I'm sorry that things have been so quiet on the Melbourne Gastronome front over the last fortnight, but I've been spending all my free time at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Despite full time work and a three day trip to the Hunter Valley I still managed to squeeze in ten film sessions, and I am thoroughly sick of that ad with the guy who smarms "Yalumba. You know, the 'talk eat live laugh share' Yalumba" - it was on before every damn film. Anyway, here's a totally non-food-related, MIFF-related post reviewing the films I saw on my mini pass. Regular gastronomic programming will recommence shortly.
Nightwatching - new Peter Greenaway film starring Martin Freeman as Rembrandt (!!!). Stunningly beautiful cinematography and bravura performance by Freeman, but seriously dragged in the interminable second half (and I could have gone without ever having to watch Tim from The Office perform cunnilingus to the strains of a histrionic violin)...
Gomorrah - interweaving stories showing the insidious chaos the mafia brings to modern-day Naples. Well executed, but nothing we haven't seen before in grand scale crime dramas - dunno why it won the Grand Prix at Cannes. Give me City of God any day.
Revue - fascinating Sergei Loznitsa doco of clips from 1950s Soviet communist newsreel propaganda showing peasants, factory workers, indoctrinated schoolchildren, dancers, satirical puppets playing rock n roll, the Soviet space program and comrades worshiping statues of Lenin.
Boy A - one of my two favourites, a UK film about a young man released from jail with a new identity who must try to come to terms with the monstrous crime he committed as a child. Not at all heavy-handed but extremely powerful, touching and thought-provoking, with a knockout performance by Andrew Garfield. Exceptional.
A Girl Cut in Two - the disappointing latest offering from Claude Chabrol in which the gorgeous chain-smoking Ludivine Sagnier very improbably falls in desperate love and lust with a married and bitter writer thirty years her senior. He initiates her into his world of sexual perversion, her other (younger) suitor grows increasingly unstable, et c'est la vie. Yawn.
Strangers - fresh, unaffected love story between a young Israeli man and a Palestinian woman set and filmed (largely improvised) in the streets of Berlin during the World Cup and in Paris during the second Israel-Lebanon war. The ending was perhaps a little too neat, but the leads had great chemistry together.
Best of MIFF Shorts - the awards ceremony for the best short films at the festival, followed by a selection of the winners: John and Karen (adorable three minute UK animation about an awkward polar bear apologising to a seriously pissed off penguin for the things he said last night), Hell's Gates (brilliant haunting Aussie short film by VCA graduate Jonathan auf der Heide about Alexander Pearce, the cannibal convict of Van Diemen's Land), New Boy (sweet Irish short about an African boy's first day in an Irish school), 296 Smith St (Aussie short about a day in the life of a Smith St pawnbroker and the unsavoury types that frequent his shop), Jerrycan (Aussie short about bogan teenage bullies - won the Jury Prize at Cannes) and Dennis (excellent Danish short film about Dennis, a bodybuilder whose gargantuan physique is matched only by his painful shyness).
Flipping Out - great doco about the many thousands of young Israeli men and women who use the bonus granted to them after their military service to travel to India for some R and R. Of those that go to India to recover from the trauma of war, 90% of them use copious amounts of drugs and 2,000 of them each year have subsequent psychotic/emotional breakdowns requiring professional help.
Angel of the Wind - new Aussie film described in the program thus: "A groundbreaking 'hybrid' film, Angel poetically interweaves performance, Australian cinema and World War II air combat footage with a rich musical score. Emmy Award winner Tahir Cambis (Exile in Sarajevo) follows actor-turned-producer Matt Crosby and a large Tokyo cast, who stage a spectacular Melbourne theatre production - a vaudevillian journey to the underworld of dead kamikaze pilots." I always like to go along to support at least one new Aussie film each year, but must confess I didn't much like this one.
Waltz with Bashir - sen-bloody-sational. My equal favourite, along with Boy A. An exquisitely animated film retracing a former Israeli soldier's hidden memories of the first Israel-Lebanon war. Many of the beautifully surreal dream sequences and moments juxtaposing humour with tragedy took my breath away. This film caused a sensation at Cannes this year and both of the MIFF scheduled sessions were sold out, but happily Cinema Nova will be screening Waltz with Bashir as of 11 September. Do yourself a favour and go see it!