MIFF 2011 Blog-a-thon: Part 5


The Danish war documentary Armadillo will inevitably be compared to the USA film Restrepo. Both films depict the build-up to conflict, the boredom of inaction, the post conflict adrenaline and the narcotic effect of war on the young soldiers. Both films also reveal the tragedy of the civilians caught in the crossfire between the Allied forces and the Taliban. Armadillo possibly doesn’t quite get inside the heads of the soldiers to the extent that Restrepo does, but there’s no denying the devastating power of some key moments. The look of horrified bewilderment on the face of a recently wounded soldier is especially haunting.

I have to confess that as much as I like Paul Giamatti, I was reluctant to see him appear in yet another film where he plays a flawed but loveable average guy having a middle-life crisis of sorts. I still gave Win Win a go since it is directed by Thomas McCarthy (The Visitor, The Station Agent) and costars the wonderful Amy Ryan and Jeffrey Tambor. It does become increasingly stock standard as it wanders into good-middle-class-family-saves-an-at-risk-teenager-from-troubled-background territory, in the vein of the abysmal The Blind Side and Welcome to the Rileys (which I seemed to like a lot more than most people). A decent feel-good film, but I expected more from McCarthy.

I’m honestly still not too sure what End of Animal was all about and suspect that if I saw it with more of a clear head then I’d have a better understanding of its metaphorical content. Instead, I was simply happy to surrender to its very strange and unpredictable logic, with its Tarkovskesque landscapes, sound design and slow burning menace. At times it reminded me of The Blair Witch Project, The Road and Monster and yet it’s nothing like those films either. The more I think about it the more I liked this film, but damned if right now I can explain why.

The Unjust
The Unjust

The pleasures to be found within the police thriller The Unjust are far easier to explain. I loved the cynical tone to this story of a serial murder investigation that becomes a political football for rival business interests. All levels of public office are represented as corrupt in this film, but it’s the unique conflict between a police officer and a prosecutor that is the main point of interest. An alternative title could have been Law versus Order.

I had meant to see five films today, and indeed attended five sessions in body, but I managed to sleep through Post Mortem, my middle film for the day. I did like what I saw in the first five minutes or so, but that’s as long as I lasted. I then woke up half way through the film hoping that I hadn’t been snoring. I had no idea what was going on so retreated to the festival club to log onto a computer and attempt to correct the multitude of typos from yesterday’s blog-a-thon entry. Judging by the number of other people in the festival club whom I’d seen in the cinema before dozing off, I think I picked a good film to power-nap during.

I’d also like to give a shout-out to the couple who sat behind me during End of Animal and loudly verbalised their confusion throughout the film. Whenever I hear people in a cinema repeatedly say things like, ‘What the hell?’, ‘I have no idea what’s going on’ and ‘Um, what is the point of this film?’ I am reminded of an incident that happened years ago when I worked at a video store. A rather troubled customer had come in and for about 10 minutes screamed at a video box, ‘I don’t understand you! You are not a good film!’

Show us your MIFF
I met Kay Hart for the first time at MIFF last year and I was very much looking forward to bumping into her again. She’s now retired and concentrates on writing short stories and writing for children. Previously she worked for Film Victoria for 20 years and was also involved in a number of other screen culture organisations such as Open Channel, Senses of Cinema and AFTRS. She’s been coming to MIFF since 1988 and loves catching up with friends and sharing feedback on films while waiting in queues. Her highlights over the years have included seeing Salaam Bombay! on Opening Night in 1989 and taking her mother to Opening Night in 1997 to see Brassed Off. This year she’s most enjoyed the ‘tense and claustrophobic’ Good Bye and the ‘raw and wonderful’ I Am Eleven. The biggest MIFFhap she’s experienced was seeing the 165 minute documentary Brando in 2008 when the film started on the wrong reel, which wasn’t realised until about an hour into the film. To best get through MIFF Kay recommends not eating too heavily, carrying your own bottles of water, allowing breathing space between films and allowing yourself to nod off if you need to – providing you don’t snore. Kay’s all-time favourite film is that glorious classic Casablanca, although she’s also very fond of The Cat Returns. Kay blogs at Talewags where she is currently writing about MIFF.

Thomas Caldwell, 2011

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  1. Thanks for the mention Thomas. I’m not surprised you’re weary – I took yesterday off to regenerate and am so glad I did. It seems from reading the other MIFF bloggers that Post Mortem is not a film to regret missing so it appears it was a good choice to walk away from in order to catch your breath.

  2. I want ‘I don’t understand you! You are not a good film!’ to become a catchphrase. I may have to start using it.

    I’m extremely gutted I can’t attend End of Animal due to clashes. Reports coming out of the Sydney Film Fest ranged from “Hated it – didn’t understand it” to “Loved it, but didn’t understand it”.
    I would have loved to take a shot at understanding it!

  3. End of Animal – Hated it. The tone came across as confused and uneven. It seemed to miss the mark of what I think it was trying to convey and it relished in tormenting the female protagonist a little too much for my liking.

  4. I’m with Josh on End of Animal. I really disliked it, and I think I understood it. I basically read it as a literal translation of the Rapture (I could explain more but just in case there are some that are planning on seeing it, I won’t spoil anything).

    Of course it still was riddled with logical flaws and ultimately got incredibly silly. The opening scene was the best part of the whole film.

  5. I have The Unjust and The Yellow Sea back to back next week, woohoo! Don’t know why I decided to go see End of Animal either, if a movie with Demi Moore had the same plot and did it better then there is a problem.

  6. Enjoyed reading your post. I would just like to disagree with one point regarding Armadillo. I saw both Restrepo and Armadillo within three days of each other, and I generally considered Armadillo to be the more impactful documentary. I never really considered documentaries that “spell everything out for you” on an emotional level to be as engaging as one that hints at an emotional rollercoaster that many of us have taken in a wide variety of different circumstances. Or maybe it’s the weakness that I have for films with subtitles. In any case, both films are well worth watching, but Armadillo would be my pick.

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