MIFF 2011 Blog-a-thon: Part 1

Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre

To kick off my 2011 Melbourne International Film Festival diary I thought I’d share my responses to the films in the festival that I’ve already seen due to advance media screenings. The one that has really stood out for me is the latest adaptation of Jane Eyre. I’ve never read the novel nor have I seen any other adaptations so this film was my introduction to Charlotte Brontë’s classic tale of adolescence, class and love. Director Cary Fukunaga has ensured that every shot in the film is immaculate with a perfect balance of light and colour, allowing key scenes to beautifully express Jane’s state of mind. Mia Wasikowska as Jane and Michael Fassbender as Rochester have a wonderful chemistry as two damaged souls who are drawn to each other despite their reservations. I’ve never had a burning desire to read the novel, but this dark, passionate and romantic film has changed that.

[EDIT 11/8/2011: Read a full review of Jane Eyre]

Unfortunately I can’t say the same for Norwegian Wood, an adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s novel by Tran Anh Hung, who among other things made the incredible 1995 film Cyclo. I’m not sure whether Norwegian Wood was too weighed down by its literary origins or if Tran was too self-consciously trying to make a worthy art-house film, but I lost interest after the first hour. It does contain several wonderful moments, especially when the music and cinematography blend together to evoke memory, but the long running time and lack of empathetic characters make it increasingly laboured for me.

The other literary adaptation I’ve seen is The Eye of the Storm, but a recent embargo on reviews prevents me from saying anything until the day of its theatrical release on 15 September!


Finally, I’ve been lucky enough to see the documentary Senna. Now I had such little interest in Formula One car racing that I didn’t even know who Ayrton Senna was until I started hearing about this film. Having now seen it I feel like I not only have an intimate knowledge of Senna’s life and legacy, but I also have an understanding of the dynamics of Formula One racing, both on and off the track, and an appreciation for why people are so drawn to it. I’ve always argued that good documentaries are able to transcend their subject matter to appeal to a wider audience and Senna does exactly that. Comprising of only archival footage, this is also a brilliant example of how good editing can successfully carve out a compelling and exciting story from the hours and hours of available footage.

My first MIFFhap for this festival is managing to miss Opening Night. Not only did I have a gig that prevented me from seeing the film, but I forgot to leave the house with the wristband thingy that I needed to get into the party. I am a goose.

Show us your MIFF
It is fortunate that my wife Sarah Caldwell happens to also be a cinephile who loves MIFF so we will see each other once or twice during the next 17 days. Sarah’s been coming to MIFF as a dedicated attendee since 1995 and picks out seeing After Life in 1999 as her favourite MIFF moment. Her biggest MIFFhap was getting appendicitis in the middle of a festival and missing one weekend’s worth of films. Surviving Life and Eternity are two films that caught her eye in this year’s program and she recommends seeing no more than two films back-to-back in order to best get through the festival. The restorative powers of hot chocolate are also spoken of highly. When not seeing films Sarah works at the State Library of Victoria, does research for an upcoming documentary and writes. She lists ChinatownThe Philadelphia Story, Tokyo Story, La Strada, Le SamouraïAlien and Tai-Chi Master as some of her all-time favourite films. She also wanted to include a Jim Jarmusch film but couldn’t decide which one.

Thomas Caldwell, 2011

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  1. Thomas, nice write up of day one. I saw Jane Eyre, Norwegian Wood and Senna earlier at the SFF, and I have much the same thoughts. My friends didn’t like Jane Eyre, but I was quite impressed, especially by the cinematography and the performances. I also thought it was a perfectly accessible period drama for people not interested in the genre. As for Norwegian Wood, I gave it plenty of attention, but too lost interest. I haven’t read the novel, but it seemed to be mere fragments of what I am sure was quite an emotionally rich, expansive tale. It just didn’t correlate to the screen. Senna is my #1 film of 2011 so far. Just in front of The Tree of Life. I absolutely loved it. One of the best edited docos I have ever seen and it drew all of the emotions, I laughed, I cried and I gripped the side of my chair in suspense. Can’t wait to see it again (August 11).

    Look forward to hearing your further thoughts. Unfortunately I can only make it down at the end of the Festival. Seeing Melancholia, Tiny Furniture, Drive (and the closing party) and Another Earth between the 5th-7th August.

  2. @Andrew – Hopefully we’ll bump into each other!

    @goran – Yeah, she’s pretty cool, I’m damn lucky. She also meant to mention Blade Runner and Les Enfants du Paradis so I’ll include them here instead.

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