How do you transform a B-grade action/thriller into an ultra stylish neo noir? Give it to director Nicolas Winding Refn to direct apparently. This year’s Closing Night film Drive was an inspired choice, which I’d love to describe as a homage to 1980s action cinema with a distinctively European edge, but I can’t since there is a self-referential joke in the film about a critic who wrote exactly that. Ryan Gosling plays a stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver, and his steely and cool performance sets the tone for the film. For at least the first half of Drive it feels like something Paul Schrader may have made. The second half of the film revels more in its generic characteristics with the very graphic and pulpy violence recalling Sam Peckinpah’s The Getaway and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. I did find Drive ultimately a little anti-climatic and was a bit disappointed that more wasn’t made of the Driver’s skills behind the wheel. But don’t get me wrong, this is still a finely crafted piece of cinema and a highlight of the festival.
[EDIT 26/10/2011: Read a full review of Drive]
The Mill and the Cross functions as a living painting and an imagining of how that painting was created. Fusing art, cinema and history, filmmaker Lech Majewski dramatically brings Pieter Brueghel’s 1564 The Procession to Calvary to life with a degree of ambition the rivals the more esoteric work of Peter Greenaway. Most interesting is the web-like structure of the painting that is initially replicated in the film with a web-like narrative structure, with Rutger Hauer as Breughel in the centre and differenet strands of interlocking stories stretching out from him. This is unfortunately somewhat lost when the film ends up focusing on the religious iconography in The Procession to Calvary, with a lengthy re-enactment of Christ’s crucifixion. As The Mill and the Cross was originally designed to be exhibited in a gallery context, I couldn’t help but think it may have worked better as a multi-screen installation to further liberate the concept from the lineal restrictions of cinema.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Leave it to the innovative maverick Werner Herzog to be one of the few directors to use 3D in a way that not only enhances the film, but is also essential for that film. Herzog hasn’t created a new world in Cave of Forgotten Dreams, but he does take us into one that very few humans will ever get to experience. It is the world of the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave, which contains both a delicate natural beauty and fragile cave paintings that are now considered the oldest known examples of primitive art. Part nature documentary and part art documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams is an astonishing privilege to experience. Various scientific experts help to bring the artwork to life and create a vivid picture of how the caves where used by early humans and animals such as the extinct cave bear. Herzog’s narration contains no self censorship as he muses about the profound nature of what these caves hold.
[EDIT 7/10/2011: Read a full review of Cave of Forgotten Dreams]
I attempted to meet David Stratton last night and completely bollocksed it up. Standing by himself before the Closing Night film, I approached him for a chat, suddenly got a bit overwhelmed and said something like, ‘Hello Mr Stratton, I’m a film critic and hi and you’re a big inspiration and hi and so are you here for the ACMI event that’s coming up?’
His reply was, ‘ No, I’m coming back to Melbourne a bit later for the ACMI event. I’m here tonight for MIFF.’
I then just stood there nodding like an idiot, went completely blank, muttered ‘thank you’ and then literally ran off. One of the people I know from Triple R walked past me and whispered, ‘Next time just pee on him.’
Show us your MIFF
Having previously worked for MIFF, Beatrix Coles is enjoying this year’s festival as a punter, with Another Earth and Life in Movement to look forward to today. Although they are both very different films her anticipation levels for both are equally high. She loved seeing Autoluminescent: Rowland S. Howard with an audience largely composed of people who knew Howard, which was a really special experience. Over the years she’s also enjoyed seeing the Forum in full swing: ‘It’s my ultimate Friday night after work spot, and I wish it was open all year round.’ Beatrix is currently working on Authentic In All Caps, a playful web-driven comedy-drama about a gambling philosopher. Beatrix’s all-time favourite film is A Hard Day’s Night, a film she can always watch.
Thomas Caldwell, 2011