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MIFF’s a’comin’ (July 22, 2010)

19 May

2010 Melbourne International Film Festival descends on Melbourne in about two months. Too soon to get excited?

They’re currently looking for volunteers (perks include a 13 film mini-pass, closing night party, drugs) and looking to fill various paid positions…I’m tempted to go for assistant ticketing manager, but I think i’d rather just see the films. And dealing with irate men in berets is not my cup of Joe.

No word on who the new artistic director will be to replace departing Richard Moore (who admirably weathered quite a storm of controversy last year). Moore will still be heading the festival in 2010.

Hair twins

Miff site

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DVD Review: Inglorious Bastards (1978)

10 Apr

Ed: I had the hilarious idea of putting getting this review up in timely release for Tarantino’s 2009 film bearing the similar, but spell checked challenged title. Unfortunately the DVD sat in my apartment gathering dust for quite some time, much like Superteds discarded carcass. Until one day, Ala Spottyman, kindly Ben Buckingham (podcast wunderkind) offered to revive the matter. And he wrote something far cleverer than I ever would have.

Italian exploitation cinema traditionally rides the coat-tails of American hits, twisting and complicating the narratives in ways that the Coen Brothers can only dream of. These uniquely transnational films gleefully mash-up popular genres and stories from the west, infusing them with an Italian mentality that can range from joyously voyeuristic to the shattered void of nihilism. While Italian horror films and spaghetti westerns have long been popular in English-speaking countries, maccaroni action and Euro-crime films have never quite caught on. With the release of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, the spotlight has finally been pointed in the direction of these long denied films, well, this one at least: Enzo G. Castellari’s Inglorious Bastards. Tarantino’s remake stands more as an oblique reference and mash-up, just as many of the Italian “originals” stand in relation to their American precursors. Despite the lack of obvious plot connections, the same devil-may-care tone and desire to laugh in the face of war, along with the myriad cinematic references, makes these films corrupted blood brothers.

Castellari’s Inglorious Bastards takes a bit from The Dirty Dozen, adds a dash of The Great Escape and perhaps a splash of Kelly’s Heroes, to make a classic boy’s own adventure romp filled with humour and fun. However, these Inglorious Bastards aren’t fighting the war for anybody but themselves. As a matter of fact they aren’t fighting the Germans at all when the film opens. Instead they are being shipped off to court martials’ and firing squads for killing superiors, thieving, or ‘borrowing’ fighter jets to fly home to their girl in London, as in the case of Lieutenant Yeager (Bo Svenson), a towering blonde whose physique screams footballer but whose smile is a whole lot gentler. Among this ragtag group is the legendary Fred “The Hammer” Williamson as Private Fred Canfield, a real life ex-pro footballer and star of blaxploitation cinema, who chomps cigars in the face of death and makes his shirts wish the Hulk was wearing them instead. Thanks to the interjection of a nazi jet fighter they escape the vindictive military police and set off towards the border for Switzerland and greener, less bullet riddled pastures.

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The narrative is very episodic to begin with as the bastards become involved in random skirmishes, stumble upon nude Aryan women toting machine guns, and just generally get caught in the cross fire between axis and allies. The latter half of the film slips into a more traditional war narrative as they accidently become involved in a deadly mission to seize Nazi technology. Yes, Castellari’s Inglorious Bastards is a war film like they just don’t make anymore, when men were stunning and nazi killing was the most fun one could have at a Saturday matinée. Excess is the name of the game, Castellari crams as much entertainment in to 99 minutes as possible: shoot-outs with slow-motion deaths in the Peckinpah mould, high-flying stunts and one of the most explosive endings the world of miniatures has even seen. The nazis are all faceless cannon fodder, with the exception of one lone defector who wishes only for the violence to stop. But don’t worry, emotions and philosophical treatise on death and evil are nowhere to be found. These bastards prefer a good laugh, a hot French nurse and a thrilling time. With Castellari’s Inglorious Bastards, you’ll get two out of three of those every time (three out of three if you supply your own nurse).

Ben Buckingham

Links:

CineCultania Blog –>Here

Aus Distribution – Madman –> Here

DVD Review: The Chaser

30 Mar

Fast paced and enjoyable, this stylishly directed 2008 Korean thriller by first time writer director Na Hong-Jin puts the bon back in the Koo Bon woong jeong.

Ha Jeong-woo plays Joong Ho, a former police officer turned pimp, who is feeling the pinch after several of his girls have gone missing. When Ho realises that he has just sent one of his girls, Ma-jin, to the john who is suspected of abducting them, he decides to use her as bait. Things take a turn for the worse when it turns out that the girls are in fact being brutally murdered.

Plagued by guilt after not hearing from Ma-jin, Joong Ho begins a frantic chase through the downtown streets of Seoul. Before you can say Ha Jeong Woo Bing plays Je Yeong-min, Ho apprehends the murderer after a chance car accident. At the police station Yeong-Min confesses to the murders but by some lefty bleeding heart law the police can only detain him for 12 hours unless Ma-jin or one of the other missing girls can be found.

It’s quite easy to get settled into The Chaser, its fast and fun with enough classic film noir motifs to keep the popcorn flowing, shaking your fist at bureaucracy gone mad and cheering our hero on as he fights for justice; the only way he knows how.

While the rain and serial killer type weirdness should be instantly recognizable to western audiences, it’s the kind of genre film Hollywood rarely produces well these days. Like the best work of Tarantino, it’s obvious that Hong-Jin has a real passion for good film making and knows enough about it’s conventions to give a sly wink to more astute audiences from time to time. If you don’t believe me, just check out the hilarious symbolism in the final showdown.

If Alice in Slumberland and Where the Dull Things Are leave you craving a bit of the old ultraviolence, you could do a lot worse than ordering some of your favorite takeout and picking up a copy of the Chaser on DVD.

In the meantime enjoy the American trailer with it’s classic voice over narration.

DVD review: The Grocer’s Son (1997)

16 Jan

dir. Eric Guirado 99m. Subtitles.
Nicolas Cazale, Clotilde Hesme, Stephan Guerin-Tillie, Sforza Jeanna Goupil, Daniel Duval, Paul Crauchet, Liliane Rovere.

Le fils de l’épicier est un film français avec du charme qui…oh, hang on, I’d better continue this review in English in case some readers think I’ve gone all pretentious, moi? 

If you’re looking for a fairly undemanding, yet pleasant little film then THE GROCER’S SON well and truly fits the bill.  

Working as a waiter in Paris Antoine (Nicolas Cazale) is reunited with his estranged father after dad suffers a health scare, and he’s persuaded to move back to the delightful Provence countryside to take care of the family grocery store. Reluctantly he drives the family’s mobile grocery van around the picturesque area, regularly stopping to replenish the larders of the mainly aging population, most of whom are played by real people, not professional actors, and who rely on the van for their weekly food supplies.

With sometime girlfriend Claire (Clotilde Hesme) in tow he gradually loosens up, paints the van, befriends a feisty battleaxe, mends a local’s chicken coop, and discovers some home truths on the way to becoming a better person. And yes, he reconciles with his dad.

OK, no surprises here, but the journey is enjoyable, and apart from a sub plot involving his brother’s marriage break up, it’s a fairly light and frothy trip. 

C’est un film agreeable! 

MIKE CHILDS  

DVD Extras: The subtitled Madman DVD release contains deleted scenes (with an illuminating commentary from director Eric Guirado on the reasons, mainly pacing, on why they were removed from the finished film), a few boring out-takes, and the original theatrical trailer.  

—> Paul Byrnes review in the Sydney Morning Herald (****) {link}

—> Margerat Pomeranz and David Stratton review on ABC (*** & ***1/2) {link}

—> Australian distributors Madman (Contains trailer which, bizarelly, is blocked on youtube by Film Movement – Why would you do that?) link

Review: Heavens Gate (1980): Minute by Minute Part XXII

21 Dec

Hip Hop is dead

22 of 229

At last, some effing violence! Blood, guts, sinew and entrails are picked up from the mud. It’s an animal carcass, though I’m not sure what animal. Perhaps, as previously discussed, it’s from a gnu. Could also be a giraffe, though admittedly the chance of giraffe’s being in Wyoming in the 1800s is remote, but not impossible… No, actually it is impossible. There’s also a bit of wind in this scene, nice to see nature playing a part. Unless the wind is from the mouth of a dragon? This is, of course, less likely than the giraffe claim. Woh, hold on a second – something is happening. Yes, believe it or not, something is happening! Someone is approaching the man cutting the carcass, casting a shadow with a definite cowboy hat on the sheet surrounding his log house. The butcher seems rather threatened and calls out in Hungarian. Spooked, he raises his knife. Oh goodness! In the shadow I can see a gun! Giraffes in hats are attacking! What will happen next? The suspense!

How did we get here, read back through the sands of blog here.

The Strength of Water – Australian release

3 Dec

So, actually being in the NZ film industry has sucked my time away from AFR. But as this is in direct interest to my job, you get an update about the beautiful New Zealand film The Strength of Water. It opens today in Melbourne (Palace Como), Sydney (Chauvel) and Brisbane (Palace Barracks). Please check it out. Promise it’s worth it.

The Strength of Water - in Australian cinemas now

Synopsis:

When a mysterious stranger arrives in their isolated coastal town, ten-year-old twins Kimi and Melody are forced apart. Kimi must find the strength to let go of what he loves the most.

Kimi and Melody live happily in an isolated Maori community until an enigmatic stranger, Tai, arrives, precipitating an accident which forces the twins apart. While others punish Tai, Kimi acts out his heartbreaking loneliness in destructive, angry ways, while looking after the Melody that only he can see. His family is concerned for him, but only Kimi’s belief in his sister can save him.

Here are some good reviews (that’s because I couldn’t find any bad ones. No, really.)

The New Zealand Herald

The Dominion Post

UrbanCineFile

Link to the Official Strength of Water website

A piece about the director Armagan Ballantyne – who I have mentioned before in a previous blog

…and the trailer:

DVD review: Last Ride (2009)

1 Dec

Brand new guest reviewer, and Melbourne based person who works in and with film, Simon Walsh takes on a drunken, vomiting Hugo Weaving, and finds the experience powerfully beautiful. Like an exploding cake.

In the opening moments of Last Ride we see a silhouetted Kev (Hugo Weaving), waiting for a truck stop diner to open. Dirty, unshaven and nervous – we can barely make out his features until he returns from the bathroom with his new look. His son, Chook (Tom Russell) comments that he ‘looks weird’, he vomits and the credits roll. Powerful with it’s layered and engrossing performances, both Glendyn Ivin (director) and Mac Gudgeon (screenwriter) have crafted a story so thematically rich that at times we feel just as coiled up as Kev as the two leads trek further into the unknown.

As the story unfolds, these heartbreaking moments seem relentless. To the point where we only assume that all the raw and defining qualities Kev illustrates to Chook have probably all happened before. Like many great stories, this is one of the immediate, one of the here and now. In the end, it’s the very act of taking his son away with all his violent urgency that leads to the growing animosity between the two.

Shot by award winning cinematographer Greig Fraser (who just completed work on the soon to be released ‘Bright Star’), one can’t help but notice the similarities in tone and look between this and the seminal work Days of Heaven shot by legendary cinematographer Nestor Almendros. With the majority of locations being exteriors and most of the sequences taking place at dawn and dusk; Fraser’s backlit characters and beautiful hand-held work only add to the urgency of Ivin’s picture.

Despite a tight budget with a minimalist crew, Last Ride remains gloriously cinematic. The iconic sequence that takes place at a waterless salt lake in central South Australia is one for the libraries. In an online blog, written during production of the feature, the director states just how grateful he was to have the opportunity to make a feature in Australia. He goes on to point out that it’s rare for any Australian director to ever make 2 features in quick succession, and as a result, he probably won’t be directing long-form drama again for some time. In the brief production period (6 weeks is unfortunately the norm in Australia due to budge considerations), Ivin obviously got the most out of his lead actors as he presents us with some of the strongest performances in recent memory.

We can only hope that having such a powerful debut feature means that Ivin might break the pattern of Australian film production – and we see more of his work in the near future.

Simon Walsh


—> Interview with the director, Glendyn Ivin, with some bizarre internet commentary underneath {here}.

DVD (Madman 2 disc) extras:

  • Audio Commentary with Glendyn Ivin (Dir), Jack Hutchings (Editor) and Greig Fraser (DoP)
  • 55-min making of Featurette
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Theatrical Trailers and Teasers
  • Rehearsal Footage
  • 48-page photo journal
  • The Desert (short film by Glendyn Ivin)
  • Cracker Bag (Short film by Glendyn Ivin that won the 2003 Palme d’Or at Cannes that year)
  • Ronan cuddles a deer in super slo mo.

DVD Review: Somers Town (2008)

28 Nov

SOMERS TOWN Independent British director Shane Meadows’ well-deserved reputation as a visionary film-maker is kept firmly on track with the gritty, unglamorous yet ultimately delightful (and relatively short at 68 minutes) SOMERS TOWN.

Set in the decidedly un-trendy inner city London district of the title Tomo (Thomas Turgoose) is a streetwise kid from the north of England escaping his grim surroundings for a possible shot at the big city dream.

Arriving at the huge St. Pancras railway station, he initially gets a bad taste of the capital after being mugged by three local lads before he ends up befriending Marek (Piotr Jagiello), the son of a Polish migrant working on the new Eurostar rail terminal.

The lonely young budding photographer takes pity on the rough Northern kid, and the two boys gradually bond after some petty criminal activity, and their shared infatuation with a French waitress Maria (Elisa Lasowski).

SOMERS TOWN is a small, yet perfectly formed, ode to friendship which here transcends culture, background and language (half the film is in Polish). The two young leads are both superb, and the minor characters all fit perfectly into the mix, especially Graham (Perry Benson), a dodgy Arthur Daly cheeky-chirpy Cockney type who runs a shonky business hiring out deckchairs and flogging off bootleg Arsenal Football Club shirts!

Director Meadows’ previous films include the acclaimed TWENTYFOURSEVEN with Bob Hoskins as the small town boxing coach, and the powerful THIS IS ENGLAND which also starred the charismatic Turgoose. Shot primarily in stark black and white SOMERS TOWN perfectly captures the dead end feel and atmosphere of the working class immigrant areas which are generally shunned by film-makers for the more colourful tourist friendly areas of England’s capital.

DVD extras: Theatrical trailer.

–> Interview with director Shane Meadows here

–> Article in Interview Magazine here

–> Somers Town is being distributed locally by Madman

MIKE CHILDS

Heaven’s Gate (1980): Minute by minute: part 20

18 Nov

It’s been almost 3 weeks since our last minute by minute post, but boy did we have a fun holiday in that locked office toilet. Take it away Godfrey.

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After a few more cries of “yippee!” from Hurt and a demonstration of an obvious fire hazard from the women holding candles, Kristofferson is suddenly on a train twenty years later.

The prologue was just his memories!

Rather detailed for a memory. Over a twenty-year period there is no way that he’d recall every detail of his graduation, especially the events he never witnessed. Anyway, Kristofferson is on the train, leaning back with a hat over his face, presumably because it helps him see through time. On top of the train, a whole lot of people are sitting calmly. Black smoke is puffing from the engine and… my god; they’re not fuelling the train with people are they? Shovelling poor passengers into the burner! Of course! That would explain why the smoke is black rather than white, which it would have been ordinarily at that time as the steam engines in the west used wood – not coal. Goodness, gracious! Get off the train! They’re gonna burn you alive so Kris Kristofferson can get to wherever it is he’s going! Jump! Run!

The train is running on Soylent Green; an innocuous, but highly nutritional, snack bar.

catch the back story here.

DVD Review: My Year Without Sex (2009)

18 Nov

[Kirsten Law, a fantastic writer and also reasonably tolerable person*, sent me this review of the DVD package of My Year Without Sax about 2 weeks ago. Just putting it up today – that’s how fast i’m doing things. I’ve been too busy learning wind instruments. Oh and we previously reviewed this when it was on at the cinemas]. *or is it the other way round?

“I was interested in how we get through our days and whether they are any better or worse for having been examined. About whether our perception of control – or lack of it – makes any difference to our actual control. I was interested in whether we earn our good or bad luck, or whether it’s random. We’ve been told for many years that we earn it, and if we earn it, then we deserve everything, from luxury cars, and upgrades of everything, to complete and constant happiness.” Director’s Statement.

Sarah Watt’s My Year Without Sex subtly explores what it means to be ‘good’. Addressing the inherent problems of nuclear family life, the central narrative event is Natalie (Sacha Horler)’s aneurism. Banned from orgasming lest her brain explode, Natalie and her husband, Ross (Matt Day), take a right hook to their once-active sex life.

What unfolds over the following year is a tragi-comic chain of events that includes the near-death of the family dog, a $25,000 pokies win and a predatory older male propositioning the couple’s son, Louis. Ruby, Natalie and Ross’s daughter, is an 8-year-old ingénue, obsessed with fashion and the spoils of her increasingly gappy gums. Natalie’s friend Margaret (Maude Davey of Summer Heights High fame) is a lovelorn Anglican priest with a drug-addled history. The characters, particularly Ruby and Margaret, are exciting and well-drawn. Watt has a gift for a heightening that adds pith to her adeptly realised narratives.

In the DVD’s accompanying behind-the-scenes documentary, Watt says the film expresses an ‘anti-redemptive’ stance: that beating ourselves up for inconsistent displays of ‘goodness’ is a futile exercise. Far from being a sleight on humanity, Sex celebrates the sufficiency of our mere humanness.

As Matt Day acknowledges, it is Watt’s attention-to-detail that makes the film – there’s some brilliant dialogue and design. The interior of Ross and Natalie’s home is charming: there’s a swear jar and a gallery of colourful children’s artwork.

Perhaps the result of Watt’s background in animation, the film contains some distracting graphics – inter-titles, like chapters, at the beginning of each ‘month’ that the narrative covers. Though these have amusing titles like ‘Doggy Style’ and ‘Missionary Position’, they make the film unnecessarily kitschy. It’s not a masterpiece and, through moments of laughter and tears, the ultimate feeling is one of quiet contemplation instead of enticement to transform. It’s a cute and clever film and better than most recent local – and several recent international – offerings nonetheless.

STOP PRESS! THE DVD INCLUDES A BONUS ATOM STUDY GUIDE CD-ROM. OH, YEAH.

—> Interview with actor Sacha Horler {Here}

—> Interview with Matt Day and director Sarah Watt {Here}