Ever since I was a young film geek, one of the things I’ve always wanted to do was to attend a film festival. Unfortunately when you live in a small country town in the middle of nowhere for most of your life, you never really get the chance to since you’re far away from everything. Now that I’m a permanent resident of Melbourne, I’ll be finally be able to get the opportunity to so by attending one of Australia’s most prestigious film festivals: the Melbounre International Film Festival (or MIFF for short).
This year’s festival will host over 300 films from all over world, some of which I’ve been highly anticipating (Moonrise Kingdom, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Holy Motors, Safety Not Guaranteed, On the Road, The Sapphires, Your Sister’s Sister, Bully, Damsels In Distress etc.). However I’ve decided that I won’t be seeing any of these films. Now you’re probably wondering why that is? Don’t get me wrong, while I’m definitely looking forward to them but I’ve got some perfectly good reasons for not seeing them. First of which is that the films that I’ve listed all already have release dates over the next 3 months here in Australia, so I’m not going to worry about checking them out at the festival since they’ll all be out soon anyway. Plus I’ve decided to put all my focus on some films that either don’t have a release date yet or if they do, they won’t be released until late or early next year. So what will I be watching then? Out of all the other films that will be playing at MIFF this year, I’ve picked 17 films. These are ones that I’m also really excitied about and I can’t wait to see them at the festival. What I like my picks is that they cover all different genres of film. There’s a bit of everything: drama, horror, comedy, thriller, animated and documentary. So which films are they? Here’s my complete rundown of what I’ll be seeing at MIFF 2012…
NOTE *09/08/12*: Even though I originally planned to watch only 15 films, I’ve decided to add two last minute films to my list. So now I’ll be seeing 17 films at the MIFF this year.
100 BLOODY ACRES
Director: Colin Cairnes & Cameron Cairnes
Plot: When three young suburbanites head off to a music festival in the country, a car breakdown is all they need. Thankfully, help is at hand in the form of local organic fertiliser trader Reg, who stops and invites the partygoers to wait for help back at the farm he runs with his brother, Lindsay. But is Reg a good Samaritan or a good businessman? With a big order pending and the brothers seeking to improve their product, will the three youths find themselves pushing up daisies?
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Plot: A mysterious underground club known as Alps offers a most unusual service: to stand in for your dearly departed, taking on their mannerisms and wearing their clothes, until you have overcome your loss. Members of the club will live in the deceased person’s home and recite their typical speech by rote. The leader of the club, who goes by the name Mont Blanc, demands that the members operate according to a highly disciplined code of conduct. All do except for one, Monte Rosa, leading to dire consequences when she becomes emotionally involved with one of her clients. Talented director Yorgos Lanthimos has again crafted a unique cinematic product, not as immediate as his previous film, the Oscar-nominated Dogtooth, but arguably more fascinating. The film’s offbeat, absurd tone powerfully engages the viewer into its hermetic web of inhuman relationships.
Director: Michael Haneke
Plot: Unfolding largely within the protective shell of a Parisian apartment, filmmaker Michael Haneke’s Amour eschews violence and psychological riddles for a profoundly frank portrayal of ageing, sickness and the lengths we go to for love. Octogenarian actors, Jean-Louis Trintignant (And God Created Woman) and Emmanuelle Riva (Hiroshima Mon Amour), shrug off the weight of their stardom to offer career-defining roles as the couple, Georges and Anne, at the centre of this intimate drama. Their love faces the ultimate test when Anne suffers a stroke and Georges takes on the role of carer, as well as the realisation she will never get well.
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Plot: Fourteen years ago Thomas Vinterberg helped introduce the world to the Dogme 95 doctrine with his devastating drama The Celebration. With the release of The Hunt, another film dealing with the spectre of paedophilia, critics are hailing his return to form. Mads Mikkelsen picked up the Best Actor award at Cannes for his portrayal of Lucas, a teacher whose life is upended when a child wrongfully accuses him of sexual impropriety. What follows is a tense exploration of the way such claims can lead to the complete loss of reason and trust, causing profound damage to relationships. With solid, unobtrusive film craft, allowing the skill of the cast to carry the story, Vinterberg delivers a knockout psychological punch.
Director: Bart Layton
Plot: In 1994, a 13-year-old boy vanished from his Texas home. Three years later he is found in Spain, divulging terrible stories of kidnap and torture. His family, overjoyed at his reappearance, whisks him back home. Yet what of the fact he appears oddly different or that he speaks with a strange new accent? In fact, the boy is not their son, Nicholas Barclay, but a now 30-something French serial impersonator, Frédéric Bourdin. The tale only gets stranger when an American private eye discovers the Barclay family itself is playing its own game of deception.
JAYNE MANSFIELD’S CAR
Director: Billy Bob Thornton
Plot: Actor Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade) takes his seat in the director’s chair after nearly a decade with this Southern Gothic ensemble melodrama set in 1969 and influenced by the theatre of Tennessee Williams. At the core of the film is the theme of war, as well as a different kind of battlefield – that between fathers and sons coming to blows over military service and 60s counterculture. Thornton and his co-writer Tom Epperson (with whom he wrote 1992’s One False Move) explore this conundrum through the culture-clash of two rival families: one firmly entrenched in Alabama, and the other a stiff upper-lipped British clan.
Director: William Friedkin
Plot: Killer Joe may mark director William Friedkin’s (The French Connection, The Exorcist) return to filmmaking after a five-year absence, however it’s the calculating performance from Matthew McConaughey that commands attention. In a career-best turn, he demonstrates the menace behind his charismatic exterior, playing the titular corrupt cop and assassin for hire. His involvement in the trailer trash schemes of a family (including Into the Wild’s Emile Hirsch and Kaboom’s Juno Temple) willing to trade blood for money sets in motion a sordid tale of sex, sin, violence and revenge. In an adaptation of Tracey Letts’ play, Joe’s actions form the basis of the brutal, blood-splattered black comedy.
Director: Franck Khalfoun
Plot: A remake of William Lustig’s notorious 1980 hit of the same name, this version of Maniac is adapted by screenwriter and producer (with Lustig) Alexandre Aja and stars Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Nora Arnezeder (Paris 36). Director Franck Khalfoun has made the bold decision to shoot the entire film from the killer’s point of view (he is never seen except in mirrors or photos), defying standard horror conventions to create something shocking, inventive and terrifying. The film thus follows Frank, an unassuming creative type who just happens to be a schizophrenic serial killer with a fetish for scalping women. When Anna, a young artist, enters his life, the two form a strange and unexpected bond. As their romance blossoms, Frank must resist his violent temptations.
Director: Chris Butler & Sam Fell
Plot: When zombies overtake a small town, only the misunderstood young boy Norman (voiced by Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee) has the ability to speak to the dead. In order to overcome a siege of the paranormal he must prove to his doubters that he is far stronger than his stature suggests. Equal parts funny and moving, ParaNorman is a stunning tale of an unlikely hero… with a twist. Directed by Sam Fell (The Tale of Despereaux, Flushed Away) and Chris Butler (Coraline, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride), it displays the stylistic influence of Coraline (MIFF 2009) in its vivid and detailed animation that combines 3D stop-motion with classic, engaging storytelling.
[REC] 3: GENESIS
Director: Paco Plaza
Plot: Paco Plaza (co-director, [REC], [REC] 2) directs this ‘rom-zom-com’ – the third instalment in the series that goes back to where the infection of the other films began: a wedding. Everything appears to be running smoothly for Koldo and Clara’s big day, until some guests show signs of a strange illness. Then the gates of hell are opened; the bride and groom get separated, and so begins their desperate search to reunite. Until death do they part… supposedly. In an audacious rewriting of his own rules, Plaza ditches the found footage format 20 minutes into the action, taking the franchise into new, uncharted territory as it becomes equal parts terrifying and gruesomely funny.
ROBOT & FRANK
Director: Jake Schreier
Plot: First-time filmmaker Jake Schreier comes up with a bona fide crowd pleaser in this heartwarming parable on technology and how it’s only as good as the humans controlling it. Set sometime in the near future, Frank Langella plays an ex-cat burglar suffering the onset of Alzheimer’s and the loss of independence. At the insistence of his children (James Marsden and Liv Tyler), he begrudgingly enlists home help in the form of a white robot who speaks with soothing intonations (Peter Sarsgaard). Once a bond develops between man and machine, Frank jumps on an opportunity to resume his former unlawful ways.
Director: Rodney Ascher
Plot: Room 237 dissects Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining in amazing and unexpected ways, looking at a host of conspiracy theories around secret codes and messages supposedly hidden within the film. Director Rodney Ascher has uncovered a thriving subculture of Kubrick fans, critics and film theorists – ranging from semi-obsessive to paranoid delusional – who ascribe a plethora of interpretations to The Shining. Is it about the Holocaust? Or the plight of the American Indians? Or is it a confession of Kubrick’s involvement with faking the moon landing? Screened at Sundance and Cannes, the film itself is about so much more than just obsessive fandom; it gets to the heart of what it is to find meaning in a film, and there, to discover one’s secrets.
SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Plot: Down-at-heel insurance salesman Dodge (Steve Carell) is having a bad end of the world – when the announcement comes, his wife leaves him to be with her secret lover. Feeling suicidal, he becomes a reluctant romantic adviser to his off-kilter neighbour, Penny (Keira Knightley). But when their building is ransacked, the two embark on a cross-country journey in an effort to find Dodge’s childhood sweetheart. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is the directorial debut from screenwriting wunderkind Lorene Scafaria. With a whip smart script, star-studded cast and a scintillating comic chemistry between Carell and Knightley, the death of mankind has never seemed so sweet.
Director: Ben Lewin
Plot: Mark (John Hawkes, Martha Marcy May Marlene) has polio and wants to lose his virginity before his impending death. Being a religious man, Mark confides in Father Brendan (William H. Macy) about his desires. The priest assures him God will “look the other way” when Mark seeks the aid of a ‘sex surrogate’ (Helen Hunt). Based on the real-life events of respected American writer Mark O’Brien, The Sessions is a heart-warming film about the need for closeness. The performances, dialogue and naturalistic portrayal of bodies add to a sense of feel-good realism that made it a smash-hit at Sundance, where it won the Audience Award (US Dramatic) and a Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting.
SOUND OF MY VOICE
Director: Zal Batmanglij
Plot: Sound Of My Voice puts two investigative journalists at the epicentre of a cult led by an enigmatic woman – the film’s co-writer and producer, Brit Marling (also co-writer, producer and actor on Another Earth) – who claims to be from the future. While the plan is to expose her as a fraud, an emotional breakthrough for one of the journalists starts to shake their cynicism. Could she actually be the real deal? Always keeping his cards close to his chest, debut filmmaker Zal Batmanglij unpacks this killer narrative episodically, building on audience expectations before unsettling them. This Sundance revelation is a spellbinder that demonstrates a low budget is no impediment to big ideas or taut and compelling execution.
Director: Daniel Lindsay & TJ Martin
Plot: Winner of the 2012 Academy Award for Best Documentary, Undefeated follows the fortunes of Coach Bill Courtney as he tries to end a high-school football team’s 110-year losing streak. Prior to Courtney’s arrival the Manassas Tigers, a North Memphis team once considered Tennessee’s worst, had resorted to literally selling their games to opposing schools seeking an easy win. But with the new coach’s steady hand and focus on the players’ emotional as well as physical strength, the team’s reputation gains a chance at redemption. Filmmakers Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin irrepressibly capture the triumphs and setbacks of the team’s 2009 season, resulting in one of the year’s most acclaimed documentary films.
Director: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg and Radio Silence
Plot: A collection of top genre filmmakers go head-to-head in a compendium of found footage flicks – tightly wrapped in a contextualising film – that run the gauntlet of suspense, terror, shock and downright brutality. A group of petty criminals is hired to retrieve a mysterious videotape from a rundown house. In the living room, a lifeless body holds court before a hub of old TV sets, surrounded by stacks upon stacks of VHS tapes. As they search for the right one, they are treated to a seemingly endless number of horrifying videos, each stranger than the last. Directed by Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die), David Bruckner (The Signal), Ti West (The Innkeepers), Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead), Joe Swanberg (Art History) and Radio Silence (YouTube filmmaking sensations).
Well, there you have it. These are the 17 films I’ll be seeing at MIFF 2012. Keep a look for my reviews on all of these films over the next few weeks. I haven’t decided if I’ll be doing written reviews or video reviews yet but stay tuned for them once I do. Also follow me at www.twitter.com/BedeJermyn for my daily random thoughts and first reactions to all the films at the festival.
– Bede Jermyn