MIFF is exhausting enough doing 23 films, so I can't imagine how some of my fellow Melburnian film fanatics - Lee Zachariah, Thomas Caldwell and Richard Watts included - who see upwards of 70 feel. I plan to write more reviews of some of the other films I have seen at the fest, although some of them might come around when they receive a theatrical release (Red Hill for instance). One film you won't see me review is Clara Law's Like a Dream because it was my sole walk out of the festival. It wasn't exactly good in any way, but I was just so tired and when you're not enjoying a movie sometimes you just have to just throw in the towel.
I have ranked all 22 films and I'm glad that I was able to see so many good movies. Only at around #17 do the films truly start getting a bit iffy. And, of course, titles like Certified Copy could very easily rise even higher as the process of time works its magic.
Note that some of the "Review" links below send you to Trespass Mag where I did a few MIFF pieces. Enjoy.
- Dreamland (dir. Ivan Sen - Review)
- Brotherhood (dir. Nicolo Donato - Review)
- The Illusionist (dir. Sylvain Chomet)
- I Love You Phillip Morris (dir. Glenn Ficcara & John Requa - Review)
- Four Lions (dir. Chris Morris)
- Life During Wartime (dir. Todd Solondz - Review)
- Certified Copy (dir. Abbas Kiarostami)
- City of Life and Death (dir. Chuan Lu)
- Jean-Michael Basquiat: The Radiant Child (dir. Tamra Davis)
- Red Hill (dir. Patrick Hughes - Review)
- Women Without Men (dir. Shirin Neshat)
- The Actresses (dir. Je-Yong Lee)
- Beeswax (dir. Andrew Bujalski)
- Machete Maidens Unleashed! (dir. Mark Hartley - Review)
- Cane Toads: The Conquest (dir. Mark Lewis)
- The Myth of the American Sleepover (dir. David Robert Mitchell - Review)
- Blank City (dir. Celine Danhier)
- Winter's Bone (dir. Debra Granik - Review)
- Piggies (dir. Robert Glinksi)
- 1981 (dir. Ricardo Trogi - Review)
- She, A Chinese (dir. Xiaolu Guo)
- The Silent House (dir. Gustavo Hernández - Review)
Two performances stand out from the pack: Ewan McGregor in I Love You Phillip Morris and David Denkic from Brotherhood. McGregor hasn't been this alive on screen in years and is his best performance in over a decade (I'd have to go back to before Moulin Rouge!, even, to find a better performance from him). He's so knowing about his surroundings and balances the fine mix of flamboyance and sweetness. Denkic on the other hand is all bubbling rage, sexual longing and sadness and during Brotherhood's best scenes he is the focal point.
Other male performances that registered were Steve Bisley in Red Hill, Ciarán Hinds in Life During Wartime, John Hawkes in Winter's Bone and while William Shimell is obviously playing second fiddle to Juliette Binoche in Certified Copy he has some fine, delicate work there, too. Lastly a big - BIG - shoutout to the terrible ensemble of Four Lions, my favourite of which was probably Kayvan Novak (he's sexy too!).
You don't win Best Actress at Cannes for just being pretty, so it's no surprise that Juliette Binoche shone brightly in Certified Copy. So many expressions go by on that woman's face over the running time of Kiarostami's movie, you'd think she was going to pull a muscle! Jennifer Lawrence was low-key in Winter's Bone, but still fine, however I much preferred her support in the form of Dale Dickey. Allison Janney and Ally Sheedy, the latter in a bizarre but hilarious cameo, were tops in Life During Wartime and, yet another ensemble, the women of The Actresses were all fantastic but my favourite was definitely Yoon Yeo-Jung.
There were individual moments that I will remember for a very long time. How about the meditative and 2001-inspired ending of Dreamland or the beautiful, stunning end to Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist. I won't ruin it for anybody out there, but the card on the table? It will tear your heart open! Juliette Binoche putting her earrings on in Certified Copy, the discovery of so many long-forgetting films in Machete Maidens Unleashed! (CLEOPATRA WONG is at the very top of my must-see list), the anger I felt at the end of The Silent House, the lush 3D of Cane Toads: The Conquest or that stunning confrontation scene between Ciaran Hinds and Chris Marquette in Life During Wartime. All amazing, all unforgettable.
I'm not sure what it was with MIFF this year, but I could fill out the Academy's Best Sound Design/Editing categories just from the movies I saw at this festival alone! The soundscapes of Dreamworld were second-to-none, the shot-blasts of Red Hill were teeth-shattering, the gunfire of City of Life and Death rattled... even the way Binoche's feet clapped against the Tuscan stone paths in Certified Copy felt blissful to me.
Music, too, played a major role in several of the films. Come February 2010 I really hope to see Sylvain Chomet's name listed as a nominee for the Oscar for Best Original Score. His music to The Illusionist was divine. Probably the best score I've heard since Alexandre Desplat's work on Birth. And if you know me that is high praise, indeed.
And so that about wraps it up. You'll no doubt be hearing about several of these titles throughout the rest of the year and next and I've had a ball. It will be good to be able to back to having a diet free of shoving KFC down by gob and being able to just relax at home in the evening instead of having to rush about hoping to get a good spot in line. And, just quietly, I will be able to get back to such things as Scream to Scream, Scene by Scene, which I'm sure you're excited about (as am I!)