Monday, June 15, 2009

saving it up, spending it all on moving pictures

I noticed this afternoon, (after an embarrassing incident with my chemist) walking home in the winter sun, enjoying the way my new bird skirt swishes, that people are still using the telephone box on the corner of my street to order drugs.

Glamorous, Croydon is not.

I've had a bit of glamour in my life recently. What with my Festival Of Me, the Sydney Film Festival and the Vivid Festival. Although I'm still confused as to what Vivid actually was, apart from Brian Eno doing lots of talking and the Opera House being very prettily decorated with lights.
As for the Festival Of Me, you'll have to wait a few more hours because I need my brothers help with photographs. But I can tell you it was the absolute best birthday I've had in years.
Sadly though, the Sydney Film Festival? Not so fabulous.

I love film, adore it. I'll probably grow up into one of those women who wears all black and a red pashmina across her expansive bosom (or in my case, pillow that I'll shove up my cashmere jumper). There'll be an asymmetrical hairdo and I'll wave a Birkin bag around. I'll be fabulous and I'll use words like Bourgeois and Dilettante. I'm thoroughly looking forward to it, because then I'll be able to enjoy the Sydney Film Festival a bit more than I did this year. I'll tell you all the annoying stuff first, so that you can think badly of me, then I'll redeem myself. That's a rarity with me.

The most annoying thing (after the grand ticketing debacle and the website monstrosity) was the Knowing Laughs. The people who sit behind you (usually behind, so that you can't throw anything at them) and make these "ah" and "a-HA!" noises at ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. One feels like turning around and going "What? What am I possibly missing in this leaky Soviet drama about mud? Really? Please tell me, maybe then the two of us can annoy everyone else with our shared guffawing." The most aggravating of these incidents occurred when my mother and I went to see Disgrace, which is heart wrenching. This woman sat in front of us and tittered to herself during the introduction of the film. Then she apparently knew everything about Lord Byron and wanted us all to know she understood the complexities of him. Lady, I've studied Byron twice, both times resulting in HDs. But the worst bit was when she turned and tutted at my mother. My mother had a cold, and was crying, so therefore may have sniffed. It's not like other people weren't doing it. But this lady turned around and went "TUT" as if she pitied my mother for being moved by John Malkovich, South Africa and the utter futility of the movie. I think my mother's reaction was probably more what the film maker was going for, really.

So that was the most annoying thing about the Film Festival. Perhaps because I was one of the younger people there, and I'm so painfully insecure that you could mistake me for song by The Smiths some days. Or perhaps because its when the North Shore-ites all venture to the CBD and start ranting. That's probably it. Not me at all. Nope.

Annoying thing number two: The Red Carpet. There were several films that were premieres, and alot of them were Australian, which was fantastic. But there was one film, which I enjoyed immensely, but nearly didn't make it too, thanks to Teri Hatcher. Ms Hatcher seems lovely. But she's also teenytiny and really doesn't need a red carpet that's three metres wide and takes up the entire entrance to the cinema, so that all us regular people have to try to negotiate a space about two feet wide. And of course everyone stops and tries to get their phones out to take photos so that they can say they were there. Whatever that means. I elbowed my way up and bolted into the cinema. And then the film didn't start for another 20 minutes, because Ms Hatcher couldn't get up her 3m wide red carpet for some reason. Traffic, maybe? I think the cult of the camera phone is what I'm railing against, because I really do think it's nice to see artists get some recognition.

There were other things that annoyed me, but I'm aware that most of them stem from my painfully ridiculous tendency to over think and be over paranoid. It's something I'm working on, because if I don't, they'll probably have to start medicating me with something other than Pimms and Smarties.

So. Films That I Saw. In Order. With Links. And Ratings Out Of 5. Hurrah!

1. Bluebeard (France).
I was expecting something much raunchier from this movie, but the four girls who played the two pairs of sisters (one set in Medieval/Mythical France, the other in 1930s France, I think) were so mesmerising, so natural that I didn't mind. It was a much more sympathetic take on the traditional Bluebeard story, so much so that when Bluebeard's crime is revealed, it's difficult to understand his motivation. I think this is because the focus is on sisterhood, and the way familial relationships haven't really changed. The mis-en-scene is cold, chilling French woodland that feels mystical yet hollow. However there are some frustratingly amateur shots (that set off the Knowing Laughs). On the whole though, this is a quintessential French film that will leave you thinking about sisterhood, more than anything else. I'm looking forward to seeing more from Lola Creton and Daphine Baiwar, who played the Medieval set of sisters. 3/5

2. Four Nights With Anna (Czech) + Us (no link)(France)
Us is a short film based on a Dictaphone recording made by a French Policeman as he investigates an apartment. He discovers a body that appears to have been there for quite sometime. The audio is juxtaposed with images of a family having a day at the beach, which creates a contrast much more moving when viewed. 4/5
Four Nights with Anna was frustrating, frustrating. I should have known it would be when the two men sitting behind me began ranting about Claire Stewart's (SFF director) wardrobe choices, before diverging to recent Czech films they had enjoyed. That aside, what was frustrating (and this turned out to be a characteristic of a few other films I saw) was the deliberate distance between the audience and the film. I enjoy a bit of mystery, I enjoy having to work to understand a film, but what seems typical of Eastern Bloc films is the way they just refuse to let you in, refuse to let you understand. In this film we see a Crematorium worker, who appears to have intellectual difficulties, repeatedly break into a woman's room to paint her toenails. It's kind of creepily sweet, the way he falls in love with her and cleans up for her. But at the same time, the thought of anyone ever doing that to me sends me into a terrified rage. This film would have been better had it been tightened in the editing room. The jumps between the past and present weren't really necessary. And the ending was just trite. 1.5/5

3. Disgrace (South Africa/Australia)
(This film was produced in NSW, so apparently it counts as Australian. I dunno, ask Premier Rees.) This film is based on a book by J.M. Coetzee. I've always meant to read it, even though I gathered its a fairly harrowing read. The film. Oh my. I can't say Ienjoyed this film, even though it's one of the best films I saw. John Malkovich is just perfectly clinical and composed, to the point where he stops being Malkovich and is David Lurie. All the actors in this film are fantastic, and every time I think about this movie, my heart cracks. This is what a good movie should do, it should leave you thinking about the world, it should leave you with an emotion, regardless of what emotion it is. Although I wouldn't/couldn't see this movie again, nor read the book, I would suggest that you see it because it is brilliant. Just make sure you have tissues, something to cuddle and something positive to do afterwards. 4/5 (I'm deducting a point for the ruination of my makeup, which was supposed to be waterproof but failed miserably)

4. Overlord (UK)
This black and white film came out in 1975. It's a fantastic documentation of the D-Day Landings at Normandy, June 6th 1944, which means I saw it on the 65th anniversary of D-Day. The film uses archival footage of the preparations for D-Day, which was codenamed Overlord. The director, Stuart Cooper (who was at the screening) used footage from the Imperial War Museum archives, and interspersed it with new footage based on the training that a reluctant solider, Tom, goes through. This lends the film a more personal edge, as well as some wonderful comic moments. It's impossible to tell which footage is which, really, and the whole thing manages to capture the horror of war and the black humor of it all. There's horrifying footage of London being bombed, and there's sweet imagery of Tom trying to make sense of it all. If you can get hold of it, do so. 4.5/5

5. Sunshine Barry & The Disco Worms (Denmark) + Little Dinosaurs (Scotland)
I love dinosaurs. So a short film about little dinosaurs who get beaten up by a big dinosaur, then take their revenge? I was so there. So were many many squawking children. But dinosaurs. Awesome. And then the narration had wee children with Scottish accents. 5/5 for cute, but it so could have been longer.
Sunshine Barry is twee, and there's no Panic at the Disco, so small mercies. What there is, however, is the very unlikeable Barry. He's a worm, he's full of himself and he doesn't listen. His worm mother is overbearing and reminded me of Mrs Q, the mother of a girl I went to school with. But despite that, this is a nice little film - Barry does get his comeuppance in the form of a bitchy office worm, the gay worm comes out of the closet to the Village Worms, Barry redeems himself, it's a nice lesson in how winning isn't everything and the soundtrack is fantastically cheesy disco. The animations are snappy, clear and the physicality of the worms is hysterical. It doesn't have the cleverness of Shrek or Toy Story, but kids will love it. 3.5/5

6. Paper Soldier (Russia)
Oh gods. I saw this film the day after my birthday, which meant that I was running on a three day hangover, not enough coffee or sleep. And it was so very cold. So of course going to see a film set in Soviet Russia/Kazakhstan was a good idea. Ugh. This film was cold cold cold and tried too hard to be absurd, put too much distance (like, the distance between the moon and me) between the characters and the audience, not to mention the length of the film. I wanted to shake the main character, who was so stereotypically soviet that my James Bond complex kicked in and I wanted an explosion just so things would warm up. And the women, ugh. So much whinging and moaning and pouting and fake hair. Seriously Russia, get over the cold and start making crazy college road trip films. Please. I know you can do it. Make something funny, something that doesn't mention bloody Chekhov. 1/5

7. The Beaches of Agnes (France)
Oh Agnes Varda, I'd forgotten how totally mad and awesome you are. Varda made The Gleaners, which is one of my favourite documentaries. Now she's made a doco about herself, and all the wonderful people she's known and the wonderful things she's done. She's so wonderfully creative, and at 83 shows no signs of slowing down. Her film is a celebration of life, of art and love. If I say anymore, it'll turn into mush 5/5

8. Coraline (US)
Oooh, spooky. Henry Selick, who did Nightmare Before Christmas, has outdone himself here. This film is magically scary, beautifully animated. The voices are done by an almost unrecognisable (andthereforeunannoying) Daktota Fanning, and Teri Hatcher, who outdoes herself on the scary. The 3-D effects are used subtly, which enhances the tension. You'll probably read alot about this film in coming weeks/months, so I wont blather - this is a film that will spook everyone, and probably make you reconsider your relationship with your mother. I am however, deducting a point for the red carpet fiasco (see above) 4/5

9. Humpday (USA)
One of the best films I've seen in a while. This film is dialogue driven, which appeals to a wordy talky person like me. I loved the way in which two best friends, Ben and Andrew describe their relationship, how real it all seemed. Humpday is advertised about two guys who make a non gay male on male porno, but its more about how two male best friends evaluate their changing friendship, and the ways in which their lives are different to what they expected. This is unexpectedly sweet. I wanted to be friends with these people, even if Ben was a bit of an arse, and Andrew one of those drifty people (although actor Joshua Leonard has the best laugh ever). Anna, wife of Ben is just brilliant, not over the top, not dolllike, just the sort of real woman you want to see in film. The movie as a whole is beautifully filmed and one that I'll be adding to my DVD collection. 5/5

10. Daisies (Czech)
This was a cute, artsy film from 1966. I could see how in the 60s it would have been cutting edge, and it did make me laugh alot. But after a while the lack of point begins to grate - this is probably the intent of the filmmakers. The flim centres around two sisters, who have decided to go bad because the worldd is going bad. So they eat and waste food, tease men and generally behave like Lindsay Lohan, Amy Winehouse and Paris Hilton rolled up and spilt into two. Its kind of fun. After a while though, I got sick of the stylised way the girls spoke, which was in a very slow ditzy Czech way. They sounded like blow up dolls would sound if they could speak. The chandelier scene though, was great. Another selling point is that it's only an hour long. 3/5

11. Cold Souls (USA/Russia) + We Who Stayed Behind (Denmark)
Wicked Step Aunt and I missed the beginning of We Who Stayed Behind, as we were queuing for a ticket for WSA. But I think I got the jist of it - something went wrong, peoples blood turned grey and they left the children alone. Then the girl's blood went grey and the boy saved her. It was kind of nice, in a hopeful apocalyptic way. I think mostly I was glad it didn't turn into a zombie film. 2.5/5
Cold Souls was cold. And I didn't appreciate that, because Sydney is very very cold at the moment. So when faced with freezing New York, then freezing St Petersburg, I was a little unimpressed. However, two of my favourite actors, Paul Giamatti and David Strathairn are in this film. I did enjoy this film, although it wasn't quite as complex as it had been advertised as. Giamatti plays a version of himself, trying to prep for a performance of Uncle Vanya (ugh). He's feeling twisted, so he goes to Strathairn and has his soul extracted. Wackyness and soul searching (ha) ensue. It's an attempt at a sort of Being John Malkovich type movie, but it falls short, I think because of the limitations of the idea of the soul. That said, Giamatti is fantastic as himself - neurotic, angry and bedecked in a fur hat with pompoms. The most beautiful part of the film is when he looks "inside" at his soul. The Russian part of the film is much better than Paper Soldiers, as the character Nina is wonderful and her clothes are to die for. I'd watch this again on DVD, on a really hot day. 3.5/5

12. An Education (UK)
Lizzle, WSA and I got into the cinema (after a near debacle with our dinner) at 7.30pm. we knew there'd be speeches and shizz, it was closing night. However, Lizzle pointed out that the movie started out at 8.30, which meant that there was an hour of talking in order to present 5 awards. What I remember is NSW Premier Nathan Rees tried to redeem himself by hiring people to cheer every time he mentioned things that the NSW Government is doing (although as far as I can make out, all our state government is doing is trying to talk about things that it might, maybe, possibly do. One day. If the Sydney Morning Herald stops exposing them, dangit). Miranda Otto was there too, clearly having left the house in her dressing gown instead of her winter coat. Someone let Nell Schofield wear a floor length leather coat. Bronson won best film. And then An Education started. And it was fantastic.
Set in the 1960s, in Twickenham, An Education is about Jenny, a precocious French loving schoolgirl studying to go to Oxford. Her parents are pushy, the boy who likes her is a geek (but adorable and I'd date him). Then she meets Dashing David, who is older, experienced and things get a lot better. From there on its parties with Danny (Dominic Cooper, looking sexy and predatory as ever) and Helen (the amazing Rosamund Pike in what might be her best role yet). They bound about the place, drinking dancing laughing wearing great clothes. It's magical and filmed in such a way that its not a montage, but a definite narrative progression. We see Jenny grow, see her and her parents become entranced with David. Jenny's English Teacher and Headmistress (the infallible Emma Thompson) try to intervene, but Jenny raises the question "Why do we have to be educated?". Although her teachers can't answer this, Jenny eventually figures it out herself. An Education is one of the best coming of age films I have ever seen, up there with C.R.A.Z.Y. and Mysterious Skin. It's a fantastic period piece, and the first screenplay written by Nick Hornby since High Fidelity that's not been childishly twee, but genuinely funny. The acting is first rate. Don't you dare miss this one. 5/5

So that was my Sydney Film Festival Experience. I didn't see as many films as usual, owing to the silly ticketing system. But on the whole, I did have a good time. I've tried to be lenient with my ratings, which is why there are a lot of 5s...well. Four. Next year though, I'd like to see a better ticketing system and more Australian films - not that there weren't any, but the timetable was so skewed.

Right. Now onto the birthday post.

ps. this post took me three hours to write because my keyboard keeps having attacks of the crazies.thats my excuse for not blogging recently, my desktop is kaput, and EEEPC's aren't really long term options.

1 comment:

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