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MIAF 2014 DAY 10: 3 Days In Paris – Historical, Best Of The Fest

30 Jun

3 Days In Paris – Historical

clinic

As the last Paris experience didn’t go as well as expected, I thought I would give the French another chance. As I explained in my last Paris post, French animation is generally very well done. France is a nation that is not only passionate about the art form, but they have a widespread understanding of its purpose and relevance, which is why we are going to continue being blessed with its presence. So imagine my disappointment from once again being let down by sub-par French animation. I probably shouldn’t have got my hopes up about this session being “historic” seeing as the earliest film was from 1990, but in the past the historic session have been among my favourites and since this year’s festival didn’t have much in the way of history I was hoping that this session would fill the void. It did not. It’s bewildering, really. I don’t know whether it was a poor selection of films, or maybe the top studios in Paris were missed, or maybe Paris isn’t where France’s decent animation comes from (it is a very big country after all), but these films were soulless and lacked substance. The animation itself wasn’t bad, but it was pretty standard when compared to the rest of France and the rest of the festival. My biggest issue was that most of these films seemed utterly pointless. Too often when a film ended I asked the question “why would you bother going to all that effort for this?” I’m hoping there is something cultural that I am missing; that maybe you have to be from Paris to understand these films because right now I am lost. There were only two films from this session that even remotely tickled my fancy and they happened to be the two oldest films (now I really need my history fix). They were:

Le Balayeur

Clinic – Alexander Bubnov. Totally psychotic animation about medical fears. There’s the GP whose immunisation needle snaps off in the posterior of a patient, an optometrist who plucks eyes out patients and pins new ones in, and a whole lot of medical horror we can only wish will never happen to anyone. The animation is cartoony while being darkly humorous.

Le Balayeur – Serge Elissalde. Well drawn pencil animation about one freaky ape-looking street sweeper who attacks everything that comes near his sweeping area. He smashes things with his broom then shoves them down the drain. A young girl’s ball goes down the drain and the freaky man tries to fish it out, taking out everything he had shoved down there in the first place. He then goes to jail. The morel of the story is: assault and vandalism with a broom is not the best way to avoid prison.

 

Best Of The Fest

elephnats garden

All good things must come to an end. Best of the Fest is a joyous time where the greatest films of the festival are honoured. It is also a sad time because as the final credits of the final film reach the bottom, the festival disappears like a mirage. Attempts to organise an official after party ceased years ago, presumably because it took energy away from the more important event – the festival. Anyway, the festival is what we came for and the festival is what we get. This year’s MIAF brought some intense mixed feelings. Where there is normally a lot of variety within the session creating an overall feeling of “very good” or “not so good,” this year’s festival had more of an extreme feel to it where some sessions were “amazing” while others “sucked.” Those Paris showcases were nowhere near as good as anticipated and were the major disappointments of the festival. Late Night Macabre and Quickdraw’s 30th Anniversary (even with its positive back story and purpose) suffered from too many sub-par films. But on the other hand, the quality of the South American showcases was a very pleasant surprise. This year also had the best Australian Showcase, Kids Program, and Late Night Bizarre that I have witnessed in my 5 years of attending the festival. And let’s not forget the International Competition Programs that were packed with fantastic films, and International Program #2 being arguably the best single session of anything I have seen during my time at MIAF.

I am very proud (and a little bit smug) to announce that this year the judges got nearly everything right, many of the honoured films being those that I either predicted or mentioned as standout films. I don’t mean to toot my own horn or anything, but come on; you got to admit it’s a whole lotta fun predicting the winners at award ceremonies. Pity no one was taking bets here.

The Best of the Fest session begins with festival director, Malcolm Turner, announcing the best films and honourable mentions of each competition category, and then an assortment of the films are screened. After we view a handful of the top films there is a break where the judges announce the best Australian student film, the best Australian film, the best international student film, and then the grand prize of “Best of the Festival.” As I mentioned above, every film that won I have already written on, so feel free to Ctrl+F the film’s title to see my earlier review of them. The list of the festival winners can be found at the MIAF website.

It made me exceptionally happy to see the films To This Day, Land, and Ex Animo win their international programs as they truly were in the top tier of films for the whole festival. I was incredibly excited about The Elephant’s Garden being hailed as the best Australian film as part of me didn’t think it would win. That film winning best Australian film is like a David Lynch film winning the Academy Award for best feature – it’s that strange and different film that has a strong cult following, but deep down you know the award is going to go to the obvious biopic or drama that wins every year. Well done The Elephant’s Garden!

MarilynMyller

Marilyn Myller winning the Best of the Festival gave me some initial mixed thoughts. “Best of the Festival” means that this one film was of a higher quality than any other competition film. I have a history of allowing the Best of the Festival to go straight over my head; as in, I remember being in the session while the film played but the film did not leave an instant impression on me. This does not mean that I feel the top pick was inferior, just that many of these animated films don’t instantly slap you in the face with their awesomeness; they take a bit more understanding.

Thankfully MIAF does something that every award ceremony should do – explain why the winning film deserved to win. The judging for MIAF comprises of real industry professionals who are not part of a secret organisation and who are not afraid to reveal their identity. These are people are animators themselves who live animation. They travel around the world visiting many animation festivals and hence are given the opportunity to witness a lot of the competition films on multiple occasions. It also gives them the chance to dig deeper with certain standout films. To simply sum up the case of Marilyn Myller, the film was basically technical mastery on a level that is difficult to comprehend. Firstly, director Mikey Please used a type of foam as his animation medium; something that is insanely complex as it involves carving new sculptures for pretty much every movement. But the interesting lighting that I mentioned in my review of the film is ever more complex. Please’s lightning setup to create his amazing shadows and scattered patterns over a completely white landscape was so advanced that pretty much every frame has its own unique setup.

This explanation would divide the audience right down the middle for two reasons. Reason 1) The bonus knowledge of this film may give it an unfair advantage and for a film to be truly deserving of winning then it should have widespread appeal and not need to rely on all the behind-the-scenes extras that only then make you understand its worthiness. Reason 2) Here is an animation festival created by and attended by true animation enthusiasts and therefore the most unique and complex animation (with the explanation to help those less familiar to understand) should be more than deserving of the top prize. Admittedly I was initially in the first category. I felt that it was an interesting film but not my favourite of the festival. I have since come to change my mind on the matter; not that I now believe it is the best film of the festival (I still stand by my To This Day pick) but I respect the decision to name Marilyn Myller the best of the festival because if festivals like MIAF don’t publicly honour the tireless efforts and technical genius that some true artists of capable of, then who will?

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Lavazza Italian Film Festival Review: A Quiet Life (2010)

26 Aug

By Michael De Martino

(Claudio Cupellini, 2010, Italy, in Italian and German, Drama, 105 minutes)

A Neapolitan man, Rosario (Toni Servillo), runs a restaurant in Frankfurt, Germany. Suddenly Diego (Marco D’Amore), a man from his past, arrives on his doorstep and opens old wounds from Rosario’s past. The hidden life of crime is exposed as Rosario’s secrets unfold.

While I generally like to see a film with no prior knowledge of its content, this film will no doubt suffer criticism from those who are unfamiliar with the Camorra (Neapolitan mafia) and their garbage scandals. This information, which is only briefly touched on at the beginning of A Quiet Life, is absolutely vital to the story. Without this knowledge the film risks being dismissed as just another on-the-run style family drama.

A Quiet Life loses points not for being bad or ineffective, but because it’s not all that interesting. Only a handful of characters are ever presented, leaving little chance for suspense. Most of the action is merely fast editing which is frequently unnecessary.

In saying this, the film is entirely carried by a fantastic performance from Servillo. The wide emotional spectrum displayed by Servillo is executed with such expression that we have no choice but to remain engaged by his acting. Effective supporting roles from D’Amore and others further enhance this film being centred on the acting.

Although I wouldn’t go as far as saying this is a “must-see,” it is worth the experience. Especially if you happen to be Neapolitan.

6.8/10

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.