Sunday, July 24, 2011

MIFF Blogathon: Day 2 (Forgotten Caves, Kill Lists and Submarines)

This blogathon is an initiative of MIFF for their 60th anniversary year. I am one of six bloggers given the mission of seeing 60 films in 17 days and writing, reporting, reviewing and wrangling my way through the tiredness and hunger to bring the festival experience to your computer.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Dir. Werner Herzog
Running Time: 90mins

Has Werner Herzog become a quasi-hipster joke? A piss-take of himself that nobody can take seriously? It certainly feels that way after watching this 3D documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, as he drearily walks around a cave spouting ridiculous dialogue like "is this cave the beginning of the modern soul?" in that recognisable accent of his. Perhaps Herzog thinks that by this stage of his career he can do whatever he likes and that if he just throws out some verbose narration and obvious references to Baywatch that people will love it?

Whatever the case my be, the subject matter - previously undiscovered, ancient rock drawings from France - feels like an important topic in a historic sense, but nothing Herzog does here, other than the occasionally spectacular 3D, can enliven the rather drowsy material. I admit to falling into several microsleeps during this film, which feels like a short documentary expanded into feature length to the detriment of the material. An abrasive musical score by Ernst Reijseger certainly doesn't help matters, either. A disappointing effort. C

Living on Love Alone
Dir. Isabelle Czajka
Running Time: 89mins

A lovingly lit French drama about a young woman, Anaïs Demoustier as Julie, whose inability to cope with the realities of inner city life sends her crashing towards a doomed romance with an out of work actor, Pio Marmaï as Ben. Living on Love Alone [D'amour et d'eau fraîche] is the debut feature for Isabelle Czajka and while it certainly looks impressive, thanks to sun-kissed cinematography by Crystel Fournier and the attractive leads, it suffers from the dreaded no-third-act syndrome. This is a phenomenon that plagues many Australian films, too, and it's disappointing that this brief film wasn't expanded somewhat and given a proper ending.

Demoustier is a stylish presence on screen, but it's Marmaï who really stands out as the film's strongest aspect. His charming presence makes Julie's decisions more believable than they otherwise would be. The screenplay, also by Czajka, has some interesting things to say about the laziness of youth and Julie's inability to comprehend what is required of her in the adult world. I appreciated Czajka's realistic take on young people and their attitudes towards sex, while a family dinner sequence is spot on, too, in the way family members interact. The closing scenes are involving, but end too abruptly. B-

I just want to show you what Pio Marmaï looks like, okay?

I think I'm in love lust.

Dir. Richard Ayoade
Running Time: 97mins

"Ben Stiller Presents" says the poster. I presume because British humour does not travel well over the Atlantic Ocean (the Australian poster is Ben Still free) they felt the need to place Stiller's marketable name on there, but I can't imagine anybody going to see Richard Ayoade's debut feature Submarine based on his name and being anything but disappointed. That's not a mark against the film, but it was something that lingered on my mind after the credits. There is such a distinct voice to Submarine that dumbing it down to Ben Stiller's level feels silly.

At first coming off as Britain's answer to a Wes Anderson film, Submarine eventually morphs into something far darker and less pleasurable. Aided by a winning lead performance by Craig Roberts, the opening half of Richard Ayoade's debut feature is funny and charming, with brisk editing Chris Dickens and Nick Fenton and a wonderfully worked sense of time and place. However, the way Ayoade handled the shift in tone is troublesome. There's no nuance there and the abrupt change is distracting. Still, there are many pleasures to be found withing Submarine and I suspect it was garner a lot of fans with its refreshing take on American quirky indies. B

Kill List
Dir. Ben Wheatley
Running Time: 90mins

A film of three very different acts - domestic drama; action movie; horror - Ben Wheatley's Kill List is a rather confounding experience. The less you know about it the more intrigued you will be by it. I was curious as to where it was going, especially in those opening scenes where domestic non-bliss, although once it got there I found my interest waning. A third act about face, however, produces some truly visceral, terrifying cinema. Kill List is a curious film and probably demands more thought than I am able to give it right now. B-

The Innkeepers
Dir. Ti West
Running Time: 102mins

Ti West has, after two films, become one of the most interesting names in horror. Not content to make the same film like many others, West has followed up his terrifying 1980s homage The House of the Devil with this far more quaint and quieter scarer. Made with a very obvious wink at the audience, The Innkeepers succeeds due to the adorable charm of lead Sara Paxton and a gripping set of frights that work time and time again.

It still saddens me to know that The House of the Devil never got a release in country. I was able to see it a local horror film festival, but no subsequent DVD release has ever eventuated. Such a shame that people haven't been able to see it without illegal downloading because it's a doozy of a horror flick. West appears to have learnt a thing or two as well since there are no pacing issues and the third act is a considerable step in the right direction. I can only hope that local audiences get the chance to see The Innkeepers at some point as it works far better than many horror films that get a release. It's got a kindred spirit in Insidious, and I think if you mixed the two films together they would actually make a perfect horror movie. As it stands? B+

I somehow made it through five films yesterday despite battling the flu. I have popped so many pills and drank so many blackcurrent lemsips and yet it still hangs around. If you notice my writing in these entries tends to drift off or sound disconnected, it's probably because I don't feel like myself right now. This is getting very tiresome.

Not as tiresome, however, as the technical issues a near sold out crowd experienced at Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Not just one, but several! At first the film began to play with distorted sound. As @FeNi64 humourously put it on Twitter: "It sounded like Stephen Hawking on flat batteries." That this is an apt description is all very o_O you know? Still, the pandemonium that erupted through the Hoyts cinema was like nothing I had ever witness before. Patrons, a lot of them, were stomping their feet, booing, chanting... anything to get the attention of the festival staff so they would do something. I heard later in the evening from someone who was standing next to festival director Michelle Carey when she got the phone call and she was none too pleased.

Once they finally got the film going from the start again the crowd couldn't have expected what would come next: During the "postscript" sequence (the bit about albino crocodiles) the film just stopped. Another wave of moans and groans swept across the cinema as one employee valiantly tried to keep us all in check. Several people got up to leave. I didn't. However, once the film started up again and then froze AGAIN? I grabbed my stuff and left. Such is the burden of a person seeing 60 films at a festival.


Anonymous said...

The technical difficulties are a major worry. In Sunday night's screening of A Separation, there was a reel change at a critical plot point and we lost maybe four minutes of subtitles as the screen resolution slipped half way down the screen. Fortunately there was an Iranian couple next to us who could translate until the projectionists got there shit together. Not good enough at what has aspirations to be a major festival.

Rob said...

The Innkeepers was so disappointing, it should be a C+/B-. It's a film that has no idea what it wants to be, is it a quirky comedy, is it supposed to be cheesy, is it supposed to be scary, and what the hell was with the zombie like finish?! It didn't actually achieve anything in the end, it was none of those things at all.