51st Sydney Film Festival 2004

(These reviews are copyright. You must not use any part of them without my permission.)

* If you arrived here after a search, scroll down to the film you were looking for.

Opening Night, Friday 11 June

In My Father’s Den – New Zealand. UK – Dir: Brad McGann
Rated 2/5
A tedious and predictable film from New Zealand (Why?  Oh why?).  
Good cinematography doesn’t make a film.  Nor did the chosen cutting style make the film intelligible.  And a Patti Smyth soundtrack can't make your film cool.

The ostrich farming scenes could have been a hoot – but then they have already been done par excellence in Paolo Verzi’s 1994 film Kisses and Hugs (2004 Singapore Film Festival).

A very confused script, I thought.  “I’d rather be a no one somewhere than a someone nowhere” says our heroine, Celia.  Really?  Isn’t that backwards?  And is it possible to “withdraw” a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize?  I must check, but that seems wrong to me.
Still, I was pleased to see that Celia’s story was accepted by the Otago Daily Times (popularly known as “The Oddity”.  It’s full of bizarre stuff like the fire brigade called to put out a fire in a bicycle helmet (a front page story - no kidding).  She’s in good company.

I thanked God for the female detective from CIB Wellington, but she only had one scene.  She was the only interesting character in the movie.

Saturday 12 June
Bukowski: Born into This – USA – Dir: John Dullaghan
Rated 3/5
Marred by almost unwatchable b & w footage from a1976 documentary, so blurred I wanted to get new glasses.  A pretty competent documentary with good footage in terms of content, and some good (and some laughably bad) interview material.  Very sensitive use of Bukowski texts.  I was surprised to learn he lived in
B lived in Delongpre Avenue in Hollywood (near a friend of mine)

Greendale – USA – Dir: “Bernard Shakey” (ie Neil Young)
Rated 4.5/5
Is this the new version of a concept album? It’s like an extended music video. There’s a great 1st song 'A Little Love & Affection.'

The film is in many parts, and they are not in order.  It starts at Part III (which is said to be set “recently”). Then IV, V, 1 (Leave the Driving), then 2 then V (again?),VII, VIII, XI (Sun Green), XII (Be the Rain).

Neil Young directed, under the non de plume “Bernard Shakey” but he credits himself as “Director of Photography”.  But the film is not so much Shakey as Blurry.  In fact, it’s actually well shot – the shots are well-framed & -chosen.

All the characters mime to Neil Young and the band singing and playing and I love the miming! “Grandpa died a hero fighting for the right of silence. Trying to stop the media. Trying to be anonymous.” Granddaughter Sun Green gets to sing with a megaphone: “Mr Clean you're dirty now.”

It really rocks!  Baz Luhrmann tried to re-invent the musical (as did Lars von Trier) but I think Neil Young might have actually done it!  He goes a little over-the-top, hippy-dippy at times, but then again, that’s what we love about him.

Hero – Hong Kong/ China – Dir: Zhang Yimou
Rated – 5/5
A truly wonderful film. Zhang Yimou shows Tarantino how it’s done, and Ang Lee will learn a thing or two as well.

Zhang shows the consequences of sword play.  Swords bend and break, arms jar.  Slow motion is used in such a creative and stunningly beautiful way to shoe the process of the fighting. People dance and die  We learn the relationship of swordplay & music, swordplay & calligraphy.

The cinematography is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, and the raindrops being hit by swords are worth the price of admission alone.

The script’s terrific too:
“Only the dead man knows that the warrior’s ultimate aim is to lay down his sword”
“Even now, when the Chinese speak of their country they call it ‘Our Land’”.  All this and stunning music by Tan Dun.
Amazing tale of brinkmanship.  See it at all costs!

Tupac: Resurrection – USA – Dir: Lauren Lazin
Rated – 3/5
I had no idea there was so much footage of Tupac, who died at 25 or so.  He seems to have been incredibly talented and articulate, and intelligent and charming too.

Tupac says: “I didn't bring thug life to America - I diagnosed it”.
He’s a curious mixture of the knowing & the naive.

The film is a bit of a hagiography, and some of the musician choices are a bit odd: Don McLean’s “Vincent”?  But then again, Tupac did discuss it.

Competent enough, but could perhaps have done with more editorial distance.  Amazingly it is Tupac who narrates his own story.  In this age of multi-media, there were many hours of interviews to choose from.

Festival Express – Canada – Dir: Bob Smeaton
Rated - 3.5/5
An interesting documentary about a series of concerts in Canada, which the performers reached by a long train journey from venue to venue.  Of course the journey was more fun for the performers that the concerts, and this was just after Woodstock so the audience got the idea they should get in without paying!

Some great Concert footage – particularly of The Band, and the film ends with an explosive performance by Janis Joplin, doing “Tell Mamma”.  Now I know what everyone saw in her!

The film ends abruptly, and there’s no explanation.  Did the promoters pull the plug after all?  I’d love to know.

Sunday 13 June

Aaltra – Belgium – Dir: Benoit Delépine, Gustave Kerven
Rated - 4/5
A very black comedy that owes a little to Aki Kurasmaki (and he has a cameo) and a little to Jaques Tati. It starts black and ends blacker than black, with many dips into absurdity and an assured visual style (B & W cinemascope, but very grainy).  I loved the doubling at the beginning that sets the story up nicely. Some will find bits drag, but I didn’t.  I liked the way the film took its time and built up to an appalling payoff. Another film that shows that tough guys (even Bukowski) can cry. Highlights:
-  a pair of ambulance drivers having a one-sided conversation in a bar,
- a punk band whose  audience looks and acts same as the band,
-  “It’s people like you who give people in f…ing wheelchairs a f…ing bad name”,
- A motocross fan & his son, each with a beer, quoting absurd statistics about motocross,
-  a woman carpet-sweeping cobblestones,
The Valtra/ Aaltra confusion: very Tati as it went on and on and on.
Marred by subtitles that were occasionally impossible to read, but even that melted away as the film roamed through French, Flemish, English and Finnish.

L’Eclisse – Italy – Dir: Michelangelo Antonioni
Rated – 6/5 (not a misprint)
A masterpiece.  A work of genius. Full of intelligence, spirit, playfulness, beauty, majesty and mystery.  As fresh today as it must have been in 1962.  How could Antonioni make the landscape look like it could be another planet, even in 2004 when we are so familiar with “modernity”? And I love a movie with a credit for “architect”.

Such a pleasure to see it at the Sat Theatre with a full house, loving every minute.  Delon and Vitti are magnificent. The scenes in the Rome Stack Exchange are unforgettable.  It is like 50 movies in one.  It is like a diamond, whose every facet is dazzling.

Coffee and Cigarettes – USA – Dir: Jim Jarmusch
Rated – 3/5
Disappointing in many respects.  Just because you have cool people in  a movie doesn’t make the movie work (see In My Father’s Den & Patti Smyth).  The professional actors show everyone else why they’re the pros.  Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan blast everyone else off the screen.  Cate Blanchett and Bill Murray show they have the right stuff.  Meg White, go home and practise your drumming.

The cinematographers do very little that I could detect to distinguish the one from the other.  A little film.  Some clever ideas but if anyone other than Jarmusch had made it…it might have sunk without a trace.

Monday 14 June
Suite Havana – Spain/ Cuba – Dir: Fernando Pérez
Rated 4/5
An extraordinary film that defies categorisation.  It starts off as an anti-travelogue, and later becomes a bit of a travelogue.  At times it is utterly natural and at other times it is staged – and beautifully so.  It resists the use of music for so long that when it comes (in a song called “Mariposa”) it is incredibly moving.  It follows a number of Havana residents: Franclsquito (a small boy), Ivan (30), Norma (grandmother) (70), Waldo (grandfather) (71), Heriberto (40), Amanda (79), Raquel(43), Jorge Luis (42) Ernesto (20), Caridad (70), Julio (67), Natlvldad (97), Ines (69), and at the end reveals something wonderful (and some things sad) about them.

It seems that Havana has always been sentimentalised in film. But this film is not sentimental or romantic, until the very end – except for maybe the odd burst of music.
It begins to look like a film about the modern thriving building site of Havana: noisy & dirty.  The it switches to an expected  view of the lovely bottoms of Havana girls and the way men go for them – to the accompaniment of a pressure-cooker!  There’s a funny mix of Catholic faith & fortune-telling:  “How's that for assimilation?” asked my friend Keith.
When Jorge Luis goes to Miami, it becomes a treatise against ever leaving Havana.  His plane leaving is juxtaposed with a kids party where the kids pull a Cuban flag out of a hat!.

Young Ernesto is posed beautifully next to a  picture of Che Guevara. Others have a kind of vigil next to a statue of John Lennon(!) in park
A car stops for Ernesto hitchhiking - but then he pays the driver.  Really old people watching the Revolution on TV. An awful lot of ironing & bathing goes on.  And there’s obvious post-synching, but it doesn’t intrude too much.

The first traditional Cuban music takes 2 hours to come in (at sunset- and it’s about a sunset, but “Mariposa” is also slang for “gay”). Ernesto puts on makeup and he's a ballet dancer at night.

It’s the Secret Lives of the Habaneras!  One dances, one plays sax, one paints, one is a clown, one is a cross-dressing performer.

All in all, it’s a lovely & moving symphony of pictures & sounds.

The Far Side of the Moon – Canada – Dir: Robert Lepage
Rated – 4/5
According to the gentleman from Canada (I missed his name) who introduced the film, Robert Lepage is the poet of uncertainty.  He is concerned with connecting the intimate with the infinite.

I saw the play when it played at the Sydney festival a couple of years back.  From the moment the film opens, I remembered how I felt at that time that cinema would be the perfect vehicle for the play.

Robert Lepage has such an original approach that this film was wonderful in many respects. There were great segues between  scenes: a space capsule turned into to a front-loading washing machine; a fishbowl turned into a space view of planet Earth; high-heeled shoes turned into a mother’s legs in the 1950s; a pregnant belly turned into Cosmonauts space walking attached by a cord to the capsule; a thermos, a tube of potato-chips, a salt shaker & a pen become a space rocket; going through a bookcase (the “wall of shame”) in a stuck lift to get back into the children’s bedroom. Their night sky patterned wallpaper becomes the moon.

Some of the terrific lines included:
“You can't reconcile if you harbour bitterness” says Lepage’s character, Philippe.  And later “I speak loudly but I am not ridiculous”.
When Philippe finds that his elderly and ill mother had killed herself by drinking water, he’s confused, and tells the Doctor:
“Nothing was ever mentioned.”
“Maybe you did not listen,” says the Doctor
Philippe asks (in an absolutely wonderful scene in a bar, talking to the uninterested bartender, how Cosmonaut Leonov could reconcile the infinite (that he experienced in space) with the banal aspects of everyday life. This,, he says, is what he is interested in. And this is what the film is about.
Philippe’s brother finds out that Philippe has won a contest to have his video shot into space, he declares: “You say no one listens to you - now the whole  cosmos will.

The music was completely different from the music in the play, but very beautiful.  A couple of disappointing aspects, though:  André, Philippe’s brother (also played by Lepage) was a very unconvincing gay weatherman – I don’t recall this from the play – and this is odd in that Lepage himself is gay.  I also didn’t believe the character of Carl, André’s lover.  And the whole thing about missing the lecture in Moscow didn’t ring true – even though I think it did I the play.

Some of the magic of the theatrical version was missing for me.  That’s why this isn’t scoring higher.  Having said that, it’s still a marvellous experience.

La Notte – Italy – Dir: Michelangelo Antonioni
Rated 4.5/5
In the introduction, by Antonioni scholar Rolando Caputo, we learned that the only Antonioni film not screening at the festival is The passenger.  Caputo thinks that this is because Jack Nicholson, who  owns rights to The Passenger (he bought them from MGM, which didn’t know what to do with the film), may be waiting for 30th anniversary – next year – to do something with the film.

La Notte is the middle part of Monica Vitti trilogy. It shows 24 hours in the life of a bourgeois marriage. Nothing of great drama occurs. It explores Jean Moreau’s character much more than Mastroianni’s character.

'Eros is sick',  Antonloni famously said.  He meant that something has gone wrong with the way we express love and desire.  Caputo told us to watch the way characters move & walk, watch especially the spatial dynamics.  He was right.

The opening shot has a beautiful & old building next to a brand new modern one.  We descend to the ground in a glass lift. A ridiculous  traffic jam  fulfils same function as  the Rome Stock Exchange did in L’Eclisse.  There’s the obligatory  crane, and a helicopter and planes fly noisily overhead. Jeanne Moreau wanders the streets, almost getting into trouble.  the big white tiled wall. She passes many people: a crying  baby, an old lady, a pair of laughing men, a man eating. Sirens wail. Streets are almost deserted at times and at other times a crowd throngs.  She foolishly interferes with a crowd of men fighting, then runs away.  She passes a huge blank wall and pauses, and she’s dwarfed: it’s as if the wall is a screen and the movie is about to start.  It doesn’t.

As in L’Eclisse, there’s an odd scene involving blacks dancing.  Last time it was Monica Vitti pretending to be black.  This time it’s an adagio act in a night club.  A curious dance involving balancing a glass of red wine.  Body and mind-bending!

Then there’s the most extraordinary part scene I have seen since The Party!  It goes on all night, and at the end, Marcello has fallen for Monica Vitti and Jeanne doesn’t care:  You two have worn me out”, says Monica.  Indeed!

Finally Jeanne reads beautiful love poem to Marcello, who doesn’t recognise it as his own to Jeanne.  It’s an appalling moment.  He tries to make love to her, but she’s adamant:
“No.  I don't love you any more.
“Don't say it”, protests Marcello.
“And you don't love me any more”, says Jeanne. “Say it.  Say lt.”

Time Out’s review of La Notte says that they don’t make movies like this any more – not even Antonioni – and they mean it in a critical way.  Well I say: maybe they should.  I didn’t love this as much as I love L’Eclisse, but it is part of the canon, and it had much to say to me.  But even apart from the ideas, the execution is sublime!

Tuesday 15 June

The Nomi Song – Germany – Dir: Andrew Horn
Rated 4.5/5
A really intriguing and stylishly made documentary about a man I’d never heard of, but want to know more about.

Klaus Nomi came to New York at a wonderfully creative, and at the same time (in retrospect) quite innocent time.  People were stunned by him: they didn’t know what to think.  A friend explains what he thought at the time: 'What is this? Does it mean anything..? Is it art? Is he crazy?”  Love that reaction!

Klaus Nomi was Klaus Sperber, a German who came to New York to live.  Had a lovely tenor voice, and his voice teacher found his wonderful falsetto voice.  But in those days no countertenor career was possible. What could he do? He could work up an act – and so he did.

A friend got them. into Electric Lady Studios & they laid down tracks clandestinely at night! The chief engineer, Ron Johnson, saw Klaus and decided he had to “get in on it”.  He became Klaus' manager.

One of the friends who became part of Klaus’s act said (and again I love this: “It seemed at the time to be extremely the right thing to be doing”.  He even got to do a show in the window of Fiorucci, the hip store at that time. An artist designed a gorgeous big “Nomi N” with a door for him to come through.

A journalist who interviewed him several tines and followed his career said his reaction was- “This is art - and you are not”.

A photographer says -Klaus was just “camera ready”, and “renders himself into black & white… he’s chemically treated so as to be black & white”.

Klaus and his band actually ended up backing Bowie on Saturday Night Live.  Bowie had a copy of a Tristan Zara costume from the 30s. Klaus had a stylised tuxedo made after working with Bowie.  But he didn’t make it as big as he’d hoped:
“What are you guys doing?’ he asked his band and collaborators, “I should de famous already”.

Tragically, when he made his 2 LPs, he “signed away a lot more than he probably should have”.  He has a movie offer – the magnificently titled “Urgh. A Music War”.

Director Horn has amassed great footage (if a little grainy and deteriorated and amateurishly shot, but it’s amazing that there’s any at all.  He’s got a great bunch of people together to interview, and he’s got them to say fabulous and sometimes contradictory thing.  It’s so well put together that you get a great feel for the life and times of Klaus Nomi and you wish you had been there to see it all.
The film ends with a great quote from singer Richard Hell, along the lines of: “This is the ultimate message of the New Wave. If you have courage you can totally invent yourself”.

Hear hear!

Baadasssss! – USA – Dir: Mario Van Peebles
Rated 2.5/5
After a very stylish & economical beginning, the film meanders through the process of making the film “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song”.  But the film falters along the way. It’s at its best when it is showing the process of film making, and at its worst when it is preaching about the way blacks were portrayed in film, romanticising the porn industry – we’ve already seen that it “Boogie Nights” – tell us something true, and reminiscing about the director’s childhood pains and disappointments.

Van Peebles the younger cheats a bit with the excerpts he chooses to show black exploitation (as opposed to Blaxploitation) The excerpt of James Edwards being called “nigger” in “Home of the Brave” is taken out of context and belittles the film.  And the scene with Adam West as a predatory financier seemed silly and gratuitous as the proposed financier. Also Sally Struthers & the her husband Van Peebles’ agent were overdone and not particularly believable.

There are some very funny moments, though: after Van Peebles senior is seen climbing a rope (still with his cigar firmly clenched in his teeth), he remarks that he should have known better than to make that climb - considering black folk’s history with ropes. I’ve gotta be the 1st nlgga to have hung hls self” he says.

There’s also some good advice for film makers: When Melvin runs into Bill Cosby at a screening, Bill tells him: “they (whites) get 3 strikes. We only get1”.  And later, when they can’t get the film distributed,  someone says: We were so busy thinking about bringing the message to the public, we didn’t think about whether the public wanted the message”.

Bill Cosby says “They say ‘follow your dream’, but the 1st thing that happens is you wake up”.

The film suffers from some stereotyping and repetition. After “Boogie Nights” all porn producers are pussycats. The focus was a bit too much on Mario.  And it is not a good sign when the real people (who come on at the end) are more interesting that the actors who played them throughout the movie.   In summary, it’s fun, but not brilliant.  It seems to be a very accurate portrayal of a chaotic film set, and so is undeniably a dynamic film.

The Corporation – Canada – Dir: Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott, Joel Bakan
Rated 2/5
This film will open theatrically in Sydney on Sept 2, 2004.

These are rough notes to be tided up ASAP:
This film did not have nearly enough intellectual rigor for me. It was ill-disciplined in several ways – particularly in its organisation.

“150 years ago, the corporation was a relatively insignificant organisation” - true? Who are the talking quotes? US original corporations were limited by Charter- they had to serve public good A corporation being a person cuts both ways (MMA):  Criminal law too.
Not concerned ONLY for short term profit (Noam Chomsky).
Personality diagnostic  checklist is totally one-sided. Inability to maintain relationships.
Door work practises, exploiting labour, toxic chemicals. Multinational Monitor tracks Multinational corps and criminal fines - Hoffman Laroche US 500m fine antitrust
Carlton Brown commodities trader, his clients were in gold at9/11 and doubled their money. In devastation there is opportunity.
Initiative Media buying media . Largest in US & world.
Disney calls itself “Touchstone”
Undercover Marketing - does it exist? Sounds stupid.
Monsanto .& bovine growth hormone. They got it on paper the Fox offer for them to shut it up.
Then they went back & reedited 83 times. Trying to fire them. The headings make no sense, the structure is bad & it is long & boring. ...who can hold them accountable? Robert Benson of UCLA Law School calls for revocation of corporate charter of UN0CAL. A-G of California refused, but acknowledged that it had the power.
Cheap use of Michael Moore doco material
.Michael Moore rightly points out that the Corp doesn't believe in anything. It just wants to make money. The rich man will sell you the rope to hang yourself 1himself)?
Q& A- 80pc taxpayer funded.
Much of the copyright material used under fair use

The Sentimental Bloke – Australia – Dir: Raymond Longford
Rated 5/5
What a classic film!  It feels fresh and funny and it makes you proud!  Raymond Longford had such a light touch!  The timing was excellent, and the way he expanded on CJ Dennis’ verse is just extraordinary.  No wonder Dennis said that after seeing the film he “came away almost believing in miracles”.

The two central performances are excellently judged.  Arthur Tauchert as “Bill”, the Bloke, is  subtle, funny and touching.  Perfectly pitched.  And Lottie Lyell is strong and winning as Doreen.  And just when we need him, Uncle Jim comes along to lift the picture again.

It was fun spotting all the Sydney locations:  the Botanical Gardens, Manly, parts of Woolloomooloo and maybe bits of Annandale and was that St Mark’s Darling Point?

The musical accompaniment was lively and tuneful and not too sentimental or “old hat”.  The only think I didn’t like was when they sang words, since it distracted from the intertitles.

The time just flew by.  It was another fabulous silent film experience at the Festival.

Wednesday 16 June

Goodbye Dragon Inn – Taiwan – Dir: Tsai Ming-liang
Rated 4/5
These are just rough notes to be fixed ASAP…
A big beautiful movie fanfare to begin  A huge contrast from beautiful mystic short. (“We Have Decided Not to Die”: which was very good – a little bit Kubrick a bit Barney.)
Lovely rich but faded colour.
“I don't want to be rude but may I ask a question? You come to this wilderness for what purpose?”
More people in the toilet than in the theatre .
Could there. be any more steps?
He really holds the shots a long time. Especially in the men’s toilet.
Beautiful cutting from female warrior to disabled girl behind the screen with pinpoints of light from spiral staircase (more stairs!) projected onto her face.
.the. only dialogue  comes from the film .showing.
The projectionist’s not interested in her pork bun.
'Do you know this theatre is haunted?.. Ghosts' says smoking guy (projectionist?).
'I am Japanese. Sayonara'
Does he think the girl is a ghost?. She seems to disappear.& reappear After she sweeps up (stairs). He holds on the empty theatre  for ages. The audience gets to play its part.
Teacher  came to see pupil’s movie..
Tremendous sense of place. Strong rainstorm & song 'Can't let go' - song from 1466s.....
The perfect festival film. Has to be seen in a cinema with an audience.

The Return – Russia – Dir: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Rated – 4.5/5
The film starts with a plunge into the sea, by Andrei (played by the teenage Vladimir Garin).  It is painfully ironic, since Garin died a year after making the film, drowned in lake near where the film was shot.

The film is one of the most beautiful-looking films to come out of Russia.  It was shot during the “White Nights” that happen at the height of Summer in the area round St Petersberg – I was lucky enough to experience them there in 1993.  It’s like a magic hour that lasts all evening.  Must be heaven for a cinematographer.

A father returns to his family – wife and 2 teenage sons. “Where did he come from?” asks the younger brother, Ivan.  “He just came'” answers Andrei, and later their mother.  But Andrei’s not convinced: “How do I know it’s our Dad?” he asks,  “He could slit our throats in the night.”

But dad doesn’t know how to be a Dad, and the kids, particularly Andrei, are struggling .  The father just gives orders and never explains anything.

As he is rowed to the island  buy his sons, the father looks a sinister character, hooded and strange.  This is how the kids see him.  Andrei is angry, and his ager leads to tragedy,

This film had me on the edge of my seat nearly all the way, and at the end filled me with sorrow, pain and mystery.  A terrific piece of work.

Nothing – Canada – Dir: Vincenzo Natali
Rated 4/5
Notes only, to be reworked ASAP:
Great animated beginning.
The house is like the crooked house in "The Ladykillers". Hill .Mob.
Wires like the ducts in "Brazil"
He throws a Buddha out into the Nothing & it bounces.
'We can't be dead. We have cable.'  They make an album of pictures of nothing (with times).  Surface is “like Tofu (which ironically tastes like nothing).”
You'll undo everything we...undid'.
'' It isn’t working. Why     not? Maybe its because you're not. a psychiatrist.. And how does that make you feel?
They hate away people & things, then hunger, then memories (like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”). Then hates away the fact that he gives a shit (about not being able to play drums).. Have you been deleting stuff...on the inside. You should be careful. You're getting weird.

Thursday 17 June

L’Esquive – France – Dir: Abdellatiff Kechiche
Rated 4/5
Notes only, to be reworked ASAP:
The short before  was excellent - marvellous close-ups & Dutch (which I thought was French.
He's a nice boy he cares about his mum. He notices her hair. But he's not too good - he doesn't visit his father in prison.
Play within a play. Always a great device. The Dip. Let's the initial argument go on a long time . - confident, and it works.
The Game of Love and Chance' is the play's name. The  issues social circumstances & language which are also issues of the play.
Risks turning into Jerry Springer.
Krimo's friend  Fathi is also very polite to Krimo's mum.  But he uses bad language To Krimo. You can see a big influence of music videos & movies. Heightened emotion & language.
Lydia’s kind. She doesn't reject Krimo out of hand.
And when he acts! The subtext of his love. And all the characters are playing a role.
..Where we going asks Krimo
Surprise  says Fathi.
Don't go?
The police. Are deus ex machina. Why do thclu.. It doesn't end but they are all stuck in their roles so that's OK. Krimo will never be an actor. .
6 layers

Travellers and Magicians – Bhutan – Dir: Khyentse Norbu
Rated 3.5/5
Notes only, to be reworked ASAP:
You should be careful ofdreamlands because when you wake up it might not be very pleasant. Says Monk (cf Badass )..l..
The story within the story (like “L'Esquive”)
Maybe your dreamland isn't as far as you think. She’s going to live in your village. I think she likes you.
The wondrous chanting soundtrack
The story is the age-old story.  "Double Indemnity" “Red Sorghum”?
The minds of human beings are so convoluted. What we hoped for yesterday we dread today (Monk)..
Story within story is within spell!.
Gorgeous closing music like
  distorted Cher..
Q & A- Prod Mal Watson
1st film digitally colour-graded film in Australia.
This is all the Director's ideas. He's the Auteur

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers – USA, UK – Dir: Stephen Hopkins
Rated 2.5/5
Notes only, to be reworked ASAP:
Cartoon beginning with  lots of Peter Sellerses
Harry Secombe is League of Gentlemen.
Margoyles is fierce! “Bite the hand that feeds you….there’ll be another hand” (see prog)
I caught a bit of shrapnel - in the Ardennes.
Geoff is the  Father!
where's his jazz drumming?
Fantasy  sequence – “we'll fix it in Post.” He's great at walk &
Dag from The Office in another fantasy sequence.
John Lithgow as Blake Edwards is fantastic. Again a general impression.   
Stanley Tucci as Kubrick. Rush as Merkin Muffly. Great.
“How was lunch with your son Mrs Sellers?”
“I don't know really. I didn’t see him” – Mum
Mum a very odd fish.  Not real, like a construct.
Geoff becomes Stanley Kubrick in the Rolls.
Britt is amazing too.
Don't really get a sense of complexity.
Peter as Mum. “You think he was cruel to me. That just means that he learned his lesson.”
“You hit me with my mum'. (Peter to Britt)
The pop songs don't really work  (esp Bowie )
His aged makeup is great.
At last he drums (at Premiere of the PP Strikes Again).  Geoff as
Blake Edwards. “It was like  watching a cobra.”  Should I stay or should I Go? Yuk.

Secrets of the Jury Room – Australia – Dir: Aviva Ziegler
Rated 3/5
Notes only, to be reworked ASAP:
One of most intellectually challenging editing jobs Aviva has ever done.
MMA Qs to ask: What did you do to get a jury when jurors mostly try to get out of it?
Jury 1’s Foreperson puts himself forward because, “Having seen movies...” he knows what to do
Q How is the film a doco when it is a mock trial?
Q Did they know they were going to be on TV? Self selecting?
Q Did you truncate the trial. Boring rules of evidence?
How did you put the juries together?
They are not taking it seriously
Don't commit a crime whatever you do!
Can the judge decide that the murder charge has to be dropped-    as the voiceover says?
Did they know about the pathologist's evidence?
Mistrial! Jury 2 experimenting with “Exit” or “E” bag...

Notes of talks to
1. Director:  Q & A: with Jury, they were trying to be as representative of the community as possible.  But they know that’s not representative of the type of paper but eliminated in interviews people who just wanted to be on TV  person who is on a jury.  Put an ad in paper and sifted right down.  Amazed at how passionate the juries became.  Shot 36 hours.  Didn’t know pathologist was going to give equivocal evidence and thought the film was ruined when he did.  Didn’t realise they had a film until they looked at both juries.
2. Producer:  Idea was Bryson’s to do something with a jury but he made it into a film. Web site www.secretsofthejury.com has all evidence & Info. Panicked when the pathologist gave equivocal evidence.  Thought the film was gone.  Not so .  Also wasn’t sure what they had until they started editing.  Had no idea the juries tart deliberating the first break they get and basically make up their minds then.  Thought the film would be short of material and they’d have to interview jurors and others to flesh it out.  Instead, they gave him material from the 1st minute.
3.  Editor:  the film came together when the dir and the Prod (in 2 different Jury rooms) talked at end.  Has 36 hours of film and cut it down to a rough cut of 3.  Relieved there were 2 juries because 1 might have been boring (esp Jury 1 that just argued.  Good to have the stark contrast between one that argued about personalities and one about issues.  Were able to go round the whole tale on Jury 2 but wouldn’t have been effective on Jury 1.  Cut the evidence to a minimum and focused on juries themselves.  Only 2 actors – one the nurse/daughter who “overacted” but the jury bought it (amazingly).

My thoughts: a stupendous editing job and logistical nightmare presented cogently (even if the facts were a little rushed at beginning).  Interesting contrasts in juries.  Role of lawyers and judge pretty minimal. Extra Direction of judge not helpful.

Can a judge direct that a charge be dropped (pathologists equivocal evidence)?
1. Foreperson is vital – no bullies.
2. Never get convicted of a crime,  They jury des what it likes and  (as the producer says) makes up its mind immediately.
3. This proves nothing factual as the jury is not representative, but it was a masterstroke to have 2 juries (as a kind of “control” group for each other so that you might draw conclusions from the contrast.
4.  How important are the Counsel?  If juries make up their minds on extraneous things.  And experiment.  And ignore evidence.

Friday 18 June

Grimm – Netherlands – Dir: Alex von Warmerdam
Rated 3/5
These are rough notes to be refined:

Funny punk rock music (by the director) at beginning becomes country with the cows.
1. The witch in the cottage with food
2 A Wolff in a baker's van picks them up.
3. Who's been sleeping in my bed.
(needing a mirror to see if he's dead & holding him up to it!)
4 At Diego’s place. The Still Life in the dining room.
The things they do do not seem to makes sense. Just puppets. Jacob rails against Spanish oppression .but still needs a servant to open the door..
..The old kidney thing.
They end up in a ghost town in Wild West. Movie set.
A goat in the pulpit.
A mule in the cemetery.
They wash their clothes a lo! .
Archery  in the rain.
Many insults about the Dutch & animals.
Jacob Mary & a donkey.
“Marie , I want to go home”. End.

Maria Full of Grace – USA, Columbia – Dir: Joshua Marston
Rated: 4/5
These are rough notes to be refined:
Constipated baby
Seemed very clichéd at first. Why is Marston writing about Columbia?
“I'm not going anywhere.” says Juan after asking Maria to marry him.
Does it seem better because of cool music?
He does effectively show the mechanics of it unromantically
The various mules couldn't talk to each other. Or look at each other.
Maria goes to visit her sister. She is not X-rayed because pregnant
It's a real mess, which is pretty authentic, I imagine.
By the end we get a picture of how complex a problem it is & we are with the characters. Thank God for Don Fernando!

5 Obstructions – Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, France – Dir: Jorgen Leth, Lars von Trier
Rated: 3.5/5
These are rough notes to be refined:
The 5 Obstructions were:
1. No edit longer 12 frames
“The 12 frames were a gift” says von Trier.
2. Film in the most miserable place
Leth is The Man
No Woman
The Meal
When Leth gets to Bombay and sees a beggar. He says ruefully: 'No matter what, it is a game.'
Bombay with a transparent screen
Going to the  point where fear becomes madness.
3. Complete freedom or  back to Bombay
4. a cartoon
5. Lars makes it
Leth is to be credited as Director
Leth has to read narration written by Lars.

At the very end:  “This is how the perfect human falls”

15 – Singapore – Dir: Royston Tan
Rated 4/5
A very important film.  Bleak but real (one assumes).
“Optimism is only for the rich.”
drug trafficking, condoms real big
“Degradation is a consolation. Despair is beauty.”
“I felt so cheap & worthless after he humiliated me”.
“If you don't die of aids you die of cancer anyway.”

Saturday 19 June

Zabriskie Point – Italy – Point Dir: Michelangelo Antonioni
Rated: 4/5
Surprisingly coherent!
Rolando Caputo  intro
shown out of order . Blow Up proceeds it.
60.s are his international period.
He wanted new environments & ideas.
4 films BU, ZPs China Doco, The Passenger. All outside Italy.
Return to Italy with Identification of a Woman.
BU  is the most commercial. This gave him the freedom to do ZP. But ZP was a critical failure.- most critics hated it .
No longer interested in narrative. 2 leads are non-actors.
It is a series of impressions of America .
Quite prophetic of LA police state with copters.
is the building behind Rod Taylor the LA Public Library. Mark pauses next to a big wall with Liberal Arts on it.
Billboards and signs everywhere.
Airport security!
Mark feels free to ignore  air traffic control. Plane scene  like in L'Eclisse
Did you really steal that thing? Yes. How come? I needed to get off the ground. ZP is an area of river
'They were on a reality trip.'
'What a drag!'
Making love among the gypsum. Many couples like Greek statues.
Blows up house, clothes, food (fridge) & books.

The Merry Widow – USA, Germany – Dir: Erich von Stroheim
Rated 4/5
A hoot!  The music was gorgeous, and apt, as ever from Jan Preston and her band.  Clark Gable had a walk –on!

What's a "Godospobar".?
Never seen a black guy before. Tries to rub skin off!
Nice tuba & trombone.
"I feel it my duty to warn you that he is a Prince and an unscrupulous despoiler of womanhood."
One looks at her foot, one at headless body & Danilo at face.
Has the rich baron got a shoe fetish?
Crucifix in corner of seduction room.
Pjaddic  kicks a cripple.
Mum: "It's impossible for you to MARRY her” (their emphasis)
Wedding Night Holy Night!
Another huge crucifix in chaet(and onca lln.

Somersault – Australia – Dir: Cate Shortland
Rated 3/5
A stylish film, with good performances, but we’ve seen it all before.

The look of the film is  set by the use of blue filters (with occasional flashes of red).  This makes everything feel appropriately cold and clammy – the film is set in a wet and cold-looking Jindabyne – but not on the slopes – by the lake.

There’s a film score made up of old rock song, including  The Loved Ones’ “The Loved One”. Abbie Cornish is sweet and enigmatic as the young heroine who has trouble expressing her feelings through any means other than sex – and she has a lot of feelings! Sam Worthington is really good as a country boy who does not feel the need to express himself as much as Abbie’s character does.  His restraint was quite affecting.

There’s a bit of heavy-handed symbolism: a village underwater, a boy with Asberger’s syndrome. But my favourite scenes were the ones in the pub: the film showed the horror of the very well, and the boys who picked Abbie up for sex were well drawn.

Amnd the somersault?  A bit puzzling. Maybe it refers to the short term aberration in the young girl’s life when her world is turned upside-down, and then she returns to the right-side-up with a new perspective on life.

Godzilla – Japan – Dir: Ishiro Honda
Rated 5/5
Godzilla is a wartime drama!  Who knew?!  The people of Japan show how they can deal with a civil emergency.  Unexpectedly moving amongst the mayhem.  Good to see the Big G with a friendly audience.  A (nuclear) blast!

Notes: Intro: 7 years of occupation
Nuclear explosion in Pacific
Tanaka (producer) looking fop  a hit. Just saw “Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” (Ray Harryhausen) & thought this could work.
$500,000 for. 7 Samurai previous highest budget.
$1.5million budget for “Godzilla”.
Topless women on Odo Island?!!
Anti-Godzilla Headquarters.
“1st radioactive fish & rain. Now Godzilla. What if it attacks Tokyo?”
“I have no German friends” says Dr Serlzawa.
Headline  “Godzilla attracts scientists of world.”
Japanese military might shown.
“It survived the nuclear blast. We must learn how” says Dr (Shimura)
Godzilla's breath is a firebomb.
Jap planes have a go at Godzilla but he gets away.
It's a wartime drama!

Sunday 20 June
(a bit of a rest day)

Blowup – Italy – Dir: Michelangelo Antonioni
Rated: 4/5
Not a film about Swinging London - it is mostly deserted. Draws on certain artists for the visual style: especially Giorgio de Chirico. London architecture. Captures silence. Minimises hustle & bustle. Then silence interrupted
Magritte also influences Antonioni.
Based on a short story but changed a lot - was set in Paris.
David Hemmings character is a hybrid  of David Bailey & other  photographers.
Mimes making noise in 1st scene.
Is he doing serious photos with homeless men when we first see him?
He admires the artist who imposes meaning on his work.
Already there are queers & poodles in the area. It'll go like a bomb.
Hemmings is more beautiful than -Redgrave .
Now he's searching for meaning in his photos..
Talk about Gen X's short attention span!.
& ridiculous wrestling scene
Too whacked. Its your own faults!
White pants in a dark park. Very hard to light.
It is like one  of Bill’s paintings. It’s an impression.
Scrambling for something you don't want - broken guitar neck
The corpse is no longer there & the ball is not there. But the sound is. Then he  disappears.

Monday 21 June
The Green Butchers – Denmark – Dir: Anders Thomas Jensen
Rated 3.5/5
Dark & moody cinematography
Bjarne kicks, people when they don’t expect it.
A horrible decision to turn off life support on a twin to get a 1 million inheritance.
“That’s why Anna likes you. Because you’re a success. That's how it works,” says Svend to Bjarne
Bjarne kicks Eigil.
“Watch 'Missing Danes' tonight”.
“Sausage Holger”
“Svend Sweat”
“House Hans”.
“I don't want to see any people.”
“Then don't go into the meat locker”
A quarter corpse of woman on a hook.
Now Svend is addicted to killing. Finally Bjarne's kick does some good.

Control Room – USA, Egypt – Dir: Jehane Noujaim
Rated 4.5/5
Rough notes only:
40 million Arab viewers of Al Jazeera
1st image is of Sheraton logo
Al Jazeera producer says 'You can't wage a war without military propaganda.”
Bush called Al Jazeera “the mouthpiece of Osama Bin Laden”. But it criticized various regimes in Middle East& was banned there.
Lt Josh Rushing Press Officer.  Central Command.
Al Jazzera Producer says US press & media hijacked by administration
Journalist (ex BBC – “Everybody from BBC ends up working for Al Jazeera.”)  says he has complete confidence in the US constitution. “The American people will stop this war.”
Israeli soldiers & US soldiers merging into one image in Arab perception says a European journalist talking to Rushing.
If there was true objectivity, there would be a welcoming of all information.
Rushing realises this when he sees 2 sets of gory images -one of US soldiers & one of Iraqis.
To change the Arab nightmare to the American dream -this is the dream of the Al Jazeera Producer.
Tom Mintier of CNN says they buried the lead story – which should have3 been about the push into Baghdad, but was served up as more information about the rescue of Jessica Lynch. “They are managing the news. They did that in  The 1st Gulf War.  This one was supposed to be different”.
The dialogs are so wonderful. If only everyone could talk 1 to 1.
3 incidents - attack on Al Jazeera & the Abu Dhabi station & the Palestine Hotel (3 journalists killed).
You see the Arab producer getting militant after his journalist killed.
Brilliant appeal for truth from dead Tarek's wife
The set-up with Saddam statue & pre 1991 Iraq flag!
“We lost Tarek , we lost Baghdad. What are we going to lose next?” asks one of the Al Jazeera producers.
Rushing wants to talk to more people. Meet the wife of the journalist in Palestine.
But Producer says US have short memories. There will be other things to think about.
People like Victory. They don't like justification. Once you have victory- that's it. (who remembers Somalia?...

De-Lovely – USA –  Dir: Irwin Winkler
Rated 2/5
Notes only:
Ridiculous intro by Winkler, Klein & Judd.
“Oh my goodness! An unmanned piano.” Says Klein as Cole Porter.
Seems very under-confident in its structure.
“Nothing is cruel that fulfils your promise” says Linda
Why the emphasis on love?.......
Ah Venice!
Irving Berlin. Obvious.
Robbie Williams is vulgar.  He should have played Cole!
Why would .she suddenly be trying to get out of Venice?
Alanis Morrissette is terrible “Let's do It” is a disgrace!
Ashley Judd is just lovely & her words sound great.
Why did they have a belter (Jack) singing “Night & Day”?
“Suddenly all the lyrics sounded like code”.
Ethel Merman!  Caroline O’Connor was GREAT!
Why Sheryl Crowe for “Begin the Beguine”?
I've never seen blood on white satin before.. Why so frank about that?
“Be a Clown” works really well.
Who is the dreadful Nelson Eddy? Mick Hucknell
Diana Krall as LB Mayer’s floozy.
Why is she (Lee) suddenly a bitch?
Is “Love for Sale” a bad idea in gay club?
Who's the Doctor? Space 1999.
At least they show “Night & Day”
The Linda Porter rose - a hybrid of2 roses thought to be incompatible.
Good prosthetics.

Los Angeles Plays Itself – USA – Dir: Thom Anderson
Rated 1.5/5
Called by my friend David “Los Angeles Plays With Itself”.  Alternately fascinating and turgid.  A real disappointment to me. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in Los Angeles, walking the street even, and looking at architectural and film landmarks.  So I was really looking forward to more information about this.

The first disappointment was the poor quality of vision.  OK, the film was on video tape, and I guess it must be on the poorer quality NTSC system.  But then the poor quality of the clips!  I kept cleaning my glasses.  Everything was so blurry that watching was a most unpleasant experienced.

Against that, we have good meaty information about certain buildings, and the movies they have featured in.  Like the Bradbury Building, which has been in:

China Girl
White Cliffs of Dover
Indestructible Man
Blade Runner
Murder in the First

And the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Ennis House, which has been in:
The House on Haunted Hill
Music videos
Blade Runner
A Passion to Kill
Time Stalkers
Black Rain
The Terminal Man
Union Station

There’s Neutra's Level House in "LA Confidential".
Pierre Koenig's Stall House
The Marrying Man
The 1ftPowq&
Why Do Fools Fall in Love?
John Lautner architect  eg The Garcia House in Lethal Weapon 2.

“Hollywood destroys LA because its there.” Only true thing.
“Nowhere else is evil so banal” (Double Indemnity)
Jerry’s Market on Melrose..
Just wrong re Rebel without a Cause was 1st teenagers with cars. (What about Andy hardy?). Also says film noir shunned mean streets for the sewers (wrong).
Pan Pacific Auditorium
Johnny Eager
Ritchfleld Building in “Zabriskie Point”.
Why are we partially in SF?
Only Saboteur first few minutes and Psycho Janet Leigh bypasses LA .
John Boorman manages to look both bland and insidious in Point Blank.
What is this High & Low Tourist concept he uses.
One whole section (including hanging 0p?? has no LA content.
Rambling into area of black families & poor.
Incredibly abrupt ending!

Tuesday 22 June

Witnesses – Croatia – Dir: Vinko Bresan
Rated: 4.5/5
Rough notes only:
One of my favourite films this year: intelligent and stylish.
Long(3-4 mins) tracking (prowling).shot to start. Reflected light...
Same scenes seen over again, but with differing info & focus on different character .
Looking for soldiers with a big head, a big nose & real ugly.
Barlc makes his confession about death in the cinema. – “We are all witnesses” (to the war & violence).

A Fond Kiss– UK, Italy, Germany, Spain – Dir: Ken Loach
Rated 3/5
Rough notes only:
“Church tells Celtic Fans No Nookie in Seville” - poster . Headline. Dog plsses on. Then Pakistani shop owner wires it to shock next dog - bulldog.
Why is a Muslim girl at Mass?
The teacher reprimands Irish for choice of music written by' a drunken fornicator. Unlikely.
Dad is the Pakistani Ricky Tomlinson.
“Its not about love. Its much more than that” (him to Roisin).
....I can't match you Roisin.
The mother continues to love no matter what.
Certificate of Approval from PP?
So Dad was a refugee during Partition. Casim named after the twin.
Priest caricature is irresponsible.
Thank God for the headmaster.
Is he balancing up the bigotry?

Antonioni Discussion
Rough notes only:
Jane – Political issues still relevant (“The Girlfriends” & feminist problems)
Privileged neurotic women “Get a job!”)
But mostly about people struggling with modern times.
Soundscapes - Red Desert
Soundtrack often works against the text. Blow Up .& .Also L'Eclisse
Hamish - use of non-digesic music - no source .
'Its all in the image' (including sound image). The narrative doesn’t matter. Eg The famous last section of “La Notte” has no narrative. But avant-garde for that very reason. Though often described as least innovative film. Not cold, but full of emotions. Use of deep focus for substantial purposes. Everything in the image is important. The trees in La Notte, L'Ecllsse, Blow Up.
Nature  in his films.
Time. - specific use of time. Pleasurable & also devastating. Not 'dead time'. The story has died - but when was it alive?
Antonioni himself called it 'Stagnant time' - important time.
He sets up filmic elements for melodrama (La Notte )   then confounds expectations...
Rolando - the men are equally neurotic. (eg Red Desert).
Parallel- Red Desert - Todd Haynes' Safe.  
Q Monica Vitti  The Outcry
Monica was a vaudeville comedienne. Made 4 films with Antonioni (they were in love) then went back to being a comedienne. 4'Avventura made her .  Explains the African sequence in L'Eclisse.
Also a background in modernist theatre .. .
Q  Desert Orgy in Zabriskie.
Beautiful young bodies are exhausted.. Not cliché. ..
New Brain & old body Gilles de L'Heure's thesis.
Antonioni revitalised by US. Young bodies with energy. Not exhausted by WW2 - Auschwitz.
Desert- science fiction , not on earth. new society on lunar landscape....
Q Relationship  with cinema of its time?
A Antonioni is very Influential on filmmakers. Nobody went further.
Essays on post-war modernity &. Also they come across as science fiction. Like they come  from the. future.
Rolando sees it in Wong Kar Wai, Hsien Hui Tien dd.
“In the Mood for Love” quotes L'Eclisse and it is an update.
“Goodbye Dragon Inn” (SFF 2004) is a rework of L'Ecllsse for modern time
Also Tarkovsky. He went to Italy and worked with Tonino Guerra (Antonioni’s writer)
Godard’s “Alphaville” & the Apartment sequence in “Contempt”.
“Lost in Translation” is just a superficial resemblance.
Also says Julie Rigg, the David Haines Cliffscape of Bondi from the last Sydney Biennale.
Antonioni says he is a realist rather than a naturalist (in Godard's sense).
His films are almost documentary (see last sequence of L'Eclisse). ..
Piero della Francesca
De Chirico. Overwhelming presence.
Abstract expressionists Pollock, Rothko in “Red Desert”
Pop Art.
Cindy Sherman is a fan of Antonioni   -she played Monica Vitti in some of her work.
Tracy Moffatt too (MMA: really?)
Antonioni was a painter. His work might be in L'Eclisse
Q: Zabrisikie point Explosion.
Q: Mist rain dust wind -  all play parts in film.
Psychological component to mist, fog, tree'. Po Valley where he was born has very leaden skies. It is autobiographical. Also mists allow shrouding - confusion - uncertainty of vision & time. Time might be the only real event in the films.
Q  'Documentary' term.
Mapping out a discourse about the real world. . Not A window on the world or The Truth..
Red Desert  -highly manipulated colour.. Draws attention to things like highly coloured pollution.
Q . Antonioni was criticised for being too bourgeois & politics too blatant (harshly  by Italian Communists & less harshly by French)
Q Zabriskie
Politically accurate. Good portrayal& shows the way people did argue about politics.
3 Filters 1. Yellow in student scene.
2 Gypsum on bodies.
3. Red sunset filter in end.
Rolando - throw forward.

Barrett (Hodson?) gave a rant that summarised whole career.
Chinese doco made Antonioni bitter because Chinese tried to suppress it .

L’Avventura – Italy – Dir: Michelangelo Antonioni
Rated: 5/5
Rough notes only:
Audience went overboard at Cannes in1960.
Didn't win main  prize at Cannes but the jury gave it a special prize.
Vacation off the coast of Sicily bourgeois & aristocratic films
One of his most beautiful films. B&W cinematography. Framing.
Film has caught up with it now, but then It was all new.
“Eros is sick” belongs to this film. People's emotional responses not working. No answers in the film though.
A trio of nuns crossed the square.
Great brunch coat & bathing caps.
Pretty cute repartee on boat
“Words are more useless every day. They only confuse the issue.”
Cf Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Willy Willies in sky touch water.
All she has to wear is the top Anna gave her.
Sandro treats the old working class man badly- pushes him. 'Why do you get up so early?' 'Is 5am early?' asks the old man.
2 Crucifixes in the police interrogation room.
What is the riot? For starlet Gloria Perkins?
Monica is the observer, the moral  one, neutral.
Another Crucifix in the town square in Noto.
A crowd gathers around Monica. 'She's a foreigner. She must be from up north' !
Vertigo  homage
Is he asking the  dead girl to marry him? l
Another  Crucifix on the Museum.
A Seminary
“Aren't you pleased? A new love affair? (L’Avventura amore.).
Another cross in hotel in bedroom.
He tells her he loves her (but also denies it.)
Everything becomes frighteningly easy. Even getting rid of sorrow.
Big wall & snow-capped mountains.

Wednesday 23 June

In Your Hands – Denmark – Dir: Annette K Olesen
Rated: 3.5/5
This film starts off very well, setting up all the characters, and thereby, efficiently, all the issues.  Olesen is the least annoying of the Dogme directors.  Here use of hand-held camera is the least noticeable and so the least obtrusive of those I’ve seen.  She uses close-ups well and doesn’t wobble for effect only. Olesen succeeds despite Dogme – through  performance.

But there were several things about the film that did not ring true. .  Anna’s husband doesn't seem to be right for her. He does not seem to be attuned to her job as a priest. And he overreacts wildly to her buying a pregnancy test.  There’s no discussion with doctor about the negative consequences of the diagnostic test.

Also, Anna’s advice to others leaves a lot to be desired: “Love can never be illegitimate. But if it’s serious, you should consider getting a new job,” is Anna’s advice to the head prison guard.  A Priest saying “Love can never be illegitimate”? Hmmm…

And not once throughout the film did Anna – a priest - ask God for help or any counsel. And so, in the end, the film was not believable, but another set of characters, set-up by writers to achieve a desired result.

Some memorable dialogue:
“Every time you see a door you'll think of your keys,” says a prison guard to the new prison chaplain, Anna
“Have you talked to Kate? Her & God have got something going,” says the prisoner in pigtails.
 “Have you had an epiphany of some kind?”: Anna to Kate.
“We don't call them miracles. We call them speed psychoses,” says the head prison guard.

Addicted to Acting – Germany – Dir: Andres Veiel
Rated: 3/5
Rough notes only:
Starts Jan 1997-
Is it too intrusive?'
Prod is so self-centred. He looks at the camera all the time.
They are all so immature.
The posters in Prod's room are of “Taxi Driver” & “The Apostle”
The tall blonde falls in love & gets confidence.
It is a meat market. Get over it!
Prod learns subtlety
Stephanie's terrible Dad.
Q&A with Director:
Q: How did he pick the actors shown in the film?
A: They originally interviewed 200 actors, then narrowed that down to 20, then to 4.  He was looking for talent, openness, the ability to express their feelings.
Q: What was he looking to show in the film?
A: The relationship between success and the price of success.
Q: Did you want to give Prod advice?
A: No, Prod is like Prod is. A combination of arrogant and naive.
Q: How do you keep a distance?
A: It’s a tightrope walk. It is just footage. The actors were allowed to say no to certain scenes if they were too uncomfortable.

The Saddest Music in the World – Canada – Dir: Guy Maddin
Rated: 1/5
Rough notes only:
All style and little substance.
“lf you're sad, and like  beer, I'm your Lady,” says Lady Port-Huntly, played by Isabella Rossellini. If she weren’t attached to the project, I’m not sure whether it would be getting much of a run outside some of the Film Festivals.

The film sets up a premise, and then fails to live up to it, descending into a messy soap opera.  It is neither very sad, nor very funny.
Siam v Mexico.
Africa  v Canada
Serbia v Scotland
Poland v Germany..
Not shown)
Serbia v USA
Shot in a combination of super  8 & Super 16..
Shoot was 5 weeks and editing about 8 weeks.
3 million dollars budget

The Master and His Pupil – The Netherlands – Dir: Sonia Herman Dolz
Rated 3.5/5
Rough notes:
Interestingly, this is one of the films that has stayed in my mind weeks after the festival.
The nervous young conductors & the way the Dutch one says 'Yes yes yes' & the way they start to get it & the very effective close-ups.
Incredible closing scenes in close-up & slow-mo with the conductors & the orchestra members.

Thursday 24 June

Jesus, you know – Austria – Dir: Ulrich Seidl
Rated 4.5/5

A troubling film in many ways.  A brilliant idea, wonderfully shot from an aesthetic pint of view, but very cold and detached – too much?  Certainly this is what director Seidl does with his films.

I found the first part especially very moving.  I wanted to help all these people who were praying to Jesus.  Most of them all needed a bit of a shake-up and a lot of counselling.  Where was the priest?

I think the director was mocking these people in a way, and he certainly presented the choirs I a most sullen way.  There was no joy at all.  And I suppose there is the question of how the people were selected.  Seidl says he tries to weed out the people who wanted to be on film, but whom did he select?  All these people were praying by asking for things to change for themselves.  Is that how everyone prays?  I wonder.

But still utterly fascinating and very moving.

The Mystery of Oberwald – Italy – Dir: Michelangelo Antonioni
Rated – 2/5
A lesser work from the master.  So slow-moving in the middle I nodded off.  But interesting all the same.  Based on the gorgeous words of Cocteau’s play “The Eagle has Two Heads”.  And the ending was fabulous: "Romeo & Juliet" by way of "Duel in the Sun".

It’s good to be able to see all of Antonioni’s films but one (“The Passenger”).  It’s the first time in years that the Festival retrospective has been anything like comprehensive.

Intro by Rolando Caputo: This was Antonioni’s first feature film on video. He relished the opportunity to get control of colour as he was filming. Always found this a limitation of film. He wanted colours to change according to characters' moods and emotions.
He believed in the symbolism of colour .
Melodrama based on a Cocteau play. Costumes, historical drama: all the things he had not ever done .
End of1970s was a period of political upheaval in Italy. This film can be read as is an allegory of that: a political comment.

A few impressions:
Queen (Vitti):“This is my weather, Edith” (of a storm)
And: “You are my death.  I am protecting my  death.”
Chicken’s head cut off & a feather falls in a pool of blood.
Queen: “You have  3 days.  If you don't kill me, I’ll kill you.”
Queen: “Doing something a little is the same as not doing it at all.”
Queen: “Happiness is just as terrible as unhappiness.”

Clans of Intrigue – Hong Kong – Dir: Chu Yuan
Rated 5/5
A deliriously lurid and bloody romp through costumed historical melodrama and kung fu action.  Seeing is believing!  Or is it?

Who is the hero, Master Chu, anyway?  Everyone seemed to know him but the audience! A magnificently bloody ending with the evil monk Wu swinging on a swing with several swords & an arm (with a sword stuck through it)in his back! The villainess had ripped her own arm off the kill the monk.

A few choice lines & moments:
Master Chu: “Telling is not telling. Remembering is not remembering”. I
Nun: “Are you versed in Buddhism?”

The cliff (presumably rubber) bends as Master Chu climbs up.
Q: “What does he mean?”
A (3 “darling” disciples): We don't know"

Silent Swordsman: “No one ever calls me a beast”  Then he kills whoever has done so!
Q “Who are you?”
A “Who did you think I was?”

Sydney at War – Australia – Dir: Claude Gonzalez
Rated 3/5
A competent documentary, that seemed to want to focus on the servicemen (especially the Japanese)  affected by the attack by the midget submarines in Sydney harbour in May 1942.  But ultimately it left me with more questions that it answered.  What happened to the people living in the eastern suburbs?  What did the Government do?  How much information got out?  What about the nurses? And did Japan really intend to invade?  If not, why did they invade the harbour.  Also, I noticed may of the audience did not seem to take in the facts as presented, so it left me wondering whether the doco communicated effectively.

What a comedy of errors it appeared to be from the Australian side! No one prepared, no one believing it had happened, and people dropping depth charges into shallow water and nearly blowing themselves up!

The target was USS Chicago, but there was also a Dutch submarine moored nearby. Torpedos were fired at USS Chicago but they went under It. Midget subs were 75ft long  (longer than those at Pearl Harbor).  The 21 Australian sailors killed were buried at Rookwood

Q & A – with Director Claude Gonzalez.
Q How many subs? (Audience confused facts)
A 3x2 man Midget subs & 5 mother subs. Still looking for  2nd midget sub : 1st captured.
Q Is there a memorial to the Japanese?
A Memorial at Kuttabul for the Australians (v small). None for Japanese.
Q What happened to the ashes (this was in the film too!)
Ashes returned to Japan through Swiss Embassy on a ship to Yokohama - paraded through city. But never commemorated here.
Q Was Australia going to be invaded by Japan?
A No - it had been decided it was too hard.

Friday 25 June

Take My Eyes – Spain – Dir: Iciar Bollain
Rated – 5/5

Rough notes only:
Take my Eyes is a powerful film that deals in a balanced and sympathetic way with domestic violence.  Set in stunning Toledo, and played out against a background of gorgeous architecture, and sublime paintings by El Greco and others, Take My Eyes was one of the best dramas of the festival.

Gorgeous Toledo setting.
Brilliant device of door with little door to see through.
How did Antonio get into the anger management group? Did I miss something? He tells his counsellor, after a long pause for thought, that he loves her sound. 'She moves quickly but hardly makes a sound.' He just sits there listening.
But it starts to go wrong. He tells her - 'You have to help me.'
'How?' she asks.
'By being with me.' So we know he's already backsliding.
Now she lies to her family.
Full frontal nudity for man.
What a fun wedding! Scots & Spanish is a great mix!
'Any man who does that to you doesn't love you' says the sister.
There's something in Pilar that is a victim (it comes out in the argument with her sister).
Orpheus & Eurydice. A lovely allegory and a beautiful shot of Pilar in front of the slide of the painting.
Both feel unworthy.
The women do the funny role play but its Pilar's life!
They want to get away from Toledo but Toledo might just save them.
More ironing.
They both have problems that make them insecure.
You can't give your eyes.  It's immature. They tried to give each other gifts they cannot give.

Seducing Dr Lewis – Canada – Dir: Jean-Francois Pouliot
Rated: 3/5
Rough notes only:
Bright, unusual beginning.
Meetings in the church. Yvon has his name on his house.
Their funny ideas about 1st impressions.
They overdo the jokes a bit.
Festival de Boeuf Stroganoff
Creeping athletes foot!  Athletes calf!
Lots of new technology . Computer, fax, automatic bank machine &
satellite TV.
Overly loud soundtrack
The Bank Manager's refrain of 'Don't say it' (the words 'bank machine’). But then the city boss said it.
It was all fake.

Rhythm is it! – Germany – Dir: Thomas Grube, Enrique Sanchez Lansch
Rated: 4/5
Rough notes only:
'Music is not just what it is, but what it means and what it can do for people.'
'Everybody has the right to let go of all their problems just for a little while ... it gives a sense of perspective.’ (Dance assistant)
'In life, we need discipline - whatever we think about it.' (Dancer).
'There's a part of the brain - whichever part is descended from the  lizards - where rhythm is it.’ (Rattle).
'You can change your  life in a dance class.’ (Dancer)
Each of Rattle & the Dancer talk of getting the passion as a child.
Is the good group going to be part of the performance? It is confusing.

Identification of a Woman – Italy, France – Dir: Michelangelo Antonioni
Rated: unrated (not seen to end)
I only saw the first 40 minutes, but liked what I saw. Great lines like -
'His wife ...was a fearful woman. When she left she took the fear with her. But not the alarm.' (This as a burglar alarm goes off in the writer/speaker's apartment).

A Good Lawyer’s Wife – South Korea – Dir: Im Sang-soo
Rated: 3.5/5
Rough notes only:
A Good Lawyer’s Wife focuses on the life of a busy lawyer in Seoul, and his extended family.  The lawyer, his wife, and their friends are members of the affluent new group of Koreans known as the 386 generation – in their 30s, they entered college in the 1980s, and were born in the 1960s.  On the surface they are hard-working conformist members of the bourgeoisie, but underneath there is turmoil, as the lawyer uses his job to conceal an affair, and events spin wildly out of control. A Good Lawyer’s Wife is a fascinating social document.

Very jerky handheld camera emphasised by close-ups.
Lawyer falls in a hole with skulls in it at a crime scene.
Lawyer's Dad wears a Vincent Minnelli jacket & sunnies on head!
The lawyer's mistress is on top doggy style.
Lawyer pretends to be at work when he's with his mistress
'You may go now. You are a solid citizen' says policeman (after the accident & still he bribes them).
Amazingly graphic death from liver cancer.
The young man punches the mirror. So much blood in the film. Korea!
Very young looking judge.
It's too much the way he throws him off the building!
Was the lawyer representing the postman? Why was he in his office?
She eats a pink phallus ice-cream after sex with the boy.
I get the feeling of a generation drifting & confused. The closing music was 'there's no place like home'- terribly sung.

And so, at the very end, the two films I was very sorry to miss:  The closing night film  Zatoichi – Japan – Dir: Takeshi Kitano, and Metallica: Some Kind of Monster – USA – Dir: Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky.  I’ll catch up with them sometime soon, I hope.