MIFF 2010 Diary: Part 10

8 August 2010

This is my last diary entry for the Melbourne International Film Festival before seeing my final film for the festival Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which I will write up in full in the next few days once Cinema Autopsy has reverted back to its usual format. I had intended to see a couple more films today but after having had a rather good time at the Closing Night party last night that did not happen!

Lebanon

Lebanon

The Israeli film Lebanon is about a tank unit during the first few days of Israel’s war with Lebanon in 1982. The main point of interest is that the film is set entirely from within the tank, with the shots of the conflict outside being all via the tank’s gunsight. The incredible sound-design and claustrophobic cinematography  certainly convey the intensity of the experience for the young soldiers. The film also operates as a reasonably effective anti-war film, highlighting the death-by-remote aspect of modern warfare. However, some of the scenes depicting the brutality of war verge on the exploitive and diminish their power. Lebanon also relies a little too heavily on some very conventional war film clichés.

One of the most frustrating films I’ve seen at the festival is the Mexican film (with an Australian director) Leap Year. For at least two thirds of the film, its purpose seems to be to capture the everyday existence of an unremarkable life by making a film that is completely mundane – it’s not exactly riveting cinema. Towards the end of the film it becomes apparent that the subject of the film, a woman who lives alone in an apartment that we never see her leave, is actually very damaged and we get some confronting sadomasochistic daddy-issue sex but it’s still ultimately all a bit tedious.

Alamar

Alamar

On the other hand, Alamar demonstrates that films depicting everyday life with next to no narrative can be extraordinarily rewarding when those lives are actually of interest and completely removed from the audience’s frame of reference. I was more than happy to watch a Mayan man, living on a coral reef off the coast of Mexico, spend time with his son. The way of life presented in Alamar is a harmonious one based on living off the sea and the relationship between the father and his son  is very touching. This ethnographic docu/drama is a very simple film but completely engaging and life-affirming.

The Iranian film The Hunter is one of those films that I strongly believe would have worked as a 20 to 30 minute short film. It’s about an ex-prisoner who snaps after his wife is killed in a police shoot out and his daughter goes missing. Most of the film is an unnecessarily dull, detached and emotionally distant build up to the final more interesting aspects of the film. Even then, the protagonist becomes so completely unsympathetic that I simply did not care what happened to him.

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

The final 2010 MIFF film I’ll give a mini-review to is the closing night film Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll. A high energy biopic of Ian Dury, it was certainly a fun film to close the festival with. However, I was overall a little bit frustrated that the film never really gave me a more substantial picture of who Dury was and his musical significance. The film briefly mentions that his style of music and performance was a sort of unacknowledged precursor to punk but I would have liked a lot more cultural context. The very Brechtian approach of having Dury narrate his life from a stage in an abandoned theatre strongly recalls Bronson (from MIFF last year) but it did not work nearly as effectively. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed Andy Serkis’s performance as Dury especially in the later stages of the film where it calmed down stylistically enough for Dury’s larger-than-life persona to speak for itself.

© 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.

Lourdes
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.

Tetro
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.

Lebanon
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.

Cheers
Thomas

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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