Thursday, August 4, 2011

MIFF Blogathon: Day 14 (Familiar Triangle Wars of Tyrannosaurus X)

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.

Familiar Ground
Dir. St├ęphane Lafleur
Running Time: 88mins

A film of such little consequence that when I tried to tell fellow MIFF attendees what I had seen earlier that day the title of this film, and in fact much of the plot too, had mysteriously exited my brain. I had only chosen it as filler and it's brief 88-minute run time sounded like heaven for my 11am brain. Still, St├ęphane Lafleur's Familiar Ground [En terrains connus] is quite an airless experience. It drifts along doing its own merry thing, never so much as raising the temperature of its cold, wintery Canadian backdrop. It never raises a sweat because it never does anything, or even attempt it, with any weight to it.

Francis La Haye and Fanny Mallette star as Benoit and Maryse, still dealing rather unsuccessfully with the death of their mother five years earlier. I only know this because that's what the MIFF guide tells me. The guide also tells me there's something about "a man from the not-to-distant future", but, in all honesty, I think I drifted off during the one minute he was on screen (one minute according to fellow attendee and blogathon-er Jess Lomas). Apart from a somewhat intriguing ending, there's just nothing in Familiar Ground to mull over. I can't even be enthused to use the title in a witty pun. D+

Innocent Saturday
Dir. Aleksandr Mindadze
Running Time: 99mins

Remember when I labelled Wasted Youth as worst of the festival? Well, step aside Wasted Youth, for Aleksandr Mindadze's terrible Innocent Saturday [V subbotu] is here to claim the title. Not just worst of the festival, mind you, but one of the worst films I have ever seen, period. It's a frustrating and muddle account of the Chernobyl reactor disaster as told through the eyes of some of the stupidest film characters you will ever lay eyes on. Why yes, the nuclear plant across the river is on fire and about to explode, but you know what? I need to shop for shoes! Or, even better, I need to join a rock and roll wedding band and play for tips until the wee hours of the morning. This all makes complete and perfect sense, doesn't it?

I could look up who the actors were in this drivel, but I'd rather not. All I know is that the lead actor looks somewhat like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Diego Luna and that I can't fathom why he would want to remain in the film's setting to try and save these horrible, retched characters. Outside of How I Ended This Summer I can't think of any more idiotic beings than these. The apparent love interest is, to put it bluntly, a dumb, pathetic shell of a real woman. Superfluous and superficial to the nth degree, I feel comfort in knowing this wicked character probably died a slow and painful death due to radiation poisoning. Same goes for all the rest, really. They're idiotic dolts and clearly all the years of living near a nuclear reactor has fried their brain cells into not wanting to evacuate a city on the brink of disaster. The MIFF guide tells me that this represents the complacency that nuclear powered countries seem to find themselves in (hello Japan putting nuclear plants on active fault lines!) but this reading is incredibly hard to decipher out from the nauseating hand-held cinematography and loud, incessant barking of dialogue. It's a disaster all right! F

The Triangle Wars
Dir. Rosie Jones
Running Time: 90mins

The world premiere of The Triangle Wars happened today at MIFF to an overwhelmingly positive response! What more would you expect, however, from a theatre full of viewers who are obviously on the same side of the filmmakers? I went into Rosie Jones' documentary The Triangle Wars not knowing all that much about the redevelopment of the St Kilda foreshore area known as "The Triangle" - I've never lived in St Kilda, nor do I ever visit there, so I didn't particularly follow - but now that I've seen this film I can safely say that I still don't know all that much because Jones and her collaborative producers have gone out of the way to present their film as biased as possible.

Now this was surely their intention all along, but I find it somewhat discouraging to find a documentary to be so blatantly one-sided. I sat there wondering what all the fuss was about over this triangle of land. I understood the objections by St Kilda residents, but I also started to consider the hundreds (thousands?) of jobs that the development would create, the business it would stir amongst the area and the tourism it would entice. Of course, Jones doesn't explore any of that, instead wishing to merely document the rabble raising that the so-called "UnChain St Kilda" action group caused.


Now, don't get me wrong - I more or less agree with the idea that giant malls would dilute the sunny charm of the St Kilda foreshore, but when presented in the manner that it is here I actually began to turn against it. The rally sequences have a sort of chest-thumping energy to them that sparks memories of my own protest attendances and there are some eye-opening talking head style interviews, but a bland television aesthetic - this will look much better on the TV than the highly-pixellated look that the cinema exhibition gave us - and lousy, dull narration (was it by Rosie Jones herself?) harm it greatly.

Almost everyone seen on screen in this documentary looks like the upper-class, privileged arty folk that I find so hard to relate to. It must be nice to just decide to become a council-member on a whim. Do these people even have jobs? The weird, creepy demonisation of the film's "villains" was also particularly off-putting, including a meanspirited and insulting slow motion take of one councilwoman dancing at a function. There was something that irked me about The Triangle Wars far more than it's rather inoffensive premise would suggest, but as audience members around me laughed and jeered as their enemies strutted about I couldn't help but feel there isn't much to the film for those who aren't St Kilda radicals. C-

Tyrannosaur
Dir. Paddy Considine
Running Time: 91mins

On day 11 of the festival I was privy to Peter Mullan's Neds, in which he had a small role as a drunk, abusive father. In Paddy Considine's directorial debut, Tyrannosaur, Mullan takes the lead role of a drunk, abusive man. It's a stretch, I'm sure, but he does it so well that we can forgive the typecasting. Thankfully, the film around him is equally impressive as Considine has written and directed this film with solid aplomb. Where it could have easily descended into true, honest miserebalism, Tyrannosaur explores the way damaged souls can connect through not only their collective anger, but through spicy humour and barbs of steel.

Starring Mullan and Olivia Colman as oddly connected souls - he a former abusive husband, she a currently abused wife - who help each other deal with the demons that dwell inside them. Colman is truly stunning here as Hannah and she tops it off with a climactic scene of dramatic power that tore my heart out and stomped on it, wringing tears in the process. Can the best actress Oscar campaign start right now, please? The film is beaming with compassion in the face of enraging violence with surprisingly clean cinematography by Erik Wilson, Tyrannosaur is a dark study, but it's dinosaur title is apt: it's a monster. B+

X
Dir. Jon Hewitt
Running Time: 85mins

"From the director of Bloodlust" is certainly an opening line that should spark wide-eyed fear in anyone, however I found myself curiously entertained by Jon Hewitt's lurid, sex-drenched tale of hookers on the run. I will be reviewing this in full at some later stage, but for now let me just say how much fun I had with X! It's bathed in flesh and neon with over-the-top flashiness to mask over the utterly ridiculous screenplay ("you're now a bowling ball!") by Hewitt and actor Belinda McClory (she was "Switch" in The Matrix!)

X features a great lead performance by Viva Bianca, wonderful cinematography by Mark Pugh as well as stunning sound design and music, plus electric editing by Cindy Clarkson. The Sydney locations are captured with glorious vividness and the nudity is frank and upfront. If the violence gets too much then, well, it is set in the underworld although any call of misogyny can be easily counterclaimed: these women get their own back! I had a blast with X and it's the best Australian film I have seen during the festival. B+

MIFF TALES
It can be amusing getting the reactions from others after a screening. I've been in the minority on a few occasions throughout the fest - including, to some degree, X which many seem to have tolerated, hated or moderately enjoyed - but the universal hatred for Innocent Saturday has been refreshing and unlike anything I've experienced so far this festival. I haven't spoken to a single person who liked it. Not even a little bit! I sat next to Greg Bennett of Sounds Like Cinema and we both let out exacerbated sighs are numerous point and once out on the street there was uncontrollable laughter in between loud proclamations of "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?" Several others, including a stranger who waltzed over to myself and Jess Lomas after the screening, were all baffled by the degree of awful we'd just witnessed.

With only three days left of the festival, it really is sinking in that after Sunday I won't absolutely have to see three of four or (like today and tomorrow) five films throughout the day. I won't have to arrive home at some terribly late hour and somehow fit it blogging, eating, watching Masterchef (of course) and general relaxation. In fact, I'm surprised I made it through today so well with only some brief microsleeps during that movie I saw first that I've forgotten the title of again since I'd been up since 8am for reasons that I will explain later (it involves interviewing someone and WOW what an interview!)

And now it's 2:05am and I am so incredibly tired. Good night!

1 comment:

Alexander said...

Interesting reviews! I think I'm going to see `Innocent Saturday`and `The Triangle Wars`. You make me do it.