MIFF 2011 Blog-a-thon: Part 6

The festival picks that I put together in collaboration with the other members of the Plato’s Cave team are now on the MIFF website: Top picks of the fest: Plato’s Cave.


I highly recommend starting any day by seeing a film like Troubadours, a spirited and affectionate documentary about the singer/songwriter scene in LA during the early 1970s. I don’t even particularly like a lot of the music that came out of this scene, but this film gave me a new found respect for it. What I found most fascinating is how similar the origins of the folk scene were to the punk scene, as documented in Punk: Attitude, which screened at MIFF in 2005. Both genres rose from a DIY attitude and a desire to ‘keep it real’, both were politically charged and both occurred in a time when, to borrow a phrase from James Taylor, rock was taking a breath.

I then had a rare break for a few hours and returned to the festival to see Give Up Tomorrow, another documentary but this time not a happy one. The appalling story that this film tells is about the gross misconduct of justice that occurred in the Philippines  when a young man named Paca Larrañaga, and seven other defendants, were accused of a brutal double rape and murder, despite the overwhelming evidence that they had nothing to do with it. The blatant corruption and manipulation of the media, to exploit a tragedy by whipping up the sort of outrage that interferes with justice, is shocking. A similar story formed the basis of The Unjust (which I commented on yesterday) but that was simply fiction.


To really end the day on a downer I saw Michael, an Austrian film about a pedophile with a young boy locked in his basement. However, the film was so expertly constructed that  I found myself drawn into it and fascinated by what I saw. The disturbing dynamic between the adult captor and the kidnapped boy is one of father/son, playmates and abuser/victim. The mostly static cinematography presents a strong sense of the banality of everyday routine within the horrors of the situation. The film denies any sort of opportunity for voyeurism and completely avoids melodrama and sensation. It’s full of tension and dread, and yet it never exploits its subject matter. Director Markus Schleinzer situates himself as the next Michael Haneke with this extraordinary film.

Seeing Troubadours reminded me of how angry I got earlier this year while re-watching Two-Lane Backtop and resenting James Taylor’s ridiculously good looks. It’s just not fair. Otherwise, the Troubadours screening was great fun and enhanced by the number of people in the audience who were clearly fans of the music at the time, doing some serious seated-dancing during the film. It would start with a bit of foot tapping, escalate into some serious rhythmic finger drumming and before long they were having a boogie in their chairs. However, it was nothing like the time I  saw The Last Waltz at The Astor Theatre and a guy in the front row almost broke a chair from funking out so hard while still seated.

Show us your MIFF
I acted in a stage production of Catch-22 with John Connor during the Melbourne Fringe Festival in 2001. I don’t think I’ve seen John since until a couple of days ago when we bumped into each other during a screening. As he’s been coming to MIFF since 2000 I’m not sure how that’s happened, but as he’s seeing close to 20 films this year we have now caught up a few times. John’s highlights so far this year have been Beauty and the Beast and ‘the good bits in Finisterrae‘. The two films he’s most looking forward to this year are Give Up Tomorrow and You Are Here. The Japanese courtroom drama I Just Didn’t Do It, which screened at the 2008 festival, is his all-time MIFF highlight and Reservoir Dogs is his all-time favourite film. John always keeps a bag of lollies on him for emergency use in those films when he’s in danger of falling asleep. He reckons jelly beans are best, but anything that will give you a jolt will do. John currently works at the Avenue Bookstore in Albert Park (2011 Victorian bookseller of the year), is working towards becoming a screenwriter and blogs about books and films at I’m Coming For You, Proust!

Thomas Caldwell, 2011

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