Sunday, August 14, 2016

MIFF 2016: The O'erview

Another year, another MIFF and what a blast it's been. First, there's the meteorological bedrock of decently solid winter to make it feel like an achievement to get out and haunt the foyeurs. Second, is it me or is there really a pleasant move away from a dominance of Sundance and Cannes and more of what you like outside the crust? It really was harder this year making my minipass' thirteen (in fact I added three more and made a few exchanges). So, well done, youse.

I'll apologise here for the brevity of most of my individual reviews posted after I'd seen them. I had a lot less free time this year and my holiday cold was more a slowburn than a rage-for-a-day sharabang.


Evolution - If you are going to set up a sci-fi scenario with almost no exposition (and if it's as whacked out as this) you'd better have the courage to drive it hard and keep going. That's what happened here.

Fear Itself - Clip movies can be a waste but this monologue (delivered over very thoughtfully chosen clips from the spectrum of horror cinema) added layers to the commentary by imposing a true-life horror scenario that brought clarity to the narrator's observations.

Kedi - I love cats and revere the city of Istanbul. This gave me both.

Fata Morgana - An extraordinary presage for the future of exploitation cinema delivered at its dawn, this absurdist wonder gets everything right before it was got.

Right Now, Wrong Then - The great Hong Sang-soo once again gives us depths beneath a seemingly light surface. One story told twice, once with vanity and then with candour. The difference is pleasing and disturbing.

Blood of My Blood - A hymn of retribution to ages of male privilege. A few missteps couldn't threaten the strength of its thread.

The Unknown Girl - The Dardennes do a mystery story. I'm there. Great final screening at the Comedy.


A Dragon Arrives - A scaled up adventure in apocalypses and politics didn't quite fulfil its promises but, boy, was it fun.

Cosmos - Zulawski's swansong was not a conscious farewell but, if flying below his more extraordinary seminal works, it still pleased and worked unto itself.

Chevalier - Greek weird wave entry continues to promote the genre positively but the line between the severe realism and absurdism doesn't always blur well. Still fun, though.

Hedi - Like a A Dardennes piece (they produced) with humour as well as gravity. Wanted more of the latter, though.

Gary Numan: Android in La La Land - A documentary about creativity under Aspergers or a biopic that failed? Still don't know and would have liked to. Enjoyable with some insights but still wanted more of the journey that was.


Kate Plays Christine -  An interesting exercise eventually reveals itself to be one in futility.

The Demons - Michael Hanneke tribute band plays the Montreal suburbs but not even the man himself plays like that anymore.

The Lure -  Fun idea discards its own building blocks for no good reason and then ends.

Album - Not even Roy Andersson always gets away with his quirk with gravity but he does more often. Satire doesn't have to smile but it should ask you in. Or is this satire for the smug? Not interested.

Anything that looked like it would turn up at the Kino, Nova or video on demand. Anything with too much of a buzz that ended up sold out (I like being part of a good sized audience but hate feeling crammed in) although some of my picks ended up this way and I did make a point of ending with the new Dardennes brothers movie. And on one occasion I exchanged a ticket due to a mix of illness and how that made the prospect of ultraviolence on screen at the end of a walk through some icy rain decidedly ungood. So, Eyes of My Mother, Operation Avalanche, Love Witch, Christine, Lily Lane, Harmonium, Beware the Slenderman, Zero Days, Don't Blink: Robert Frank, Francofonia, Gimme Danger, Paterson, National Bird, Lo and Behold, Neon Demon ... and (as they sang at the end of Gilligan's Island) the rest, I'll check ya later.

The standard venues didn't disappoint. I maximise my Forum visits at MIFF as it's not open at any other time during the year and it's weird beauty still delights me.  While the seats can be a challenge I enjoyed by only screening at the Comedy with its dusty ol' ambience. ACMI still feels like going to the dentist but it's set up for good pic and sound. Hoyts doesn't feel like a MIFF venue but it's a well appointed up to date cinema with very comfy seating. I didn't go to anything at Kino.

In Memoriam: The Treasury Theatre, which had some screening trouble last year with bad sound but this is a sentimental favourite of mine. The Capitol: sometimes there, sometimes not. I love this old place with its kooky decor. The Regent. Boy I loved this one when it was a MIFF venue for a couple of years back i' the 2000s. Spacious and beautiful without a bad seat.

I can go on about this. In my first MIFFs the unease that would assail me because of queues was deep and persistent. I'd plan on getting to the venue half an hour early to stand near the beginning of a queue and never noticed that the seats around the one I chose seldom seemed to fill out. One day back in 2004 I stood in the freeze of Russell St for a film on at the Kino (Innocence) for over half an hour only to get the best seat. I could have sat in the warm Forum foyeur all that time and just walked in after the queue was finished. I did that a couple of times this year. The only times I queued were with friends who don't like sitting where I sit and on one occasion I joined a line that was already moving. If I'd gone to a sold out session at the Kino I would have queued as its small seating area means the front gets filled quickly and only the sides are left which can make a film in scope look like it would before going through the stretchy lens.

The Android app very pleasantly updated itself well before the start date. It was very easy to navigate and browse and book with. Very pleasantly I was also able to do a couple of exchanges pain-free with it. This in conjunction with a well designed home-base website has done a lot to ease congestion in the queues and the box office. Since the advent of the app a few years ago your ticket is on the phone you take everywhere with you and downloaded with the update before the festival began and gave you pretty much all the information you need about your day at the festival in your pocket. Compare and contrast the day where a mini-pass was a card that got hole punched, or a plastic card that might arrive in the post only days before the event or an e-minipass that needed the tickets printed out (or, if you were resourceful, kept as pdfs with readable barcodes on you phone).

Right up to a very few years ago you still had to go in to the box office, join a queue and book all your picks at the counter (some people were making decisions only when they got there) which made for long waits on your feet. The one thing I miss is the feature of the wishlist that allows you to set it up for your pass and with one click put everything into your cart and buy the lot all at once. That's gone and it's a pity.


So, there you go, one of the most enjoyable Fests I've had. A great range of material from around the globe and the margins of genre and invention. Astute use of technology has eased the more annoying aspects approaching the festival and the day to day management of it. Another year of polite and enthusiastic staff, paid or voluntary. As the logistics smooth, the stuff on screen can afford to be rougher, spikier and newer. May that continue. This one really felt like celebration rather than just a screening schedule.

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