Sunday, August 16, 2015

My MIFF 2015

Well, that's that for another MIFF. I was a little more distracted than usual for this year's fest as I had some project work which took most of my time outside of the screenings. I added two to my mini pass's thirteen and left it at that (having gone up to twenty last year). Because things were happening in the real world that needed my attention I had to consider the festival a relief rather than a celebration. And this is the first MIFF since I started getting minipasses which hasn't given me a cold. Nice.


The Forbidden Room I discovered Guy Maddin at MIFF 2003 (a series of shorts) and it was love at first sight. Not everything has charmed but this powerhouse blew almost everything else off the stage. Maybe just not see it rising from a hangover due to one too many Mai Tais the night before with the ol' significant other ("I'm not ol' !")

The Duke of Burgundy showed that you could enjoy your favourite era without becoming a slave to it. Strickland breaks free, freer than he did with Berberian Sound Studio and that's saying something.

99 Homes gave us an update on the kind of voracious capitalist beloved of Oliver Stone or Martin Scorsese without any of the fetishising of either for the villanous capitalist at its centre.

Battles Without Honour and Humanity was a sumptuous restoration that offered a violent Yakuza history without an invitation to join the machismo on screen. No wonder Battle Royale was so good.

Hill of Freedom gave us another sly and gently deceptive comedy of manners based on the social difficulties of using an imported commonality to express difficult things.


Two Shots Fired. I liked this wandering fable of first world naivete but wanted a little less standoffish cool and a tinge more archness.

The Arabian Nights (three feature-length films) attempted much but allowed its plainer passages to venture outside the acceptable boring limits. Still want to see what Gomes does next but that's still because of Tabu rather than even the finer moments of this.

Angels of Revolution was a strong tableau-driven expose on revolutionary fervour, political naivete and the force of tradition which transcended its subject-appropriate low-profile narrative with great colour in several senses but it might have pushed the culture collision more fully and forcefully by focussing less on the more familiar westerners.

Teheran Taxi worked well, played nice at a non-rambling run time and delivered a strong message. The pity of it is that it seems intoxicated with its own worthiness. This one's on the blade of middle and high.

Lambert and Stamp would've been great if I had been able to make out what half of them were saying at the screening due to crappy audio (a session-based problem rather the film's as such) but managed to offer some insights into a well-worn story.

Dalmas A time capsule of new wave genre and generic new wave from the dawn of the Whitlam era is more fellow traveller than agitprop and, for all its quaint rough edges, remains a decent statement beyond its time of greatest impact.


The Nightmare demonstrated that documentaries that endeavour to understand phenomena need to find a point outside of that phenomenon or they'll look plain silly. This film followed its participants in rejecting the science that would have made it intriguing. It ended up ranting like a tramstop loony.

What I've noted in this the third year of Michelle Carey's tenure as artistic director has featured a more adventurous touch with selection. Yes, there's the usual hot-at-Cannes burble but there's also a greater confidence with cinema outside of the main feed. I was annoyed at the dominance of U.S. independent titles in her first festival program but had to concede that this might have been the pragmatic means of filling a first program: get what's easy and make it a feature. But the last two line ups have proved to be rich and diverse.

Booking is very easy with the website and the app but I wish that I could mass book via the wish list. This was a feature of a few festivals during the 2000s that has disappeared. Why? I used to love setting up all my sessions on the day they were released and then clicking on book these or buy these or whatever the terminology was and that happening. It was a small moment of super-villainous triumph; one click and I rule the next two weeks with the pieces of my plan falling effortlessly into place. Now you have to go to each title (which you can do from your wishlist) and book each one. Ah, well, doesn't take that much longer.

The move from the credit cards to the app was a good one. Before the cards the mini pass was a carboard card which you could add sessions to which were then punched on the card on a desk with a queue separate to the one at the cinema door. With the app you can, if you wish, still print your tickets out or even go to the box office and get that done for you but having an app on your phone with everything you need beats everything prior to it. If there are still people who line up to waste the staff's time by making their mind up when they're served (yes, that used to happen) I hope I never meet them.

The least faulty Android app since the introduction of them a few years back. It was ready before time and there were no strange display bugs or glitchy behaviour.There is still an issue with what can be done while logged in and logged out. Shouldn't I just be able to access every feature with a login?Why can't I access my wishlist from the app? Rating films takes a drill-down and some of the search functions could use a little attention. Nevertheless, using the app for its primary value as a ticket dispenser is flawless. The only time I had a problem with it was due to my phone thinking it had to log in to the ACMI wifi and kept throwing me out. So, not the app there.

Someone has worked out that if you budget enough for the preparation of the volunteers the savings come back in happy customers. My problem with MIFF staff in the past has not been with rudeness as much as cluelessness; people who implode into shortness of temper when encountering irregularity. This year I saw the bright young things of the Vollie brigade welcome everyone in with smiles that weren't stapled on to their faces and a patience I've never known as widespread throughout the festival. If there was a snooty waiter syndrome one among them at any of the venues I missed out on them. If someone strayed I saw polite firmness rather than caving in the face of punter-aggression or assumed superiority from previous years (should  point out there that I haven't seen any real upleasantness for a few years anyway).

What ad? Well, there was one and, finally, it wasn't a lame joke that we had to live through at every screening. I did get sick of the people getting so excited they turned into popcorn rapidly and the classy number plate one

I always wince when the only choice I have for a particular film is ACMI. The screen is big n wide. The sound is good. You'd think the seats were so well placed in rows as to leave too much room for the lizard creatures from Beta Grongo to stretch their hind pincers and push into the seats in front of them. I saw one guy actually stretch his extraterrestrial pins so far that his feet were rubbing their footpath filth over the headrest and arm of two seats in front of him. What the hell goes through the minds of people like this? So, I reluctantly went to ACMI for most of my screenings. Last year I avoided it completely, not a single session there. Can't always get what you want, though...

The Forum is always one of the joys of the Festival. Love the building and atmosphere and the club downstairs. It's a winner.

I'm glad the Treasury is now a venue for all its cruddy seating with the shifty cushions. I just wish they'd let me put a film night for the rest of the year there. I can but dream which is what I'll have to settle for.

I liked the experience of the Comedy but wouldn't want to make a habit of it. The sense that the seats were all squashed in was strong. While this didn't really affect me as I was in the front row for my only screening there (99 Homes) I would not like to be more toward the middle. Then again, they have a bar in the auditorium.

All up a cruisey business. Being strapped for extra leave this year, I'm not taking my usual post-MIFF week off. Well, I don't need it anyway as the work I was doing crammed up against the screenings left no time for filmy shenanigans anyway and, spending a lot of time without anyone else in the room meant that wasn't doing a lot (actually any) partying to make a recovery week necessary. So, it's off to work I return, having an easy Sunday eve not spent ironing shirts (did them a week ago).

ALSO ...
Having harped on this for most of these roundups for the past few years I can add a little something about queueing. Anyone who has read these o'er the years will know I like the front few rows. I learned a fair few years back that it didn't matter if was at the beginning of the line or at the freezing element-exposed end of it, I pretty much always get the seat I want, front and centre ... ish. Well, this is the first fest where I didn't wait in a queue once. This is easy for me as I live in a suburb that borders on the CBD where the venues are. I'm about fifteen minutes brisk winter stride from the furthest of the venues. So, I would turn up just after the main block had gone in while the first slides were running on screen. The one time this backfired was my first session. I had forgotten that the Kinos MIFF cinemas only have tiny front rows and capacities generally. So, I saw The Duke of Burgundy at a severe angle, idly checking for any anamorphosis in the compositions (well, you never know with Peter Strickland). The closest I came to queueing was getting to the end of the line for The Witch on Russell St but that was already moving when I joined it. (Then I had to dash ahead of the zombie-march exit for one of a few midnight Mai Tai meetings with the o- the autre significante.) That was a great result but I'll admit to missing the sense of event palpable from being in a long conga line for an eagerly awaited movie. Actually, bugger that, it's much better now.

Roll on August 2016!

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