Friday, July 10, 2009

My MIFF Itinerary (Part I)

The Melbourne International Film Festival released it's much anticipated program today (online version here) and there are some great titles on offer this year. As I perused the guide and took note of interesting sounding films I placed a mark next to them. Turns out I marked 44 titles. Of course, I won't be able to see 43 titles (for many reasons - it's physically impossible for one without some sort of Prisoner of Azkaban-like time travel device). I have listed them below and if any of you guys have seen any of the more obscure titles and would like to warn me about them (or endorse them, obviously) then feel free.

I think I've got a good mix in here. I've been going to the festival for three years now and I have picked up on keywords in film bios that make my ears prick up and my brain scream "AVOID!" I know some people like to see depressing dramas from Turkey and the Middle East for two and a half weeks, but that's not my style so the titles I have chosen are a mix of comedies and drama, horror and musicals, documentaries and classics.

Of course I have to whittle this down to a much more manageable number of films, but that involves the long arduous task of slotting movies into any free time (after work, weekends, etc) I have whilst making sure I get no titles overlapping. Some titles that I desperately want to see will probably prove to be impossible to see, unfortunately, but such is the nature of the film festival beast.

The 43 titles are:

Antichrist (Denmark)
I'm wondering what to do with Lars Von Trier's latest. It has an Australian distributor (I read it on Twitter, but can't remember who exactly), but as far as I am aware there isn't a release date. There's also no guarantee that somebody won't take a pair of scissors to it upon theatrical release, which perhaps gives me reason enough to see it here at MIFF. Hmmm. Click here for more on Antichrist

Blank City (USA)
Takes a look at the underground film culture in New York City in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Sounds like a can't miss for me who loves this sort of stuff and it features talking heads like John Waters so you know it's quality.

Bran Nue Dae (Australia)
Indigenous musical from director Rachel Perkins (Radiance, One Night the Moon) starring the likes of Jessica Mauboy, Geoffrey Rush, Ernie Dingo and Missy Higgins. Definitely my most anticipated Aussie film at the moment. It's the closing night film at the fest, but has an extra screening the night before. Since it (most likely) won't be released theatrical until 2010 I'd really like to check it out at MIFF.

Che Part I [The Argentine] (USA/Spain/France)
Che Part II [Guerrilla] (USA/Spain/France)
Steven Soderbergh's two Che Guavara movies are playing. Unfortunately they have been split up, although on 1 August they are playing back to back. It is, however, the only such occurance as the individual films play on the fourth and fifth respectively for their second festival screenings.

The Cove (USA)
I've heard good things about this eco documentary. Has an Aussie distributor so it should be getting a theatrical release, although documentaries are notoriously fickle with that sort of thing. Even DVD releases can be hard to come by.

Dogs in Space (Australia)
Aussie rock film from 1986 has been digitally remastered and is a special presentation at the festival. Stars Michael Hutchence. I have never seen it (has it been released on DVD?), but could be interesting to see on the big screen.

Dogtooth (Greece)
Sounds like an all-in-the-family version of Funny Games from what I have read (father keeps family indefinitely imprisoned in their house completely oblivious to the outside world). Quite naturally, not everything works out as planned for the dad. Thankfully is only 94 minutes long, which is refreshing I gotta say!

Double Take (Belgium)
I can't quite get my head around what this film is about from reading the guide's bio, but it's some sort of collage about Hitchcock and the invention of television? I don't really know - I will research further - but it's about Alfred Hitchcock so it naturally piqued my interest.

The Draughtman's Contract (UK)
Peter Greenaway's weird classic from 1982 on the big screen.

Eden Lake (UK)
British horror flick that sounds a lot like an American direct-to-DVD title called Timber Falls from last year. Apparently this one though is excellent and intense and horrifying. Could make an interesting late night choice.

An Education (UK/USA)
Incredibly buzzy title that came out of the Sundance festival, stars Carey Mulligan (she's gonna explode onto "the scene", obviously), Alfred Molina and Peter Sarsgaard, from a screenplay by Nick Hornby. Sure to be big on the awards circuit later in the year. I would really like to catch this title at MIFF, but it's theatrical release is in October so I might skip it for something about Chinese trade agreements (/joke).

The Exploding Girl (USA)
As if that title wasn't enough to get me interested, the plot of this New York-set film would have done it. Twentysomethings in NYC. "Disaffected youth" etc. Lead actress. All things that will get me to take notice and I'm definitely going to try and sneak it into my schedule. Won best actress at Tribecca for Zoe Kazan.

Fish Tank (UK)
From the director of the fantastic Red Road, Oscar-winner Andrea Arnold, comes this movie that some people are labelling a "coming-of-age" tale. As horrifying as that prospect sounds, I would much rather watch one of them from Andrea Arnold that yet another from within the Australian film industry.

The Girlfriend Experience (USA)
Steven Soderbergh's third film at the fest is this lo-fi digital indie flick. I really liked the similarly-made Bubble, but I'm not too taken by this one from what I have seen. Stunning poster excepted.

Going Down (Australia)
An old Aussie indie flick (it's from 1982) that's getting a screening alongside the aforementioned Dogs in Space and We're Livin' On Dog Food. Sounds great and it was apparently quite radical at the time. I wonder if a DVD release is imminent? Does anybody have any info on that?

Hansel and Gretel (South Korea)
Korean horror flick that actually sounds quite promising. Doesn't come with a prestige director attached so a regular cinema release may be hard to come by for this re-imagining of the famous tale.

Humpday (USA)
I think there is a perfectly good reason as to why this "mumblecore" movement has so far yet to yeild any movies that actually got cinematic releases here, but this latest title in the canon looks much more entertaining. Should get a regular release here at some stage.

The Hurt Locker (USA)
As far as I can tell this movie doesn't have an Australian release date set (or even a distributor), so this could be one of the big American titles to catch at the festival instead of waiting around. Katheryn Bigelow is a great director and she's been getting big write-ups for this film, which is already getting Oscar buzz. Could Bigelow become only the fourth woman in history to be nominated for a Best Director Oscar? Couldn't happen to a more deserving person though, I must say.

I Need That Record!
The "Backbeats" section of MIFF always has a few goodies and this is looking like one of the finer additions. A documentary about the death of record stores. I love record stores and I miss them so I why not? Well, it appears it went direct-to-DVD in America, which is at least cause for pausing and thinking twice.

Inglourious Basterds (USA)
Quentin Tarantino's WWII fantasy has a theatrical release of a mere two weeks after the conclusion of MIFF so I will not be paying $55 to see it here as part of their "Gala" screenings. QT will be at the festival to introduce it, so that's very excellent and amazing, but... no. I'd rather just may $10 to see it when it's out normally. Read some more about the movie by clicking here.

Kisses (Ireland)
Sounds kind of like Once (boy and a girl in Ireland), but without the twee and without the ever-growing desire to punch the actors in the face and without that fucking vacuum cleaner. My god, THAT BLOODY VACUUM CLEANER!!! Actually sounds very interesting and I hope to be able to see it.

A Lake (France)
Apparently quite visually astounding. Other than that I'm blank. Visually astounding is good by me though.

Little Joe (USA)
Documentary about Joe Dallasandro, muse to Andy Warhol and underground sex symbol. I wonder if he still has that annoying ponytail?

Louise-Michel (France)
I heard some very polar opinions of this French revenge farce from the Sydney Film Festival. Some thought it brilliant, others awful. There were walk-outs. I'm generally quite game for movies like this and I'm not sure if a theatrical release is on the cards for something that is apparently so harsh (and probably not in the "artistic" that allows some movies to get away with it and be hailed as "visionary" - you know the ones I'm talking about).

The Maid (Chile)
Now this one is a film that sprung out from the pages of the program even though I knew nothing about it. Follows a maid who may be borderline psychotic. Lovely.

Moon (UK)
The son of Davie Bowie directs this one-man show sci-fi flick. The "one man" is Sam Rockwell (Kevin Spacey's voice is also hanging around) and the movie looks fascinating. IMDb claims it will be released on 3 September, which is surprising.

Morphia (Russia)
As drug addict movies go this one actually sounds good and, dare I say it, original. Drug movies being labeled original in this day and age is a very rare thing, indeed. Morphia is about a doctor in a small Russian town in the time after the revolution. Apparently it "(f)eatures one of the best endings of the Festival!" <-interesting! Not sure why the poster (click it to see it bigger) looks animated though.

Mother (South Korea)
The director of The Host (sooo overrated) directs this deranged take on film-noir. I actually like the look of this one and it was released in cinemas in Sydney this week with other states to surely follow so if I don't get to see it I won't be too fussed.

Outrage (USA)
Documentary that has rustled quite a few feathers in the USA. Directed by Kirby Dick - whose This Film is Not Yet Rated never got a release of any kind, as far as I'm aware, after appearing at MIFF a few years ago - it seeks to out politicians who deliberately vote against pro-gay rights bills in Washington DC in order to keep their sexuality under wraps.

Paper Soldier (Russia)
Apparently quite visually dazzling and it won Best Director and Best Cinematography prizes at Venice last year. Venice are a great festival so I'm inclined to listen to them.

Prime Mover (Australia)
David Ceaser is not my favourite Aussie director, but this one sounds quite different (there's magic and fantasy!) Plus it stars Emily Barclay and we just don't see her enough on the screen after giving two of the best performances of the decade in Suburban Mayhem and In My Father's Den. True fact.

Prodigal Sons (USA)
Definitely in the top three of movies I want to see the most at MIFF. Nathaniel thought it was fantastic. It is a documentary about a high school quarterback who returns to his hometown... as a woman. Sounds like a comedy that could star Jensen Ackles (random name drop) but it appears to be so much more.

Red Riding (1974)
Red Riding (1980)
Red Riding (1983)
I don't know much about this trilogy other than what Guy at In Contention has written. It was apparently a TV event, but international audiences have been getting them on the big screen. I'm not sure if I want to spend three movie slots with the same series, but there are some interesting directors involved (Julian Jarrold, James Marsh and Anand Tucker).

The September Issue (USA)
Documentary that follows the production of the famous September issue of Vogue magazine, featuring Anna Wintour. I originally wrote that "if Valentino: The Last Emperor also screened then fashionistas would definitely be in for a treat!" Voila, a few places down is Valentino: The Last Emperor! Will be receiving a theatrical release on 20 August.

A Town Called Panic (France)
French animation title that sounds like a bit of fun.

Treeless Mountain (USA/South Korea)
I can't remember where I heard about this, but whoever it was who saw it RAVED about it and it certainly sounds good enough to warrant a screening.

Valentino: The Last Emperor
Documentary that follows the end of Valentino's illustrious career before he retires. Paired with The September Issue would make a fun day at the cinema (both screen on 1 August albeit at different cinemas). Gets a cinema release in early September.

Van Diemen's Land (Australia)
Yet another telling of the Alexander Pearce tale (cannibal in colonial Tasmania). The trailer officially freaked me out and most reports out of festivals have been encouraging (although a good friend of mine was particularly unimpressed and surprised at the positive reaction to the film). Will be getting a release in late September.

The White Ribbon (Austria/Germany/France/Italy)
Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or-winning black and white film about the mysterious and suspicious deaths of people in a school in Germany before the outbreak of WWI. I've only liked one of Haneke's movies - that would be Hidden - but this one looks particularly good and I'm willing to give it a chance. Even if it does turn out to be another Funny Games or, heaven forbid, another Time of the Wolf then at least I'll have something to spit vitriol at and what is a film festival without that?

Yuri's Day (Russi/Germany)
I had never heard of this film before, but the bio in the program sounded really intriguing and you can't have a true festival experience without seeking out movies like this.


Well that's my list at the current moment in time. I'll update you when I choose by final set of viewing treasures (and I'll probably end up seeing some stuff that isn't on here due to scheduling difficulties). Any Melburnians out there see anything they like? More MIFF pieces coming over the next month, too. You international peeps will just have to grin and bare it.

Tickets went on sale at 11AM today, so you can snap 'em up now if you want. I managed to get tickets to everything I wanted last year and I didn't get tickets until a later date so I hope I don't miss out on anything this year either. This takes time, folks! I'm disappointed that some titles that showed at Perth's Revelations Festival didn't make their way to Melbourne. I'm still waiting for Tarsem's The Fall to appear ANYWHERE here, and the small clips of We Are Wizards (doco about Harry Potter fan-bands) and Sita Sings the Blues looked very good. Oh well. Hopefully eventually.


Simon A said...

SEE IN THE LOOP!!! And Black Dynamite. But In the Loop was my favourite film of Sydney.

Eden Lake is okay. Probably more impactful on the big screen - I gave it an import - but Martyrs is the most powerful horror movie MIFF seems to have. Also one of the most powerful horror movies I've seen, but it's extreme. Very, very difficult to take.

And please don't be tempted to see Dead Snow, even if you somehow have an extra pass and it fits perfectly with your schedule. Even if someone offers you a free ticket, and tell you they'll pay for dinner as well. Just don't do it.

Paul Martin said...

A lot of those titles are getting a release, Glenn.

Anonymous said...

Tarsem's The Fall played a short season (about a week) at ACMI a few months ago. Looks like you missed it.


Popcorn and Cigarettes said...

On your list I have only seen the two Che films, and Moon. I would probably recommend them all to see.

I have heard good things about Antinchrist, The Cove, An Education, Fish Tank, The Hurt Locker, Mother, Treeless Mountain, Valentino: The Last Emperor, and The White Ribbon.

Hope it helps to narrow it down a little bit.

richardwatts said...

I've already seen a screener copy of HUMPDAY and it was dire. Bad acting, limply directed, and very weak improvised dialogue. My recommendation is to avoid.

Glenn Dunks said...

Simon, I don't care much for "extreme" horror and Martyrs just didn't sound like my cuppa.

Paul, I know that but my theory is that a lot of them will be tiny releases or direct-to-DVD (as your list implies) and I'd rather see them now when I'm most interested in them then have them show up in 8 months time on DVD and forget all about it. Besides, a lot of the other films that are screening that won't get a release at all of any kind just don't interest me.

Plus, I think it is fun to see at least one or two biggish movies at a festival. A festival crowd for, say, Antichrist can't really be replicated.

Mike, gah!

Richard, yeah all of those sound symptomatic of "mumblecore" a subgenre that hasn't interested me yet, so I'm still swaying on Humpday.

Paul Martin said...

Glenn, the releases I've posted that have a date are all for a theatrical release. While not set in stone, they're as reliable as they can be (whatever that means, hehe). Those marked TBC or no date assigned are not.

I don't rule out seeing films at MIFF that are getting a release; that's an individual choice. I do, however, like my choices to be as informed as possible. I'd rather see a film at MIFF that I won't otherwise get an opportunity to, than one that's getting a release a month or two later. Even if it screens for only two weeks at the Nova or Kino, that's better than one screening in the midst of MIFF mayhem.

I can confirm that I saw The Fall at ACMI a while ago and took my son. We both enjoyed it, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it.

Guy said...

A few thoughts/tips from me:

"Kisses" is gorgeous -- and more in line with "Before Sunset" than "Once."

You know I'm in love with "Fish Tank" -- and I'd say the "coming-of-age" classification is only superficially accurate.

"The Maid" was a really pleasant surprise, not least because it turns into a much more layered study than the psycho-comedy it seems to be at the outset.

"A Lake" is sheer agony ... avoid. Nick Davis will back me up on this.

If you only catch one "Red Riding" installment, make sure it's "1974."

And the splitting-up of "Che" into two parts is by no means unfortunate. They're two very separate films in terms of tone and structure, and I personally don't think they benefit from being shoehorned together.

Simon A said...

Martyrs isn't many people's cuppa, really. But I can't recommend In The Loop highly enough.

I liked Humpday, though. It's not must see, but really solid, and funny.

Glenn Dunks said...

Guy, thanks for the tips. A Lake will be snubbed, Kisses elevated.

Simon, In the Loop just doesn't look that interesting. I dunno, doesn't feel like something I want to go out of my way to see, ya know? I trust you and I'll catch up with it eventually, but for now I'll skip it.

Paul, I know I'm in the minority, but I thought The Cell was one of the finest, bravest and awe-inspiring films of the decade so I have been waiting for The Fall greatly. So disappointed I missed it. Maybe the Astor will play it at some point or ACMI will replay it.

par3182 said...

we are wizards
abc2, july 22nd @ 830pm

Drew said...

Well, this is tragic. In Melbourne during the Perth Revelation Festival, in Perth during the Melbourne Festival.

x said...

Thanks for compiling this list and for indicating those that already have Australian distributors. It's always a hard task narrowing things down and hoping that some blind choices will ultimately be rewarding.

And although I'm sure Sita Sings the Blues would be magnificent on the big screen with a surrounding crowd, it's also available for (legal!) download at its official website here:
in case you get impatient.

Glenn Dunks said...

x, check out this link (Melb Film Blog) for a fuller list of MIFF movies with Aussie distribs and release dates.

Chris said...

Sita Sings the Blues played at MIFF last year. Great movie if abit to long. It also had a small cinema run in melb since then I think.