Friday, July 31, 2009

MIFF 2009 Day 8 - 31/7/09

  • The Man Who Came With the Snow (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Iran/France, 2009)
  • Une femme est une femme (A Woman is a Woman, Jean-Luc Godard, France/Italy, 1961)
  • Tony Manero (Pablo Larrain, Chile/Brazil, 2008)

The Man Who Came With the Snow
Nice-looking film that is made by an Iranian but set in a former Soviet country. The result: a film that has elements of Iranian cinema, such as the view of an adult world from a child's perspective, as well as the dark look of Russian cinema. In the middle of the night, a man escaping a blizzard enters a village hotel, disrupting the routine of these down-and-out whores, thieves and hustlers. Who is he? Where is he from? What is he doing here? A mystery, this is a nice festival film, something you won't see otherwise, and I like its relatively short length (about 75 minutes) - it's paced just right.

A Woman is a Woman
Another Godard, another soul-less film. Funny, yes. Smart, yes. Cutting edge (for it's day), yes but dated horribly. I sense that Godard feels superior to his audience. I don't perceive the anger with his audience that I do with others, but his films are distant and don't engage me. I'm still trying to understand Godard, and I really need to read Godard on Godard, which I will. Even understanding Godard's intent, I don't think will affect me. Godard doesn't aim to connect emotionally, he's looking for an intellectual or philosophical engagement. I don't watch films for that. For that, I read books or watch TV. Perhaps that's why Godard moved to television as his medium of choice.

Tony Manero
Sex, violence, disco - what more could you want in a film? Yeah, this is pretty weird and not what I was expecting. It's no Mister Lonely and it's no Red Faces (and if it was, I wouldn't want to be Red Symons). Our Tony Manero wannabe will do anything to win a look-alike competition - anything. The film is more social realist than anything and it has a pretty gritty (even grimy) look with hand-held camera work that is generally OK but sometimes a little too wobbly. The story is quite good but the visuals are a little spartan. It's OK for a festival film but I can't see how this could get a release other than being sold on its connection with Saturday Night Fever.

MIFF 2009 Day 7 - 30/7/09

Running at 190 minutes, I figured I'd drop United Red Army off my schedule yesterday, have a little break and do some other things (like blogging). Then darn, the person who suggested it to me in the first place tells me it's the best film he's seen yet. I'm a bit pissed with myself and yet not. I've long given up on the idea that one can see everything one wants to at MIFF, or even during the year in general.
  • Red Riding: 1983 (Anand Tucker, UK, 2009)
  • Away We Go (Same Mendes, USA, 2009)
  • The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, USA, 2008)

Red Riding: 1983
What an incoherent mess this finale to the Red Riding series this is. Unlike the first two, you have to see the others to make any sense of it. And even if you have seen the others, you'll still struggle! There are unexplained shifts between the three time frames and nothing to signal which period the film is in. John Dawson, the developer murdered in 1974, suddenly appears when we're thinking it's 1983. The number of characters who flash past in quick succession makes it hard to know who plays what role and what the hell is going on. At the end, confusion reigns and I'm left wondering "what the...?"

I expected James Marsh's 1980 to be the best instalment and it was.

Away We Go

My planning for MIFF avoided seeing three films in a row, and this one wasn't really on my radar because it's getting a commercial release. I had a spare two hours between films and because I knew this would be light-weight comedy and Red Riding isn't really emotionally challenging, I slotted this between the other two.

There is nothing about this film that identifies it as a Sam Mendes film. No particular insights, no revelations about relationships, just another 'quirky indie comedy', a genre that I find I'm a bit bored with, and have been with at least Little Miss Sunshine. It's not as stupid or contrived as that piece of populist trash, but it pushes all the right formulaic buttons: hip music in all the right places, a parade of idiosyncratic characters, quirky diaogue, characters who struggle with their age and responsibilities. It looks nice enough and audience laughter came at all the intended places but it's only worth seeing if you want to see how Mendes does mainstream. Or if you're a 30-something feeling directionless in life, or pregnant.

The Hurt Locker
At the risk of sounding sexist, you wouldn't know this thrilling film was directed by a woman. It's heart-in-your-mouth from go to whoa as we follow a US Army bomb disposal unit in Iraq. The suspense, the dialogue, the understated humour, the character development are all excellent. The film is like a cross between Beaufort (MIFF 2007, for the suspense), Full Metal Jacket (for the characterisations), Jarhead (itself derived from FMJ, but set in the region) and Children of Men (for the embedded journalist style of camera work and editing).

I found the choppy look a bit more than required and tend towards the David Stratton perspective on that account, though I expect he would acknowledge the strengths of the film. This is perhaps the best film I've seen that depicts the current military situation in the Afghanistan/Iraq region and maybe that's because the film does nothing didactic. Like most of the other films mentioned above, it simply depicts the lives of these men in war and the small details of their day-to-day existence. And man, what a bloody struggle, as they count down the days to their return to the US, just hoping to stay alive each day. Definitely worth seeing.

The Chinese farce continues

While more Chinese film-makers are reportedly withdrawing their films from MIFF, I can't for a moment believe that there is not undue pressure being placed on them by their government to do so.

The Age reports that "Three more Chinese films pulled from Melbourne festival".

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Other than MIFF

With a full-on schedule booked for MIFF (some 40 films), it's easy to forget that there's other things on (all film-related, of course). I had booked myself in for United Red Army at the Forum this morning but, at 190 minutes, figured I'd take some time out, and hence this post.

Having given Balibo a whopping 5 stars (and I don't know how that's justified), I'm a little bemused by Jim Schembri's 1/2 star for Jim Jarmusch's The Limits of Control and, furthermore, his description of the film in today's Age as a 'blockbuster':
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince enjoyed a second weekend at No.1 with a massive haul of $6.46 million across 510 screens for a total of $29.6 million. This was despite the opening of the new Jim Jarmusch blockbuster The Limits of Control, which managed $28,999 on five screens.
[p.18 in the Arts section under 'Box office' - as yet not online; emphasis is mine]

Now, though I loved The Limits of Control (which you may have gleaned from my review), I'd hardly call it a blockbuster. It really is a niche film and Jarmusch is a niche director. That the film is showing on a measly five screen pretty much confirms that. And how can a film screening on five arthouse screens take a dent out of a mainstream blockbuster screening on over one hundred times the number of screens, largely the big multiplexes?

Opening on the eve of MIFF was always going to hurt the film's box office in Melbourne, because the target audience is largely focused on the mega-circus that is MIFF. It's a pity, because it's a better film than anything I've seen yet at MIFF (13 films to date).


Cedar Boys
This new Australian film by Serhat Caradee opens on limited release today and my preoccupation with MIFF has prevented me from reviewing it in more detail. It depicts the struggle of immigrant families in contemporary society. I often connect with this subject, though Australian films tackling these themes in recent years have usually failed to have the authenticity and dramatic tension that Cedar Boys achieves.

The film is nicely photographed and well-acted. The dialogue in particular is excellent, very real. Hopefully Cedar Boys will find an audience. The lack of marketing and the timing (mid-MIFF) isn't working in its favour, so if you're steering clear of the MIFF crowds, this is one to look out for - just be quick; it may not be around for long. Check out the official website.


Lake Mungo, another Australian film, opens today. There's a Q&A session with the cast and crew 6.30pm tonight at the George cinema.


For your post-MIFF fix, you may want to put the following into your calendars:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

MIFF 2009 Day 6 - 29/7/09

  • Aruitemo aruitemo (Still Walking, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan, 2008)
  • Red Riding: 1980 (James Marsh, UK, 2009)
  • Tatarak (Sweet Rush, Andzrej Wajda, Poland, 2009)

Still Walking
MIFF held a Kore-eda retrospective a couple of years ago and I think I saw them all, or maybe I missed one. Consequently, I was keen to see this latest effort and wasn't disappointed. Basically, it's a day in the lives of a family that unite (begrudgingly) each year to observe the death of a family member thirteen years earlier.

The son, daughter and their respective families travel to the home of their parents, an aging and retired doctor and his wife. It's summer and straight away I'm reminded of Olivier Assayas' sublime Summer Hours, especially the opening scene which similarly depicts the various dispersed branches of a family in an infrequent rural get-together in the family home. While Assayas' film procedes to explore other themes, Kore-eda's remains very much in the small details of the inter-family interactions.

Kore-eda is a very talented director. It is the observational nature of the film in capturing details of otherwise very ordinary people that makes this film a delight to watch. It feels almost a privilege to be privy to their lives, to see what makes them tick. It reminded me of a funeral I attended a couple of years ago for the father of a work colleague. I knew not the deceased man but attended to support my work pal, who had shown me support in various ways after my son's passing. At the funeral, I heard various eulogies that brought tears to my eyes as I received some insights into this man's life. And so I felt with this film, which becomes a meditation on the nature of relationships and ultimately, their passing.

Still Walking is a quietly satisfying film, certainly no headline act, but the type and quality of film I look forward to each year at MIFF, largely because this is the only time of year we get to see films like it. If quiet, nuanced, insightful, contemplative cinema is your thing, you'll want to see it.

Red Riding: 1980

As expected, with James Marsh at the helm, this is a big improvement over the previous instalment (Red Riding: 1974). The story seems to have a closer alignment to the Yorkshire killings, plays out with more realism and is more convincing all-round. Paddy Considine puts in a good performance and all-in-all, this ain't a bad genre film. I'm now looking forward to the final instalment, 1983, tomorrow.

BTW, while there are some slight connections between this and the previous film, you don't need to have seen the earlier one at all. This is self-contained.

Sweet Rush
It's Wajda in his twilight years; old age is here and death can't be too far away. And so it is with this film, a very strange creature indeed, that requires some further information to glean its meaning. It mixes a film's fiction with events taking place in the life of the film's protagonist and we switch between different 'realities'.

Technically, the talent is obvious and the visuals are very nice. A bit more narrative clarity would have been nice. By the end, I had some idea of what it's about and, if you ever consider seeing it, make sure you read up about it first.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

MIFF 2009 Day 5 - 28/7/09

Day 5 and still no knock-out films I've seen. What about you?
  • Home (Ursula Meier, Switzerland/France/Belgium, 2008)
  • Red Riding: 1974 (Julian Jarrold, UK, 2009)
  • Katalin Varga (Peter Strickland, Romania/UK/Hungary, 2009)
I wanted to see this film on the strength of my fascination with Isabelle Huppert, who is perhaps my favourite actress. Huppert is obviously sought for her unusual talents: her ability to display both strength and fragility - often concurrently - and her ability to take on very demanding roles. She seems to be drawn to the types of roles and films that also draw me. They're often in small films, like Home, a film I'd describe as not one of Huppert's finest choices.

A family is living within spitting distance of a disused highway, which is effectively their front yard. Life is about to change drastically when, with little warning, it is resurfaced and consequently re-opened to traffic. Privacy is lost, noise and fumes intrude and the family's routine is completely transformed, upsetting the domestic balance.

The scenario is quite inventive and executed effectively, at least visually. I was wondering throughout the film how they were able to realistically create the whole set-up, especially the transformation of an old highway to a new one. The family dynamics are mostly well-developed and the film sucks us into its world... to a point. Unfortunately, the various elements of the film's narrative don't stick and plausibility becomes an issue. As the film progresses, it becomes less and less believable.

Wouldn't the respective statutory authorities give more warning? Wouldn't they provide more amenity, like access to the property? Would the family really imprison themselves? The MIFF synopsis describes the film as a "social farce" that "teeters on the verge of comedy", but that wasn't my perception at all. It seemed very much a social drama/family drama. The film looks nice, but the story is inconsistent and Meier doesn't seem to make the most of her good ideas.

Red Riding: 1974
Julian Jarrold isn't exactly what I'd call an exciting director, but was prepared to give this British crime thriller a go based on good word-of-mouth. It immediately reminds me of the French Public Enemy no.1/Mesrine starring Vincent Cassell, but is not quite as strong. It is very entertaining as a mainstream genre film and feels like a tele-movie.

The film's set-up is not too bad, though some devices seemed a bit too Underbelly-populist, like the sex and nudity. The film is based on a novel, and frames a fiction around real-crime events, namely the Yorkshire Ripper. The film does get a bit silly as it progresses, but it still had my heart palpitating and palms sweating, so it does work on its intended level. The verdict: fun, lots of energy and exciting, but not must-see material. Wait for DVD or TV; who knows, it might get a theatrical release. I'm still planning to see the next instalment, Red Riding: 1980, and I have higher hopes for this as it's directed by James Marsh whose previous films include Man on Wire and The King, my no.2 favourite film of 2006.

Katalin Varga
I don't have much to say about this film; basically I found it pretty ordinary. A woman is ostracised from her village after an affair and consequently exacts revenge on men who wronged her many years earlier. My biggest problem with the film concerns how she catches up with these guys and the impossible coincidences involved. There are other technical problems, like the use of sound and sometimes sub-standard visuals, but I could overlook those. I gave myself a lower threshold for walking out, and could have walked out on this at any point, but it was enjoyable enough to go along with the ride and stay. It's only 84 minutes long, so that was a plus (not very flattering, though, eh?).

Monday, July 27, 2009

MIFF 2009 Day 4 - 27/7/09

  • Pierrot le fou (Jean-Luc Godard, France/Italy, 1965)
Pierrot le fou
This is the only day that I've only scheduled one film - the calm before the storm? I know that MIFF Senior Programmer Michelle Carey is very fond of Jean-Luc Godard and recommended the three Godard films in the Anna Karina retrospective. Me, I'm still not sold on his work and that ambivalence continues with this brand new print of Pierrot le fou. It's a lovely looking film, it's bizarre, with a strange sense of humour that appeals to me. Still, there's something I can't engage with, and today's screening revealled to me something new.

A recurring feature of Godard's films is, of course, his intellectualism. What I noted today is that his films border on didacticism. L'histoire(s) du cinèma is a manifesto, maybe even an angry rant at the audience. That element is there in Alpahaville and I detected it again in Pierrot le fou. Paul Belmondo's character is a surrogate for Godard, giving us the same monotone rant. Godard may be a pioneer of French cinema, or perhaps cinema itself, and I respect his intellect, but his films don't talk to me. They don't grab me by the jugular and compel me to get involved in their stories. They leave me feeling indifferent and I may be the loser, but I don't care. Not yet, anyhow. I'm going to continue exploring the work of Godard and remain open to the possibilities, but it hasn't struck me yet. Pierrot le fou is definitely worth watching, but I don't rate it highly.

MIFF 2009 Day 3 - 26/7/09

  • Les plages d'Agnès (The Beaches of Agnès, Agnès Varda, France, 2008)
  • Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (Alphaville, Jean-Luc Godard, France/Italy, 1965)
  • Amintiri din epoca de aur (Tales from the Golden Age, Hanno Höfer/Razvan Marculescu/Cristian Mungiu/Constantin Popescu/Ioana Uricaru, Romania/France, 2009)
The Beaches of Agnès
While I'm generally not big on documentaries on the big screen, I do like to catch one or two during MIFF if, for no other reason than variety. With this film, I was also keen to see it because of my recently seeing Varda's sublime Clèo from 5 to 7 and also because of the film's positive reception at Sydney Film Festival.

The film is a truly sweet recollection by an aging artist on her life's work and of those who are and were dear to her. It traces the path of her life's work beginning with photography - a life-long passion, theatre and film. She recalls her life with Jacques Demy with great affection and sadness (at his AIDS-related death in 1991) and describes the Dardennes as her spiritual brothers. There is a very personal way in which Varda depicts her legacy as she sees it and I found it very moving. Highly recommended.

Fabulous new print, shit sub-titles. I can't believe that in this day and age we still have to suffer white sub-titles that disappear on light backgrounds. That's about a third of the film - very frustrating. Aside from that, the film is enjoyable enough. The noir aspect mixed up with low-budget sci-fi with political and social elements make for intriguing viewing. I enjoyed it, but like most Godard films, find it a somewhat impenetrable from an emotional level. Maybe that's what Godard intends. Godard isn't high on my list of priorities, but I do want to catch the three titles of his screening as part of the Karina retrospective. And I would like to see this film again, once I've read a little about its political meanings. There's clearly a message there that I didn't get. FWIW, the film looks great and the two protagonists, Eddie Constantine and Anna Karina, look fabulous.

Tales from the Golden Age
Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days was my favourite cinema release of a couple of years ago so I was pretty keen to catch this omnibus film which he wrote but had different directors work on. There's six stories, all about the difficulty of life under the crazy bureaucracy of communism. Of course, we popularly consider it communism, but those Eastern bloc regimes were just dictatorships in the name of communism or socialism, which gives those ideologies a bad rap.

The film starts and ends with communist-era music, patriotic or nationalistic rally calls that accompanied the propaganda of the superiority of the communist way. It kinda sets the scene for the ludicrousness of the reality, which the film's various stories set out depict. The film is more accessible to audiences than Mungiu's Palme d'Or winning film, structured largely as black comedy and works well in that form. The film is beautifully photographed and there's a consistency to the stories that makes it seem more like an episodic single-film rather than multiple short films. Ultimately, the film underlines the difficulty of life under the old regime and makes fun to the concept of a "golden age". Well-worth seeing.

MIFF 2009 Day 2 - 25/7/09

  • Kdopak by se vlka bál (Who's Afraid of the Wolf?, Maria Procházková, Czech Republic, 2008)
  • In Conversation with Anna Karina & David Stratton
  • Anna (Pierre Koralnik, France, 1967)
Who's Afraid of the Wolf?
My first MIFF film was from the NextGen stream and I attended with the family. It's a fairly typical festival film aimed at children, and you can read that as meaning fairly bland. It looks nice and the performances are OK but the writing is so condescending. My 8-year old son enjoyed it, but it's unlikely to be something he'll remember. I find that some of the best children's films are actually not aimed at children, like Persepolis or even The Edge of Heaven. Or children's films that don't underestimate the intellectual capacity of children, such as Azur and Asmar or The Secret of Roan Inish.

Who's Afraid of the Wolf? starts off with promise but the plot becomes quite silly, culminating at an ending that is just fruity. I don't go to these films with high expectations, so in this case, I wasn't disappointed. And you can't expect every MIFF film to be a gem. This one certainly isn't.

In Conversation with Anna Karina & David Stratton
Once again, the MIFF ticketing system is a fiasco and I wonder if they will ever get it right. Last year, my festival passport would have got me entry into this session, but this year I had to pay. No complaints from me about that. MIFF, despite what people may complain about, is cash-strapped (only 5-6% of its budget is government-funded) and hosting guests costs money. $20-$25 to hear David Stratton speak with Anna Karina is certainly better value than paying $50-$55 to hear Tarantino introduce his latest film.

My complaint concerns not being able to load these special sessions onto one's festival pass. You still have to print out a paper receipt. I forgot to print mine out and had to slog it out in the Forum queue, something I hadn't done for a couple of years. Thanks to incompetency and lack of staff flexibility, it wasn't a pleasant experience and hopefully it will never happen again.

The MIFF members' queue was quite small, but the staff were inexperienced and my wait was about 30 minutes - this was just to print out the ticket that I'd already paid for. I wanted to get another ticket and put it on my partner's membership card, who was not arriving for some time. The MIFF staff told me they could not do it without her membership card. I suggested that they should be able to, because I organise all her ticketing on my home computer. The very rude supervisor suggested I come back with my partner's card (and presumably wait another 30 minutes) or go to an internet cafe. Fucking great! and I said just that. I put it down to experience, and the inexperience of these volunteer staff (well, some of them are). And never, never, ever be in that situation again. Be organised and print your tickets at home, because these motherfuckers have so many people to deal with and they can't give a damn because they're swamped. Thanks Jo, you made my fucking day.

As for the session, arriving early I was at the head of the queue and found a seat right in front of the stage. Anna Karina's English is quite OK but she had some difficulty comprehending some of the audience questions. Partly that was the sound system and also some of the questions were not particularly lucid. David Stratton was the consumate host and interviewer as usual and guided the procedings with professionalism. Anna admitted to some early nerves.

When asked about which director/s she found the best to work with, she unequivocally named Godard, the man she married and lived with for ten years. She found it painful at times to recall aspects of that relationship and sometimes changed the subject during the session. She mentioned that she doesn't have any one favourite film that she's been in, but that there's several and that her answer would change every time she's asked. That's all I can recall at the moment, though I couldn't help but notice that she has a very husky voice which I presume is from smoking.

Named simply after the female lead, this is, as Anna herself described it as "a mad film" and she seemed bemused that so many people turned out to both see it and stay for the post-screening Q&A. I attend these MIFF retrospectives for much the same reason that I attend Melbourne Cinémathèque - to catch a body of work and to appreciate individual films in the context of the whole. It's a sort of educational thing. I wasn't particularly impressed with the film itself; it seems frivolous and insubstantial, though enjoyable enough. A musical, it seems to be a low-budget vehicle for the music of Serge Gainsbourg and the beauty of a very young Karina.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

MIFF 2009 Day 1 - Opening Night

I decided not to attend Opening Night for a couple of reasons: most significantly, I'd seen the opening film, Balibo - check out my short review - and didn't feel like seeing it again. Last year I'd regretted not seeing a couple of other festival films rather than go through the whole Opening Night thing: it starts late, then there's speech after speech (Victorian Premier, Lord Mayor, major sponsor, MIFF board and director, etc). Unfortunately that wasn't an option this year (economically unfeasible was the answer to my query) so I figured I'd let my complimentary double pass be made available to a willing paying member of the public (the event was long sold out), and I'd get an early night. Late night drinking isn't my thing anyway, party or not, and I've hardly touched alcohol since my motorcycle accident in January. I didn't really get an early night anyway.

So, did you go to Opening Night? What did you think of the film and proceedings? I seem to be largely alone in my less than enthusiastic response to Balibo, just like I seem to be largely alone in my enthusiastic response to The Limits of Control. I hope and think Balibo will do well with a broader, post-festival audience.

Today I attended two films and In Conversation with Anna Karina, which I hope to post about tomorrow.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Limits of Control

The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch, Spain/USA/Japan, 2009)
Jim Jarmusch is quite simply one of the most interesting living film-makers working out of the USA. His latest film, The Limits of Control, is set in Spain with an international cast. There is at the core of his work a consistency of style and yet this latest outing represents a progression in the evolution of his body of work that is simultaneously understated and visually spectacular. One is never in any doubt that one is watching a Jarmusch film.

The Limits of Control is at least superficially a mystery. Designed like a Hitchcock spy thriller and oozing with a retro 70’s style that remains distinctly contemporary, characters behave like something out of an early James Bond movie or even Get Smart. There are secret passwords and the passing of small coded messages that are then swallowed. Knowing words are spoken cryptically: “Wait three days for the bread; the guitar will find you”. Despite sounding corny, it’s actually full of panache, though dark humour is (unsurprisingly) never far away. There’s also an element of film noir, including creative depictions of nudity.

The film is sparse with dialogue and characters speak languages different to each other. Sound familiar? It should. Language, communication and miscommunication seem to be recurring themes for Jarmusch. The very photogenic Isaach De Bankolé takes centre stage in the film and it is hard not to recall the scenario between his earlier character in Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog, a French ice-cream van vendor in New York, speaking not a word of English yet maintaining a friendship with the non-French speaking title character (Forest Whitaker).

Because of the sparsity of dialogue, often the words spoken take on deep and cryptic meanings, bordering on philosophical: “I am among no-one”, “reality is arbitrary”, “the girl is a criss-cross”. The mystery deepens when the words seem to be reflected in what the protagonist sees at subsequent visits to the art gallery (Madrid’s Centro de Arte Reine Sofia), such as a girl’s figure in the shape of a cross. A personal exciting moment was when we get the protagonist’s point of view of the Madrid skyline, which then seamlessly transposes over the Antonio López painting, Madrid from Captain Haya, which he views. I instantly recognised this same piece from when it displayed last year at ACMI as part of the Kiarostami/Erice Correspondences exhibition.

The film is episodic, which we often find in Jarmusch’s films. Each episode involves a different character, in a different location, with different art production. I must say that the visuals are an absolute delight: colour composition and the use of the frame are awesome. There is nothing showy in Christopher Doyle’s stunning camera work, which uses an assortment of great angles, often static, and any movement used is masterful and restrained. The opening shot is, in fact, a very unconventional and skewed angle that takes a few seconds to work out what the protagonist is actually doing, and sets the tone of the film.

The film plays on patterns. There are visual patterns – some of the most arresting images you’ll see in a film – and there are narrative patterns, that repeat themselves and create an expectation in the audience. But each iteration is different from the previous and it’s satisfying to detect the subtle differences in each idiosyncratic repetition.

The film has an impressive support cast including Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Gael García Bernal, Hiam Abbass, John Hurt and others, but no-one is named. The credits merely describe them: Lone Man, Nude, Blonde, Guitar, etc.

I put the alert because you may want to discover for yourself without pre-empting: the film’s subtext is about the eternal struggle between those who love peace and art (including poetry, music, film, philosophy, etc) and the power-mongering politicians. That becomes evident as the story progresses and is cryptically underscored with the film's final message: "NO LIMITS. NO CONTROL."

The film is self-reflexive, an ironic (perhaps even comic) conceit that Jarmusch allows himself that recalls Wim Wenders’ The State of Things, in which Wenders’ stand-in, Patrick Buchau, talks about the use of black and white (in a black and white film). Similarly Jarmusch’s characters discuss techniques in film that he is demonstrating at that very point in the film. It’s a lot of fun.

Despite the familiarity, there’s something profoundly refreshing about Jarmusch’s films. It’s not just the visuals, it’s not just the wild characterisations that border on the comic, nor just the bizarre dialogue, nor the lack of exposition. Did I mention the fabulous sound design and music? Basically it’s all of the above, and how Jarmusch constructs the elements in a way that exceeds the sum of the parts. It makes this film fascinating. I have several Jarmusch films to catch up on, but of those I have seen, The Limits of Control is one of his very best and possibly the best cinema release of the year so far. It opens in cinemas today.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More MIFF/Chinese controversy

China pulls films out of festival

THE Melbourne International Film Festival is reeling after the withdrawal of three Chinese films in what appears to be retaliation for the festival's backing of a documentary about exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer.
Read the full article in The Age

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Has Loach lost the plot?

By now you may have read about Ken Loach withdrawing his latest film, Looking For Eric, from MIFF. Loach's reason? Because MIFF accepts funding from the State of Israel which, I believe is to pay for the airfares of people involved in the making of $9.99, an Australian-Israeli co-production.

I personally abhor the attempts at politicisation of MIFF, whether it be by the Chinese government over The 10 Conditions of Love, which I recently wrote about, Loach linking the Palestinian issue with Israel paying for airfares, or Australians For Palestine planning to protest at MIFF's opening night and other sessions. Loach is, of course, entitled to his opinion but, on face value, I disagree with his stance entirely.

For what it's worth, here are copies of the correspondence between Loach and Moore, as posted on the AFP website (click on images to enlarge):

While Loach may have legitimate concerns about Israel and its policies towards the Palestinian territories (concerns that I share, by the way), it seems to me that his stance is inappropriate. Should MIFF refuse funding from, for example, the British Council, the Australian government or the US because of those governments' involvement in recent war crimes? I mean, this just gets ludicrous, and hence the title of this post.

I wholeheartedly support Richard Moore's stance on the issue of MIFF's political independence.
I know this is a potentially emotive issue, and feel free to post your opinions one way or the other, but one request - please keep on topic.

MIFF 2009 Sold Out/Selling Fast Sessions

Bookmark this page. This is MIFF's information that is buried deep in their website (that I largely automated) and available here in the one compact list. These are the film titles listed by MIFF as sold out or selling fast, updated at least three times a day.

The data is set out with session date and time, venue, session ID and title:

  • Sun 9-Aug 7:00 PM - Forum - 1107 - Mother
  • Sun 9-Aug 7:00 PM - GU6 - 2107 - White Ribbon, The
  • Sun 9-Aug 7:00 PM - GU5 - 3107 - Private Lives of Pippa
  • Sun 9-Aug 7:00 PM - GU4 - 4107 - Two Lines
  • Sun 9-Aug 7:00 PM - GU3 - 5107 - Ong Bak 2: The Beginni
  • Sun 9-Aug 7:00 PM - ACMI 2 - 6107 - Dogs in Space
  • Sun 9-Aug 7:00 PM - ACMI 1 - 7107 - My Suicide
  • Sun 9-Aug 9:15 PM - ACMI 2 - 6108 - Girlfriend Experience, The
Last updated Sun 09 Aug 6:11 PM

Note: some tickets for a 'Sold Out' session may become available; check the MIFF ticketing site for confirmation.

See also: MIFF website for program change information

Sunday, July 19, 2009


It's Sunday night and I've been so flat out that I've not collated my Week in Review for this week, nor for the last. But hey, it's the lead up to MIFF, the busiest time of the year. I've got parent teacher interviews tomorrow night, but hopefully I'll get something up soon. If not, c'est la vie !

[Edit]: I should mention that one of the films I saw was Jim Jarmusch's The Limits of Control. I find it odd that it opens next Thursday, on the eve of MIFF. Many of the film's target audience will consequently be otherwise engaged but hopefully won't miss this gem, possibly my favourite cinema release of the year so far. More to come...

My MIFF 2009 list

Successive years have MIFF have taught me not to be in any particular hurry to book my sessions, unless I see a film is selling fast. And that's not so much for myself - I have a Screen Legends membership and can get into sold out sessions - but for sessions for the missus, who has a mini pass. My MIFF preparations for the last week or two have involved laying out the session information in a way that places everything I need in one Excel spreadsheet. I find it frustrating to depend on the MIFF program, which has one flipping from one page to another trying to cross-reference disparate pieces of information. I put more time into my preparation than most, but the result is that I have little to do during the festival other than turn up for the sessions I've booked.

So here's my list. It's my theoretical maximum, as I tend not to turn up for some sessions if I need a break. I also sometimes change a session around based on word of mouth on a particular film. Given that there's 41 films in the below list, I'll be lucky to see 40, which is the number I try to keep it limit myself to. But I'm also attending a couple of non-screening events.

[Edit 31/7/09]: I'm now adding links to my reviews for each film as I see a film and write about it. As you can see, the list has grown a little.
  1. 35 Shots of Rum
  2. Alphaville
  3. Anna
  4. Away We Go
  5. Balibo
  6. Beaches of Agnès, The
  7. Best of the MIFF Shorts
  8. Blind Company
  9. Bluebeard
  10. Chinese Roulette
  11. Dogtooth
  12. Double Take
  13. Eastern Plays
  14. Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl
  15. Fish Tank
  16. Hansel and Gretel
  17. Home
  18. Hurt Locker, The
  19. Katalin Varga
  20. Lake, A
  21. Maid, The
  22. Man Who Came With the Snow, The
  23. Morphia
  24. Pierrot le fou
  25. Red Riding: 1974
  26. Red Riding: 1980
  27. Red Riding: 1983
  28. Still Walking
  29. Sweet Rush
  30. Tales from the Golden Age
  31. Tony Manero
  32. Villa Amalia
  33. Whispering of the Trees, The
  34. White Ribbon, The
  35. Who's Afraid of the Wolf?
  36. Woman is a Woman, A
  37. Zift

Friday, July 17, 2009

The 10 Conditions of Love

As I recently posted, the Chinese government created a controversy by insisting Richard Moore remove The 10 Conditions of Love from screening at MIFF. You can see from my monitoring of Sold Out/Selling Fast sessions that, sure enough, the film's single screening is now 'selling fast'. If you would like to see the documentary, screening in the States of Dissent stream, get in fast.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

ACMI Focus on Australian Noir

OK, I know it's hard to look that far ahead, but here's something to look forward to after MIFF. ACMI is presenting a focus on 'Australian noir' to coincide with the opening of a new permanent exhibition (ah, so that's what all those construction works were about!).

I've seen a few of these films and can vouch for them, such as The Magician, Wake in Fright, Boxing Day (my favourite local film of 2007), The Square (my second favourite local film of 2008), Pure Shit and Dark City.

I'll be looking to catch the other titles that I haven't seen: The Horseman, Goodbye Paradise and Heatwave. The season runs from 17 - 27 September. You can put these dates in your calendar, or subscribe to mine.

[Image: Richard Green in Kriv Stenders' Boxing Day]
ACMI Cinemas Presents
Focus on Australian Noir
Thursday 17th September – Sunday 27th September
Curated by Richard Sowada and Spiro Economopoulos

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) will present a season of gritty, stripped-back Aussie realism when Focus on Australian Noir opens this September.

Curated by ACMIs Head of Film Programs Richard Sowada and Film Programmer Spiro Economopoulos, the program features nine films playing over ten days, all inspired by the noir genre, each one dark in style and subject matter.

“We’ve taken this great selection of films and looked at them through the lens of film noir. Each of them has at their heart the great traditions of the genre, but there's a real sense of playfulness and experimentation with the style, giving a unique spin to classic film noir conventions,” Richard said.

“The film noir elements turn up in surprising places – the glaring sun of the outback in Wake In Fright, the maze of sky-less Melbourne laneways in The Magician, or the confines of a house in Boxing Day – all have locations which are characters in themselves,” he said. “The willingness among these filmmakers to challenge and spin these customs, either by choice or necessity, makes for invigorating viewing.”

The season will open with the hit of last years Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF), The Horseman (2008), where it won both Best Film and Best Director. Steven Kastrissios’ gritty revenge film rewrites the book in its unrelenting vision of a grieving father who will stop at nothing to get back at the men that killed his daughter.

The season continues with another film applauded at MUFF, winner of Best Film, Director and Actor categories in 2003, The Magician (2005). Director and star Scott Ryan turns in a scorching film trailing the life of a hitman, whose twisted code of ethics is, in equal parts, loathsome and likable.

Regarded as an Australian classic, Wake in Fright (Ted Kotcheff, 1971) plays on the fear of the unknown invoked by the outback and often leveraged in Australian films, particularly those of the 1970s. This controversial film takes uptight teacher John Grant (Gary Bond) into the outback, where one night turns into a shattering hallucination of gambling, drinking and brutality. Adapted from the novel of the same name, but simply known as Outback beyond Australian shores, Wake in Fright draws a brilliant early-career performance from Jack Thompson.

The ‘bread and butter’ for Australian noir filmmakers lies in ever-popular stories of crime and corruption. Carl Schultz’s Goodbye Paradise (1982), is set around the years of Joh Bjelke-Peterson's National Party Government. Queensland is depicted as a cesspool of corruption and vice, as a booze-addled ex-cop attempts to solve a murder and in the process uncovers a plot for a military coup. Goodbye Paradise was recognised with two AFI Awards; Best Screenplay for Australian screenwriting legend Bob Ellis and co-writer Denny Lawrence, as well as Best Actor in a Lead Role for Ray Barrett.

Similarly crooked characters make up Philip Noyce’s Heatwave (1982). Partly based on the real life disappearance of Sydney activist and journalist Juanita Nielson, Heatwave depicts a complex web of corruption that surrounds the proposed redevelopment of a poor inner-city Sydney neighbourhood and the fight that ensues between the residents and the all-powerful property developers.

A recent Australian noir hit at film festivals across the globe, The Square (2008), premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival in 2008 to critical acclaim. Written by one of the films’ lead actors, Joel Edgerton, and Garage Days writer Matthew Dabner, The Square is the debut feature offering from promising local director Nash Edgerton and has been reviewed as a “terrific, satisfying, full-bodied Australian crime film” by The Age.

Also screening is Kriv Stenders’ Boxing Day (2007), a real-time drama about a family gathering the day after Christmas. As parolee Chris prepares lunch for his fragmented family, old tensions are ignited and dark secrets unearthed with explosive consequences as a good day spirals out of control.

Filmed in Australia, Alex Proyas’ dystopic sci-fi noir Dark City (1998) is a burgeoning cult-classic set in a city run by a group of creepy beings called ‘The Strangers’. Dark City tells the story of a John Murdoch (played by Rufus Sewell) who wakes up in a strange hotel with amnesia and discovers that he is wanted for a series of brutal murders he has no memory of committing. A Hollywood cast is peppered with top Australian acting talents including Colin Friels, David Wenham and Melissa George.

Naturally, a noir film needs material that lends itself perfectly to the genre so what noir season would be complete without delving into the seedy world of drugs? Drugs and drug taking are portrayed in all their brutal honesty in the ground breaking fictional film, Pure Shit (1975), about four junkies who traverse the city in pursuit of drugs and action. Director Bert Deling challenged more than audiences when he unleashed his second low budget film onto the Australian public. At the time of its release, The Herald deemed it “the most evil film ever made”, no doubt referring to its no holds barred look into Melbourne drug culture.

Focus on Australian Noir draws links with ACMI’s new permanent exhibition, Screen Worlds: The Story of Film, Television and Digital Culture, opening in September. The exhibition will spotlight Australia’s film history and talent. Many of the films in this season feature directorial or acting talent featured in the exhibition. “We very much wanted to time this season for the opening of the exhibition to give visitors a holistic experience while at ACMI,” said Richard. “Whether you’re learning about Australian film history for the first time, or simply wanting to expand your knowledge, the film program and exhibition are great companion experiences to one another.”

Focus on Australian Noir invites you to melt into a gritty world inhabited by grifters, misfits and antiheros, where the innocent become the guilty and the guilty – well, they get what they deserve – when this season comes alive at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image from Thursday 17th – Sunday 27th September, 2009.
And here's the complete program:

Thu 17 Sep 7pm, Fri 25 Sep 7pm
The Horseman
unclassified 18+
, Steven Kastrissios, 110 mins, Australia, 2008, HD Cam
Steven Kastrissios’ gritty revenge film rewrites the book in its unrelenting vision of a grieving father who will stop at nothing to get back at the men that killed his daughter. The film’s breathless pace and no holds barred approach creates a visceral punch with enormous power and resonance.

Thu 17 Sep 9.30pm, Sat 26 Sep 7pm
The Magician
, Scott Ryan, 85 mins, Australia, 2005, 35mm
Director and star Scott Ryan turns in a scorching film trailing the life of a hitman. Low-fi and lean, this ‘documentary’ of the world of small-time gun-for-hire Ray Shoesmith is all sinew. Ryan brings a lovely depth to Ray’s character, whose twisted code of ethics is, in equal parts, loathsome and likable.

Fri 18 Sep 7pm

Pure Shit
, Bert Deling, 85 mins, Australia, 35mm
Four junkies traverse the city in pursuit of drugs and action. A film for and about outsiders, Bert Deling’s outlaw classic has a thrilling sense of danger in both style and story – even 30 years later. Dark, dingy and known to the law, it’s the kind of delinquent kid you don’t want your child to play with.

Sat 19 Sep 7pm

Wake in Fright
, Ted Kotcheff, 114 mins, Australia, 1971, 35mm
Pushing the bush myth as far south as it can go, this controversial and gritty classic follows the increasingly off-kilter journey of very proper and uptight British teacher John Grant (Gary Bond) whose one night in the outback turns into a shattering hallucination of gambling, drinking and brutality.

Sat 19 Sep 9.30pm

Boxing Day
, Kriv Stenders, 81 mins, Australia, 2007
In Kriv Stenders’ devastating real-time drama, a family gathering the day after Christmas ignites old tensions and unearths dark secrets as parolee Chris prepares lunch for his fragmented family. As the day progresses, crime and innocence collide with explosive consequences as a good day spirals out of control for our fractured antihero.

Sun 20 Sep 3pm, Sun 27 Sep 5.30pm

Heatwave M, Philip Noyce, 92 mins, Australia, 1982, 35mm
Partly based on the real life disappearance of Sydney activist and journalist Juanita Nielsen, Heatwave depicts a complex web of corruption that surrounds the proposed redevelopment of a poor inner-city Sydney neighbourhood and the fight that ensues between the residents and the all-powerful property developers.

Sun 20 Sep 5pm
Dark City M, Alex Proyas, 100 mins, Australia, 1998, 35mm
Alex Proyas’ dystopic sci-fi noir centres on a city run by a group of creepy beings called ‘The Strangers’. Rufus Sewell plays John Murdoch, a man who wakes up in a strange hotel with amnesia and discovers that he’s wanted for a series of brutal murders he has no memory of committing.

Thu 24 Sep 7pm, Sun 27 Sep 3pm

Goodbye Paradise
, Carl Schultz, 119 mins, Australia, 1982, 35mm
An underrated classic, Goodbye Paradise is set around the years of Joh Bjelke-Peterson's National Party Government. Queensland is depicted as a cesspool of corruption and vice, as a booze-addled ex-cop attempts to solve a murder and in the process uncovers a plot for a military coup.

Sat 26 Sep 9pm

The Square
, Nash Edgerton, 101 mins, Australia, 2008
A hapless everyman falls for a younger woman with a dodgy boyfriend and an even dodgier stash of money. In classic noir style, love (and everything else for that matter) doesn’t run smoothly as a plot is hatched to take the money and run. With great respect to the noir form, The Square is a “terrific, satisfying, full-bodied Australian crime film” The Age

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Got it!

It came in the mail today, not that I needed it to make my bookings. I've pored through the program a number of times and am taking my time about what I'm going to see. I've only booked for the Blind Company and the talks with Agnès Varda and Claire Denis.

I'll post my tentative list in the next couple of days. My aim is to keep the number of films to 40 or less. I'm also intending to lower my threshold of walking out of films that aren't doing it for me. MIFF is too fatiguing to waste time on films that don't meet one's criteria.


In today's Age:

Beijing pressures film festival to dump documentary

It must have been a bit of a shock for poor Richard Moore to have an irate and insistent Chinese consulate on the phone. I mean, he's a festival director, not a politician or diplomat. Ah, nothing like a bit of controversy!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Blind Company session 'selling fast'

For me, the most anticipated film of MIFF 2009 is Alkinos Tsilimidos' Blind Company. My regular update of the selling out sessions reveals it's 'selling fast' and it only has the one screening. The film stars Colin Friels and Nick Barkla, is set in Tasmania and will be followed by a Q&A. I just secured my tickets and if you're thinking about it yourself, get in quick before they're all gone.

For what it's worth, Tsilimidos' previous films include Tom White, Em 4 Jay (my equal favourite Australian film - the other being The Boys) and Everynight, Everynight... In my opinion, this man makes films that deserve to screen at Cannes with the best of them.

[Update]: poster added: doesn't it look great?

[Update 15/7/09]: As expected, the session has now sold out.

[Update 19/7/09]: This title is now listed as 'selling fast', so tickets are still available.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bayside Film Festival

T is for Teacher (Rohan Spong, Australia/USA, 2009)

T is for Teacher documents the experiences of four transgender males as they make the transition to females in their roles as high school teachers in the United States. It was directed by Rohan Spong, a Melbournian who lived in the US for some time. Apparently the film is doing the festival circuit and screened at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival last March, though I think it's a good film to be screened in schools to raise awareness of gender issues.

Gender is a subject I have a keen interest in, a subject that is very complex and is difficult to do justice to in a few words on a blog like this. I'll do my best within the confines I find myself in, one of which is time.

Human society likes to label its members. It likes to keep things simple and well-defined. It makes things easier to deal with. But it doesn't cater for the natural diversity we find in society. I'm not even talking about so-called alternative gender here. When I went to school, if you wore anything other than black, grey or navy socks, you were considered a poof. If you wore colourful clothes, were into poetry, dancing or were different from the macho norm in any way, your sexuality - indeed your whole identity - was considered suspect. I mentioned some of this in a post last year about my experience of being a 'heterosexual pooftah', that is, a heterosexual person who was bastardised for being 'different'.

People often think of sexuality in terms of heterosexual and homosexual, but that's just way too simplistic. I have a friend I've known for nearly thirty years. About fifteen years ago he became openly transvestite. We sometimes went to gay nightclubs and danced together, he as a woman (and a very convincing one at that) and me a man. But neither of us is gay, nor interested in sex with a man. He has since married (a woman) and has lost interest in cross-dressing. My point is that sexuality is not black and white, and hence the use of the rainbow ribbon by the gay movement - life is full of diversity.

What could be more difficult than having an established identity as a male teacher in a school, and turning up for work one day in a dress and make-up? Same person - different gender. Not only do you have your family's reactions to deal with, but you've got your employer, your colleagues, students, parents, church community and probably others.

Spong interviews these various stakeholders, gathering their views and responses and the differences between the different teachers is quite striking. For some, it was very positive and enriching, for others it was soul-destroying. It seemed quite clear to me that the outcomes were largely proportional to the support from above. The most important factor for success seemed to be a teacher having the support of the principal, followed by appropriate processes being put in place for transition that involved all the stakeholders so that any concerns could be addressed and allayed.

T is for Teacher screens at Palace Brighton Bay at 7pm on Thursday 16 July, along with Beyond Our Shores by Rhys Graham, and will be followed by a Q&A session with Rohan Spong.

The Bayside Film Festival screens at Palace Brighton Bay from 15-18 July.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Other MIFF 2009 Blogs

Keep an eye on this page: I'll be adding links to fellow MIFF 2009 bloggers, the sites I go to to compare notes and get the lowdown on what's happening at MIFF.

If you know of any other worthwhile MIFF blogs or resources, please submit the URL to me and I'll add it.

"A talent for lies and abuse"

This article in yesterday's The Australian pretty much encapsulates my thoughts on Michael Jackson, which I think makes a very good read in the current climate of selective amnesia about the man's accomplishments. Forensic psychiatrist Robert M. Kaplan writes:
Jackson had been successful in achieving his most important goal: claiming the mantle of victimhood as justification for leading an exploitative and predatory

People talk about MJ as if he was some kind of saint, an image he carefully nurtured with his Christ-and-the-children-type hype. If, like me you're sick of everyone's defences and rationalising of MJ's behaviour, check out the full article.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

MIFF 2009 films with a release

Some people like to be able to say "I saw it first". Occasionally I'm one of those, but mostly I try to see films at MIFF that aren't getting a theatrical release. Good releases are so few and far between these days that it's nice to have something to watch when they come out throughout the year.

As I've done in previous years, I'm compiling a list of films that have a confirmed release. Details are, of course, subject to change. Titles marked with an asterisk are also being introduced and followed by Q&A sessions, presumably with the director and possibly others (keep an eye on MIFF's website for details from this Friday 20 July) so, depending on the film and how much you value Q&As (I rate them highly), you may or may not want to see a film first at MIFF.

Inglourious Basterds is the only title below without a Q&A, being introduced only (by Tarantino) at what will be the Australian premiere, though that session costs $55 ($50 for MIFF members, and MIFF festival passes do NOT get you entry!).

Keep an eye on this page as I expect to add more titles as information comes to hand. And please let me know of any other release dates that I may have missed.

[Last updated 25/7/09 12:52 AM

  • $9.99 *, Icon, 17/9/09
  • 10 Conditions of Love, The, (Nova), 13/8/09
  • Amreeka, Sharmill, 22/10/09
  • Antichrist, Transmission, 2010 TBC
  • Balibo *, M, Paramount, 13/8/09
  • Big River Man, M, Umbrella, 20/8/09
  • Blessed *, MA, Icon, 10/9/09
  • Bran Nue Dae, Transmission, 26/11/09
  • Bronson *, Madman, 6/8/09
  • Che Part 1 & 2, Transmission, 1/10/09
  • Coraline, Universal, 6/8/09
  • Cove, The *, M, Madman, 20/8/09
  • Eden is West, M, Jump Street/Sharmill, 20/8/09
  • Education, An, Paramount/Transmission, 22/10/09
  • Flame & Citron, Rialto, 10/9/09
  • Food Inc., Rialto, 22/10/09
  • Girlfriend Experience, The, Icon, 6/9/09
  • Hurt Locker, The, Roadshow, 22/10/09
  • Inglourious Basterds *, Universal, 20/8/09
  • It Might Get Loud, Sony, TBC
  • Looking for Eric, Icon, 24/9/09
  • Loved Ones, The *, Madman, 5/11/09
  • Louise-Michel, Vendetta, Sep 2009 TBC
  • Martyrs, Kojo, 29/9/09
  • Moon, M, Sony, 8/10/09
  • Morphia, single screening only at Russian Resurrection Film Festival, 26/8/09
  • Mother, Madman, TBC
  • Prime Mover, M, Transmission, 29/10/09
  • September Issue, The, Madman, 20/8/09
  • Tears For Sale, Icon, TBC
  • Thirst, MA, Madman, TBC 2009 (currently screening in Sydney)
  • Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls, The *, M, Rialto, 8/10/09
  • Tyson, Hopscotch, 6/8/09
  • Valentino: The Last Emperor, Hopscotch, 17/9/09
  • Van Diemen's Land *, Madman, 24/9/09

The following have a local distributor, but no confirmation of a release. Many will be DVD releases, some may get a theatrical release, and some neither:

  • Black Dynamite, Hopscotch
  • Burrowers, The, Lionsgate
  • Chaser, The, MA, Madman
  • Chocolate, Madman
  • Dead Snow, Madman
  • Dogtooth, Madman
  • Eden Lake, Madman, DVD, 9/9/09
  • Eden Log, Roadshow
  • Humpday, Madman
  • In the Loop, Madman
  • Kisses, Madman
  • Letter to Anna, Accent, DVD
  • Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine, Madman
  • Maradona by Kusturica, Hopscotch
  • Red Riding Trilogy, MA, Madman, DVD, 9/9/09
  • Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect, Madman
  • Sky Crawlers, The, Sony, 7/10/09
  • Still Walking, G, Madman
  • Thriller in Manila, Shock DVD (DVD only, 14/8/09)
  • Tony Manero, Vendetta
  • Town Called Panic, A, Madman
  • Unmade Beds, Madman
  • Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman, Madman
  • White Lightnin', Madman
  • White Ribbon, The

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

MIFF 2009 Trailers

By day, I work as a technical business analyst and I'm reasonably well-paid for analysing how to make repetitive processes as streamlined as possible in a business environment. It comes natural to me, then, when using the MIFF website or going through MIFF procedures to see what works well and what doesn't. Each year, I take a note of what I feel could be improved, and this forms the basis of a document that I send after each festival as feedback. I also provide comments that I think are working well. I used to be self-employed and appreciated both kinds of feedback.

I'm sure I wasn't the only one who complained about the repetitiveness of those bloody MIFF ads at each screening. Even worse was the one by Yalumba, who are returning this year as festival sponsors. Their ad is still running in cinemas and I hope to god we don't have to again hear that smug cunt telling us he knows what the fucking ending is... beware of the man in a hat. I felt like sticking a wine bottle up his fucking ...

Well, one of my suggestions last year was that if they're going to have ads, they run more than one for each sponsor. MIFF are this year rotating three "everyone's a critic" ads, and two of them previewed at the festival launch last night. One is a couple of astronauts in space discussing a film, being heard as their discussion is broadcast to mission control. Another is a couple of wrestlers fighting over their opinions.

OK, aside from the fact that this theme has been regurgitated from last year (there's a GFC after all, and everyone is cutting back), and ignoring some other arguments about the theme (the subject of another upcoming post), the problem I identified with these ads is they are both just way too long. You'll see what I mean when the festival starts. They're OK for the first time, but if you're going to see 20 films, that's roughly 7 times you'll see each ad. We're going to be sick of them by the second viewing. They need to be short and snappy. The wrestler one is full of yelling, and that is going to grate big time. And what to speak of if you're seeing 40, 60, 80 or more films (I'm aiming for a relatively modest 40).

You can check out all three trailers at the MIFF website. What do you think of them?

MIFF tickets go on sale on Friday, the same day that the program is distributed with The Age.