mid-century maunderings for men who know better
At the pub last week, a woman asked me if I had ever done anything reckless before. I must have come across as some kind of compulsive hand-washer in need of a good dose of danger. I told her about Poland. Not too much. Just enough to establish my credentials as one of nature’s true thrill seekers. Then I left.
So it was, in the same spirit of reckless abandon, that I renewed my membership and purchased a passport on the opening night of the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF). This entitles the bearer to attend every session of the festival. It is a seventeen-day commitment. To get anything near your money’s worth you need to attend at least three sessions a day, but it is best to aim for five. There may be a day when you can’t attend.
MIFF is popular. A sensible person would have decided weeks ago and planned all their sessions to avoid clashes. That way, everything could be booked before the sessions sell out which happens with alarming rapidity.
So you can see, I am a man unfazed by danger.
MIFF failed the very first day of the festival proper by not answering any of their telephones. You might imagine they would put extra people on at such a busy time. But after a couple of tries the MIFF answering machine was full of messages. Maybe I should have used Twitter. There have been some system and booking improvements since I last attended over five years ago. There is an abundance of volunteers all displaying an excess of zeal and good cheer. This is never annoying — the way it is in a health food shop or Japanese department store.
These are all the sessions I have attended at this year’s MIFF.
A Failed husband, failed father and failed writer is on his way to becoming a failed private detective. He spies on his ex-wife and is months behind in child support. He drinks, smokes and gambles too! Hilarious and poignant; a great way to start the festival.
Imagine two films. One set in the past, the other set today. Divide each film in two. Connect the first part of the film set in the past with the second part of the film set today. The first part has priests, nuns, torture — the usual stuff. The second part has a con artist, a count who has staged his own disappearance and vampires — the usual stuff. Both parts are in the same town with some of the same actors. If anyone can explain what this movie is about I’d appreciate it.
The U.S. drone program sees Afghan families stalked and terrorised by avian spectres controlled by witless thugs goading each other with locker-room bravado. Three former armed services personnel involved in drone operations are interviewed and provide evidence of recklessness, lack of evidence and inefficiency leading to uncountable numbers of civilians killed. Survivors of those attacks are also interviewed, their compassion and forgiveness are a stark contrast to the brutality of the armchair warriors back in the U.S.
Susan and Ann are two friends sharing an apartment in 1978 who gradually drift apart. This is a funny and uncomfortable examination of the importance of friendship and vocation. It is a rare film that shows female characters’ problems do not have to be centred around a man. There is sex and romance, marriage and parenting; but the main focus is on the two women and how they negotiate their expectations of the future.
International Shorts 2
I prioritize shorts and documentaries over features. Of the five shown, the applause was most enthusiastic for the two funny films. This is a shame. It suggests rectitude, piety and an unwillingness to engage in anything that isn’t FUN!!. Timecode had a good punchline and doesn’t overwork it. Balcony, The Return of Ergan, and The Silence dealt with subjects in an efficient, concise AND entertaining way. The Call left loose ends, which I like. The Bathtub was embarrassing. Do not see The Bathtub. Don’t even look it up. Or try and find a trailer. Seriously. I know you will though. The lure of three middle-aged Germans in their underpants is too much to resist I suppose.
Lawyer, Steven Wise attempts to have certain sentient creatures recognised as persons under law by the Supreme Court in the U.S. It is an elegant idea that is as much about changing perceptions and behaviours as laws. Starting with the premise that certain animals have the mental capacity to understand imprisonment, Wise and his team argue that it is wrong to deny natural justice and imprison creatures without charge or evidence. Their focus is on a few captive Chimpanzees in the U.S. This is a noble fight and despite its Quixotic nature, a realistic one.
At the end of this film it feels as if you have just spent six hours watching a man die in real time. The Sun King’s stoicism and his retainer’s devotion are equally comical and moving. The film is just under two hours long and rarely moves from the King’s bedside. The viewer pretty much knows from the outset what ails His Majesty. It takes a lot longer for the doctors to arrive at the same reluctant conclusion. His physicians bicker and bring in experts who suggest all sorts of treatments. Then he dies. Is it fear or pride that prevents the Royal Physician from acting sooner? This film is an engaging discourse on medicine, medieval superstition, devotion, inductive reasoning and empirical knowledge.
I will continue to add films throughout the next week when I get a minute between my domestical duties and my insistence on getting value for money at MIFF 2016.