There are not too many days left for the 2010 Melbourne International Film Festival and my festival fatigue is now really starting to set it. I skipped a film on Wednesday night due to tiredness and slept through most of another film last night. However, two of the four films I have seen over the past couple days, and stayed awake during, have been spectacular.
I enjoyed Four Lions, a comedy about incompetent Islamic terrorists trying to find something to blow up. However, I really thought it would have a bit more depth and insight considering its provocative subject matter and it being a film by Christopher Morris, a razor sharp satirist whose television work has an audacious and perceptive approach to comedy. Four Lions is certainly quite funny and there are a couple of excellent scenes that explore the absurdity of some of the extremist Islamic beliefs, but I really wanted a lot more than what this film actually delivers.
A big part of what I love about MIFF are the retrospective screenings and this year seeing Rainer Werner Fassbinder 1973 made-for-television science-fiction saga World on a Wire was an incredible pleasure. Stylistically, World on a Wire owes much to Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville in its use of at-the-time modern architecture, interior designs and fashion to represent the future. Eddie Constantine even makes a cameo to really establish Fassbinder’s tip of the hat to Godard’s film. Thematically World on a Wire is a distinct precursor to The Matrix but wondrously it also explores many of the ideas that are found in Inception. Definitely a festival highligh.
Caterpillar is a an anti-nationalistic and anti-militaristic film about a World War II Japanese soldier who returns home deaf, unable to talk, horribly scarred and missing all his limbs. He is declared a War God and the repeated ironic shots of his medals and articles in the newspaper, plus all the rhetoric spouted about the Japanese war effort heard on the radio, reinforcs how grotesque the glorification of war is. Furthermore, he does little but make his wife completely subservient to him by constantly demanding sex and eating more than his share of the food. Maybe I’ve been too caught up in watching short films this year but I am increasingly seeing featuress where I can’t help but think they would have been more effective as 20 minutes shorts. Caterpillar is one such films as it is a single note film that overly labours its point.
On the other hand, despite the large number of walk-outs and deep sighs of frustration during its final hour, I absolutely loved Gaspar Noé’s new film Enter the Void, an astonishing and hallucinogenic cinematic experience that mesmerised me for its entire running time. It’s shot in a variety of ways to convey a first person perspective to explore the sensations of drugs, death, sex and the neon lit metropolis of Tokyo, making it the type of film that William S. Burroughs may have made. However, it is only fair to warn that most people I’ve spoken to found Enter the Void to ultimately be an endurance test. I would almost declare it a masterpiece if it wasn’t for my recognition that it does become increasing repetitive, challenging and obscure during its long final act. However, I wanted it to keep going and I could honestly watch it all over again right now. It’s certainly looking like my pick of the festival.
[EDIT 29/11/2010: Read a full review of Enter the Void]