (two films on each of two days, one on each of the rest). Sunday saw me at four screenings, the most I've done in a day ever ("ha pooey", I hear some of you say, "I regularly do five, six or even seven!"). Well, four is a lot for me, and I'm not in a hurry to do it again.
I'm back at work, so time is a bit precious. I'm posting two reviews now, and will update this as I can with the others. Some time during the week, I'll also post an overview of MIFF.
Mister Lonely (Harmony Korine, UK/France, 2007)
In spite of some early projection problems and mixed reviews of Mister Lonely, the latest film by wunderkind Harmony Korine was not only one of the stand-out films for me at MIFF, but one of my favourites of the year thus far. My experience of his work to date is limited to his writing of Larry Clark’s Kids (1995, at age 20) and his directorial debut Gummo (1997). The former I saw relatively recently and impressed me with its gritty realism, while the latter surprised me on its theatrical release with its bleakness.
Mister Lonely is a much more colourful film than anything I’ve associated with Korine. Its visuals (such as set design, camera angles and cinematography) are very pleasing, accentuated by its seemingly unrelated parallel narratives and absurdist premise. A Michael Jackson impersonator in
The other narrative relates to a group of missionaries in I've spent a week or so in Panama, including flying over the jungle in a small plane, but I didn't recognise the locale at the time (I thought it might have been the Caribbean).
I've spent a week or so in Panama, including flying over the jungle in a small plane, but I didn't recognise the locale at the time (I thought it might have been the Caribbean).
There was a small flat spot towards the end of the film, but for most of the film’s 112 minutes, I had a big smile that was hard to wipe off my face. Charlie Chaplin, Shirley Temple, James Dean, Little Red Riding Hood, Queen Elizabeth, the Pope, The Three Stooges, Abraham Lincoln, Madonna and what I presume was a childhood version of Michael Jackson were all there.
The humour and irony are used with a clever and skillful blend of under- and over-statement. There is an underlying subtle sadness to some of the characters who, in spite of their eccentric alter egos, remain ordinary people that an audience can relate to. The film is intelligent and emotionally honest. One part is particularly close to the bone for me and brought tears to my eyes. This is probably Korine’s most accessible and enjoyable film. It deserves a theatrical release.
Trailer for Mister Lonely
The Man From
Like Mister Lonely, this part of MIFF’s ‘Come to
The Man From London is clearly a highly stylised homage to film noir of the 1940s. The lush black and white photography, using classic noir shadows and imagery is a feast for the eyes. The camera work is slow, fluid and dynamic, with very long takes in which little seems to happen. Combined with a mesmerising score slightly reminiscent of Angelo Badalamenti’s sounds on
The basic premise of the film is that Maloin, a night harbour worker (played by Miroslav Krobot) witnesses some treachery between a disembarking passenger of a ship (the man in the title) and another man on-shore. A death may have occurred and when Maloin investigates, he becomes involved in an intrigue from which he cannot extricate himself.
Tilda Swinton plays Maloin’s wife, though her voice is dubbed over in Hungarian. The film was part-English produced, so maybe a name known to English-speaking audiences was required to market the film. The role was small, and I always find Swinton an interesting actor, so it was a curiosity to see her in this role. In general the tired and worn-out characters looked terrific on film, with a timeless quality that matched the aesthetics of the decaying town.
This is not a film for everyone, as it requires some patience and appreciation for aesthetics over action, and there is not a whole lot of the latter. While the film’s major strength is its visuals, they serve to subtly drive the slow-burn suspense. I was surprised when people started walking out of the film, first one by one, then after an hour about twenty or so walked out in unison. I estimate 60 people left, around 10% of the audience at the sold-out Forum screening. I was equally surprised that so few walked out of
This is the third film I have seen by Shane Meadows, the others being TwentyFourSeven (1997) and A Room for Romeo Brass (1999). Both these films had a local theatrical release, though the latter I saw at MIFF in 1998. All three of these films are coming-of-age stories revolving around young males from poor working-class areas.
Reviews around town seem to be universally proclaiming This Is England as the best film yet by Shane Meadows. I disagree. I found the film very enjoyable, gritty at times and with some excellent performances (especially by thirteen-year old Thomas Turgoose as Shaun, and Stephen Graham as Combo), but it was no better than Meadows' solid drama in TwentyFourSeven, in which Bob Hoskins portrays a boxer who trains disadvantaged boys to keep them off the street.
This Is England is reportedly Meadows' most autobiographical film. Clearly he had a dismal upbringing, and each of his films is uplifting, probably a reflection of the director's raising himself out of despair. While some of the recent accolades proclaim Meadows as the natural successor to Ken Loach or Mike Leigh. Again, I disagree. All three directors often portray the same working class, but Meadows' films are clearly more optimistic than Loach and Leigh, more stylised and thus less naturalistic. His films are more accessible to mainstream audiences. I consider them good mainstream entertainment, whereas Loach and Leigh are definitely arthouse film-makers.
Was the film a good choice as closing film? I suppose the answer depends on one's criteria for selection. In support, the opening and closing night films are entertaining and relevant but I find it a little odd that both have been selected with theatrical releases so close to MIFF. Sicko opened on wide release on August 9 before the festival had finished, while This Is England opened on August 16.
Prior to the film's screening, there were addresses by Claire Dobbin, Gavin Jennings (the new Minister of Innovation, replacing John Brumby who has assumed the role of Premier) and Richard Moore. Jennings was the only speaker who spoke without notes; he is a very competent and humorous speaker.
The Silence (Tystnaden, Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1963)
The Silence was one of the four surprise screenings on the final day, a tribute to the recently departed Bergman. Unfortunately, This Is England finished late and I missed the first ten minutes or so of The Silence. While I'm told I didn't miss much, I felt a little disoriented at first and it took me a while to understand what was going on.
The film didn't engage me as much as the only other Bergman I've seen, Wild Strawberries. It did look nice and the tense perversity was handled well. As a film by a significant director, there's probably not a lot I can add at this point, but I look forward to exploring more of his works.