MIFF 2010 Diary: Part 1

24 July 2010

MIFF is now underway I’ve seen a Danish film about gay Neo-Nazis, a Japanese film about an inflatable sex doll that comes to life and two Australian genre films: a sex-comedy where you get to see Steve Bisley’s naked ass in the opening minute, and an action/Western where you get to see Steve Bisley being a badass with the only banging coming from his gun.



Before the festival started I was sent some DVD screeners and Brotherhood was the only one I had time to watch. It’s sort of a forbidden love story where the lovers are men who are active members of a Neo Nazi club. It is let down by some slightly unconvincing character development including one of the men very quickly adopting the violent ethos of the gang despite previously being against it and with the lovers very rapidly surrendering themselves to their passions despite it being so substantially contradictory to their bigoted attitude. However, performances are very strong and the homoerotic nature of male bonding is explored in some interesting ways. The sex scenes also have an energy to them that is both tender, raw and not often depicted in such an honest way. However, this is no Brokeback Mountain and it is certainly no Romper Stomper, American History X or This Is England either.

The Wedding Party
A multi narrative Australian film with interconnecting stories about love and sex, The Wedding Party is like a Melbournian Love Actually. This is not a good thing. It is overlong, too tame and not really that funny, sexy or romantic. The acting is very good with Nadine Garner and Adam Zwar in particular turning in really strong performances but overall I had trouble enjoying The Wedding Party despite really wanting to. Maybe it is simply not my sort of film but from what I’ve heard from most other people that I’ve spoken to I don’t think I am alone in feeling so disappointed about this year’s opening night film.

Red Hill
On the other hand, seeing the Australian Red Hill was a lot more enjoyable but this time I think I am somewhat in the minority for simply liking it rather than absolutely loving it. However, I mostly did enjoy this small town revenge story and the heavy use of Western iconography in the film’s visual style, music and narrative worked really well. There were just one or two elements that pulled me out of the film’s gritty tone but Red Hill is still a strong film and I can’t wait to see what writer/director Patrick Hughes does next.

[EDIT 5/12/2010: Read a full review of Red Hill]

Air Doll

Air Doll

Air Doll
I was looking forward to seeing Air Doll, a drama about an inflatable sex doll that “finds a heart” and comes to life. The film is mainly observational with the doll being a deliberately obvious metaphor for having an empty life, allowing your life to be defined by others and the ways people find substitutes for real intimacy. Air Doll is not whimsical or light hearted, and one macabre scene towards the end of the film almost ruined it for me, but it overall possesses a very tranquil sweetness. By the time the film reached the very end I was surprised by just how moved I was by its gentleness and sadness.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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MIFF 2010 Diary: Pre Festival – Part 2

21 July 2010

My process for selecting MIFF films each year is usually the same. I do an initial sweep off the program highlighting all the films that immediately jump out at me and noting ones of secondary interest. Those immediate interest films are the ones I book right away and bend heaven and earth to see while everything else I am happy to fit in where I can and if I can.

Here are the ten films that most grabbed my attention this year:

 I Love You Phillip Morris

I Love You Phillip Morris

I Love You Phillip Morris
Ever since I first heard about this offbeat romantic-comedy starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor as the two lovers, I’ve been looking forward to it. It has got an Australian distributor but they’ve been sitting on it for a long time now, presumably unsure about what to do with it. The same distributor almost sent The Hurt Locker direct to DVD last year so this was the first film I booked this year as who knows what might happen to it.

Air Doll
I have never seen any films by Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda but at last year’s festival, missing his previous film Still Walking was my major regret as I  heard nothing but amazing things about it. So this year I was determined to acquaint myself with Koreeda and figured seeing his new film Air Doll would be as good a place to start as any.

The Housemaid
I know almost nothing about this new South Korean film except for being aware that it was as one of the films being talked about a lot during the Cannes Film Festival. It’s an erotic thriller that’s supposed to be very good so I’m sold.

Another film that I know next to nothing about except that it has attracted a lot of praise from overseas. For some reason this film has implanted itself into my subconscious as something worth seeing and that seems to be a good enough reason to a select a film as anything.

World on a Wire
I haven’t seen nearly as many films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder as I would like to have seen so this rarely screened, 1973 made-for-TV cerebral science-fiction epic is another step in rectifying that.

Exodus: Burnt by the Sun 2

Exodus: Burnt by the Sun 2

Exodus: Burnt By The Sun 2
The first film I ever saw at the first MIFF I ever went to (in 1995) was Russian director’s Nikita Mikhalkov highly acclaimed Burnt by the Sun. It is still one of my all time favourite films. I haven’t heard great things about this sequel but I am nevertheless very excited about Mikhalkov reprising his role as General Kotov.

Simply because it’s the new film by Francis Ford Coppola and it can’t be any worse than Youth Without Youth, right?

Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam
They showed the preview for this as the program launch and it looks great. I can’t make it to the Merle Haggard documentary so this will be my music doco fix this year.

Another trailer screening at the launch that caught my eye as it looks like it will do for tanks what Das Boot did for submarines.

Enter The Void
Irreversible was one of the best films from the last decade for me so I’ve been curious to see what Gaspar Noé would come up with next. I’m also rather anxious since Irreversible is still one of the most upsetting films I’ve ever seen. But this does sound extraordinary.

Special events
I am really looking forward to the closing night film Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll as it’s another films I’ve heard very good things about, I like that era of music and I really like actor Andy Serkis. I’m also thrilled to be seeing one of the performances of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho with Orchestra, which promises to be a pretty amazing event for film lovers and film music lover especially.

Finally, the event that I am slightly nervously looking forward to is the MIFF Shorts Awards, which I have a very small role in this year as one of the three judges. The winning films will be screened after the awards are presented so fingers crossed we pick the best films!

I’ll be back tomorrow to share my thoughts on the films screening in MIFF that I’ve already seen. Two of them are more than likely going to find themselves on my top ten films of the year list.


PS I wasn’t going to see the new Bruce LaBruce film L.A. Zombie but like most other fellow film lovers I’m pretty disgusted that the Film Classification Board is refusing to allow other people from seeing it. Tara Judah’s piece “Cultural Zombies” on her Liminal Vision blog pretty much expresses my feelings about the issue.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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