Saturday, August 08, 2009

MIFF 2009 Day 15 - 7/8/09

Today I had the pleasure of having lunch with Lynden Barber from Eyes Wired Open who has braved the southern climes to interview MIFF director Richard Moore for SBS, visit the Len Lye exhibition at ACMI (his article) and cram as many films into the weekend that he can. It was the first time we'd met other than online and I I took him on a little walking tour of Melbourne's laneways before catching Fassbinder's Chinese Roulette. I highly recommend his Eyes Wired Open as one of the best Australian film blogs.
  • Chinesisches Roulette (Chinese Roulette, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany/France, 1976)
  • Best of the MIFF Shorts
  • Un lac (A Lake, Philippe Grandrieux, France, 2008)
Chinese Roulette
In some respects, I feel similarly towards Fassbinder as I do towards Godard. Other than Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, little of Fassbinder's work touches me and - like Godard's films - feels designed to remain distant. Chinese Roulette is unmistakably Fassbinder: the melodrama, the score, the sexual innuendo, the camp undertones.

Anna Karina's role demands little of her. She plays the husband's mistress and speaks a few words of German here and there. As in Godard's films, it appears her role is little more than window-dressing, pretty as she is.

The film encapsulates an era, and is fascinating in that context. The story is a bit of a romp and enjoyable enough. Like Godard, I don't feel I know enough about Fassbinder's intent to discuss the film further, but am happy to be enlightened by others. I enjoyed the film, but it was nothing special.

Best of the MIFF Shorts
I didn't realise that this session was largely taken up by the awards ceremony, so we only got to see six shorts:
  • Instead of Abracadabra
    A Swedish comedy (with a zany sense of humour guaranteed to appeal to Australian audiences) about a young layabout whose amateur magic shows sometimes put relatives in hospital.
  • Next Floor
    The silent era styeled credits preface a film without dialogue. The visuals recall any number of gothic horror films and the style is almost Greenaway.
  • Two Men
    A simple premise is explored in a novel fashion, a kind of what-if, indigenous style.
  • Necessary Games
    I can't say I'm a big fan for experimental cinema, though this one is intriguing.
  • The Cat Piano
    Inventive, entertaining, film noir with a voiceover by Nick Cave - how could you go wrong?
  • Slaves
    The animation does an excellent job of making a dark subject accessible. Who'd have thought that the terrible things described are taking place today?
Memo to self: next year, include at least one shorts session in my program.

A Lake
"It's like sticking knitting needles into your eyes" is how one walk-out described this film to me, though I found it captivating. I just had to capture that response, which I find amusing, and fair enough. I noticed quite a number of walk-outs and I don't blame any of them.

A Lake is a difficult film: the hand-held camera has a tendency at times to replicate the experience of the epileptic protagonist. There's not a whole lot happening. Our man cuts down trees in the snow. The visuals are staggeringly beautiful. His fits are increasing in frequency, which he reveals to his sister (with whom he has a sexual fixation), but not his mother.

The film is dark, brooding and again, difficult. Yet somehow compelling.


poignantPoint said...

Only caught 1 film in my brief visit. Luckily we struck cinema gold. 'Boris Ryzhy', a doco about a Russian poet who killed himself age 26. The documentarian went to his home town to try get some answers as to why. The doco features lots of poems read by Boris, and visuals of the town/people to accompany. It was done really well. One of those slow-burners that gradually penetrates into your emotional core. I walked out of the cinema, my perspective of the world noticibly altered - if only for a short while. That's the kind of hit i became addicted to a couple of years ago.

Anonymous said...

I was at the shorts session also. If they were the best, it just confirms my growing belief that MIFF-picked shorts are only a way of saying "look what I can do with the medium" rather than "look at how I reveal this good story"

Anonymous said...

Philippe Grandrieux is one of my favourite filmmakers but he doesn't make enough films. His other two films that screened at MIFF a few years ago remain highlights. An original director and one of French's best. His films are like no other films being made today.