Monday, August 1, 2011

MIFF Blogathon: Day 11 (Futuristic NEDs)

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.

The Future
Dir. Miranda July
Running Time: 91mins

YouTube. Miranda July loves it. She probably also loves LOLcats. These are suspicions I had after after watching The Future, her first film since Me & You & Everyone We Know in 2005. The Future feels more like the work of a director who has spent too much time watching YouTube videos of animals playing pianos and gifs of cute cats with injuries saying "can i c doctor clooney now plz" than of an artist who so delicately navigated the sad, vaguely connected lives of the characters in Everyone We Know six years prior. And it's a shame, really.

July, again working as writer-director-actor, has some pertinent things to say regarding the life of creative types and artists who have entered that troublesome era of life where it's near impossible to start up a new career out of fear that they'll never get anywhere. Alas, coming from someone such as July who has the ability to take six years between films and who makes YouTube videos and gets hailed as genius feels curiously out of touch. Unfortunately, the first half of The Future is tricky to peruse as her lead characters, including Hamish Linklater as her boyfriend of four years Jason, go about their dull, yet vaguely hipsterish lives do frustrating things like quit their jobs and yet never once mention that they have rent to pay.

Things become considerably more in tune with human emotions in the more brittle second half, as Jason's ability to stop time (yes) brings about delicate feelings of hurt and sadness, brought on by Sophie's cruelty. The parallel stories of the film's latter half are melancholic and at times even sweet, ending with a hopefulness that no matter the age or lifestyle there's always something out there that will allow you to connect to another human soul. If that other human soul just happens to have a matching curly mop haircut and wears beautiful vintage clothing despite working lousy jobs then so be it.

Unfortunately, July's bizarre dalliances with irksome preciousness are the film's major undoing. Most predominant of all is the utterly bizarre and crazy idea of having the film narrated at intervals by an injured cat that Jason and Sophie plan to adopt. As voiced by July herself it has the distinct waft of LOLcats: The Movie and does a major disservice to the overriding themes of the film. It's a shame because it actually made me want to revisit her prior film to find out if I actually like it as much I remember or if six years of American indie quirk genre titles has diminished its power. The Future is not somewhere I care to revisit any time soon. C

Dir. Peter Mullan
Running Time: 124mins

A rough and tumble, yet deliciously energetic take on the well worn tale of youths gone wild, Neds - it's a local Scottish term for Non-Educated Delinquents - is propulsive and altogether fabulous filmmaking. Directed by part time director and full time actor (he appears on screen here as a drunken father as well as another MIFF 2011 title Tyrannosaur) Peter Mullan, his first time behind the camera since the sublime The Magdalene Sisters in 2002, Neds is - much like that film - a look at how abusive elders, those kids and teenagers are supposed to look to for guidance, can turn people onto the wrong path. That the teachers of young John McGill assume he's a violent thug like his older brother is somewhat partly to blame for his off the track veering several years later once he falls into the wrong crowd. The wrong crowd being the kind who carry knives and spike their own drinks whilst goading fellow neighbourhood gangs into fights.

As played with fierce focus of Conor McCarron in the majority of the film, John is both dizzying in his teenhood cockiness and bravura with slivers of bubbling nerviness. The scene where he and his father share rowdy glances at one another from opposite ends of the stairs is a determined slice of acting and the sight of John parading around his lower-class neighbourhood with butcher knives strapped to his hands is one I won't soon forget. McCarron gives the best performance I've yet seen at this festival, and that it's by a novice on his first film is even more impressive.

Mullan's directorial choices are, at times, messy and desperate to replicate Shane Meadows' even more magnetic masterpiece This is England, but when he's not simply imitating he's coming up with vibrant set-pieces and vividly imagined character exchanges. While a running time in excess of two hours is pushing it, especially when the thick Scottish dialogue is in desperate need of subtitles, Neds is a compelling and tribal look at a bleak country's violent thuggery. A-

While I am glad to report that this evening's screening of Neds did not feature a strobe light show for our effect during the final act like last night, but it did feature an annoying black shadow in the bottom part of the screen and poor focus. The Forum has quickly become this festival's disaster venue and I can't tell you how happy I am to not have to go there once during tomorrow's four film schedule.

Still, today was lovely for the fact that local writer and actor Lee Zachariah organised a wonderful tweet and greet for a large number of film writer folk who live in Melbourne (or who were visiting town). It was great being able to see some people who have been absent for the festival for a number of reasons and even those who have seemingly been around every corner of the festival. Being able to put faces to Twitter handles is always nice, especially when they're as pale-faced and protein-deficient as writers tend to be. Wait, I lie. There are actually some very attractive members of the writing community out there, but let's not perpetuate that idea because people will start to get the wrong idea about us and expect us to be pretty. That's something none of us want nor need.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Glenn, the stamina you have shown during this year's MIFF has been most admirable. Hope you're getting over your influenza. Wanted to attend this year as well but cancelled due to a physical injury. Would have looked forward to meeting you. Love reading your daily do you have the energy to write them, let alone attend the screenings?