The 57th  Sydney Film Festival
2-14 June 2010*

* If you arrived here after a search, either scroll down to the film you were looking for, or search the text for the name of the film.

Every year since 1997 I have posted on this website my thoughts about the films I have seen – as I see them – at each Sydney Film Festival.  Apparently I was blogging. Every year it seems to get harder to get these reviews up quickly, but I won't give up!

Sometimes I post the raw notes I made at the time I saw each film - my contemporaneous thinking, informed by discussions with people in and around row D in the stalls, and in the aisles and foyer.  Thanks to all of you! It is a bit shorthand, and often poorly typed. But I'll try to work through it and edit it as soon as I can...

This year, before the Festival, I saw 3 films: The Waiting City, Creation, and The Ghost Writer. I have written reviews of  The Waiting City and The Ghost Writer, but can't publish them until the appear in the NSW Law Society Journal in early July and early August, respectively. But I can give you a teaser...  Oh, and all these reviews are copyright. You must not use any part of them without my permission.

The Waiting City, 108 mins, rated TBC, opens in cinemas 15 July 2010.  2.5/5


(This is the first 2 paragraphs of my review to be published in the July 2010 issue of the NSW Law Society Journal).

According to the Australian Attorney-General’s Department and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australians adopted 269 children from overseas in 2009-2009. That represented 61% of all adoptions. The Institute says the number of overseas adoptions has increased by 14% over the 25 years from 1984–85 to 2008–09.

The Waiting City is a new Australian film that tells the story of a young couple, Fiona and Ben who are adopting a child from India. Fiona (played by Radha Mitchell, from Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda (2004) and Lisa Cholodenko’s High Art (1998)) is a senior associate vying for partnership in a law firm. Her husband Ben (Joel Edgerton, from the recent Australian film The Square, which he also wrote, and from the even more recent Animal Kingdom (David Michôd)) was once a famous musician, but it’s not really clear what he’s doing now. He’s obviously depressed.

The Ghost Writer, 128 mins, rated MA 15+, opens in cinemas 12 August 2010.  4.5/5


(This is the first paragraph of my review to be published in the August 2010 issue of the NSW Law Society Journal).

Roman Polanski’s new film is a taut and classy thriller. It compares in style and excitement to his film Frantic from 1988, starring Harrison Ford. It’s a delight to be able to sink back in your cinema seat and let a master take you through his paces. Whatever else you think about Polanski, the man surely knows how to make films, and this film in particular should prove to be a real crowd-pleaser.

Opening Night - Wed 2 June

South Solitary - Australia - Dir: Shirley Barrett -  2/5

Another disappointing Australian film to open the festival. I've never been a Shirley Barrett fan: Love Serenade is one if the few films I really hated.  But I was prepared to like this film, particularly as it has a good cast.  but, oh dear!

What was this film about?  Why was it made? What does it show us? Why was it set in 1927? Why make the beautiful Miranda Otta wear such awful clothes? These and other questions occupied my mind throughout the longeurs of this meandering film.

I was hoping it would turn into the wondeful I Know Where I'm Going! (Powell and Pressberger, 1945), in which Wendy Hiller is an independent young woman who comes to an island, intending to marry a rich older man, but mysterious celtic forces on the island make her change her mind, drawing her to the far more suitable kilt-wearing Torquil O'Neil (Roger Livesay).

If only this film had had even a fraction of that film's charm... (sigh).  I will redub it:
I Have No Idea Where I'm Going!

Thurs 3 June

Apart Together 
- China - Dir: Wang Quanan -  3.5/5

Saved by China! This lovely, wise, funny and moving film is about love and secutrity, and loyalty.  It's set against the background of property development in Shanghai.

It stars the lovely Lisa Lu, whose face is still gorgeous, and whom the director obviously loves: he gives her so many scenes where she looks out the window and her face is illuminated. But the film is so all-encompassing, and the whole cast contributes to the texture of the film.

A lovely quote:  a drunken Lau Lu (the husband of Lisa Lu) says that cheap wine, after 20 years, is really worth something. There's the theme, right there.

The Oath  - USA - Dir: Laura Poitras -  3/5

A comprehensive and meticulous doco about 2 Muslim brothers (Yemeni, originally) who worked for Osama Bin Laden. One was in prison in Gitmo, and one was not.  The one in Gitmo was
Bin Laden's chauffeur, and the one not in prison was
Bin Laden's bodyguard. How can this be explained?  Laura Poitras does a good job.

We get amazing access both to Gitmo and to
Bin Laden's (now ex-) bodyguard.  We also see the fatally-flawed US military justice commissions in action. Thanks heavens for the diligent legal defence team!  Here Brian Mizer (spelling?) and the team do a fine job against all odds, but cannot get their client off a retrospective charge made under a new law, in a newly-constituted Military commission.  Makes one marvel at the contradictions of the US "justice" system.

Two in the Wave  - France - Dir: Emmanuel Laurent -  2.5/5

An interesting, but typical French cineaste doc about Trffaut and Godard.  I learned a lot, but there were no real surprises or breakthroughs.  So a good film, with an interesting assembly of clips and news footage, but why the visuals of the young woman in the here-and-now?  What was that about?

Howl  - USA - Dir: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman -  3/5

A beautifully-made doco about the poem, Howl from 1957. Interesting story-telling technique works pretty well to explain the genesis of the poem, the fuss it made, and something about the trial.  They attracted quality actors to the project, notably James Franco, David Strathairn, John Hamm and Jeff Daniels. And the animations are great, and a very good way to display the imaginaton behind the poem.  But, while effective in a broad-brush kind of way, it was a little lacking in detail. For example, at the Q&A after, Producer Christine K Walker was asked who was behind the prosecution for obscenity. She replied they didn't know, that it was a question David Strathairn had raised, and they couldn't find out. I could.

10 minutes on the internet told me that the case was called The People of the United States of America v Lawrence Ferlighetti, the complainant was the San Francisco Collector of Customs, whose name was Chester McPhee, and that he had sent local city and county police were sent to get copies of the book (2nd printing). Not hard.

That sort of detail would have made the film more complete.

Fri 4 June

Heartbeats - Canada - Dir: Xavier Dolan -  3/5

This film is by the young adult-prodigy Xavier Dolan, who also stars as Frank. A trio of gorgeous twenty-somethings have a kind of fling but one is a selfish bastard and the other two are completely self-obsessed.  Superficially gorgeous, but really not about much, this film is a bit too clever, and at the same time curiously vacuous.  It could have said everything in 20 mins, but then we wouldn't have seen so many pretty people and things. And its obviously a young person's film. Dolan knows a lot about a lot of things, but classical music isn't really one of them. It was clichéd whenever used.  And he overused slow-mo too.

It is a bit of a worry too, when most of the fashions seem to be from the 50s, 60s or 80s, and the music borrowed from the 60s ot 80s and even the furniture is retro - often 40s or 50s.  Doesn't this generstion have any original creations?

I did like the insights about reasons for smoking, though.  Although everyone smoked their heads off, at least they realised it was through insecurity and desperation.

Hadjewich - France - Dir: Bruno Dumont -  4/5

The Hollywood Reporter called this film "An unsettling exploration of a young Christian girl's overwhelming faith".  That's true, but it was also very moving and very beautiful. This poor girl, Celine, suffered like a modern-day St Therese of Lisieux, who said on her death-bed: "I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me."

I really liked the connection made between obsessive love of a Christian God, and the Muslim view presented by the brother of Yacine, which says that if you love God you must serve Him, and you must be His soldier (which of course means waging war). This needed a little more fleshing out, but still the point was good.  Worth a lot more thought, this film.

The figure of the criminal is interesting. I think he's Christ, who was also a criminal, of course.  When Celine is saved in the pond it is like a crazy baptism, and I'd love to know what happens next.

The Rainbow Warriors of Waiheke Island - Netherlands - Dir: Suzanne Raes -  2.5/5

The interesting story of what became of the Greenpeace crew of the rainbow Warrier.  Apparenty most of them live in retirement on an isand 45mins from Auckland on a fast ferry. They are still hippies. The men have lost a lot od teeth - clearly they didn't floss.  The women scrub up pretty well. They retell the tale of their expolits, and the shocking story of the bombing of the ship, and well as tales of the Marshall Islands being rendered toxic by nuclear testing.

I loved one f the guys (Martini?) sying "These days in order to be against something you have to present an alternative solution. In those days you could just be against something. Just say No."

Lourdes - Netherlands - Dir: Suzanne Raes -  3/5

Another religious film today!  This one was strange, because it told the story of a pilgrimage to Lourdes by various people with various ailments, and showed the crass commercialism in all its glory, and humour, but also showed a mysterious side too. My friend Dr Goffrey Long praised Sylvie Testud's performance as a person with muscular dystrophy totally paralysed from the neck down.  Apparently very authentic.  Also interesting that the people in wheelchairs were pretty-well ignored until they were able to move.

Nice to see films with open minds about Christianity and miracles...

Sat 5 June

A Woman Under the Influence - USA - Dir: John Cassavettes -  4.5/5

Looking beautiful in a freshly-restored print, this film is a tour de force for Cassavettes, Rowlands and Falk.

It's intense, sometimes laboured, but always interesting. The scenes towards the end with the children are particularly hair-raising: the kids are wonderful.  And that camera-work: there's such intimacy, invention, and daring here. Terrific!

La Dance: The Paris Opera Ballet - France - Dir: Frederick Wiseman -  4.5/5

Another Wiseman epic, this is a beautiful film, and such a relief that he's examining art in such detail, rather than the usual more harrowing stuff he does.

This was just majestic, as we got inside the venerable institution, and saw it working like a well-oiled machine, with great stars, choreographers and administrators doing what needs to be doene to make great art.  but is it all as smooth as it seems? We didn't see any drama, other than on stage.

As long as it was at 159 mins, I felt we needed to endure, to feel a little something of what the dancers have to give to creat what they do.  I've now put it on my "to do" list - go to the Paris Opera Ballet. Oh and I did spot Wiseman and his camera tripod, jusy in one corner, reflected in one of the many mirrors.  It was incredible that there was only that one time you could see him. he just melted into the walls, obviously.

Cairo Time - Canada-Ireland - Dir: Riba Nadda -  2.5/5

Thank heavens for Patricia Clarkson's fascinating face and the powers of her acting craft. Because this film's slow langorous style and plot did make things in danger of stopping altogether.

A pretty slight romance unfolds against the fabulous background of Cairo, and if nothing else, this film should boost tourism there.  But really, Patricia should wear sleeves, sunscreen and a hat!

Nosferatu - Germany - Dir: FW Murnau -  Can't rate it because of the music score

FW Murnau's landmark horror symphony was done a grave disservice tonight by the band Darth Vegas.

While some of the score was terrific in the original sense of the word (especil, the band made the terrible mistake of making fun of the film.  Really - Benny Hill?  Old western music every time we see a horse?  Surfing music? Mickey Mouse Club? The Sullivans? Perry Mason? We'll Meet Again?  Did they think it was clever?  It was a travesty!

Overhead outside after the screening, a young man saying to his friend: "I think I saw a different cut last time, because it was really scary then."

See?  That's the effect a stupid score can have on a film. We nearly walked out. Plenty did.

To the credit of the film, it stood up against this abuse. But
Richard Kuipers, Jamie Leonarder and Clare Stewart: I want ANSWERS!

Sun 6 June

Dance of the Vampires - UK - Dir: Roman Polanski -  4/5

This is a very funny, slightly bawdy little gem, seen to its best effect with a sympathetic audience like this Film Festival one.  Lots of cute little jokes, and really funny slapstick, well performed by a cast mostly in grotesque makeup, and gorgeous girls to boot. (Wasn't Sharon Tate breathtaking?  It's so sad to see the scene where she's in the bath and the vampire descends from the sky and takes her and leaves behind the blood in the bath - so poignant in retrospect. Polanksi said of her (to the Press in 1969 after her death): "All of you know how beautiful she was, but few of you know how good she was.").

This is a really well-directed film and the sense of humour displayed by co-writer and director Polanski is just "impish". Richard Kuipers pointed out in his introduction the stunning score by Krzysztof Komeda: truly haunting and beautiful, hinting at the great quality of this work beneath its genre exerior. Cinematoography by Douglas Slocombe is top class as well, and Polanski's camera prowls, glides, wheels and prys.


Solidarity all the way with Roman Polanski in his current predicament. No to the charge under US law! No to extradition!

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work - USA/ UK - Dir: Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg-  3/5

Not innovative film-making: a pretty standard doco in form, but on a really interesting and funny subject. Joan has a hard as nails outer shell, and a bit of a soft certre when it coes to a couple of subjects.  And she's smart as a whip. More on this soon... 

Access shouldn't have been too difficult to get: Joan was promoting a play, a TV show, and the rest.

The Messenger - USA - Dir: Oren Moverman -  3/5

A powerful idea sustained this film for about 2/3 of its way, and the film ran out of puff, because the (first feature) director, who is also the writer, went in the wrong direction. This also left some of the actors, particularly Ben Foster, floundering. Woody Harrelson and Samantha Morton did rather better, but some of the dialog defeated even the great Morton. More soon....

Mon 7 June

A Somewhat Gentle Man - Norway - Dir: Hans Petter Moland -  4/5

Stellan Sarsgaard. What a face! It can be impassive, then delighted, and then turn to ice. A great performance in this quirky, and often hilarious fim. Excellent ensemble cast, conventional story, but very well told.

Between Two Worlds - Sri Lanka/ France - Dir: VIMUKTHI JAYASUNDARA -  2.5/5

Beautiful, but I didn't really understand it.  Another travel ad, this time for Sri Lanka, as long as you don't mind it  being possibly a lethal trip.  The only thing I could be sure of in this film in that our "hero" would end up in the tree.  Was he the Prince that would save the country from its two evil dictators?

The Refuge - France - Dir: Francois Ozon -  3.5/5

Not what you'd think, given this title.  It's a kind of dreamy film, mostly set in the south of france, centring on a woman who is pregnant and prepares  to give birth in a most unconventional way. Lovely scenery and François Ozon's quirky take on women make this a very good Film Festival film, without being comepletey outstanding. Isabelle Carré is very good as Mousse, who has a strange way of doing things.  And the ending makes a kind of weird sense, validating all that went before.


Probably the doco of the festival for me.  Sebatian Junge, who wrote "The Perfect Storm", together with Tim Hetherington, are photo-journalists embedded with US army, the Second Platoon of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in one of the most dangerous postings for the US armed forces, the Korengal valley in eastern Afghanistan.

This is extraordinary filmmaking: so brave.  You can see the bullets flying past the camera lense, and hitting people standing right next to you. You can also see clearly why this war will be impossible to win, despite the excellent quality of the US soldiers, their training, and their equipment.  It's just a matter of geography, history and logistics.  Imagine standing near the Three Sisters lookout at the Blue mountains near Sydney, and looking down into the Megalong Valley.  Imagine armed hill-dwellers looking back at you.  How do you win?  Do you bomb the little farmhouse down there?  What do you do?

An exciting and important film of great integrity.  The name is hard to remember: it is the name of one of the fallen soldiers.

Tues 8 June

The Wind Journeys - Colombia - Dir: Ciro Guerra -  3/5

Glad I made the effort.  Columbia is a wonderfual and beautiful palce of many and varied lanscape. The acordion music was great!  And the drumming!  Fabulous! As a drummer myself, I need one of those lizards to be able to sprinkle blood on my hands to improve my playing.

City of Life and Death - China- Hong Kong - Dir: Lu Chuan -  4.5/5

A highlight of the festival. War film in glorious b&w, but historical politcal and social drama too, wrapped up in melodrama. I now need to read up on the rape of nanking. Consummate film-making.  And I loved the ending, with a suicide by the Japanese officer - but in victory, not defeat.  Poetry!

Lemmy - USA - Dir: GREG OLLIVER, WES ORSHOSKI | -  3/5

A fun doco about an interesteing guy - a real survivor, and yet with that JD & coke habit I'd be surprised if he lasted a couple more years. The diabetes - will it get his sight or his feet first? Hope I'm wrong, and that he does take care of himself.  he's a smart guy and he has mythologised himself to a large extent.

Even with really interesting people interviewed, at 122 minutes, this was way too long.  We got the point!  Now cut!

Wed 9 June

If I want to whistle, I whistle - Romania/ Sweden - Dir: Florin Serban -  4/5

A well-made film in many ways, but flawed.  Set up to prove a point. It leaves too many questions out there, eg:
1. Who looked after the babay brother for the 4 yrs Silviu, the protagonist was in prison, with the mother in Iataly and the father in hospital?
2. Why didn't the prison warden know what was happening to
3. Why did he go off the rails so quickly? I didn't believe he couldn't wait another 2 weeks.
4. Why didn't the guards intervene in the violent argument with his mother?
5. Why didn't the warden call for backup in the siege? Why did he let someone else go in? Why didn't he get the injured guard out? Why did he let him have his car?
6. What does the title mean?  I didn't hear it saud in the film.
7.  And would we have liked Silviu, and sympathised if he had been ugly, instead of drop-dead gorgeous?

Still, it was interesting to see well-meaning do-gooders fouling thing up and not seeing what's under their noses in a Romanian film, so it's not just the domain of Ken Loach.

This Way of Life - New Zealand - Dir: Thomas Burstyn -  3.5/5

An interesting subject and a patiently waited long-term (4 yr) time-line make this a worthy film. And the gorgeous NZ backdrop.  But its another film that raises a lot odf questions. There are at least 2 sides to ay family feud, and we only saw one side, until a chance encounter with the patriarch toeards the end that brought him physically into the picture when his shadow had been hanging over it for the first hours or so.

As a lawyer. I have many questions about the details of the claims made by the protagonist, the terms of his tenancy, the cause of the fire, the reason the police weren't investigating it - or weren't seen to be doing so, and his claim that a herd of 30 wild horses were "his".  He needs a lawyer, but I'm sure that's not in his philosophy.

Someone at the Festival pointed out that whetever his step-father hadn't given him, he had clearly given him a great education... Let's hope he can do the same for his kids.

Revolucion - Mexico - Dir: Various -  3.5/5

A portmanteau film of 10 short films, each on the subjcet of the Mexican Revolution 100 years ago. Some modern, some historical, and by a evvy of great Mexican directors, many of whom, like Eimbeck, Reygados, Pla, etc are familiar from previous SFFs and of course producers Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal themselves directing. Mexican cinema with a politial edge id often difficult to get the most out of ecause we don't often know the historical context. but this fil was still fascinating and beustiful and also strange (esp the Reygados film of the fiesta).

Mammuth - France - Dir: BENOIT DELÉPINE, GUSTAVE DE KERVERN -  3.5/5

These directors have moved on a bit since Louise-Michel, away from more broad comedy - though there's still lots to laugh - and gasp - at. Now there are getting a little more philosophical, an little more lyrical, and a bit metaphysical. It's not as easy to grasp everything, but the broad brush is still there, and this is another film about the paper chase and bureaucracy.  Depardieu is breathtaking. He's hideous to look at, but he has the dignity of a dinosaur - or mammoth.

I found the moving in and out of gaisniness distracting and misleading, somehow.But there's a lot of attention to detail there, ans it's a clever bit of filmmaking.

The Runaways - USA - Dir: FLORIA SIGISMONDI -  3.5/5

Fun, but left me wanting more depth.  Apparently (so says Glen A Baker, who knew him) the portrait of Kim Fowley is deadly accurate. Kristin Stewart is brilliant as Joan Jett, and Dakota Fanning is also very good as Cherie Currie, who wrote the book on which this is based. One gets the strong feeling that a lot is left out, and that there could be other stories from other points of view.

Great music and clothes all from my era as a teen.  I had a lot of those clothes!  Not the risqué ones of course.

Thurs 10 June

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives - UK/ Thialand/ France/ Germany/ Spain - Dir: APICHATPONG WEERASETHAKUL -  3.5/5

Funny and irreverant. Reasonably easy to follow.  Great to watch. Not sure why it won Best Film at Cannes though.

Shirley Adams - South Africa - Dir: Oliver Hermanus -  3.5/5

Slow to start and very tough going for the first half, but the second half was interesting and deep and it tried to explain the issue of gang violence coherently. A lovely performance from Denise Newman, though the character irritated me greatly until towards the end. Lovely ending.

Must find out what a "tetraplegic" is.

The Most Dangerous Man in America - USA - Dir: Jusith Erlich, Rick Goldsmith -  4/5

Another very good doco dealing with historical political issues. This one takes Daniel Ellsberg's side, and again, I have questions about some of his behaviour which aren;t answered in the film.  Good on the US Supreme Court.  More later...

Oil City Confidential

Like Lemmy, a fascinating subject, well-researched, good interviews and music and fashion, but this time much more cinematic, and finished in good time. Julien Temple, film lover, inserts lots of British film noir and pulp fiction to hold our interest to the end and beyond.  Gotta see all those films again now: Brighton Rock, Night and the City, Stanley Baker, Richard Attenborough, Richard Widmark...

Fri 11 June

Women Without Men - Germany/ Austria/ France - Dir: Shirin Neshat-  4/5

Gorgeous and moving.  Poetic and painterly. A good blend of art and narrative, philosophy and poetry, polemic and drama. But somehow unsatisfying - and a bit hard to follow in that we are not entirely sure who is dead and who is alive. Apparently  the author of the book on which it is based appears as the brother-owner.

Space Tourists - Switzerland - Dir: Christain Frei -  3.5/5

Quite an interesting documentary, with some interesting facts, a lot of stuff that I already know, and very good access to the Russian space program ansd the millionairess who was the first woman to pay for a space fight.

Police, Adjective - Romania - Dir: CORNELIU PORUMBOIU -  3.5/5

Clever wordplay in a police procedural.  A slow burner.  As with detective work, there was a lot of watching and waiting and amassing facts, and then a sudden culmination. You get the feeling of how frustrating police work can be, whether at home or in Romania. Call for the Dictionary!

Genius Withing: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould - Canada - Dir: MICHELLE HOZER, PETER RAYMONT -  3.5/5

Review coming...

Henri-Georges Clouzot's L'Enfer - France - Dir: SERGE BROMBERG, RUXANDRA MEDREA - 4.5/5

Oh, if only I could see L'Enfer itself. Seeing this doco was pretty good though.  It was a very thorough and intelligent history of Clouzot's  attempts to make the film, and from everything we see, it would have been quite extraordinary, and would have cemented Clouzot in the French New Wave.  Romy Schneider looks fantastic, and the film is half study in paranoia, half psychedelic experiment.  But I would have translated "L'Enfer" as "Hell". That would be much more approriate for the film, for the experience of the cast and crew, and for this doco about it too...

I Am Love - Italy - Dir: LUCA GUADAGNINO - 4.5/5

Review coming...  Suffice it to say heaven, but a bit too perfectly.

Sat 12 June

The Killer Inside Me - USA - Dir: Michael Winterbottom - 4.5/5

Loved it - but it's tough.  I wnt to read the novel right away.

Kawasaki's Rose - Czech Republic - Dir: Jan Hrebejk - 4/5

A step on from his previous work - into philosophy...

Me Too - Spain  - Dir: ÁLVARO PASTOR, ANTONIO NAHARRO - 3.5/5

Would have been better if it kept its nerve.

White Material - France  - Dir: Claire Denis - 3/5

Not one of Claire's best. Too oblique, and repetitive. Menacing, but in the end mystifying.  Surely Isabel Huppert is too frail to be that tough!

Sun 13 June

Four Lions - UK - Dir: Christopher - 4.5/5

More brave filmmaking - and as funny as hell, but the accents are so strong that it would repay another viewing.  I'd be fascinated to know how general audiences - and Muslims - take it.

I laughed out loud a lot, and I think the film makers got the balance right.  But hardly anyone I know went to see it when it go a commercial release.  It ran for only a couple of weeks in Sydney.  I don't know why.  I found it both funny and profound.  And I'll see it again at home (on the big screen) with friends.

Senso - Italy - Dir: Luchino Visconti - 5/5

This gorgeous, and gorgeously-restored film was one of the highlights of the Festival for me.  Contessa Livia (a stunning Alida Valli), married to a rich older Count, is a bit of a revolutionary, at the time just before the Unification of Italy.  The Austrian army is occupying Venice, and Livia is involved with the patriots. She accidentally meets Austraian army officer Franz Mahler (the beautiful Farley Granger) after he challenges her cousin to a duel, and she pleads for him.  But she falls in love with Mahler. In fact, it is almost she that seduces him, although he has a plan to use her, and she can't see it. Tragedy is inevitable.

Granger/ Mahler is the femme/ homme fatale/ fatal here.  He preens himself and stands in such a way as to look as bewitching as possible when he puts the bite on Valli/ Livia for the money he needs.

The ending is just horrific as Mahler  reveals the extent of his degradation and self-loathing, and Livia realises that she has not only betrayed her husband, herself, the patriots - but Italy itself.  Truly operatic, and a delight to watch in every detail.

Home by Christmas - New Zealand - Dir: Gaylene Preston - 3.5/5

Review to come...

The Robber - Germany-Austria - Dir: Benjamin Heisenberg - 4.5/5

A sleeper.  Really good suspense film, with very authentic detail about running (I'm not sure about the bank-robbing bits!). The star, Andreas Lust, is so authentic-looking as a runner, he must be one or have trained to appear to be one - he's so lean. The final chase is absolutley hair-raising.  It's all a rush.

Mon 14 June

Wasted on the Young
- Australia - Dir: Ben C Lucas - 3.5/5

A really good first film, and very stylish, with very inventive use of, and portrayal of,  technology. But the filmmmaker's statement in the Film Festival brochure asserts that this film is not based on any book, film, or event, and that it is "that most dangerous of films - an original fiction".  I don't know how he can say that, when the film derives from high school or college massacres such as Columbine, from films about those events, like Gus van Sant's Elephant, and even from the play and film Dangerous Liaisons, in the character of the 2 girls from the "hip" crowd.

They've made  a good film from all this, and they've put their own stamp on it, but it is hardly withut precedent.

The film is overlong, labours points, and needs a script editor and a critical producer, but it is still gripping.  However, the trope that there are no adults at all in the forground of the film - and only a couple in the background - becomes a bit stretched, and it moves the film into the area of manipulation.

How I Ended this Summer - Russia - Dir: ALEXEI POPOGREBSKY - 5/5

A stunning 2-hander, with tension ratcheting up until it is unbearable.  Lean and intriguing, with a marvellous performance by Grigoriy Dobrygin as Pavel, who is amazingly athletic - he's a dancer, and he did his own stunts. The film is incredibly beautiful in a bleak way, and I can only imagine how hard it must have been to make, even using the Red digital camera This film should have won the Sydney Film Prize.  It's much better than Heartbeats (Xavier Dolan).

Prince of Tears - Hong Kong/ Taiwan - Dir: Yonfan - 1/5

This tear-jerking melodrama was interminable, and pretty dire, though it looked good. It was also quite confusing, even though every development was telegraphed before hand and explained afterwards.  I couldn't wait for it to end.  My dud of the Festival.

Closing Night - Mon 14 June

The Kids are All Right - USA - Dir: Lisa Cholodenko -  3/5

Sporadically funny, but very artificial. Another of those films in which the filmmakers very ovbiously set things up so they can make points, and it just doesn't flow naturally.  Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are good, but it's Mark Ruffalo and Mia Wasikowska's film.  They are delightful.  But they can't overcome a n air of forced "normality" that I delected.  Therre's something not quite right here.  At the time, I could not put my finger on it, eexcept to say that I didn't find the relationship between
Annette Bening and Julianne Moore's characters very authentic.  Cute, yes, but...

And then, much later,  I read the socio-political analysis by Diana Simmonds,
titled "It's not All Right", in The Weekend Australian, Oct 2-3 2010, p6 . Read it.  I agree!  <>.

Weirdly unmemorable music by Carter Burwell: very strange and unlike his usual brilliant contributions to films.

That's it:  55 feature films in 12 days and 13 nights. Quite an experience!