MIFF 2010 Wrap Up

9 August 2010
Enter the Void

Enter the Void

As another Melbourne International Film Festival closes I’m left with mixed feelings. It is admittedly somewhat of a relief to no longer be dashing from session to session every day, not getting enough sleep, not eating properly and drinking way too much caffeine. On the other hand, I do feel sad that it’s all over as it is wonderful to indulge in 2 and a half weeks of doing what I love the most – seeing films, writing about films and talking about films to other passionate cinephiles. It was also a thrill to be one the jury members for the short films awards this year. Being just a very small part of the festival in that way was a real privilege.

I was overall extremely impressed with the way the festival was run and I don’t believe that there were any mishaps (or miffhaps?) that were not understandable considering the immense logistics behind putting on a festival like this. Sure, there will sometimes be delays and projection problems  but this year everything seemed to be rectified and managed quickly and competently. Having proper breaks between sessions was also wonderful. My only wish is that you could exchange tickets online or at least over the phone without paying an addition charge on top of the exchange fee. It would also be great (but perhaps unrealistic I admit) to create a system where you don’t get charged for cancelling a session but instead only get charged for replacing a session. That way tickets would be freed up when people decide to skip a screening completely.

Son of Babylon

Son of Babylon

My goodness – bless the MIFF volunteers who do such an incredible job with a love of the festival being their main motivation. Having worked professionally on another cultural festival, I am fully aware of how hard volunteers work and that they can sometimes be under-appreciated. Fortunately the general public seemed to be pretty well behaved this year and I only witnessed one temper tantrum, which was so absurd it was actually quite funny (looking at you man who declared that the whole country was apparently incompetent because you had to wait an extra 20 minutes to see a film).

So, onto the films themselves, first with a list of my top 10 favourite films that screening during the festival:

Enter the Void (Gaspar Noé, 2009)
Son of Babylon (Mohamed Al Daradji, 2009)
The Killer Inside Me (Michael Winterbottom, 2010)
I Love You Phillip Morris (Glenn Ficarra and John Reque, 2009)
Splice (Vincenzo Natali, 2009)
Lourdes (Jessica Hausner, 2010)
Boy (Taika Waititi, 2010)
The Messenger (Oren Moverman, 2010)
The Illusionist (L’illusionniste, Sylvain Chomet, 2010)
Poetry (Shi, Lee Chang-dong, 2010)

World on a Wire

World on a Wire

I would also like to mention that the final film I saw at the festival, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, was a tremendous amount of fun and I’m glad I finished the festival with such an exhilarating film. I also thoroughly enjoyed the three retrospective screenings I went to, which were Psycho with the live orchestra, Joe Dante’s Homecoming and Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s World on a Wire.

My full list of films seen at the festival is as follows:

Air Doll (Kûki ningyô, Hirokazu Koreeda, 2009) ✭✭✭✩
Alamar (Pedro González-Rubio, 2009) ✭✭✭✩
Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo (Jessica Oreck, 2009) ✭✭✩
Bibliothèque Pascal (Szabolcs Hajdu, 2010) ✭✭✭✭
Boy (Taika Waititi, 2010) ✭✭✭✭
Brotherhood (Broderskab, Nicholo Donato, 2009) ✭✭✭
Caterpillar (Kyatapirâ, Kôji Wakamatsu, 2010) ✭✭
Despicable Me (Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, 2010) ✭✭✭
Dreamland (Ivan Sen, 2009) ✭✭✭
Enter the Void (Gaspar Noé, 2009) ✭✭✭✭✩
Exodus – Burnt by the Sun 2 (Utomlyonnye solntsem 2, Nikita Mikhalkov, 2010) ✭✩
Four Lions (Christopher Morris, 2009) ✭✭✭
The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski, 2010) ✭✭✭✩
Homecoming (Joe Dante, 2005) ✭✭✭✭
The Housemaid (Hanyo, Im Sang-soo, 2010) ✭✭✭
The Hunter (Rafi Pitts, 2010) ✭✭✩
I Killed My Mother (J’ai tué ma mère, Xavier Dolan, 2009) ✭✭✭✩
I Love You Phillip Morris (Glenn Ficarra and John Reque, 2009) ✭✭✭✭✩
The Illusionist (L’illusionniste, Sylvain Chomet, 2010) ✭✭✭✭
The Killer Inside Me (Michael Winterbottom, 2010) ✭✭✭✭✩
Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee (Shane Meadows, 2009) ✭✭
Leap Year (Año bisiesto, Michael Rowe, 2010) ✭✭
Lebanon (Samuel Maoz, 2009) ✭✭✭
Lourdes (Jessica Hausner, 2010) ✭✭✭✭
The Messenger (Oren Moverman, 2010) ✭✭✭✭
The Myth of the American Sleepover (David Robert Mitchell, 2009) ✭✭✩
Poetry (Shi, Lee Chang-dong, 2010) ✭✭✭✭
Psycho (Alfred Hitchock, 1960) ✭✭✭✭✭
Red Hill (Patrick Hughes, 2010) ✭✭✭
The Robber (Der Räuber, Benjamin Heisenberg, 2010) ✭✭✭
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Edgar Wright) ✭✭✭✭
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (Mat Whitecross, 2010) ✭✭✭
Son of Babylon (Mohamed Al Daradji, 2009) ✭✭✭✭✩
The Special Relationship (Richard Loncraine, 2010) ✭✭✭✩
Splice (Vincenzo Natali, 2009) ✭✭✭✭✩
Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam (Omar Majeed, 2009) ✭✭✭✩
Tetro (Francis Ford Coppola, 2009) ✭✭✭
The Tree (Julie Bertucelli, 2010) ✭✭✭✩
The Trotsky (Jacob Tierney, 2009) ✭✭✭✩
The Wedding Party (Amanda Jane, 2010) ✭✭
Welcome to the Rileys (Jake Scott, 2010) ✭✭✭✩
Wild Target (Jonathan Lynn, 2010) ✭✭✩
Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik, 2010) ✭✭✭✩
World on a Wire (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1973) ✭✭✭✭
World’s Greatest Dad (Bobcat Goldthwait, 2009) ✭✭✭✭

I Love You Phillip Morris

I Love You Phillip Morris

Finally, MIFF this year was extremely sociable and I had a great time drinking and chatting with friends between sessions and making new friends while waiting for the curtains to part. I should really have done this much sooner but below is a shout-out to some of the other places online where MIFF has been discussed and digested. This list is be no means exhaustive and I apologise if I’ve left you off but I wanted to focus on people whom I actually spent time with in person in various queues, cinemas and the festival lounge. So, thanks to the following people for enriching my MIFF experience both online and in person:

Tara Judah at Liminal Vision
Cerise Howard at A Little Lie Down
Richard Watts at A Man About Town
Lee Zachariah (a.k.a. Latauro) at Ain’t It Cool News
Luke Buckmaster at Cinetology
David O’Connell at Screen Fanatic

That’s it for another year! Please feel free to list your blog/website in the comments if you’ve also covered MIFF and escaped my radar. Also, please feel free to share your MIFF highlights and maybe on this occasion it would be good to maintain the MIFF afterglow by just focusing on the films that you can share the love for.

Cheers
Thomas

PS It’s pronounced “FASS-bin-der” not “Fass-BIND-er”!

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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MIFF 2010 Diary: Part 5

29 July 2010

I went against my own advice yesterday by seeing four films at MIFF and three of them back-to-back (although the excellent scheduling this year means that you still get decent breaks between most sessions).  I saw two very mediative films (one in a good way and one not so much) but also two of the best films I have seen this year making yesterday my best day at MIFF so far.

Lourdes

Lourdes

Lourdes depicts the various rivalries, resentments and jealousies that are bubbling under the surface of an organised pilgrimage group who have gone to Lourdes in the French Pyrenees  Mountains. At the centre of the film is Christine, a woman whose Multiple Sclerosis makes her one of the most disadvantaged members of the group. She is played by Sylvie Testud who gives a lovely, understated performance. Lourdes is a slow burning film that rewards patience as it builds up to its very powerful conclusion. I was certainly completely taken aback by how emotional I was feeling during the film’s final five minutes making Lourdes one of my favourites within the festival so far.

The first of yesterday’s two meditative films was Dreamland, the latest by Australian filmmaker Ivan Sen. The screening was introduced by producer David Jowsey who made it clear that the film was not a conventional narrative but more a “no budget”, experimental soundscape to be experienced on a sensory level. This was a very good description as little happens in this film about a man searching, presumably for alien life, in the Nevada desert surrounding the infamous Area 51. Dreamland would have benefited from a shorter running time but within the film are some wonderful sequences using timelapse photography and eerie stock footage. The sound design is magnificent and the one dialogue scene is surprisingly moving. Think the final section of 2001: A Space Odyssey with a touch of Paris, Texas.

While by no means essential viewing at least Dreamland maintained my interest, which is more than I can say for Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, a documentary about the fascination that the Japanese apparently have with insects. The broader cultural, social and historical contexts of this fascination are presented but as Beetle Queen becomes increasingly philosophical it becomes far too laboured and repetitive. There is only so long you can endure listening to haiku and watching Japanese people mucking around with bugs.

Son of Babylon

Son of Babylon

The other film I saw yesterday was one I almost skipped so that I could go to a media screening of The Loved Ones (which screened at MIFF last year and is reportedly fantastic). I’m so glad I stayed in the city to instead see Son of Babylon as it is one of the best films I’ve seen this year. Set in Iraq in 2003 just after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, a boy and his grandmother search for the boy’s father. The war torn countryside and burning cities they travel through have the same look and feel to them as you’d expect from a post-Apocalypse film. While Son of Babylon contains some very confronting content it doesn’t have the same social-realist, miserablism feel that often characterise so many of the films made in the Middle East. The more devastating aspects of the story are slowly revealed so that their impact is one of deep sadness rather than horror or depression. The characters are also wonderful people and the kindness and shared sorrow that the boy and his grandmother experience from the various people they meet is beautiful. Son of Babylon resonates with a deep and powerful sense of humanity and is a must-see film.

© 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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