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SFF 2011: End Of Animal: Surreal Korean Apocalyptia

18 Jun


By Lukey Folkard, Sydney Film Festival Correspondent

South Korean director Jo Sung-hee‘s surreal post-apocalyptic road-movie debut will horrify and delight fans of The Road, Stephen King, Lost and extreme Korean cinema.  A taxi-driver, a young pregnant passenger and a boy find themselves in a desperate fight for survival and sanity amongst a world now devoid of humanity.

A flawless cast, Lee Min-Ji’s performance tears at the soul as she makes her way, pregnant, through this lonely, hostile environment. With tips of the hat to just about every post-apocalyptic film ever made, End Of Animal somehow maintains originality throughout.

Being a fan of desolate horror, zombie and disaster films I can safely say this one’s one of the best. I only caught it accidentally and I’m so glad. If you cannot make it to see at the SFF, I hope for everybody’s sakes, End Of Animal gets a wider (or DVD) release soon.

8/10

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SFF 2011: The Tree Of Life: Evolutionary Religion and a Baby Boomer

15 Jun


By Lukey Folkard, Sydney Film Festival Correspondent

As this was my most anticipated film of the SFF, I swore to myself I would write this in the morning and let it percolate a while. My expectations were very high. Though it seemed, after leaving (the aurally and visually distracting) State Theatre last night that a panning would be unanimous. People were looking around confused after the movie looking around in others faces for reassurance that the movie was long, bad and uncomfortable to sit through.

I’m glad I waited.

I didn’t like The Thin Red Line when I first saw it. I found it long and self indulgent, or so I thought at the time, and was looking more for band-mate extra’s that I knew were going to be killed repeatedly in the background. A couple of years later after catching the second half accidently on television I got a piece of the score stuck in my head. It took me a while to figure out where that music came from after stealing and reappropriating it for myself, and on a second proper viewing The Thin Red Line became forever one of my favourite, most rewarding cinema experiences forever. The New World is similarly excellent despite ‘Irish Alexander The Great’ in the starring role.

 

Terrence Malick, I think, succeeds at doing something Kuberick was trying to do and Godfrey Reggio attempts regularly, summing up and/or distilling the human experience, almost as a time capsule for the human race in case of complete global obliteration. Malick’s technique of music and visuals with disjoined dreamlike whispering narrative is something I wholeheartedly subscribe to. But the two previous were historically based. This one parallels the history of Earth and the universe with a post-war 20th-century, white American family experience.

During my screening, there were the few expected walkouts (Even I don’t blame ‘em completely… my ‘munchies’/undiagnosed diabetes got the better of me half way through and took off for a min’ to find me a brownie). Most of these expensive, wine sipping theatregoers aren’t going to be watching a Godfrey Reggio ‘Quatsi movie with me anytime soon. They’re not going to be watching 2001 A Space Odyssey as a visual musical again with me or ever stare at a bunch of pigeons splashing about in a puddle in the park with me. They’re out for a big night at the SFF or anything else Sydney has to offer.

This is a personal film about staring closely or grieving.  Fortunately I am not grieving at the moment, a couple of years ago this would have been the perfect movie, and it still is if you’re feeling oversensitive or cannot handle being offended  by unthoughtful randomness.  The big name stars were unnecessary but good. Malick loves his big names.

A tentative 8.5/10

SFF 2011: The Trip: A Tasty Brit-Com Road Trip

14 Jun


By Lukey Folkard, Sydney Film Festival Correspondent

Michael Winterbottom (A Mighty Heart, Road to Guantanamo) directs The Trip, his latest Steve Coogan (I’m Alan Partridge), semi-biographical Brit-comedy collaboration (following on from 24 Hour Party People and Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story).

A feature-length reworking of the six-episode TV series of the same name, Steve Coogan is hired by The Observer to road-trip across the UK’s north, critiquing fine restaurants with his fine young foodie girlfriend Misha. She bails out, and Coogan is forced to ask his best friend and sometimes object of annoyance, Bob Brydon (Human Remains, Tristram Shandy) to accompany. The pair’s lack of  food critic credentials is plainly obvious –”That’s big popcorn” and “It reminds me of snot” being two examples.

The combination of Brydon and Coogan’s snarky impersonation rivalry and Coogan’s morose, mid-life career reflections, will leave fans of Alan Partridge, Three Men In A Boat, and other top-notch British comedies, well fed by this picturesque, ‘over-priced food’ tour.

Whether comedy, drama or documentary, Winterbottom never disappoints and this is a fun return after last year’s dark American crime thriller The Killer Inside Me. Though I would have preferred to see the original series.

8/10

SFF 2011: Hail: Tenderness Brutality Reality

13 Jun

By Lukey Folkard, Sydney Film Festival Correspondent

I may have found my favourite Australian feature of the year and certainly the Sydney Film Festival.

Hail is a semi-fictional narrative that chronicles Daniel P Jones’ attempt to return to society and his long time girlfriend (and real life partner) Leanne Letch after his most recent stint in gaol.  A hard life and years of drug excess have left him unable to be accepted by, or adjust to, a world he has never known. Losing control seems inevitable.

Superior to the current trend of gratuitous and morally ambiguous Australian crime dramas being peddled by the networks, Hail borders on docu-drama blending both fact and fantasy from Danny’s life. This is the real thing, for the most part. It’s told by real people, who have had these actual experiences, replaying themselves for the camera.

Amiel Courtin-Wilson (Chasing Buddha, Bastardy) has known Daniel for six years since his actual release from prison and they have previously collaborated on the harrowing and award nominated documentary, Cicada.

Visually, Hail is a very harsh movie and not for the squeamish – it slots somewhere in between Wake In Fright and Candy, with nightmarish montages and a jarring, yet beautiful soundtrack. Tenderness and brutality run all the way through, realised by an amazing first-time cast.

9/10

Hail plays again on Mon June 13 at 12:45pm. Also head to Metro Screen on June 14 at 10am to see director, Amiel Court-Wilson, and producer, Michael Cody, discuss the leap from making shorts to features in the Australian film industry.

SFF 2011: The Palace (Short): A Short Sad War Song

12 Jun

By Lukey Folkard, Sydney Film Festival Correspondent

One of the most impressive and ambitious Australian shorts I’ve seen at the SFF so far. Or ever.

Based on true events in Cyprus during the conflicts of 1974, a Greek-Cypriot family finds shelter in an abandoned Ottoman palace while a Turkish army sergeant, played by Kevork Malikyan (Midnight Express), leads two very different young soldiers from house to house.

The Palace is a strong 16-minute piece that looks big budget. It was filmed near the UN green-line that still divides the ancient city of Lefkosia, most of the props, uniforms and locations are the real thing, supplied by locals. Award-winning director Anthony Maras (Azadi, Spike Up) has had to be sensitive while filming in Cyprus as, even after almost forty years, memories of the events are still fresh and he treats both sides with human respect.

Great performances throughout – if you’re seeing any shorts this year make sure not to miss this one.

9/10

The Palace is also showing at 2:15 on the 18th of June at Sydney Film Festival 


SFF 2011: Troll Hunter: The Other Norwegian Wood

12 Jun

By Lukey Folkard, Sydney Film Festival Correspondent

This Norwegian found-footage romp, in the style of Cloverfield and Blair Witch Project, may not be the most important film of the SFF, but there’s a good chance it may be the one of the most fun.

André Øvredal directs this horror-comedy mockumentary about a student film crew, investigating a mysterious bear poacher, Hans (played by controversial Norwegian comedian Otto Jespersen). Hans belongs to the Troll Security Service protecting the unsuspecting public from an ancient and deadly Norse predator.

Combining Norse folklore, spectacular landscapes, dodgy handy-cam and quite decent special effects, fans of the genre will be well satisfied. It’s not going to change the world, but a fun, 100-minute nerd-fest well spent.

See it before the inevitable English remake.

7.5/10


The Troll Hunter is plays again on the Friday 17th June at 8:30pm. Probably Sold-Out.

SFF 2011: Bear (Short): Ouch!

11 Jun

By Lukey Folkard, Sydney Film Festival Correpondent

Local director Nash Edgerton proves with this little set-up that he can pull of another world-class shock.

Almost a sequel to his last short, Spider, Bear is an animal themed, bad boyfriend, comic strip that will wake you up like a macchiato, with a little blood infusion. I want to see what this guy does with an hour or two. The BIG moment was pulled off very convincingly and had me wondering how he could do it so cheaply. A very local short, from a very promising set of eyes.

8/10

SFF 2011: HOW TO START YOUR OWN COUNTRY: The Hutt River Royals Hit The Dendy CQ

10 Jun

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By Lukey Folkard, Sydney Film Festival Correpondent

His Dubious Royal Highness, Prince Leonard of Hutt River Province, graced the Sydney Film Festival red carpet on Thursday with Princess Shirley in tow for the opening of How To Start Your Own Country.

Australia’s only royal family and once controversial seceders have gotten quite a lot older since founding the Hutt River Province and now they’re subjects of one of the first films about micronations.

This Canadian documentary by Green Porn director Jody Shapiro, takes the viewer to five of the world’s more famous micronations. Inspired by Erwin Strauss’ 1985 book of the same name, what starts as a quirky narrative on eccentric, island owners soon develops into a meditation on the legitimacy of nationhood and/or the illusion of it.

From silly Seeland and Molossia Republic to the bigger, serious, questions of Palestine and the UN,
if you haven’t heard of micronations before this will be a good starting point. Unfortunately the whole piece felt a bit ‘lite’ for me, having already an interest in the subject. It’s well edited and features great music and cinematography, but lacks the humour and originality of Danny Wallace’s 2005 BBC doco series of, again, the same name. Hmmm… Jody Shapiro had originally approached BBC to produce.

Either way, Prince Lenny went home to his kingdom happy. A short, enjoyable, bit of edutainment at only 72 minutes.

6.5/10

SFF 2011: HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN: Delivering justice one shell at a time.

9 Jun

By Luke Folkard

Jason Eisener’s semi-comedic, Technicolor exploitation flick, Hobo With a Shotgun, is the second fake trailer made real from Tarantino and Rodriguez’s 2007 Grindhouse double . If you enjoyed the first, Machete, you should be pleased with this retro VHS gore fest that harkens back to the seedy cinemas of the 70’s and the dusty video shelves of the 80’s.

For fans of John Carpenter, Dario Argento, and the tradition of the old slasher era, this is a must see, with an authentic and excellent soundtrack to boot.  Made in Canada, on the cheap, I must also hint that fans of Trailer Park Boys should be taking a look.

 

Bladerunner villain, and veteran Dutch actor, Rutger Hauer delivers convincingly bad one-liners and yet somehow also brings dignity to the eyes of Hobo (while continuously eviscerating with the shotgun).

A HUGE warning to the weak of stomach and sensitive of temperament: simply avoid this movie! You will be confronted every few minutes with scenes so borderline taboo even the hardest horror fans will double take. Fortunately, this movie is almost never serious, leaving you laughing though every dismemberment and worse.

Definitely the sleaziest, wrongest film of the SFF this year or maybe ever.

7/10

Hobo with a Shotgun is showing again at Sydney Film Festival on Monday, 13 June