MIFF 2010 Wrap Up

Enter the Void
Enter the Void

As another Melbourne International Film Festival closes I’m left with mixed feelings. It is admittedly somewhat of a relief to no longer be dashing from session to session every day, not getting enough sleep, not eating properly and drinking way too much caffeine. On the other hand, I do feel sad that it’s all over as it is wonderful to indulge in 2 and a half weeks of doing what I love the most – seeing films, writing about films and talking about films to other passionate cinephiles. It was also a thrill to be one the jury members for the short films awards this year. Being just a very small part of the festival in that way was a real privilege.

I was overall extremely impressed with the way the festival was run and I don’t believe that there were any mishaps (or miffhaps?) that were not understandable considering the immense logistics behind putting on a festival like this. Sure, there will sometimes be delays and projection problems  but this year everything seemed to be rectified and managed quickly and competently. Having proper breaks between sessions was also wonderful. My only wish is that you could exchange tickets online or at least over the phone without paying an addition charge on top of the exchange fee. It would also be great (but perhaps unrealistic I admit) to create a system where you don’t get charged for cancelling a session but instead only get charged for replacing a session. That way tickets would be freed up when people decide to skip a screening completely.

Son of Babylon
Son of Babylon

My goodness – bless the MIFF volunteers who do such an incredible job with a love of the festival being their main motivation. Having worked professionally on another cultural festival, I am fully aware of how hard volunteers work and that they can sometimes be under-appreciated. Fortunately the general public seemed to be pretty well behaved this year and I only witnessed one temper tantrum, which was so absurd it was actually quite funny (looking at you man who declared that the whole country was apparently incompetent because you had to wait an extra 20 minutes to see a film).

So, onto the films themselves, first with a list of my top 10 favourite films that screening during the festival:

Enter the Void (Gaspar Noé, 2009)
Son of Babylon (Mohamed Al Daradji, 2009)
The Killer Inside Me (Michael Winterbottom, 2010)
I Love You Phillip Morris (Glenn Ficarra and John Reque, 2009)
Splice (Vincenzo Natali, 2009)
Lourdes (Jessica Hausner, 2010)
Boy (Taika Waititi, 2010)
The Messenger (Oren Moverman, 2010)
The Illusionist (L’illusionniste, Sylvain Chomet, 2010)
Poetry (Shi, Lee Chang-dong, 2010)

World on a Wire
World on a Wire

I would also like to mention that the final film I saw at the festival, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, was a tremendous amount of fun and I’m glad I finished the festival with such an exhilarating film. I also thoroughly enjoyed the three retrospective screenings I went to, which were Psycho with the live orchestra, Joe Dante’s Homecoming and Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s World on a Wire.

My full list of films seen at the festival is as follows:

Air Doll (Kûki ningyô, Hirokazu Koreeda, 2009) ✭✭✭✩
Alamar (Pedro González-Rubio, 2009) ✭✭✭✩
Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo (Jessica Oreck, 2009) ✭✭✩
Bibliothèque Pascal (Szabolcs Hajdu, 2010) ✭✭✭✭
Boy (Taika Waititi, 2010) ✭✭✭✭
Brotherhood (Broderskab, Nicholo Donato, 2009) ✭✭✭
Caterpillar (Kyatapirâ, Kôji Wakamatsu, 2010) ✭✭
Despicable Me (Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, 2010) ✭✭✭
Dreamland (Ivan Sen, 2009) ✭✭✭
Enter the Void (Gaspar Noé, 2009) ✭✭✭✭✩
Exodus – Burnt by the Sun 2 (Utomlyonnye solntsem 2, Nikita Mikhalkov, 2010) ✭✩
Four Lions (Christopher Morris, 2009) ✭✭✭
The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski, 2010) ✭✭✭✩
Homecoming (Joe Dante, 2005) ✭✭✭✭
The Housemaid (Hanyo, Im Sang-soo, 2010) ✭✭✭
The Hunter (Rafi Pitts, 2010) ✭✭✩
I Killed My Mother (J’ai tué ma mère, Xavier Dolan, 2009) ✭✭✭✩
I Love You Phillip Morris (Glenn Ficarra and John Reque, 2009) ✭✭✭✭✩
The Illusionist (L’illusionniste, Sylvain Chomet, 2010) ✭✭✭✭
The Killer Inside Me (Michael Winterbottom, 2010) ✭✭✭✭✩
Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee (Shane Meadows, 2009) ✭✭
Leap Year (Año bisiesto, Michael Rowe, 2010) ✭✭
Lebanon (Samuel Maoz, 2009) ✭✭✭
Lourdes (Jessica Hausner, 2010) ✭✭✭✭
The Messenger (Oren Moverman, 2010) ✭✭✭✭
The Myth of the American Sleepover (David Robert Mitchell, 2009) ✭✭✩
Poetry (Shi, Lee Chang-dong, 2010) ✭✭✭✭
Psycho (Alfred Hitchock, 1960) ✭✭✭✭✭
Red Hill (Patrick Hughes, 2010) ✭✭✭
The Robber (Der Räuber, Benjamin Heisenberg, 2010) ✭✭✭
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Edgar Wright) ✭✭✭✭
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (Mat Whitecross, 2010) ✭✭✭
Son of Babylon (Mohamed Al Daradji, 2009) ✭✭✭✭✩
The Special Relationship (Richard Loncraine, 2010) ✭✭✭✩
Splice (Vincenzo Natali, 2009) ✭✭✭✭✩
Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam (Omar Majeed, 2009) ✭✭✭✩
Tetro (Francis Ford Coppola, 2009) ✭✭✭
The Tree (Julie Bertucelli, 2010) ✭✭✭✩
The Trotsky (Jacob Tierney, 2009) ✭✭✭✩
The Wedding Party (Amanda Jane, 2010) ✭✭
Welcome to the Rileys (Jake Scott, 2010) ✭✭✭✩
Wild Target (Jonathan Lynn, 2010) ✭✭✩
Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik, 2010) ✭✭✭✩
World on a Wire (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1973) ✭✭✭✭
World’s Greatest Dad (Bobcat Goldthwait, 2009) ✭✭✭✭

I Love You Phillip Morris
I Love You Phillip Morris

Finally, MIFF this year was extremely sociable and I had a great time drinking and chatting with friends between sessions and making new friends while waiting for the curtains to part. I should really have done this much sooner but below is a shout-out to some of the other places online where MIFF has been discussed and digested. This list is be no means exhaustive and I apologise if I’ve left you off but I wanted to focus on people whom I actually spent time with in person in various queues, cinemas and the festival lounge. So, thanks to the following people for enriching my MIFF experience both online and in person:

Tara Judah at Liminal Vision
Cerise Howard at A Little Lie Down
Richard Watts at A Man About Town
Lee Zachariah (a.k.a. Latauro) at Ain’t It Cool News
Luke Buckmaster at Cinetology
David O’Connell at Screen Fanatic

That’s it for another year! Please feel free to list your blog/website in the comments if you’ve also covered MIFF and escaped my radar. Also, please feel free to share your MIFF highlights and maybe on this occasion it would be good to maintain the MIFF afterglow by just focusing on the films that you can share the love for.


PS It’s pronounced “FASS-bin-der” not “Fass-BIND-er”!

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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  1. Great work Thomas! To be honest I held grave fears for the overall quality of MIFF heading down the stretch (Well, for the wisdom of my choices anyway!). The very first film I saw, Air Doll, was still my personal favourite at that point, just ahead of Winter’s Bone. I’d seen Paju, hated it. I’d seen My Joy, hated it even more. I’d seen My Dog Tulip and wanted to put my eyes out. I’d seen Leap Year and just wanted to have a very long, cleansing shower. I’d seen Women Without Men and fantasised about the hours of sleep that had slipped through my fingers like grains of sand. Ironically, Dreamland left me non-plussed. Same with Uninhabited which I foolishly deluded myself into believing might be good, coming from Bill Bennett after such a long hiatus. It really wasn’t, with the two lead actors virtually indistinguishable from the driftwood that washed up on the haunted island.

    However the stars were aligned in week two. Except for one glaring exception, nearly everything I saw was of a very high quality. I notice you weren’t the greatest fan of Lebanon but I loved its intensity (my heart was definitely thumping a little bit faster for much of the film). BTW, do you think we missed out on a 5 minute chunk of it? At one point – a fairly critical one it seemed – something seemed to happen with the projection and I’m sure the film jumped forward a bit. The running time seemed to come up about 5-7 minutes short.

    I really loved Poetry which was a great character study with an amazing central performance. I thought Samantha Morton’s directorial debut, The Unloved, was an impressive little film too, extracting some wonderfully dark poetry from that girl’s childhood.

    Was Mammuth the film you fell asleep during? I expected little from it but ended up loving it. Very funny – and not just the sight of Depardieu! I loved and hated Enter the Void in equal measure, sometimes simultaneously but it’s ultimately an incredible experience. Every time that car crash occured I nearly went through the Forum roof!!

    Boy was hilarious, living up to all expectations. Symbol was just insanely brilliant. Dream Home was one of the goriest horror films I’ve seen in a while – a very sick and guilty pleasure!! Apart Together is just a beautiful little film as well. And a lovely documentary, The Two Horses of Genghis Khan, was a real treasure, taking me to a place I’d never been before.

    And then there was Certified Copy which was kind of brilliant too in a very unobtrusive way. Not my favourite Kiarostami (I doubt anything will come close to A Taste of Cherry) but not all that far behind either.

    All in all a great Festival. After the first couple of days, in which a few films ran ridiculously behind time, I was expecting chaos but it was only an aberration and everything seemed to run fairly smoothly after that.

    Of those you rated highly I’m disappointed in missing out on Son of Babylon, World on a Wire and The Illusionist. I would love to have seen The ‘Burbs on the big screen too, it having been my favourite Dante film for many years, but I just couldn’t fit it in.

  2. Thomas, not a fan of doco’s or just not enough time to see them? There were quite a few standouts.
    my picks:
    Bill Cunningham New York
    Nostalgia for the Light
    Space Tourists
    Oil City Confidential
    How Much Does Your building Weigh Mr Foster
    Russian Lessons

    in fact no duds really in all of the doco’s I managed to catch.
    regards Ian

  3. @David – Yes, I think we did miss a chunk of Lebanon. It seemed as though a reel change came in too early. The same thing happened during the screening of Wild Target that I went too (also at the Forum). In that instance a car chase seemed to abruptly end and then in a later scene we see two of the participants in a hospital! So we clearly missed something major there too.

    Yeah, Mammuth was the film I completely fell asleep during. What I saw seemed good!

    @Ian – Strangely I don’t tend to gravitate towards many documentaries during MIFF and I don’t really have a great explanation for why. It’s not that I’m not a fan as such but they do tend to be the films I pass over for other things. I’ve heard great things about Bill Cunningham New York and Space Tourists so will certainly keep an eye out for those plus your other recommendations. I also really wanted to see the Merle Haggard doco but couldn’t make any of the sessions. I did see Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam, which I liked, and Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, which I didn’t like so much.

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