And so continues my ultra-concise commentary on the films I saw at the Melbourne Film Festival. The header picture I’m using in this series of posts should give you an indication of my favourite films of the festival. Anyone, continuing in the order in which I saw them…
FUNNY GAMES (dir. Michael Haneke)
This is Michael Haneke remaking one of his films shot for shot. If you speak English and not German, why not see this one? It’s about two teenagers who take a picture perfect family hostage and play sadistic games with them. At the same, Haneke is playing a game with the audience, letting them know that the entire scenario is artifice and intended to manipulate the viewer but even as the cinematic techniques of suspense and identification become audience, it’s difficult not to become involved. It also seems, that the scenes of the Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT in which he tells completely unreliable back stories was an idea lifted from this movie.
THAT DAY ON THE BEACH (dir. Edward Yang)
This was part of the Edward Yang retrospective. Edward Yang’s films are sprawling, epic, cross generational explorations of life in contemporary Taiwan. Because his movies are so long, you have to be prepared for them but if you down a coffee beforehand they really are rewarding experiences. This film is about two friends reuniting after 13 years and recounting tales about their romantic lives and the pressures that modern life and family puts on love.
A ONE AND A TWO (YI YI) (dir. Edward Yang)
This is Edward Yang’s most celebrated film. It’s about a middle-class Taiwanese family in Taipei taken from the perspective of the father, the daughter and the impossibly adorable son. The film starts with a wedding with a similar vibe to that in Ang Lee’s THE WEDDING BANQUET. Like that film, YI YI is funny, honest and wise.
A GIRL CUT IN TWO (dir. Claude Chabrol)
This story about a girl being pursued by a sophisticated novelist and a vain playboy comes off as quite dated. And there’s a good reason. It’s based on a real life event that happened in the 19th Century. This is a pretty funny film full of intriguing characters but it’s a typical French comedy and a minor work.
FROZEN RIVER (dir. Courtney Hunt)
I genuinely love these kinds of films – indie working class dramas set in small wintery towns – but this one came off as not quite right. It’s about a single mother who, struggling to pay the rent, resorts to people smuggling. The whole affair is so contrived and unbelievable. Not to mention humourless. Apparently Courtney Hunt learned filmmaking by watching Australian cinema.
EMPTIES (dir. Jan Sverak)
This is a real crowd-pleaser. Take anyone you like to this film and you’ll walk out feeling happy. From the director of Kolya, this one is about a man who retires from teaching but is not prepared to live his autumn years quietly unfortunately for his long-suffering wife. The man takes up a job at a supermarket which gives him a perfect opportunity to reconnect with the world and perve on hot women. This is a really funny film about growing old. It’s like that Peter O’Toole vehicle VENUS but a lot more entertaining and a lot less pretentious.