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).

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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.

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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.

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

11 comments:

Jurguens said...

Yep, didn't see you at the United Red Army screening, I thought you'd be having a break.

The movie was tough, but I found it quite interesting.

Trent Vittorio said...

I think the whole "blockbuster" thing was just a bad attempt at comedy by Schembri rather than a serious comment, especially read in the context of his noting Harry Potter's BO. And to be fair to Schembri he has championed Jarmusch's work in the past: I remember him really liking Ghost Dog when it was released, for example.

Although you will go crazy trying to find any rationale for his star rating system (1 1/2 for Zodiac? 4 for Superman Returns?).

I'm as perturbed by Limits of Control's release schedule as you are. Originally it was going to get an Australian release in May, then was pushed back to July, then Hoyts and Village (I assume it would have screened at the Rivoli) who had advertised it as a coming attraction decided not to screen it, leaving us with a very limited Melbourne release at the exact same time as when its potential audience would be indisposed, as you note.

I'm really not sure what the story is with The Limits of Control's release. Maybe the mixed US reviews meant cinemas here got cold feet.

Paul Martin said...

Jurguens, the person that recommended United Red Armny tells me it's the best film he's seen at MIFF yet this year, so I'm a little disappointed. I can't fit in the second screening without sacrificing Haneke's The White Ribbon, which I'm not prepared to do. C'est la vie !. But would you have recognised me anyway?

Trent, even after your suggesting it and re-reading Schembri's article, I can't discern that he meant it in jest. I think it's perfectly acceptable for two people to have completely different impressions of a film; what I call into question is how you can give 1/2 star to a film that is clearly technically and artistically excellent, even if you don't like the pace or lack of conventional narrative. And then to give 5 stars to a film that is technically very flawed (I'm talking Balibo here) and even sloppy in its story-telling.

For Schembri, he seems to swing wildly in his reviews, based on a purely visceral level. That's his style and he's entitled to it, but I don't find it particularly informative or insightful. Generally, I like to read reviews that are the complete opposite of mine, because maybe I can get something out of a film that I didn't otherwise. I don't get that with Schembri's reviews. If he doesn't like something, he just cans it with little analysis.

Jake said...

Jim is definitely being ironic when he calls Limits of Control a blockbuster -- clearly it's anything but. although I haven't seen it yet myself.

The retrospectives aside, United Red Army is my favorite film so far at MIFF as well.

eyeswiredopen said...

Without wishing to defend Schembri (god forbid), I think it's qite clear that he's calling Limits of control a blockbuster ironically. It's kind of like calling Mama Mia an art movie - it's not meant to be taken at face value. Though there again, it is Schembri and he does come out with some dorky comments so maybe you have a point...

Paul Martin said...

Jake and Lynden, I know that Jim Schembri has a whacky and dry sense of humour, and maybe you're both right, but I'm not sure.

Paul Martin said...

I forgot to mention, Jake, re: URA, thanks for rubbing it in... ;)

Jurguens said...

I don't know if I would have recognised you, I don't have your photo imprinted on my brain... but I did try.

I haven't seen many movies but URA was excellent. Sorry Paul, but it was.

I may see you at The White Ribbon...

poignantPoint said...

Re: Cedar Boys

I'm left feeling really confused when i read people like yourself Paul and David Stratton, who use words like 'real' and authentic' to describe the film. Of course it's real, it's written by Lebanese-Australians.. to me thats beside the point. It makes me feel like you've no experience chatting with Lebanese-Australian youth. Which is fine of course, but just cause something appears authentic doesn't make it a good film.

Sure, it's really great to see non-Anglo stories being told in Australian film, but i found Cedar Boys pretty uninspiring. It was just like any of the black American gang films of the 90's. I'd like to think Lebanese-Australian film makers would be striving to create their own style in their films.

Paul Martin said...

Actually, Ryan, the writer/director has a Turkish background. You're right - I have no experience talking to Australian Lebanese youth. But my partner, who is a teacher in a disadvantaged area, is very familiar with the demographic and was more impressed by the film (and specifically the dialogue) than I.

I don't see that the film is going to break any box office records (and it's not 'inspiring' films that do that anyway), but it has its merits.

poignantPoint said...

Perhaps I'm quickly becoming jaded.. I just desire more from my cinema experience these days. Kudos to you for focusing on "its merits".