The Melbourne International Film Festival runs from the 21st of July to the 7th of August. For Melbourne attendees, it is the year’s main event, with an exceptionally sized program. In a city that prides itself on cinema, including the not-for-profit, volunteer-run film society Melbourne Cinémathèque, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, IMAX at the Melbourne Museum, late night screenings at Cinema Nova and Palace Westgarth, and The Astor Theatre, with its grand art-deco charm and tremendously varied programme, MIFF is where all of us come together to celebrate the miraculous medium.
I am glad to announce, then, that AtTheCinema will be actively participating in this communal spirit by hosting the first Melbourne International Film Festival critics poll, based on Matt Ravier’s terrific one for the Sydney Film Festival. We will be aggregating opinions from a number of local film critics (if you write about film professionally and would like to be included, drop me a line!). In the coming days, we will also post up some necessary tips for your travels at the festival and encourage you to join the conversation on Twitter at #miff11.
Considering we have previewed each section separately, the size of the programme at MIFF this year is clearly daunting. To help you (and I) make sense of it, I’ve asked a handful of local film critics and cultural commentators to give me – informally – their most anticipated film at the festival.
I remember standing in the line at Greater Union two years ago sharing anticipation with a crowd that went around the block. The film was Lars von Trier’s Antichrist and as we stood out in the freezing cold people would walk passed and ask why we were lining up. I had to strongly resist the urge to reply “a Danish film about genital mutilation”. The film itself was great, but the experience was better as the sold out crowd grumbled, gasped, walked out, and laughed at infamous scenes involving foxes, falling babies and rusty scissors played out.
It’s this experience that I hope will follow through to von Trier’s latest Cannes-certified film, the science fiction wedding drama (sounds weird, don’t it?!) Melancholia. Winner of Best Actress at Cannes for Kirsten Dunst – as a long-time fan of Ms Dunst, this was great vindication of her eclectic career – and co-starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Charlotte Rampling, Kiefer Sutherland, Alexander Skarsgård, Stellan Skarsgård, John Hurt, Brady Corbet and Udo Kier as “Wedding Planner” – a hilarious thought, indeed – makes opening day of the fest all about Melancholia!
I have vivid memories of watching the race he was in, when he crashed and died, live. I never was able to fully comprehend the standing in which he was held by the industry and his hometown. I hope this film reveals that for me.
My inner film snob tips his beret and copy of Cahiers du Cinéma at Innocent Saturday and Michael, while the little hipster voice I keep buried in the back of my brain screams Submarine and Tiny Furniture. I cannot, however, escape the cries of the most dominant of my battling personalities: that of the Ben Bradlee-quoting, Edward R. Murrow-idolising, Season Five of The Wire-loving media ethics geek who desperately wants to see Page One: Inside The New York Times.
I cannot wait to see the inner-workings of The NY Times during one of the most critical periods in the history of newspaper production. I also look forward to living vicariously through journo David Carr, safe in the comfort of a cinema seat where I live out my far-less strenuous/world-changing existence as an online movie critic.
I can’t think of any filmmaker more qualified to make a documentary about the great Rowland S. Howard than Dogs in Space director Richard Lowenstein. It’s a perfect combination of director and subject matter. Also, my wife introduced me to Howard’s solo work so this is a bit of a personal pick for me!
There’s tons of good stuff in the MIFF 60th retrospective, but the film I’m most looking forward to seeing for the first time is Vera Chytilova’s Fruit of Paradise – for reasons that will be instantly apparent to anyone familiar with Chytilova’s amazing Czech New Wave comedy Daisies (1966), a blast of highly-coloured avant-garde anarchy in which two adorable young women devote themselves to pulling faces, wasting food, and tormenting every man within reach. This 1970 follow-up is apparently a reworking of the Garden of Eden story; I’ve avoided learning any further details in advance, but I expect nothing less than total delight.
My most anticipated new film of MIFF is Attenberg, the Greek film from writer director Athina Rachel Tsangari (who produced Dogtooth). Why am I looking forward to it? Because I was intrigued by the teaser trailer with its mix of frankness, oddness and detachment, but also the promise of sweetness and innocence. This, together with the fact that the film got a pretty good rap from the Sydney critics’ poll, so that’s a bonus!
The new film I’m most eagerly anticipating at MIFF 2011 is Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. When it comes to Ceylan the prospect of languid pacing and a minimalist narrative doesn’t really deter me at all; in fact, it sounds like bliss! Having fallen hard for his past three films, especially Three Monkeys (2008) and the sublimely comic Uzak (2002), I’m expecting another mesmerising film experience with the kind of stunning, painterly visuals that have distinguished this important filmmaker’s work to date.
Despite the 214-film line-up, anointing my Most Anticipated of this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival was actually shockingly easy. It’s the one film in the program I didn’t expect to turn up, and was audibly thrilled to see included: James Gunn’s utterly sociopathic, deliriously violent and – so I’ve heard – surprisingly poignant superhero satire, Super.
The idea of the real-life ‘superhero’ fascinates me – someone who, like many of us, is frustrated by injustice and wants to do something about it… but then, like (mercifully) few of us, makes a costume, packs a weapon and takes it to the streets. The prospect of Rainn Wilson bringing his hilariously creepy intensity to such a character, teaming with a gleefully psychotic Ellen Page to smash everyday wrongs – and scummy drug dealer Kevin Bacon – with a pipe wrench? Yes, please.
Gunn is as perversely unhinged as any filmmaker working, and Super looks like the film Kick-Ass should have been, probing the psychosis beneath the action with jet-black humour, without the wacky CGI glorification. Shot in 17 days on a crazy-low budget, with a brutally funny screenplay and starry cast who believe in it, Super sounds like the kind of flick I live for.
Many words have been used to describe Lars von Trier, with his outspoken nature often overshadowing his cinematic output. Indeed, columns of text were dedicated to the Danish auteur at the Cannes Film Festival in May, courtesy of controversial comments about the Second World War that saw him declared persona non grata by the event’s board of directors. Regardless of opinion of his off screen efforts, his on screen work speaks for itself. With his cinematic vision proving just as ambitious and audacious as his public personality, the director has polarised audiences across his three-decade career, with acclaim and apathy following his every move.
Melancholia marks the latest of his lauded features, in his sixth film to take home an award from the festival he is now no longer welcome at. Starring Kirsten Dunst as a despairing young bride faced with the end of the world, the apocalyptic drama contemplates depression and mortality amidst a science fiction premise. After the visceral violence of Antichrist, the feature marks yet another new direction for the inventive helmer, with an impressive cast on hand to assist. Certain to be as original, unique and unforgettable as the rest of his oeuvre, Melancholia demands to be seen.
My pick of the fest? Tricky… it’s a bit of a cheat to say The King of Comedy (even though it is in my all time top ten and I will be attending at least one of the screenings), so I’ll go with this one.
One New Year’s Eve I decided I couldn’t be bothered with the usual revelry and instead stayed home to tackle Bela Tarr’s 7 hour epic Sátántangó on DVD. Far removed from the giddy celebrations going on in the city, I found myself having the anti-New Years as Tarr used stark black and white photography, long uninterrupted takes, and often minimal dialogue to introduce me to a small farming community on the edge of collapse. Sure – it was bleak, but not without humour, and I was thoroughly captivated by it. Tarr’s latest (and alleged final) film The Turin Horse has a significantly shorter run time, but promises a similar experience – one any fan of his work surely cannot miss.
I yearn for cinematic experiences that are more than the mere act of an individual watching a screen. I’m talking about those films that are so confronting, a real frisson develops in the theatre. Audience members begin craning their necks to peek at others in the cinema just to make sure they aren’t alone in this. Maybe certain viewers are walking out with a loud indignant fury or a mere benign frustration. A buzz fills the room, the crowd is divided, which side are you on? Are you enjoying this? How could someone be enjoying this? You’re disgusting…
The film that is sure to bring about this moment at MIFF2011 is undoubtedly The Woman, Lucky McKee’s third feature film after the brilliant May and the solid The Woods. McKee is one of the most underrated horror filmmakers working today and The Woman will prove to be his most exhausting and demanding piece yet. All you need to know is that at Sundance in January it broke this man’s brain (see video below) and he needed to be escorted from the theatre.
Ever since stumbling upon the television series Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace in 2004, I have constantly – and inadvertently – been connected to Richard Ayoade’s projects. From acting in The Life & Death of Peter Sellers, Nathan Barley and The I.T. Crowd, to directing the “Critical Film Studies” episode of Community and AD/BC: A Rock Opera, I have consistently found Ayoade’s work by accident.
I was already excited about him directing a feature film before I learnt that Submarine was a nostalgic coming-of-age tale. It seemed serendipitous: I had grown through my teenage years with Ayoade’s efforts and now could both recall the past, while experiencing an assured feature debut from the man with a certain future. The fact that he mentions Lubitsch and Buster Keaton in interviews is just another positive. It might have a general release shortly after the festival, but there is no doubt a packed MIFF screening with fellow cinephiles is how I want to experience this film.
NB: This would have been a much harder decision if Drive was a regular festival session and not the Closing Night film, which I cannot attend.
What’s your most anticipated film of MIFF 2011?