I've had the program for the 60th Melbourne International Film Festival in my greasy little mitts just about long enough now to feel equipped to dispense some advice of, alternately, a utilitarian, and of a somewhat subjective, prejudicial but (dare I say) informed nature which might make your navigation through a typically dense festival program and schedule just that little bit simpler.
Of the utilitarian, I'll speak first. You'll find below a table listing all the various feature films at this year's festival which a cursory amount of research revealed to have distribution deals already inked. Release dates, in those instances where they have been explicitly stated in association with any given film, are listed alongside the titles, ordered by imminence of release.
None of this can be taken as gospel, for the distribution game is the stuff of whims, vicissitudes and, some would allege, sorcery. Furthermore, some films may not be destined for theatrical release post-festival at all but rather may go straight to DVD, Blu-Ray or even YouTube, meaning that MIFF could represent the only chance to see them on a big screen in Melbourne.
To whet your appetite for the following list, here are a couple of observations. Firstly, I have never known there to be quite so many films screening at MIFF to have distribution lined up at this early stage in proceedings – a whopping 81 by my reckoning!
Secondly, of that 81, I make out 30 to be attached to Madman Entertainment – that's comfortably over one in every three! Thems are extraordinary numbers. The great majority of the Madman titles don't have theatrical dates against them, and many may be destined for DVD release only. That said, it hasn't escaped my attention that, over the past year or two, Madman have been very adept at securing two-or-so-week-long theatrical seasons, exclusive to Cinema Nova or to ACMI, for many of their titles ahead of a DVD release.
Nonetheless, if you want to be certain of seeing any of these films on the big screen, then to see them at MIFF is the wisest path to follow.
Furthermore, while some of the films listed below may well be released very soon after MIFF, there can be incentives beyond bragging rights to attending their screenings at the festival, as, for example, when guests will be in attendance to conduct introductions, Q&As, flesh-pressings and the like. Of those films listed below, this includes, at the very least, Eye of the Storm, POM Wonderful and Beginners. (More guests are yet to be announced. And who out there isn't holding out hope that Richard "Submarine" Ayoade mightn't yet be amongst them?) On that basis then, to savour a sense of occasion and to chance to get a word in edgeways to some of this year's wrangled talent, you might in fact be wiser to see a number of these fillums at MIFF after all.
The decision's wholly yours to make...
One last thing before we get to this handy list - let's dwell a moment, you and I, on my equally trumpeted, more subjective side to this post (assuming you didn't immediately cut to the chase and scroll down to the distribution table, you cheeky, impulsive thing, you).
This is where I get to convey my excitement at the particular titles in the program I feel especially to merit it. You might then, for what it's worth, like to take the following as my hot tips for the festival. However, a caveat must first be issued for this list, too. For I have not yet determined whether it's even possible to see all of the following. I'm still to map out my own festival schedule, you see, and so cannot guarantee that the following films don't at all clash, one with another. Fingers crossed that none do...
|Surviving Life (Theory and Practice)|
1. Surviving Life (Theory and Practice)
The new film from Jan Švankmajer is the one new film in the entire program I am beside myself with anticipation at the prospect of seeing. I have held off for the longest time from viewing even the long-available trailer for the latest, and, thankfully, not last feature (as had been rumoured) from the master Czech capital-S Surrealist – I've been dying to see Surviving Life move on the big screen, and on the big screen only. And now I will.
Quoth Miloš Forman: “Disney plus Buñuel equals Švankmajer”. Enough said!
Queensland Art Gallery's Australian Cinémathèque is running (even now, and into October) an absolutely extraordinary film program to accompany its current big exhibition, “Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams”, a film program so extensive in its coverage and interpretation of surrealism that I'm seriously having to consider missing a part of MIFF. I had hoped that MIFF – or perchance another Melbourne screen cultural institution – might avail themselves of a golden opportunity to bring to Melbourne some of the riches unspooling up in Brisbane. Alas, it would appear not. Why, in the last week of MIFF alone, the Australian Cinémathèque will screen (mostly 35mm prints of) films by Jean Rouch; Fernando Arrabal (oh how I would love to see Arrabal's work in a cinema!); Alejandro Jodorowsky (actually, I'll cut MIFF some slack on this one – they did screen beautiful restored prints of El Topo and The Holy Mountain a few years ago), and Louis Feuillade – they are, in fact, screening Feuillade serials at appropriately regular episodic intervals throughout much of the run of the exhibition.
In that last week the Australian Cinémathèque will also be screening Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast – happily, however, Beauty and the Beast will be appearing at MIFF, in honour of its place in the 1952 program, one of but three features to have graced that inaugural 1952 edition.)
2. Fruit of Paradise (1970)
This is the one old film in the program I'm beside myself with anticipation at the prospect of seeing. As well ought you be too if you're at all familiar with director Věra Chytilová's work – the ever astounding Daisies (1966), anyone? – as well as if, like me, you're a fan of Czech composer Zdeněk Liška. Various other heavyweights of the Czechoslovak New Wave have a hand in this one, too. A must see!
3. Class Relations (1984)
If you dare to call yourself a cinephile, but miss out on a rare opportunity to catch a Straub-Huillet film in Melbourne (and, in this case, one deemed almost “accessible” by the Strauboscenti, partly by dint of its being an adaptation of Kafka), you need have a good hard look at yourself. Seriously. And hell, you might even enjoy it.
4.. Sodankylä Forever - The Century of Cinema
+ the short preceding it: The First Interview
Another cinephiliac must-see! In the former, Peter von Bagh interviews
Istvan Szabo, Milos Forman, Jerzy Skolimowski, Ettore Scola, Miklos Jansco, Francesco Rosi, Abbas Kiarostami, Jafar Panahi, Elia Sulieman, Michael Powell, Joseph H. Lewis, Richard Fleischer, Francis Ford Coppola, and, the man who got a street in Sodankylä named after him, Sam Fuller.Christ on a bike! How can anyone go past that?
(Per the program notes for this film from the Vancouver International Film Festival)
PLUS! It's screening with the wonderful new short film from oftentimes animator of note, Dennis Tupicoff, which I have already seen, can heartily recommend and am happy to say I even had a very small part in realising. (I helped the director track down its narrator (who has bizarrely gone unmentioned in the MIFF program, but then, shorts are still, as ever, given far too short shrift in the program). The narrator? Why, if it isn't none other than Agnès Varda!)
The First Interview's a lovely film re-enacting a rare significant first to have evidently gone hitherto uncelebrated by the seventh art. It celebrates the first media interview ever conducted, which occurred in August 1886 in Paris when the renowned photographer Félix Nadar interviewed the famous scientist Michel Eugène Chevreul on the occasion of the latter's 100th birthday.
The re-creation extends beyond a mere simulation of the occasion to suffuse the very aesthetic of the overall film – it's a steampunker's delight!
5. The Turin Horse
Unmissable: it really might be Béla Tarr's last film. And only 146 minutes long! Nobody gives long take like Béla Tarr. I believe there to be but 30 of them in all of The Turin Horse...
6. Jeonju Digital Project 2011
An anthology film commissioned, as is its wont, by the Jeonju International Film Festival and featuring new (digital) works from each of Jean-Marie Straub, Claire Denis and José Luis Guerín. Another must for the cinephilically inclined!
|The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye|
7. The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye
Because who out there wouldn't benefit from a primer in pandrogyny? I can only anticipate that this will be a fascinating, consciousness-raising and binary-demolishing doco on the union – a loaded term here much more, and more interestingly, loaded, than usual – between legendary Throbbing Gristle founder, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and her inseparable late inamorata and Psychic TV bandmate, Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge.
8. Essential Killing
Vincent Gallo as a nameless Taliban soldier on the lam in eastern Europe. Director: the resurgent Jerzy Skolimowski, whose retrospective at the Melbourne Cinémathèque a year or two back was, for mine, one of the best seasons they've ever staged. I'm excited!
9. Black Venus
A new film by Abdellatif Kechiche, the director of the brilliant, ultimately nearly unbearably suspenseful The Secret of the Grain? Rather!
10. Artavazd Pelechian Program
I feel I ought to have reasons to recommend this program. Why I haven't any: I've never seen any of his work. An opportunity to right a wrong where is concerned a major figure in the more eggheaded realms of cinema? – sign me up!
11. The Mill and the Cross
Rutger Hauer will make two appearances at this year's MIFF. One will be as a hobo with a shotgun in... Hobo with a Shotgun. Whereas, in The Mill and the Cross, he will essay the part of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. I have such a thing for Flemish Renaissance painters, I can't tell you. Also, director Lech Majewski will be a guest of the festival.
|Guilty of Romance|
12 & 13. Guilty of Romance and Cold Fish
The former has some sort of distribution deal lined up; the latter hasn't. Whatever. Both are from Sion Sono, the nutjob behind Love Exposure. And therefore must be seen (to be believed).
14. A Useful Life
I have to see this principally because its lead is an absolute dead ringer for Bill Mousoulis, founder of Senses of Cinema and stalwart independent filmmaker recently of Melbourne but latterly of parts Grecian. And the lead character is... why, he's a film programmer at a cinémathèque in Montevideo, of course! Uncanny much?!
15. Mysteries of Lisbon
Some sort of fairly imminent release from Rialto notwithstanding, four-and-a-half hours of Raúl Ruiz at MIFF, even if made for TV, can never be enough. (But cue now another lament for the Surrealism program in Brisbane's passing Melbourne by – why, this very month, screenings of Ruiz's On Top of the Whale (1982) and the wonderful first film of his I ever saw, chancing upon it one afternoon on SBS many years ago, Three Crowns of the Sailor (1983), are happening/have already happened. Ah, perhaps I ought instead focus on the positive: after MIFF, there's still time to head up north and catch a number of Borowczyks, Greenaways, and, yes, Švankmajers!, amongst others...)
Here at last then, as promised far above, is a table listing release information for films at the 60th MIFF. May that the following (and all the wafflesome waffle above) might help Melburnians with some tough scheduling decisions over the MIFF to come!
(And be sure to stay tuned for regular reports from the coalface throughout the festival.)
* The list below has since been updated; see the following post:
"Coming Attractions, or: Addenda to Last Week's MIFF Picks"
|TITLE||DISTRIBUTOR||DATE OF RELEASE||SECTION|
|Red Dog||Roadshow||4 Aug 2011||Aust. Showcase|
|POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold||Madman||11 Aug 2011||Documentaries|
|Jane Eyre||Universal||11 Aug 2011||Int'l Panorama|
|Senna||Universal||11 Aug 2011||This Sporting Life|
|LennoNYC||Transmission||DVD – 11 Aug 2011||Backbeat|
|Win Win||Fox||18 Aug 2011||Int'l Panorama|
|Beginners||Hopscotch||25 Aug 2011||Int'l Panorama|
|The Guard||Transmission||25 Aug 2011||Int'l Panorama|
|Life in a Day||Transmission||TBA Aug 2011||Networked|
|Submarine||Madman||1 Sep 2011||Int'l Panorama|
|X||Potential||Early Sep 2011||Aust. Showcase|
|The Eye of the Storm||Transmission||15 Sep 2011||Aust. Showcase|
|Knuckle||Hopscotch||DVD – 15 Sep 2011||This Sporting Life|
|Cave of Forgotten Dreams||Rialto||22 Sep 2011||Documentaries|
|Norwegian Wood||Curious||6 Oct 2011||Accent on Asia|
|Drive||Pinnacle||TBA Oct 2011||Closing Night|
|Tomboy||Rialto||17 Nov 2011||Int'l Panorama|
|Toomelah||Curious||TBA Nov 2011||Aust. Showcase|
|13 Assassins||Icon||TBA 2011||Accent on Asia|
|Project Nim||Icon||TBA 2011||Documentaries|
|Silent Souls||Icon||TBA 2011||Int'l Panorama|
|Footnote||Rialto||1 Jan 2012||Int'l Panorama|
|Mysteries of Lisbon||Rialto||1 Jan 2012||Prime Time|
|Viva Riva!||Rialto||1 Jan 2012||Crime Scene|
|The Salt of Life||Rialto||19 Jan 2012||Int'l Panorama|
|Brother Number One||Antidote||TBA||Documentaries|
|Position among the Stars||Antidote||TBA||Documentaries|
|The Solitude of Prime Numbers||Aztec||TBA||TeleScope|
|The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975||Curious||TBA||Backbeat|
|Jiro Dreams of Sushi||Curious||TBA||Documentaries|
|Another Earth||Fox||TBA||Int'l Panorama|
|Martha Marcy May Marlene||Fox||TBA||Int'l Panorama|
|A Separation||Hopscotch||TBA||Int'l Panorama|
|Africa United||Hopscotch||TBA||Next Gen|
|Think Global, Act Rural||Hopscotch||TBA||Documentaries|
|Ben Lee: Catch My Disease||Madman||TBA||Backbeat|
|Persecution Blues: The Battle for the Tote||Madman||TBA||Backbeat|
|Sing Your Song||Madman||TBA||Backbeat|
|Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer||Madman||TBA||Documentaries|
|Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles||Madman||TBA||Documentaries|
|Magic Trip: Ken Kesey's Search for a Kool Place||Madman||TBA||Documentaries|
|Page One: Inside The New York Times||Madman||TBA||Documentaries|
|Bobby Fischer against The World||Madman||TBA||This Sporting Life|
|El Bulli: Cooking in Progress||Madman||TBA||Documentaries|
|Elite Squad: The Enemy Within||Madman||TBA||Crime Scene|
|Fire in Babylon||Madman||TBA||This Sporting Life|
|The Forgiveness of Blood||Madman||TBA||Int'l Panorama|
|The Future||Madman||TBA||Int'l Panorama|
|The Kid with a Bike||Madman||TBA||Int'l Panorama|
|Kill List||Madman||TBA||Night Shift|
|Once upon a Time in Anatolia||Madman||TBA||Crime Scene|
|Outrage||Madman||TBA||Accent on Asia|
|Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure||Madman||TBA||Aust. Showcase|
|This is England '86||Madman||TBA||Prime Time|
|Troll Hunter||Madman||TBA||Night Shift|
|Guilty of Romance||Monster||TBA||Accent on Asia|
|The Woman||Monster||TBA||Night Shift|
|The Yellow Sea||Monster||TBA||Accent on Asia|
|The Giants||Palace||TBA||Int'l Panorama|
|Our Idiot Brother||Roadshow||TBA||Int'l Panorama|
|Le Havre||Sharmill||TBA||Int'l Panorama|
|Take Shelter||Sony||TBA||Int'l Panorama|
|33 Postcards||Titan View||TBA||Aust. Showcase|
|Hobo with a Shotgun||Transmission||TBA||Night Shift|
|Route Irish||Transmission||TBA||Int'l Panorama|
PS Is it just me, or is the graphic design for the program this year – an anniversary year in which the graphic design for all the predecessor programs is celebrated in an exhibition now on at ACMI – very seriously underwhelming? And to think, for a welcome change, they'd done such a good job on the festival trailer this year, only to seriously drop the ball in this department. Meh.