Preparing for MIFF 2009

The program for the 2009 Melbourne International Film Festival came out on Friday and I’ve finally selected the 20 films that I will see this year. From previous experience I find that 20 -30 films is the ideal amount for me. Any more than that usually results in too many films blurring into one and me getting really sick! Maybe I’m getting old but I find that 2 films per day is ideal (3 max) and I try to avoid anything with a start time after 10pm. I also like to keep some days free to recover and catch up on regularly released films, as there is a lot of good stuff getting a general release in Australia while MIFF is on. So I’ve picked 20 films (two mini-passes worth) and there will inevitably be a few more added on as word of mouth during the festival brings to my attention things that I hadn’t previously considered.

My selection process this year was the simplest it has ever been as I only chose films that I felt I would enjoy, be stimulated by or that I was curious about for whatever reason. That sounds simple enough but in previous years I have made the mistake of seeing films that looked worthy so I therefore felt I should see. Such films usually turn out to be mind-numbingly dull. I have also made the mistake in the past of picking all the films with the Contains scenes that may offend warning, thinking that these would all be amazingly transgressive films that I wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. With some notable exceptions, the films with this warning are usually disappointing horror films and it didn’t matter whether or not I would be able to see them again. I have also avoided feeling as if I needed to sample at least one film from each special program, although by default I think I’ve sort of done that anyway.

As a general rule I try to avoid seeing anything with a release date that is soon after the festival. Admittedly I am seeing some stuff that is getting released in Australia later in the year because I like the festival atmosphere so much more than going to a regular screening. But really, seeing films getting released one or two weeks after – or even during – the festival just seems silly. (See the link at the end of this post for a list of films with an general Australian release date.)

Also, be careful of anything that contains descriptions such as “It’s as if David Lynch directed a zombie film on acid” or “Michael Mann meets Tim Burton with puppets”. Always be suspicious of films that need to be promoted with comparative descriptions like this.

I would also advise that you resist the temptation to get caught up in current trends in national cinema. For ages Iranian cinema was highly fashionable and at the moment Eastern European cinema seems to be the latest fad. Just because a film comes from a country that is currently the hot country in world cinema, it doesn’t mean that it is automatically a masterpiece despite what some people would desperately like to believe.

Anyway, good luck with your selections and I hope that you enjoy the majority of the films you pick (it is always inevitable that there will be a few duds). Check out the Melbourne Film Blog as Paul Martin, whom you may recognise from his various comments here on Cinema Autopsy, has put together an excellent collection of MIFF resources including:

Paul will be continuously updating all these pages and I’ve already found them very useful.

Of course during MIFF you can expect regular updates on Cinema Autopsy about the films I’ve seen plus I’ll try to keep up with posting full reviews of films getting a general release both here in Australia and around the world. After that I think I will probably take most of the rest of August off!


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  1. Thanks for the links, Thomas, and I’m glad that others can find the info useful. But what’s your list of 20? And you’re not taking advantage of the other 6 ‘bonus’ sessions?

  2. I ran out of time to list my 20 films last night but I will try to do so later this week. I’ve already found 1 or 2 more sessions that I need to add! Do I exchange them or simply buy new tickets…?

    As I work all day Mondays-Wednesday (on a festival that happens right after MIFF therefore taking time off is not an option for me this year) and now that MIFF no longer have bonus sessions on Friday, that pretty much leaves me with Thursday to take advantage of the 6 sessions. I think I will play that by ear and choose on the day depending on how I feel and what I’ve heard.

  3. The 6 can be used before 6pm, which effectively means 4.45pm as the next sessions are typically 7pm. So if you could finish work early, you could get a couple or more in Mon-Wed and use up the rest on the Thursdays.

    If you need to change a session that you’ve booked, I think you have to do it on the phone or at the Forum, and there’s a $2.20 charge per session change. I think I changed a couple once at the Forum and I wasn’t charged, but don’t quote me – it was a while ago. If you have to pay, it’s a pain, but not the end of the world.

  4. After a little bit of tweaking and last minute indecision, I’ve settled on the sessions below. I still haven’t worked out what I will use my bonus passes for but I’m hoping to see the Red Riding trilogy next week for starters.

    MIFF 2009

    Saturday 25 July 2009
    7:00 PM Greater Union 4 4008 – LIKE YOU KNOW IT ALL
    9:15 PM Greater Union 6 2009 – THIRST

    Wednesday 29 July 2009
    9:15 PM Kino Cinemas 8034 – BURROWERS, THE

    Thursday 30 July 2009
    7:00 PM Greater Union 6 2040 – AWAY WE GO
    9:15 PM Greater Union 6 2041 – HURT LOCKER, THE

    Friday 31 July 2009
    7:00 PM Greater Union 4 4046 – CHOCOLATE
    11:30 PM Greater Union 6 2048 – ONG BAK 2: THE BEGINNI

    Saturday 1 August 2009
    11:30 AM Forum Theatre 1050 – CHE PART 1 (THE ARGENT
    2:15 PM Forum Theatre 1051 – CHE PART 2 (GUERILLA)
    9:15 PM Greater Union 6 2054 – AN EDUCATION

    Sunday 2 August 2009
    12:15 PM Greater Union 5 3057 – PAPER SOLDIER

    Monday 3 August 2009
    9:15 PM Greater Union 5 3067 – SHADOW PLAY: THE MAKIN

    Tuesday 4 August 2009
    7:00 PM Greater Union 6 2072 – 35 SHOTS OF RUM
    9:15 PM Greater Union 6 2073 – WHITE RIBBON, THE

    Wednesday 5 August 2009
    9:15 PM Greater Union 4 4079 – SKY CRAWLERS, THE

    Thursday 6 August 2009
    7:00 PM Greater Union 4 4084 – LOVE EXPOSURE

    Friday 7 August 2009
    2:30 PM Forum Theatre 1089 – CHINESE ROULETTE

    Saturday 8 August 2009
    10:45 PM Greater Union 6 2103 – ANTICHRIST

    Sunday 9 August 2009
    2:30 PM Forum Theatre 1105 – FISH TANK
    7:00 PM Forum Theatre 1107 – MOTHER

  5. Of the 41 films I’ve booked, the only sessions of yours that coincide are:

    Thursday 30 July 2009
    9:15 PM Greater Union 6 2041 – HURT LOCKER, THE

    Tuesday 4 August 2009
    9:15 PM Greater Union 6 2073 – WHITE RIBBON, THE

    Friday 7 August 2009
    2:30 PM Forum Theatre 1089 – CHINESE ROULETTE

    Sunday 9 August 2009
    2:30 PM Forum Theatre 1105 – FISH TANK

    Hopefully we’ll catch up at one or more of these. I’m not worrying about the titles that are getting a release like Che and Antichrist. At the Meet the MIFF Programmers night, Senior Programmer Michelle Carey actually recommended against this film. I will probably still see it, but am happy to wait for its 2010 projected release. I think it’s just a headline film to attract attention, just like Inglourious Basterds.

  6. hehe, I just had a quick flick through your original post above and see that you had already advised:

    I have also made the mistake in the past of picking all the films with the Contains scenes that may offend warning, thinking that these would all be amazingly transgressive films that I wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. .

  7. Haha – yes, you’ve busted me Paul. Despite everything that I said in this piece I still went ahead and booked Antichrist. Guilty as charged.

    But, I am a fan of Lars von Trier and I’ve been dying to see Antichrist ever since I first heard about it, which was before it caused so much fuss at Cannes. So, in this case I just couldn’t wait!

  8. Well, I look forward to your report on it, but I suspect that you will rue the day you ignored your own advice. Time will tell.

    I’m ambivalent about Von Trier. I loved Breaking the Waves, a film that opened me up to the power of bleakness. I’ve seen 3 or 4 since, and I like elements of each of them, but none of them really quite works as a whole.

  9. Well, it wouldn’t be an authentic MIFF experience for me if I didn’t go to at least one disturbing but ultimately disappointing late night film. Maybe I should check out Martyrs as well…

    There are a number of dud von Trier films out there but I love The Elements of Crime, Europa (a.k.a. Zentropa), Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, Dogville and The Five Obtructions, not to forget the wonderful TV series The Kingdom. So, I’m always up for a von Trier film but as you say, time well tell whether Antichrist is worth using up a mini-pass ticket on.

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