MIFF 2011 Blog-a-thon: Part 14

Bobby Fischer Against the World
Bobby Fischer Against the World

I’ve always suspected that chess was the past-time for geniuses and madmen and the documentary Bobby Fischer Against the World does seem to confirm this. What sets this film aside from being a conventional biographical account of Fischer’s life and career, is when it examines the nature of genius and why Fischer was so unpredictable, erratic and eventually intensely paranoid. From his difficult childhood to being ill-equiped to deal with fame to the trappings of peaking so early in life, Fischer had a number of factors working against him. Most interestingly is when the film delves into the history of psychosis in elite chess players, suggesting that there is a real danger of applying the thought processes required to win at chess to the real world. For all the boxing metaphors used throughout the film, the themes of melancholia, obsession and flawed masculinity, plus Fischer’s career ending on a depressing whimper rather than an exciting bang, it is a wonder that Martin Scorsese hasn’t made a film about him yet.

Of all the feature films I listed on my festival picks post, which seems so long ago now, A Stoker is the only one that I ended up significantly not liking. I was interested to a point in all the metaphorical elements in this Russian film, where the casual acts of violence expressed a morally empty and lost society left behind by the collapse of Communism. But the social commentary is blunt and obvious, an awful lot of time is spent following characters travelling to the next location and the relentless upbeat soundtrack is more grating than ironic. The attempts at being confronting, including the redundant and mean-spirited coda, are not successful. In yesterday’s post I was commenting on how I struggled to appreciate Le Havre because I’m not on director Aki Kaurismäki’s droll wave length, however, I now have an increased admiration for how well Kaurismäki pulls off dead pan after seeing it done so tediously in A Stoker.

Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest
Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest

I was really looking forward to Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, since I like A Tribe Called Quest but know very little about them. This documentary therefore did exactly what a good music doco should do: brought people like me up to speed and, according to reports from more serious hip hop fans in the audience, provided lots of information that wasn’t previously well known. I was especially interested in the dynamics between the members of the group especially the strained relationship between childhood friends Q-Tip and Phife Dawg, which they both talk candidly about. Most importantly, this film expresses the essence of the music the band created in regards to what else was happening in hip hop, their jazz influences and the development of the Native Tongues collective.

Was there something in the water last night or maybe a full moon? I heard numerous reports that audiences were particularly thoughtless during many sessions. Maybe there were more people than usual who were easily offended, confused or bored and hadn’t done their research into the films they were seeing. It’s sad as not that long ago a major drawcard for coming to MIFF was being able to see films with an audience who shared a love for cinema and were therefore respectful of other audience members in terms of how they behaved during screenings. But, it’s no longer like that as now even MIFF suffers from the blight of the serial talker, the clueless wrapper rustler and – maybe worst of all – the moronic phone user.

I don’t know why this concept is so difficult but you shouldn’t use your phone in any way while a film is on. If you need to do a time check, wear a watch. If you are waiting for an important message, don’t be in the cinema in the first place. If you are bored, then just piss off so the rest of us don’t have the glare of your phone screen to compete with while you update Facebook with, ‘OMG, in totally boring movie. Sooo lame. y am i hear? LOL!!!!1!!’

I personally was most annoyed last night by the girl who disappeared from Beats, Rhymes & Life for half an hour to buy beer for her boyfriend and then when she came back she asked him what she had missed, which he then recounted. I was somewhat vindicated though when at the end of the film she said, ‘That was so dope’ and everybody sitting around her sniggered.

Show us your MIFF
As well as being a MIFF volunteer Suzanne Steinbruckner also volunteers at Triple R and the AFI, as well as being on the Friends of the Astor committee. Then, in between work and study, she also occasionally blogs at The Other Parts. This is her 10th MIFF and her highlights this year have been Surviving Life and Autoluminescent: Rowland S. Howard. However, her favourite moment during the festival was attending the Peter Tscherkassky masterclass, mainly because she was seated between very enthusiastic Tscherkassky fan-girls Cerise Howard (whom I profiled in Part 7 of the blog-a-thon) and Tara Judah (one of my Plato’s Cave cohosts). Suzanne and I recommend reading Cerise’s response to the Tscherkassky events and listening to Tara and Paul Harris’s interview with Tscherkassky from Film Buff’s Forecast, Triple R. Suzanne’s greatest MIFFhap was taking a magnificent fall on the footpath outside of the Forum in 2009. She was then mainly concerned about missing her next session but a couple of kind fellow film fans got her some first aid and made sure she got home. It turned out she had done herself some damage and had to miss a number of sessions. Once she did make it back to the festival her face wounds did suit the general vibe during the debut of The Loved Ones. Fortunately the last piece of cheek scab fell off an hour or so before the Closing Night party.

Thomas Caldwell, 2011

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  1. Oh my god, THANK YOU for expressing your outrage at people’s poor form in the cinema. As much as I loved this year’s MIFF I almost went spare with rage at the rudeness and cluelessness of patrons. I often had to restrain myself from standing up and yelling across the cinema at people to shut the f*#k up with their chip packets and turn their phones OFFFFF! I wish these people would stay at home and watch a DVD.

  2. On a few occasions I did ask people to put away their phones and to stop making noise, but the ridiculous thing is that I would then feel guilty about doing so and wonder if it was in fact I who was being unreasonable! Totally irrational I know, so it’s good to hear that I am not the only one who gets irate at such bad cinema behaviour.

    PS Congratulations on The Eye of the Storm!

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