Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Strayn Noir

I'm not sure how many readers out there are from Melbourne, but if you are and you're a film lover then you probably agree that ACMI - the Australian Centre of the Moving Image - at Federation Square is the best cinema in town. Not just because the cinemas themselves are the best, but because of the films they show. ACMI focuses strongly on retrospectives, special festivals and one-off screenings. Tonight in one cinema they're showing Balibo and in the other they've got The Bicycle Thief.

I don't get to go there anywhere near enough as I would like, but I really want to catch some of the films showing during the Focus on Australian Noir season that starts on Thursday with a screening of revenge tale The Horseman. Running for ten days and consisting of nine films, the season takes a look at the classic genre of film-noir as seen through the filter of the strayn accent. The aforementioned The Horseman (Thu 17 and Fri 25), as you may or may not remember, stunned me at MIFF 2008 and Peter Marshall gives one of the best male performances of the decade in it. I am not being hyperbolic there, either. It's nice to hear how well it's been doing at festivals around the world after that inauspicious premiere in the smallest Greater Union cinema late at night that I attended.

Now, the films showing during the Australian Noir season aren't your typical film noir. They're not all black and white, filled with shadows and men wearing hats while German expressionist references run wild. Not by a long shot. Kriv Stenders' Boxing Day (Sat 19) is actually a one-take real time drama based around a former prisoner seeing his daughter over Christmas. It's a beaut little film. The Magician (Thu 17, Sat 26) is a movie I've not actually seen, but I remember the press that came about when it got great reviews, but no audiences. Sort of a mockumentary that follows an assassin.

Also on the roster are recently revived classics such as Wake in Fright (Sat 19) and Pure Shit (Fri 18). The former has the more fascinating story - thought lost forever until a print was discovered in a bin marked for destruction, eventually restored and screened at Cannes and then a national re-release that turned the film into the hit it never was in 1971 - but both are important moments in Australian film history. I've never seen Pure Shit, but it's been lingering towards the top of my Quickflix since since its release on DVD a few months back. Wake in Fright is terrific though. I'll probably get around to reviewing it when the DVD is released in November.

Nash Edgerton's The Square (Sat 26) is another fantastic film on offer for audiences while Goodbye Paradise (Thu 24, Sun 27) will be a fond farewell for Ray Barrett who died last week and who won an AFI Award for Best Actor for his performance in this 1983 film. I have not seen this film of political corruption and it would be nice to rectify that.

The two films, however, that I so desperately want to see up on the big screen are Alex Proyas' Dark City (Sun 20) and Phillip Noyce's Heatwave (Sun 20, Sun 27). I have seen Dark City before, but only on DVD (well, VHS first back in 1998 and DVD later), and I would love to see it on the big screen. That film is truly wondrous and seeing it projected metres high may just be enough for it to streak clear of Pleasantville as my top film from 1998. Perhaps. And yes, it's is one of those "technically Australian" films in that it was made by Australians, made in Australia and filled to the brim with Aussies (just not in the lead roles, naturally). It won a Best Screenplay prize from the Film Critics Association of Australia too.

Heatwave, however, I have not seen and I've wanted to for so very long. I could just see it on DVD, but it's screening right before Dark City so why not? I'm not sure why, but something about the poster (to the left, to the left) has always appealed to me. It must be the intrinsic '80s-ness of it all. It's also very rare that an Australian city is such an important part of one of our films. Cities like Sydney or Melbourne are just ripe for juicy thrillers to be produced in and not just the outer-suburbs or the outback like it is 95% of the time. Plus, it's an excuse to see Judy Davis on the big screen!

Are any Melburnians out there planning on catching up with their Aussie Noir? Tickets can be purchased at ACMI's website or at the venue.

1 comment:

Cinema Autopsy said...

This program does look fantastic. I've never seen Heatwave either so I'm really looking forward to that. I interviewed Spiro Economopoulos, one of the curators, last Saturday and he really recommended Goodbye Paradise, which is the other film in this season that I haven't seen before.

I'm with you on The Horseman - it's sensational and I'm really looking forward to the Q&A with the director after the screening this Thursday (17 September).