8-22 June 2001
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Friday 8 June
The Dendy Awards for Short Films
Remembering Country (dir: Kate Gillick)
Gillick's film has the advantage of a moving story and a great
It also has excellent archival material, especially the slides which
the story of Furber's time on Croker Island. Moving and well made.
The Secret Safari (dir: Tom Zubrycki)
A slickly made film on a fascinating topic: how Australians helped
the South African Aparteidt system by drinking beer! Good use of
music and interviews. An interesting film about the way that "ordinary
people can be involved in armed struggle. The audience seemed to find
amusing that a middle-class woman in a cashmere wrap might have been
gun-running. It makes you think
Steel City (dir: Catherine Marciniak)
A look at politics and change from the personal, emotional side. Very
exposition of certain aspecyts of the shut down of BHP Steel in
but it left you wanting more. What happened to the peoiple we followed
the last weeks of the steelworks? Will there be a follow-up?
2. The CRC Award
Ah Hu's Retreat (dir: John Janson-Moore)
A samll personal story about looking for a grandmother that a grandson
knew. But the search isn't very thorough and the story is obliquely
so that we don't really connect. Still, it was fascinating to seeYiu
Temple at Alexandria (which I have seen from my sister's window) and
people who go there. And why the Nicholas Hope narration?
The Last Peschniuk (dir: Ness Alexandra)
Another conflicted Aussie kid trying to come to terms with heritage
the mysteries of the past. Who am I, they are all asking? A bit more
told, this one - or at least more detail is give, but still it
And this one is very self-centred.
Nameday (dir: Eleni Arbus)
The same issues again! All these missing aunties and grannies! but this
film was the most oblique of all.
3 . Fiction over 15 mins
The Big House (dir: Rachel Ward)
This film really nailed the relationship of the central characters in a
short time. Great actors and a reasonable budget would have helped, as
as a good story (based in truth, I understand). I loved the homage to Sunday
Too Far Away, too!
Days of Being (dir: Chi Yen Ooi)
An ernest film, but basically a melodrama. The characters were not
established. It looked good, but the story was not coherently told. And
it was not realy short film material - it should have been made as a
Inja (dir: Steve Pasvolsky)
Inja means "dog" in Xhosa. This film was very strong, the story
was well and economically told. And there was great music. It shows
for bigger things.
Sparky D Comes to Town (dir: Maciek Wszelaki)
A wonderfullly accomplished, well observed, well written, well executed
short film. Lots os fun and very funny. It must have been inspired by
coked-uo scene Ray Liotta played in Goodfellas combined with
whole of the recent feature Go. A winner, which could easily have won
CRC award too if it had been entered there.
3 . Fiction over 15 mins
Blowfish (dir: Tuula Roppols, Ian Moorhead)
An arresting film with good use of the medium, but just fell short of
what it was aiming for. A great try, but, well, I just hate the use of
definitions in art. It's so advertising!
In Search of Mike (dir: Andrew Carbee)
By far the best of all the short films. Very funny, with a great
Wonderful use of images: this is what short film is all about. Must
(In fact, it did - both its category and the Rouben Mamoulian award).
Sunrise at Midnight (dir: Sean o'Brien)
Beautiful & strange but what does it say?
Opening Night 8 June
Lantana (Australia - dir: Ray Lawrence) Score: 2/5
Lantana: an Ordinary Weed.
Magnolia this ain't. At least that film prepared us for the premise of
co-incidence. This tries to be Short Cuts or Three Colours -
but it just lame.
I realise that Sydney is a small town and that people are likely to
each others' paths, but can things really be that incestuous?
on earth did the writer (Andrew Bovell) resist the temptation to tie all
the characters together? Couldn't Anthony La Paglia's son be getting
dope from Nik? Couldn't Russelll Dykstra's character (how wasted was
be the builder doing La Paglia's renovations. Actually, that was a nice
touch, the renovations in the background. That rang true.
A bunch of middle-aged people having sex or not having sex, and when
having sex, dancing salsa. Who could care less? It serves them right
living in Castlecrag.
I began to be disappointed after the first scene. The camera pans
a patch of Lantana. It is lush. The soundtrack is full of the sounds of
summer: cicadas evoke past days at the northern beaches. But the film
lives up to the promise. It goes on for too long, dwelling on
and people we never get to care about. What was Geoffrey Rush thinking?
And what was Barbara Hershey doing? Had she wandered onto Lawrence's
mistaking it for the set of a remake of George Romero's Day of the
(See The American Nightmare below).
Towards the end I kept looking at my watch thinking:how long can
go on? There were endless scenes of "denouement" but nothing
seemed to click. The cinematography was unremarkable. Even the music
the usually wonderful Paul Kelly) was ordinary. And , by the way, are
monkeys in Castlecrag? I'm sure I heard some on the overloud and
Saturday 9 June
Pie in the Sky: The Brigid Berlin Story (USA - dir: Vincent
& Shelly Dunn). Score: 4/5
Well, here's a coincidence. In Lantana, the last film I saw at the
there's a significant shop called Pie in the Sky. Huh!
This was a nicely-made, intimate doicumentary about an extraordinary
It was great to see so many of the people from Andy Warhol's Factory
old and a bit frail but still getting giggly about what they used to
up to. John Waters is a qreat stirrer. Bob Colacello is a very good
At one stage there's a great use of split screen. The camera work is
intimate. The crew is often visible in shot or in mirror, but Berlin
clearly comfortable with them, and the shaky cinema verité style
matched well with Berlin on film - both the home movies & Andy's
films. The final song says it all - Debra Harry sings 'All the Way'.
woman went - and is still going - all the way.
The American Nightmare (USA - dir: Adam Simon). Score:
Notes only: Tom Gunning from the University of Chicago talks about
being received as immortality when it was first seen, but really it
involves endless repetition. George Romero says he loved the idea of a
society devouring the old. And you can't help thinking of the civil
movement & lynching. Compare these horror moveies with Goya's
pictures of the napoleonic Wars. It's revelatory to think of Texas
Massacre in the context of both the Vietnam War and the 70s oil
Tobe Hooper says it relates to its time more than we remember now. Tom
says George's intention was to numb you to the violence (as he was
in Vietnam - and, incidentally, as Peckinpah tried to do in his films).
One of the great quotes it from Romero: "We all know were going to
die - so we are the living dead". And from David
Cronenberg: "If you don't think about it you have no control".
A particularly important film in the context of the resurgence of
But not a comprehensive film: only scant mention of feminism and the
My Generation (USA/ Italy/ Germany - dir: Barbara
What sort of film calls itself this and then doesn't play the song?
was more series of clips in search of a theme. Even the music was
There are no answers here, and not really too much in the way of
Was it really impossible to find out anything about Michael
and the profits made (or not made) by the producers? Come on, what
some investigatory journalism?
Sunday 10 June
Face (Japan - dir: Junji Sakamoto). Score: 3.5/5
Notes only: I really liked this film. There's a brilliant central
by ......and a series of transformations that is quite miraculous. All
happens to her and then she says she fell of a bike & her face
body got swollen up. They laugh & she says 'that's enough'.-Then:
off beat". "Who cares?" I finally got it . Its about rebirth!
Earlier when she.s trying to ride a bike the love hotel owner says
babbling- just practise.'
The Big Animal (Poland - dir: Jerzy Stuhr). Score 4.5/5
A delight from start to finish. One of those films I go to the Festival
hoping to see. Here is a parable about an outsider and the various
people can have to it. You can embrace it, reject it, or try to exploit
it. So many ideas are explored cleverly within this simple plot. There
so many beautiful (black and white) images that stay in the mind: Jerzy
Stuhr's character (the director played the lead) leading the camel for
walk - both had equally stately walks. And the scene with the
dealing with the petition against Zygmunt and his camel: "This is the
voice of the people'" says the head bureaucrat, "this is public
opinion. We must do something about it. That is, you must do
about it." And there's a particularly lovely use of the orchestra to
punctuate scenes. A beauty!
Gimme Shelter (USA- dir David & Albert Mayles,
Barbara Kopple could learn a thing or two about music-related
making from this film. It comes up beautifully after 32 years.
but always intelligent, and well cut to tell a tale, it is honest
to foreground the editing process itself. The Stones performance is as
as I remember it. And get that Melvin Belli! And there's Michael Lang
making (or not making) another buck. At this point, the theme of the
is emerging for me as "Exploitation."
Monday 11 June
A One and a Two (Taiwan/ Japan - dir: Edward Yang). Score
This film was everything that opening night film Lantana was
It is a film about how complicated life can be, and yet how simple.
the film, the little boy Yang Yang sees the clearest. He tries to help
by making simple observations of what is in front of him. For example,
observes that we can only see in front of us, but not what's behind,
concludes that this means we can only know half of the truth. We see
this is true when we see that the teacher mistakes balloons for condoms.
In this film, the people have great difficulty talking to each other,
though they almost live in each others' pockets. The daughter, Ting
her uncle and her father all talk to the Grandma, but only when she's
a coma. The father talks into his lost love's answering machine, saying
"I'm glad it's the machine, otherwise I'd be tongue tied," he
In a way, this is a Taiwanese Woody Allen movie. The relationships
the characters wotk the same way. But of course there is no Taiwanese
There is, however, a portrait of a clinically depressed woman - the
who turns to a religious cult for the answers).
The film starts with a wedding, ends with a funeral. Along the way we
a lot and learn several important lessons. For example, the mother
us: "Suddenly I realised that things aren't so complicated. How did
they ever seem so?" And the strange Japanese potential business-partner
reminds us that it is od for us to be afraid to try a new venture.
all, we aren't ever afraid to start a new day. And we never have the
This is a film that constantly surprises. There's even a nod to Bladerunner
towards the end (the origami).
The Lost World (USA- dir: Harry O Hoyt, 1925). Score 5/5!
Another delightful film in a restored print. I'd seen it before in a
studies course, but it was just so good to see it again with a live
(piano, bass sax, clarinet and guitar). Funny and frightening, and the
audience really seemed to respect the film for once!
The Circle (Iran/ Italy - dir: Jafah Panahi). Score 4.5/5
From the stunning opening sequence of a screaming woman being comforted
by other women to the bleak conclusion, this film stunned, shocked,
and fascinated. It is a much more polished product than I have seen
Panahi before this, and the structure is superb. I was struck by
with Max Ophul's masterpiece La Ronde (the name of which film
uncomfortably close to The Circle . Both films deal with a
related circle of fate. This is such an important film!
Tuesday 12 June
Platform (China - dir: Jia Zhang-ke) Score 2.5/5
This is quite a monumental film in terms of the amount of time and the
ground it covers. But unfortunately because of this breadth it is very
to connect with, care about, or even follow the progress of the
Still there is plenty to think about in terms of the difficulty of the
people adjusting to change in the years of the film (1979-90).It seems
those who stayed with the theatre troupe stayed caught in permanent
while, paradoxically, those who left the troupe seemed to move on.
The Night the Prowler (Australia - dir: Jim Sharman)
Jim Sharman introduced the film by saying that his film went against
grain of the films being made at the time - that it was a tough little
and most unlike the self-important self -pitying films of the time
I venture to say, still being made." (This made me think of Lantana).
He also quoted Patrick White in The Solid Mandala (quoting
else): "There is another world - but it is in this world."
Two of the lines that I particularly liked were: the old man asks for
"no rats & an easy pee," and Kerry Walker's character says
. "I knew him as I know myself". Kerry Walker is amazing in her
debut film performance.
This is not a fabulous film, but it is intelligent, funny, ambitious,
and has a great script. Are we still making films in Australia with
qualities? Are we?
Before Night Falls (USA - dir: Julian Schnabel) Score 3/5
This movie seduced me, but on reflection I realise that its charms are
It's a problematic film. There's much to like visually, and in the
of the poems and writings themselves. It is interesting when it
the role of the artist: "All artists are counter-revolutionary,"
says the older writer. "A dictator cannot govern the territory called
beauty -so he must extinguish it." And there are a few fabulous
(in the prison, the balloon inside the Church, all the scenes with
Depp, the upside-down landscape seen from the balloon , and the snow in
NYC. But the personal relationships weren't there. Who did Reinaldo
Who loved him? I think the problem stemmed from the early scenes. Did
love his mother? Did she love him? Who knows? Who was everybody? There
just too much to tell, so the director achieved no depth of feeling. So
finally, I was only moved by the poetry, and not the film.
And then there's Sean Penn's accent (too good) & teeth (too bad)!
only Johnny Depp had played Reinaldo.
Wednesday 13 June
The Confusion of Genders (France - dir: Ilan Duran
The director, Duran Cohen said in his introduction that in French the
reads as a pun: The Confusion of Genres as well as Genders.
And so he asks: is it a comedy or drama?
This film has a great black comedy script deals very directly with sex.
I like particularly the scene where Alain's boss, Laurence, is shot
from the legs up. It is frank, not prurient, and mostly it is the men
are nude. There's also lots of lovely male kissing (quite rare in
film, I think. The Director also said in his intro that he thought it
important to show the sex scenes & nudity.
These people are as confused a bunch as you'd ever find. 'Love is a
' says Laurence. 'Doubt is death.' I had to laugh when Alain, a lawyer,
said "Curse this job. There's no time for love." But actually
he spends nearly all his time making or chasing love. He's not a very
"You can have everything," says Christophe. 'You can't have everything"
says Laurence. "Pretty or practical - you have to choose," says
the older prisoner. (He's talking about Babette's machine washable
but we know what he means). What is authentic? What is good? Is it the
Do we have to choose? Can we control everything? Is what we want good
us? These people don't want to choose, and the director seems to be
that they may not have to, if they are very, very careful.
Pascal Greggory as Alain, the lead character, is great as a man in a
confusion. So is the actress who played Babette. The director said that
the hard thing was to find the tone of the acting. "I always had them
acting on the edge - it was neither comedy nor drama," he said. "When
you make a movie about confusion, you must be very clear about what you
want." However I do think that the scenes in the gaol were not
There it seemed he was going for drama, and it didn't ring true. It was
too serious a situation to laugh around.
In July (Germany - dir: Fatih Akin). Score 4/5
This is a fun comedy: trying for screwball, but not trying too hard. It
is well-balanced, well-written and directed with a light touch. When
end-credits came up, I realised how much I cared about each person.
film nods in the direction of the great screwball comedies like Bringing
up Baby, and even shares a plot device with the romances Love Affair
and An Affair to Remember, but is prepared to be itself. Moritz
is quite charming as Daniel, a lovable nerd. And Christiane Paul is
as Juli. They go well together. Sample dialogue: Juli: "We could steal
a car." Daniel: "But were the good guys, we don't steal cars."
Juli: "We could steal a bad guy's car." Nicely judged romantic
Promises (USA - dir: Justine Shapiro, BZ Goldberg).. Score 4/5
A well-made documentary, covering the period 1997-2000 in Jerusalem. It
is initially charming and important, but I wonder if the directors just
wanted to make themselves feel better. Will their film change anything?
Perhaps we'll find out when it plays at the Jerusalem Film Festival in
2001. I can't help thinking that it is a bit suspect to use children in
this way. And I find it chilling that the kids could not continue to
after the film. That depressed me, so much so that I couldn't (and
can't) understand why the film is called Promises, unless they
only broken ones. And here's another depressing quote which was funny
I first heard it in the film: "There's another problem," says
the Arab boy Mahmoud (who said he didn't want to meet a Jewish boy, and
was reminded by the director, BZ that he , BZ, was a Jewish
"I'm talking about AUTHENTIC Jews." says Mahmoud. Hmmm...
Thursday 14 June
(Notes for Thursday only - to be updated)
Joint Security Area (JSA) (Korea- dir: Chan-Wook Park).
Cf The letter's beginning. Dour ultimate goal is to remain perfectly
Great minefield scene- wheat field in wind. No communication between N
S - 'I could be executed for what I just did. Next scene they meet in
- beautiful! Later scene 'Your shadow's over the line. Watch it.'
important in battle isn't speed. Its composure & bravery'.
We don't know any secrets' I didn't get all the detail , but who does
a good complex plot.?
A great thriller well told. Well structured & final scene was
moving as the soldiers in the photo are all the protagonists.
Me You Them (Brazil - dir: Andrucha Waddington). Score
She rides away pregnant on a donkey like the Virgin & goes to a
& sits under a cross waiting at the altar.
'Cuckold!' says Raquel, the sister after Ciro's son was born. but all
made him do was to give the kids a name. After all, several times in
film someone said that people will talk and someone answered 'Who will
Way out here? And what will they say? So even if they aren't talking,
Needs to contribute his name to the arrangement. Beautiful visually,
music (and use of music). Cf A Confusion of Genders where such
state of affairs causes grief. But Darlene is not in the least
And she's happy. She works hard & she's a good mother (after having
to give one away - which she'll never do again). Sg she deserves to
Facing the Music (Australia - dir: Bob Connelly and
Anderson). Score 3.5/5
Are there any box students who play? Only one boy doing entrance exams.
Anne Boyd goes in the back door to the uni to the 1st day strike.
Anne - so they're giving more lessons & not getting paid for it?
Ann - isn't that wonderful?
Admin - yes Ann, but it is not fair'
shot 160hrs of videotape & used 90mins. Shot every one of the 40-50
lunchtime student concert. Also filmed Anne's 1st year lecture on the
Friday 15 June
(Notes for Friday only - to be updated)
Last Resort (UK - dir: Pawel Pawlikowski). Score 4.5/5
A good sense of confusion established quickly. In the scene by the fire
the director takes us into the embrace & so into he relationship.
Considine plays a similar role to that he played in .....-but it is
Korzun who really impresses. The actor who plays her son is also
One really despairs for his future if he were to remain in this 'Armpit
of the universe' (Stonehaven - actually Margate)
Jungle Jazz: Public Enemy #1 (short) (USA - dir: Frank
"Created & directed by Frank Fitzpatrick". What a hide! He's
just another white man profiting from the talents of black people. It's
like an ad man's take on a short film. 2nd hand ideas (cf Reefer
And to have the nerve to dice their music & compose & play his
over their images. Outrageous! And careless spelling on the graphics:
Southern Comfort (USA - dir: Kate Davis). Score 4/5
'The cruel irony is that the only part of me that's still female is
killin' me. 'Nature delights in diversity. Why can't human beings?'
You Can Count on Me (USA - dir: Kenneth Lonergan). Score
you remember what we always used to say to each other? Then
St Matthew's Passion - I'll be all right comparatively.
Saturday 16 June
(Notes for Saturday only - to be updated)
When Brendan met Trudy (UK/Ireland - dir: Kieron J Walsh).
Sunset Boulevard -A Bout de Souffle (poster) The Quiet Man The man who
Q& A - How he met Roddy Doyle. Made a TV program with Roddy Doyle .
Stanley Kubrick said 'making a film is like writing a novel in a bumper
Pieces of my wife (short) (France- dir: Frederic Pelle).
Under the Sand (France - dir: Francois Ozon) Score 4.5/5
- a tray with 2 cups
when she has sex with Vincent she thinks she's killed her husband
had a different DP for Summer & winter. Spelling- Malher!
Sunday 17 June
Pellet (Spain - dir: Achero Manas). Score 4.5/5
What a debut feature! This film had me from the 1st scene with the
train. It immediately established the scene and presented sharp
the dangerous game the kids play. The film cleverly doesn't show the
at first, but when it is shown I think on balance it is warranted -
I wonder if it could have been left out completely (I couldn't watch).
Another thing I liked about this film was the balance of the 2
The head of one family has a questionable profession as tattooist
up your tattoo," advises Jose's friend when he goes to see Pablo's
father). The music was excellent. And when you realise the poignance of
the echoing of the marks on Pablo's back from his beatings vs the
marks that Jose gives his son out of love and in the name of beauty -
it just breaks your heart. The film also raises the important issue of
difficulty of acting to intervene in the family. But, as Jose finally
'I'm not thinking of myself, I'm thinking of the kid."
Lost and Delirious (Canada - dir: Lea Pool). Score 3/5
The problem with this film , beautiful as it might be, is that it is
not believable. The girls are too poised, too old and too beautiful and
there's no texture here - no truth. No one teases the girls - it is
as if there are no other girls (it compares unfavourably with Pellet
here where the kids at school are a real presence and they all know
what goes on). The film is very MTV in style - for example, Paula cries
on a balcony to a whole song. There are too many ideas in the script-
makes me ask: was it from a first novel? The idea of a girl called
and a girl who calls herself Raptor - it was all too much. It is set in
a very lax school which seems to allow its students to go out at night
they want. There were too many problems and not enough attention from
teachers. Still, there were good central performances. But, really,
all those beautiful girls (and no fat or spotty ones) it was just a bit
too soft-core porn-like for me.
Calle 41 (France/ Spain - dir:Fernando Trueba). Score
Trueba has lined up a marvellous array of Latin Jazz artists, and
them beautifully. We see Michel Camilo (doing "Betty talking to Liz")
. Chucho Valdes burning up the piano, Chico O'Farrill (doing his Afro
Suite), and a reuniting of Chucho with his father Bebo Valdes. There's
Barbieri, and Andy Gonzales on bass. I must get the CD (on Lola
ASAP. So it is a real feast - and what a treasure the footage with Tito
Puente is! But as a film, it is simply a smorgasbord of jazz chosen by
the director. It is not a moving film in the way that Buena Vista
Monday 18 June
Aparajito (India - dir: Satyajit Ray). Score 5/5
According to the introduction given by David Stratton, Ray had
script called The Alien which Columbia said it would finance if
liked the script Ray wrote and if Peter Sellers could star. Amazingly,
was open to the idea but hadn't seen Sellers act. So David set up a
of The Party for Ray during the 1968 Sydney Film Festival. Ray
horrified. The film was never made by Ray, but Ray claimed that, years
later, Speilberg's ET was made from his original script!
Ray's own father died when he was 3. Ray wanted in this film (Part 2 of
the Apu Trilogy) to reflect the relationship he had with his mother.
the finished product did have some technical deficiencies - especially
soundtrack - which embarrassed Ray. Nevertheless, it won the Golden
at Venice, and over the films of directors which Ray admired, like
and Antonioni. In this film the Roy family has moved to the holy city
Benares on the Ganges.
There are some shots in this film that you will remember forever. When
the father dies, he lurches upwards and flocks of pigeons fly
above the Ganges (symbolising, for me at least, the flight of his soul
Paradise). When Apu is offered the scholarship he shows his mother the
his headmaster gave him, and asks "Do you know what this is?"
There are many shots of figures framed in doorways (which I can only
as a nod to John Ford) . In particular, there's the figure of Apu's
in the doorway as Apu leaves to continue his studies in Calcutta, for
representing the old India which Apu leaves behind in favour of a move
the city and the rest of the new world.
The stately pacing of this film is all the more remarkable for the fact
that somehow, without you noticing, Ray is able to construct a
which reflects nothing more or less than the ups and downs of life
Silent Partner (Australia - dir: Alkinos Tsilimidos).
This is a remarkable little Australian film (which the emphasis on
It was shot in 7 days, and cut in 3 months in the actors' loungeroom.
shooting budget was $13,500 to the rough cut (plus $500,000
The kitchen in the film is the actors' real kitchen!
It has a nice and unusual opening scene - speeded up action at the dog
but with the 2 blokes (the protagonists) frozen in time looking up. "I
dunno. Go with what you feel" is their betting strategy. "People
are just like dogs. They run around a track chasing the bunny" is one
of the messages of the film. It is quite funny, reasonably well-made
the limitations, and even opened out reasonably well so that even
it comes from a play, it is not too stagy. However, it missed some
opportunities. Paul Kelly contributed the music, which is reasonably
but I always wonder why Kelly's film efforts seem so lazy. He uses his
song "Be careful what you pray for" over the titles.
Maelstrom (Canada - dir: Denis Villeneuve). Score 4/5
I had been waiting all festival for a film like this: a film that
the boundaries of feature film making, that didn't give up its secrets
easily, that wasn't too accessible and that tried to do something
different. This was it.
It's a story told by a (series of) dying fish . The first half is
a bunch of fish & blood. It begins with graphic scenes of an
abortion. And a young woman whose abortion is one of a series of
setbacks. But although
the subject-matter is grim, the script is funny too. When Bibiane is
by a journalist from a magazine called "Future", she is asked
about her sexuality: "Are we talking about ass or business?" asks
Bibiane "Ass", replies the business interviewer. There is much
coincidence in this film. In one scene the two girls order octopus for
lunch (as usual), but this time it is tough, because the restaurant's
employee didn't show up to choose it - he's the dead Norwegian that
hit with her car. Her foetus is cremated in the same sort of box as the
ashes of the dead man. All in all I can only agree with a comment made
a young girl in the audience: "An intersection of such interesting
things," she said. And the music was great: Grieg, Charles Aznavour
(Les Deux Guitars, among other favourites) & Tom Waites! What a