My daily 'reviews' were this year more summary/cursory than last year. I make no apology for this to myself or anyone who may happen to read. I just could not put the effort into it that I did last year. Fatigue has really become a health issue for me. There's maybe a dozen films I'd like to write more on, and if the opportunity presents itself I will. If any of those films get a release outside of the festival, I'll be sure to do so.
I saw 42 complete films this year, 2 more than last year. I tried to keep it to 40, the number I saw last year, so I wasn't too much over the mark. That really is about the maximum number of films that I can see and respectfully absorb without burning up (which I got close to yesterday). I also attended another 4 films that I walked out of, not necessarily because they were bad per se, but because they weren't worth staying for and I'd rather get a break or go home and get some sleep. There's a number of other films that I could've walked out of, but didn't. That includes everything in "GIVE IT A MISS" below, and pretty much everything in "MEH".
Were it possible, I'd have been happy to have just seen the "MUST SEE" and "VERY GOOD" films below and nothing else. That would have been extremely satisfying, and I wouldn't be feeling the fatigue I am now.
I managed to see all six of the Romanian Wave feature films, and I found this stream very satisfying. My pick of them is The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, with a special mention to The Paper is Blue. I look forward to seeing anything coming out of Romania by the directors in this stream.
I wanted to see all of the Edward Yang films (except Yi Yi, which I'd already seen) and managed to see all but two of them. I was disappointed that I couldn't fit A Bright Summer's Day in, which is reputed as his masterpiece. I found it interesting to see a number of his films, but at best I found them quietly satisfying without being earth-shattering in any way. I think I'd appreciate them more outside of the festival and maybe Melbourne Cinémathèque may put on a season of his films in the future. My favourite at the festival was A Confucian Confusion.
I found the Ozploitation films fun and added a nice touch of variety to the festival without being profound in any way. Not Quite Hollywood, opening night film, is entertaining rather than insightful, but gives a reason to visit or revisit these early Australian films. Of the three films screening in the Ozploitation stream, my favourite was Road Games (though it's really a thriller rather than an Ozploitation film).
I saw five of the ten films from the Tribute to the Cannes Director's Fortnight stream, but none of them impressed me overly. It's the stream that disappointed me the most.
I saw twelve films from the largest stream, International Panorama. Five of those films made it into my 'MUST SEE' or 'VERY GOOD' list, namely Lorna's Silence, Three Monkeys, Silent Light, Katyn and O' Horten.
I only saw one film from the New Gen stream, The Substitute, which I didn't particularly like. It's an obviously 'made-for-children' film, which is a kind of euphemism for 'be prepared to suspend all your critical and intellectual faculties because we're really dumbing this down'. I think the best children's films are those that don't underestimate a child's intellect, like John Sayle's The Secret of Roan Inish or Ken Loach's Kes. The best film at the festival that I think would suit children (but wasn't available to them) was Tricks. It's about a young boy who thinks a man he sees at the station might be his absent father.
This year I cut back on the number of Neighbourhood Watch films I saw compared to last year as I found there was too much homogeny among them. Of the four I saw, Secret Sunshine was the easy stand-out in this stream, though 24 City and Night and Day were very enjoyable.
Looking at the list of films I saw at MIFF, I have unsurprisingly gravitated towards the social-realist films. There didn't seem to be many 'headline acts', so to speak, this year. I think I could improve my future MIFF experiences by doing a little more research. I found a number of films weren't worthy of the festival (in my opinion, of course) and would prefer to see less quantity and more quality. I think my overall MIFF experience is on a par with last year, though I'd have to revisit my journal for last year to comment more authoritatively.
Last year I collated a list of suggestions for MIFF, and this year I'm doing the same. If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to post them and if appropriate, I'll add them to my list.
As a MIFF Member, I thought the priority queue was a great innovation for this year. It certainly enhanced the festival experience for me and I suspect will lead to a rush of new members before next year's festival (perhaps there was one this year).
I thought the addition of the Kino as a venue was good, but it's a pity that MIFF didn't book the Regent, which is a magnificent venue and holds a huge number for the popular sessions. Opening Night at Hamer Hall just wasn't the same and I certainly will not attend opening night there again.
Greater Union has got to have the shittiest cinemas in Melbourne. Seats are broken, and the prime seating locations should be where the staircases are located. With both Hoyts and Village closed in the central CBD, I suppose there's not much choice, but it'd be nice if Greater Union would refurbish them after so many decades.
The festival ads drove me crazy, especially the MIFF ad itself and the Channel 10 Rush and Yalumba ones. You'd think the advertisers would produce a range of ads that would get circulated, so you wouldn't be seeing the same ads session after session. The advertisers really need to review their contracts with the advertising agencies. They were all poor at best.
Lighting is terrible at most venues. The lights often went out just as the audiences were entering the cinemas as the ads were starting. You'd think half-lighting would stay on while the ads are on, as is usual when one attends a cinema. At most of the venues, seating is so tight, so one invariably stood on others and/or was stood on by others in the dark. This was the case at every venue I attended except ACMI.
I thought the daytime programming was an improvement on last year, but could still be better improved. For those like myself who take two weeks off work, some days there was fairly uninspiring choices during business hours. I'd also like to see film start 11am during the week rather than 1pm. I'm sure there'd be sales for an earlier time as I saw sold out sessions at 1pm. An earlier start would enable one to catch a film, take a 2-hour lunch break and then see a 3pm film.
Other Suggestions (feel free to add your own):
- I'd like to see more films programmed for children, and screened on weekdays at 5pm and 7pm.
- The MIFF program would be easier to use if the middle section included the film's stream and the page number the film synopsis is on. This would reduce the film research process from three steps to two.
- Additional screenings of in-demand films without a local release
- Website: the ability to select more than one session's tickets at a time
- Website: the calender could show all events, not just film sessions
- Website: search engine is pathetic and needs improvement
- Website: the ability to associate a pass with a membership number
- I'd be happy to pay say $5 for an A5 size, bound festival guide rather than the free Age liftout
- Website: blue text on black background is terrible. I'd rather black text on white background.
Memos to self for next year (feel free to make your own suggestions):
- Make sure you're well-rested before MIFF starts
- Better to see one or two festival films other than the opening night film on opening night
- Take more note of which films won Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, etc at major film festivals like Cannes, as these invariably are the must-see films at the festival
- 40 films is more than enough
- Take home-cooking with me to eat at appropriate times
- Get to bed earlier
MUST SEE CINEMA!
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
The Paper Will be Blue
A Confucian Confusion
Night and Day
My Marlon and Brando
12:08 East of Bucharest
Not Quite Hollywood
Dead End Drive-In
OK BUT DISAPPOINTING
The Devil Probably
Fox and His Friends
Time to Die
Everything is Fine
The Pope's Toilet
California Dreamin' (Endless)
GIVE IT A MISS
40 x 15: The 40 Years of the Directors' Fortnight
Ashes of Time Redux
Of Time and the City
Xiao Jia Going Home
The Desert Within