MIFF 2009 wrap up


The 2009 Melbourne International Film Festival finished last Sunday and I was pleased to end the festival on a high note by seeing Mother (Madeo, Bong Joon-ho, 2009), a wonderfully ironic and clever examination of guilt and  culpability in the guise of a whodunit. Before that I caught Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold, 2009) a good social-realist film with a terrific central performance from its young lead, newcomer Katie Jarvis.

The day before was a mixed blessing that began with the very enjoyable $9.99 (Tatia Rosenthal, 2008), a sort of animated metaphysical Short Cuts that will inevitably be compared to the superior Mary and Max. Unfortunately the much anticiapted closing night film at MIFF was the very cringe-worthy Bran Nue Dae (Rachel Perkins, 2009). While containing many strong performances, Ernie Dingo especially, and certainly having its heart in the right place, it is just far too twee. What may have once worked on stage — and Bran Nue Dae does feel like community theatre — hasn’t translated onto screen and it was my biggest disappointment of the festival. Fortunately I skipped the Closing Night party to see Antichrist (2009), the startling new film by Lars von Trier. With its dreamlike combination of hauntingly beautiful and uncanny imagery, and power to actually make me physically recoil for most of the final part of the film, Antichrist was one of my festival highlights along with Love Exposure and the opening night film Balibo.

Otherwise, during the festival I also caught the appropriate titled documentary Outrage (Kirby Dick, 2009), which draws much needed attention to the gross hypocrisy of closeted gay and lesbian politicians who actively legislate and campaign against the homosexual community. I also saw Henry Selick’s wonderful 3D stop motion Coraline (2009) , the quirky but forgettable comedy Pardon My French (Un chat un chat, Sophie Fillières, 2009) and An Education (2009), a highly enjoyable and unconventional coming-of-age film by Danish director Lone Scherfig. Overall, I was very pleased with the films I picked this year.

I didn’t go to any of the retrospective screenings but MIFF did screen both Dogs in Space (Richard Lowenstein, 1986), one of my all time favourite Australian films, and Alphaville (1965), one of my favourite films by Jean-Luc Godard.

Of the many films that I didn’t get around to seeing, I am still kicking myself the hardest for missing Still Walking (Aruitemo aruitemo, Hirokazu Koreeda, 2008). But, I guess you can’t get to see everything!

My 2009 MIFF summary

(Robert Connolly, 2009)

Love Exposure
(Ai no mukidashi, Sion Sono, 2008)
Antichrist (Lars von Trier, 2009)

35 Shots of Rum (35 rhums, Claire Denis, 2008)
Paper Soldiers (Bumazhnyy soldat, Aleksei German Ml., 2008)
Thirst (Bakjwi, Park Chan-wook, 2009)
Mother (Madeo, Bong Joon-ho, 2009)
Bronson (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2009)
Che: Part One (Steven Soderbergh, 2008)
Red Riding: 1980 (James Marsh, 2009)
Red Riding: 1974 (Julian Jarrold, 2009)
The 10 Conditions of Love (Jeff Daniels, 2009)
An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)
Red Riding: 1983 (Anand Tucker, 2009)

The White Ribbon (Das weiße Band, Michael Haneke, 2009)
Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold, 2009)
The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2009)
Che: Part Two (Steven Soderbergh, 2008)
Outrage (Kirby Dick, 2009)
Coraline (Henry Selick, 2009)
Krabat (Marco Kreuzpaintner, 2008)
$9.99 (Tatia Rosenthal, 2008)
The Burrowers (J.T. Petty, 2008)
Like You Know It All (Jal aljido mothamyeonseo, Hong Sang-soo, 2009)

The Sky Crawlers (Sukai kurora, Mamoru Oshii, 2008)
The Girlfriend Experience (Steven Soderbergh, 2009)
Pardon My French (Un chat un chat, Sophie Fillières, 2009)

Shadow Play: The Making of Anton Corbijn (Josh Whiteman, 2009)
Tears for Sale (Carlston za Ognjenku, Uros Stojanovic, 2008)
Chocolate (Prachya Pinkaew, 2008)

Bran Nue Dae (Rachel Perkins, 2009)

© Thomas Caldwell, 2009

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  1. Will you be doing a review of Antichrist? I just watched it and it wasnt until I went online to find out wtf it all meant that I started to get an understanding of what I just saw.

    I’m still baffled by all the girls in the forest at the end.

    That’s 2 confusing movies in 2 days – Antichrist and Revolver. Think I’m due for a popcorn flick next ;)

  2. I was waiting until Antichrist was released in Australia before posting a full review but as there is no confirmed date yet I may get onto to doing one soon to coincide with its European release.

    ***Spoiler (sort of) warning***

    I read it to be a film about misogyny, the historical development of misogyny and how ingrained misogyny is in our culture that even women are capable of extreme self-loathing. I think the girls in the forest at the end simply represent the anonymous untold number of women who have experienced misogyny either directly or indirectly. The Willem Dafoe character is presented as being partially culpable for what happens to the Charlotte Gainsbourg character through his act of casting her as the patient and victim while he acts as the authoritative expert. This type of power play is an act of more passive misogyny so I think the faceless women at the end are maybe there to confront him for his sins against women.

    However, it’s a film that seems to be generating multiple readings and I’m probably only coming at it from this perspective because in my academic days I ended up focusing on feminist and gender film theory rather heavily!

    ***Spoilers over***

    I haven’t seen Revolver. It’s a Guy Ritchie film that is inspired and influenced by Kabbalah, a form of mysticism that Madonna is into. That’s more than enough reason for me to give it a miss!

  3. Interesting take on Antichrist. I read a good analysis on IMDb discussing similar concepts.

    As for Revolver, the Kabbalah reference makes a lot of sense as the whole movie explores the nature of Ego in such a convoluted and messy way to leave the viewer thinking wtf.
    Trust it to be a movie made purely to impress the Material Girl. Bring on RocknRolla II.

  4. IMDb has a good analysis on it? I never thought I’d see the day!

    Something that they probably should tell you in film school is to never make a film inspired by your wife’s religion and if you do, don’t tell anybody about it.

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