18th St. George Bank Brisbane International
Film Festival – Quick Takes
Quick takes and viewer comments from some of the latest films shown at the Brisbane International Film Festival!
How can you not come out a winner when you mix Nazis and zombies? The undead goose-step their way across the frozen Norwegian countryside to reclaim what they think is rightfully theirs and you best feel sorry for the young people that get in the way. In true horror movie fashion, when the first couple sneak off and have sex (in a dunny no less) the carnage is on. This fan favourite had everyone in the audience cheering and screaming in equal parts. See it now with someone you love, just don’t have sex with them and stay in a deserted mountain cabin afterwards.
It Might Get Loud
This summit of three modern guitar heroes is more of an examination of their roots and influences than it is a drawn out jam session. If you are very familiar with The Edge, Jack White or Jimmy Page’s past, then this film with have less to offer than to those not in the know. For died in the wool fans there is still enough on-screen revelations to get you through. One scene alone makes the movie worth the price of admission, a scene when Jack and The Edge show Page the love when he plays the opening notes of the Zeppelin tune that launched a thousand guitar players’ interest, Whole Lotta Love.
Anna Win tour was a sell-out, the delectable Jeanne Moreau enjoyed her own mini-retrospective, zombies stalked the Norwegian hills, endangered species, rock stars and hair extensions fuelled the documentary content, noir (though patchy) flickered around the edges and everything else felt gracefully influenced by a sense of social responsibility. From all directions The 2009 Brisbane International Film Festival, running on a much more disciplined timetable than last year thank you, featured influences from so many far-flung countries and the sizeable crowds turned out to laugh, gasp and cry.
First up I saw Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) and Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) in neo-noir The Missing Person directed by Noah Buschel; thank god for 9/11 since it’s now become a hook to lace a narrative over and here it does work to great effect. The Missing Person is a moody piece, brimming with noir touches (extra smoky cigarettes, glistening bourbon, sweaty atmosphere) and as it unfolds, Buschel (who also penned the screenplay) draws us in to the tale of an investigator assigned to tail a man for reasons unknown. Recalling train thrillers like Narrow Margin and the recent Trans-Siberian, the adventure begins aboard the California Zephyr followed by a treacherous interlude in Mexico and ending with a sombre climax in New York AKA noir central. Shannon embodies the world-weary gumshoe to great effect (if a little too one-note) and while the denouement lacks a punch, The Missing Person is just the kind of quirky fare we go to festivals for.
The Cove, the most disturbing documentary in this year’s line-up, examines the fate of dolphins that are captured and sold or slaughtered in Taiji, Japan. Renowned dolphin trainer Ric O’Barry (he trained Flipper), now an activist who roams the world setting dolphins free from captivity, leads a team of activists on a covert operation to expose the fate of the sea’s most intelligent creature once the latest haul are sold off to trainers. Picture it: the dolphins (the one sea creature who actively protect man from danger in the ocean) are herded into a cove in Taiji, representatives from around the world pick and purchase them for approximately $150,000, and those not chosen are then herded to a secluded, heavily guarded cove (literally around the corner) where they are viciously slaughtered; add to this the fact that the intelligence levels of these creatures are so acute they are fully aware of their fate should they not be chosen. Suspenseful and heartbreaking, The Cove, as much a horror movie as a documentary, uncovers truths well-known but ignored with a chilling final comment telling us that in September, it’ll be happening all over again. Hopefully The Cove will make audiences think twice about ever visiting SeaWorld again.
To watch the trailer for Moon, Sam Rockwell’s sci-fi thriller directed by Duncan Jones (David Bowie’s first-born Zowie), you could be forgiven for assuming it was a horror movie in the vein of Event Horizon or the hilarious Supernova but Moon is actually an intensely personal thriller with a twist that echoes the overall theme of the Alien franchise. Sam Bell (Rockwell) is nearing the end of a three-year stint on the moon mining resources that are parcelled and returned to earth to help solve our energy crisis. For company, Bell has a computer named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) that attends to his daily needs. Excited about his return to earth and his wife and daughter (who was born prior to his leaving earth), he’s accidentally rendered unconscious while harvesting and awakens in the infirmary only to make a frightening discovery. Jones, making his feature directorial debut here, delivers an eerie, unnerving tale of isolation helped immeasurably by Rockwell’s balanced performance. Could this be where we’re heading?
My adventures climaxed with a screening of Louis Malle’s second directorial effort, the controversial Les Amants (The Lovers). Introduced rather soullessly by our own David Stratton (not even a merci for the meagre applause as he made his ‘entrance’) who actually spelt out the synopsis, the lights thankfully dimmed and Jeanne Moreau appeared and entranced us all. Looking remarkably as Tippi Hedren would five years later in The Birds, Moreau is Jeanne, an unhappily married woman who enjoys frequent visits to Paris where her best friend and polo-playing lover reside. Tired of her absences, her husband demands she bring her friends home for the weekend and along with the appearance of a stranger, Jeanne is suddenly presented with a life-changing state of affairs. Considered wildly objectionable on its release with the infamous sex scene being removed in Britain and Australia and criminal charges almost laid when it was screened in Ohio , Les Amants was not just a breakthrough on what the screen could depict, it established Jeanne Moreau as the grande dame of French Cinema.
All in all, another fantastic film festival with a choice of fare broad enough to satisfy even the most jaded viewer though a more extensive retrospective (the noir extravaganza in 2006 remains a fond memory) seemed to be missing in action this year. Still, where else can you go to watch state-of-the-art animation, bawdy French comedy, funerals played for laughs and a topless 24 year-old Helen Mirren cavorting on The Great Barrier Reef with James Mason all in the space of a week?
Father and daughter sharing a loving moment? Well it really depends on how you classify loving moment. Lotte (Trine Dyrholm) has just left the service and her father has tracked her down and soon has her working in the family business, running a call girl service. Lotte ends up learning as much about herself as she does the business as she drives the girls to meet their johns. This Danish film is unconventional by western standards and more interesting because of it.
Welcome to the wild and disturbing world of Jesco White. Never on this God’s green earth has there been a crazier gas sniffing, tap dancing, trailer park living, homicidal redneck. This 2009 instant classic will elevate redneck art to the level of fine art and should be shown to all those Frenchies and art lovers when they visit La Louve. Give them some high-octane moonshine along with their croissants.
Four Nights With Anna
This is one of those films that has a very slow and languid pace but it draws you in nonetheless. It’s dark and grotty and has a decidedly low-fi look and feel but you still have to give it your attention. Its ultimate triumph is by film’s end you get to really care about the film’s main protagonist (a silent and inarticulate man who works in a crematorium) and feel sympathy for his plight.
Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie) makes one of this year’s (or any other year for that matter) smartest science fiction films. The story revolves around a lonely worker working for a mining company on the moon and stars Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey as the voice of this generation’s HAL robot. Filled with believable science and just the right amount of corporate contempt, this film is a must see.
Flowers of the Sky
This was a dry and somewhat slow examination of the consequences of the sacrifices that are sometimes made in the pursuit of stardom. In this case, it follows the life of a Sri Lankan actor, played by Malini Fonseka who gives up a whole other life to become an actor. The film’s pace was trying as was the predictability of its characters’ actions but at times some authentic emotions did break through.
Looking For Eric
This was a real crowd pleaser and is easily one of director Ken Loach’s most enjoyable films to watch. It follows a down and out postman and his gradual redemption after having a series of hallucinatory experiences with soccer bad boy Eric Cantona. The scene when a horde of Cantona masked hooligans’ trash the home of the neighborhood crime lord is hilarious.
This doco on some of the world’s great museums that have secret stashes of erotic art has a few moments that will raise the pulse (like the revelation that the Vatican has a hidden collection of porn) but for such a titillating topic, all the filmmaker really succeeds in raising is a yawn.
Brisbane International Film Festival 2009
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