Illness stunted my experience, but I looked after myself and got my health back as quickly as possible and consequently saw more films at the tail-end of the festival than I usually do.
I don't think much of this year's retrospectives. Anna Karina is a pretty face but the five films I saw in that stream all ended up in my "OK But Nothing Special" category. And I figure the Post Punk retrospective was a cost-cutting measure (films cheap to procure), and I saw none of them. They simply didn't interest me at all. On the plus side, I worked out what it is I don't like about Jean-Luc Godard's work, even if that makes me prone to being considered a film philistine. Godard fans seem to share his intolerance for convention, and his anger at people for not getting him and his ideas.
Some prominent names produced films that I enjoyed, even if they weren't showstoppers:
Manoel de Oliveira's Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl, Claire Denis' 35 Shots of Rum, Alkinos Tsilimidos' Blind Company (perhaps my biggest disappointment, as this was my most anticipated film), Catherine Breillat's Bluebeard and Hirokazu Kore-eda's Still Walking.
There seemed to be a lack of solid films that pack a powerful punch. Perhaps I needed more fun films for variety, like Zift. I even considered catching the second screening of Inglourious Basterds, but couldn't justify a 10:30PM start for a two and a half hour film that opens widely in a less than two weeks.
My favourite of the festival is Haneke's The White Ribbon and nothing came close. Not only is the film very much a Haneke film (and I love his work), but it's also very different to anything I've seen from him. It's complex, intelligent, visually arresting and has a lot to say, without saying it directly. And special mention to Dogtooth, the only other really solid film for me.
So, all up I saw 35 or 36 films (one on DVD while I was sick), compared to 41 I saw each of the previous two years. It was never about quantity and I was happy with the number I saw. I could have crammed another couple in this evening, but with work tomorrow, I knew I'd be sorry.
Next year I think I'll try to watch one or two sessions of shorts. I saw three documentaries this year, which is three more than my previous couple of years. That was a good move, but I don't know if I'd increase that next year. In past years, I found focusing too much on one region (eg Neighbourhood Watch) resulted in too many films that were too alike. I cut back on that stream this year, but there still seemed to be a lot of films that were just OK. Maybe I need to try some horror (ie, Night Shift). Maybe I should try more mainstream films, but I still feel no inclination to go out of my way for films I know are getting a release.
Putting things into perspective, I don't expect films at MIFF to be 'knock-outs'. It's all about the diversity, seeing films from places one normally wouldn't, or of a quality that just don't get released otherwise.
In the weeks leading up to and including MIFF, I received five to ten times my normal traffic to this site. I appreciate that others can take advantage of my efforts and I also appreciate the feedback and comments that others have posted. The intention of this blog is really to do my small bit to galvanise some sort of local film culture, some appreciation of film 'off the beaten track'. I'm hoping that one or two people, maybe more, will keep dropping by post-MIFF and add your 2c worth. There's a lot more film blogs around now than when I started nearly three years ago and hopefully we can see this part of the film culture/community grow.
I have a particular perspective on cinema (and I acknowledge that I need to post some kind of mission statement). It sometimes comes across in my posts, often not. There's limitations to the time and effort I can put into any given post. It is a voluntary (unpaid) labour of love. I am, however, open to criticism, other opinions, debate, enlightenment.
As I've posted elsewhere, numbers seemed to be up significantly this year. Sessions during business hours seemed much better attended than the last couple of years and at least 114 sessions sold out this year (compared to 37 last year). This last weekend, virtually every evening session was sold out.
MIFF scheduled an extra 15 minutes between sessions this year and I thought the results of this were profound. First, it often allowed a stretch of legs between films and it also gave an important buffer for films running late, often due to technical hitches. I never found myself having to race between venues with a couple of minutes to spare. The practical result for me was that there was only one occasion where a film I attended started late. And the festival now has a policy of holding up all films if one film runs late, so one doesn't have to leave a film early to catch the next one. The logistics of the festival from this perspective ran extremely smoothly as far as I am concerned, the best I've seen yet (kudos to those responsible).
Finally, below I've tried to group the films I saw at MIFF according to rough categorisations which are not necessarily accurate, but useful for me. So, how did you go? How was your MIFF experience in 2009?
Pick of the Festival
- White Ribbon, The
- Beaches of Agnès, The
- Best of the MIFF Shorts
- Eastern Plays
- Hurt Locker, The
- Lake, A
- Tales from the Golden Age
- Red Riding: 1974
- Red Riding: 1980
- 35 Shots of Rum
- Blind Company
- Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl
- Man Who Came With the Snow, The
- Still Walking
- Whispering of the Trees, The
- Chinese Roulette
- Fish Tank
- Katalin Varga
- Maid, The
- Pierrot le fou
- Sweet Rush
- Tony Manero
- Villa Amalia
- Woman is a Woman, A
- Away We Go
- Double Take
- Hansel and Gretel
- Red Riding: 1983
- Who's Afraid of the Wolf?