My very first day of seeing films at the festival began with Three, a light German drama touching on issues of death and disease that ended up being a slightly farcical infidelity story. It was also unfortunate that the print hadn’t arrived as planned so the film was screened off a preview DVD. To the credit of the MIFF staff, this unforeseeable issue was explained to the audience beforehand and refunds were offered so I’ve no complaint with that. In fact, the low resolution, distributor logo in the corner of the screen and occasional bits of text flashing on the screen actually suited the film’s themes of detachment and communication failure. However, after enduring a series of moments when the disc jumped back and forth by several minutes I had to walk out as that was one unintentional alienation device too many.
Things picked up considerably when I then saw The King of Comedy, arguably the most underrated Scorsese/De Niro director/actor collaboration. I’d only previously seen this once on VHS so this was a treat. The film brilliantly explores issues of obsession and the nature of celebrity, making it the missing link between Taxi Driver and The Larry Saunders Show. I’d forgotten how funny it is. And what happened to Sandra Bernhard? She’s amazing in this.
The highlight of my day after The King of Comedy was Jess + Moss where light, colour, a variety of film stocks and a variety of cinematographic techniques are used to create a vivid impression of an adolescent friendship. Funny, sweet and even at times slightly sinister, it explores companionship, memory, loss and the awkwardness of emerging sexual curiosity. Perhaps it is slightly too obtuse to really deliver a full emotional punch, but I nevertheless found this to be a mesmerising and beautiful film. I suspect director Clay Jeter is going to do extraordinary things in the future.
I doubt I’ll see a bigger dud at the festival than The Silence of Joan. This poorly made film is more about various men who feel sorry for Joan of Arc than Joan herself. Not a bad idea I suppose, but she really is silenced in this film and robbed of all character. The cinematography and editing resemble the sort of thing you’d expect from a mediocre TV movie and some of the performances from the supporting cast would not have been out of place in a particularly bad piece of community theatre.
I wanted to like Melancholia more than I did, but it is still an immensely rewarding film. After a truly remarkable prologue, where the main story is basically told in a series of stunning abstract images, the first part of the film delivers an extremely impressive depiction of somebody who suffers from depression. Kirsten Dunst is remarkable as Justine who is supposed to be having the time of her life on her wedding night, but struggles to remain happy. There’s also a lot of humour in the disfunctional family scenario. The second half, where the depression theme is explored in the metaphor of a planet named Melancholia on a collision course with the Earth, does drag. Nevertheless, the ending is powerful and Dunst gets to deliver a brilliant line of dialogue: ‘The Earth is evil, we don’t need to grieve for it. Nobody will miss it.’ Thanks for that Lars von Trier you miserable sod.
Finally, I was really looking forward to the latest film that has come out from the trend in grindhouse revival cinema, Hobo with a Shotgun. It is certainly ultra-violent and ridiculous enough to tick all the boxes, but this homeless-exploitation film is a far cry from Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof and Robert Rodriguez’s Machete. The relentless and pointless sadism of the film left me cold and bored, which not even the presence of Rutger Hauer could cure.
I really had to bite my tongue while waiting for Three to start when I overheard a woman loudly complaining about ‘why do they need to play this doof doof music in the cinema before the film!’ The music that was being played was the soundtrack to Run Lola Run and since Three was the latest film by Tom Tykwer it made perfect sense to play it. Besides, it’s a bit of a stretch to describe that soundtrack as ‘doof doof’. Also, during an early funny scene in The King of Comedy, a guy came into the cinema late and tripped over just as the audience started laughing at something on screen. The timing was perfect.
Show us your MIFF
I made a new MIFF friend today when a mutual friend introduced me to Lauren Matthews, a political analyst, activist and card-maker who is covering MIFF at the new stealingbeauty2011 blog. Lauren’s mother used to manage the Classic so cinema is in her blood. She’s seeing over 60 films at MIFF this year and has been attending the festival in some capacity every since she was 4-years-old. Appropriately her favourite film is Cinema Paradiso. She recommends the consumption of meal replacement bars as the key to surviving MIFF and is most looking forward to seeing Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place. Her biggest MIFFhap was discovering last year that Teenage Paparazzo filmmaker Adrian Grenier was nothing like his Entourage character Vincent Chase.