Thursday, July 7, 2011

MIFFy Simplicity, or: Surviving MIFF (Theory and Practice)

Hi y'all.

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!

(Except... to add that there's a whole lot more big screen Švankmajer action to be had up north a little later in the year. The 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.
(Per the program notes for this film from the Vancouver International Film Festival)
Christ on a bike! How can anyone go past that?

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"

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
Tabloid Antidote TBA Documentaries
Medianeras Aztec TBA Networked
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
Being Elmo Madman TBA Documentaries
Buck Madman TBA Documentaries
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
HERE Madman TBA Int'l Panorama
The Kid with a Bike Madman TBA Int'l Panorama
Kill List Madman TBA Night Shift
Melancholia Madman TBA Int'l Panorama
Once upon a Time in Anatolia Madman TBA Crime Scene
Outrage Madman TBA Accent on Asia
Play Madman TBA Int'l Panorama
PressPausePlay Madman TBA Networked
Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure Madman TBA Aust. Showcase
Terri Madman TBA Int'l Panorama
This is England '86 Madman TBA Prime Time
Troll Hunter Madman TBA Night Shift
Tyrannosaur Madman TBA Int'l Panorama
Guilty of Romance Monster TBA Accent on Asia
The Woman Monster TBA Night Shift
The Yellow Sea Monster TBA Accent on Asia
Beauty Palace TBA Int'l Panorama
Elena Palace TBA Int'l Panorama
The Giants Palace TBA Int'l Panorama
Our Idiot Brother Roadshow TBA Int'l Panorama
Super Roadshow TBA Night Shift
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
Neds Transmission TBA Int'l Panorama
Route Irish Transmission TBA Int'l Panorama
Troubadours Universal Music TBA Backbeat
Circumstance Vendetta 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.


  1. A lot of the 60 films I have chosen to see will be indeed released in some variety after the festival, but so many of those that don't have distribution don't have distribution for a very good reason. They just don't sound all that interesting so I don't feel too bad. If I'm going to choose to see this many films - as a part of MIFF's "blogathon" dowhacky - then I might as well see films that actually sound interesting.

    Unfortunately I saw The Man from London and so The Turin Horse didn't make the cut.

    Thankfully most of the films I had to give the shaft to due to scheduling conflicts will indeed be released at some point (La Havre, Elena, A Separation, The Mysteries of Lisbon) so I'm not too sad.

    Anyway, THANK YOU! It's always great to have a resource like this out there.

  2. No worries, glad such an exercise as this is of use to more than just me. As for Bela Tarr, I hear tell that The Turin Horse is more a return to the glories of Werckmeister Harmonies than to the (for me, too) somewhat underwhelming beautiful middlingness of The Man from London.

    Good luck with the blogathon! I look forward to keeping tabs on your bingeing - again, good luck! That sure is quite some undertaking that you're, ah, undertaking...

  3. Love your work as always Cerise. More so than ever this time, because I somehow - wait for it - completely missed Surviving Life in the program. I know. My head is hung in shame. However, despite having just booked 50+ plus sessions I've discovered that I have a slot free for the very first screening. How incredible is that? I'll now be seeing 16 films during the first three days and have no idea when I'll write about any of them, but at least I'll be seeing the new Švankmajer.

  4. Thanks, as ever, for the kind words Thomas. Glad you too'll be making it to Švankypants' latest! It's only appropriate that so tantalising a work of surrealism had been hiding there in plain sight the whole time... Huzzah!

  5. Great resource Cerise, thanks!

  6. Thanks! (Rochelle, I presume?) And yet! - for shame! - I completely overlooked Peter Tscherkassky's coming to MIFF. A follow-up post within the next day or three will have to remedy this or I won't dare to show my face around town throughout the whole festival. Fortunately, however, I'm not above taking to wearing a paper bag over my head. I'll be darned if I'm to miss a whole festival owing just to the one barely forgiveable oversight!

  7. Does anyone know why Glenn@stalepopcornau even goes to MIFF? You'd think he would find Hoyts' offerings around this time of year for more 'interesting'.

    Great resource, Cerise. But readers beware that Madman tend to be unreliable in terms of release - most of those above will go DTV here.

  8. I find it a little disturbing that Madman are distributing THIRTY of the MIFF films while Paul Wiegard is a board member.

  9. Yes Cerise, c'est moi! Rochelle. Hope to bump into you at some films.

  10. Rochelle, I'm sure we'll bump into each other at some films - the odds would have to seriously favour it! I look forward to it. (And to a beverage.)

    Leonard, thanks for your comment. I wish Blogger readily allowed me to edit out the first half of it, as I'm not one for taking swipes at my peers in this blog, but thanks for dropping by and posting something nevertheless.

    And, dear anonymous poster, please feel free to put a name to your comment, which carries a whiff of a cast aspersion about it, and possibly almost dangerously so... I will not, however, be drawn to comment any further on it!

  11. surviving life is worth every single second. i saw it at the Rotterdam Film Fest, just the best thing, ever. I came out enamored and so went and saw it again at SIFF. Amazing. Although I have been led to believe that it is indeed his last film?

    Big thumbs up for the Turin Horse, also. Painstaking, grueling, but amazing watching.

  12. Hi Cassie, and thanks for your comments, all the more so as they're only further stoking my already not inconsiderably stoked enthusiasm for both Surviving Life and The Turin Horse.

    As for Švankmajer, assuming he remains in good health (and let's hope he's got it in him to emulate Manoel de Oliveira!), he'll have his next film out in 2015. The Prague Monitor has some info about it here:

    There are other snippets about it to be found elsewhere online too. Hooray!

    (Meanwhile, his son Václav is showing some signs of being a chip off the old block...)