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MIFF 2010 Review: Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo

26 Jul

The name of this film, and the content it promised to explore, made me very excited for the my first film of the festival- but it never really delivered.

Japan’s love affair with the humble insect is presented in the context of the people who presently live on Dragonfly Island (a name by which Japan was once known) and the ancient, mystical past of the people who created their culture. Shinto, Zen and Haiku are all discussed in reference bugs, prompting a ponderous perspective in the viewer on the influence of beetles, butterflies and bees.

So whilst it is all very fascinating to delve inside the world of a Ferrari-driving beetle-catcher and to see a little boy barter with a store owner over the price of a heavily-armoured King-Beetle, the exploration just never seemed to stop. The constant reminder that humans, like insects, exist in an ephemeral world became boring and constant segways of dancing lights in the Japanese landscape and fast-moving trains going from one place to another also became tiresome and repetitive. The shakey camera work induced motion sickness in the lass next to me, and I became frustrated with the lack of information about insects given that left me wanting David Attenborough to push the screen aside and take control.
How I wished it could have been more fun!
Campbell Watson

MIFF 2010 review: Petition

26 Jul

While the concept of China not treating its less powerful citizens badly may not be a revelation, the footage contained within this film certainly is. Filmed over 12 years, mostly in secret, by amazingly dedicated film-maker Zhao Liang, it follows the fate of a disparate group of Chinese seeking justice in Petition village (picture the ombudsmen’s office crossed with centrelink crossed with train station ticketing terminal and staffed by officious, young men, some teenagers; completely uncaring). Its Kafka-esque, it’s like banging your head against a brick wall and it’s incredibly sad. Continue reading

MIFF 2010 review: The Inventions of Dr Nakamats

26 Jul

Hairdresser: I hope they only show the good bits.
Nakamat: No these people leave all those out. they only show the weird bits.

How right he is -there is no shortage of weird bits in this outstanding doco. A pitch perfect, and hilarious, profile of a prolific Japanese inventor and full time eccentric. It captures what he is brilliantly, but not why he is – very little of his past is discussed, all we know is that he loves his mother and invented a soy sauce pressure pump for her. The director hints at a loneliness in Nakamat’s life, but this is never explicitly drawn out. His awkward interactions with his family and harshness with strangers (the non-adoring variety) indicates that he deals better with objects than people. Despite his outrageous streaks of ego, Nakamat is a charming and very amusing man; there was constant laughter in the crowd, and it was mostly with affection. Stylishly put together and very entertaining, but with a 60 minute running time it leaves you wanting more.


MIFF review 2010: The Silent House

26 Jul

Looking for trouble

An impressively executed and engaging horror film from South America (shot on a digital SLR, ostensibly in one take on a budget of $6000). Manages to gets you on the jumps, with the tension well setup -our audience was getting very vocal. However it’s not quite creepy enough where it aspires to be, the characters aren’t setup enough for you to actually care about them and the plot and ending are a very muddled and ineffective. A worthy achievement nonetheless. **1/2

MIFF 2010 review: Videocracy

26 Jul

Italy has turned vile. 80% of Italians receive their information about the world from TV. The film maker profiles three key players: the agent, the paparazzi king turned celebrity and Prime Minister Berlusconi, the scumbag. Italy comes across as a crass, ugly, sexist country betraying it’s rich cultural history in art and fashion for an endless parade of pliant, silent women in bras and bikinis.  TV is everything in Italy according to Erik Gandini’s Videocracy, and a small group of despicable but highly effective and self-interested men manipulate it in their own obscene image. Italy’s people are blinded by the glittering lights emanating out of the media. And girls in g-strings. Compelling doco which takes a cool approach to a sad situation. ****

Interview with the director in NY times blog