|by Trevor Gensch
Now into the second half of BIFF 2005, I find myself still surprisingly refreshed and ready to tackle the feast of films on offer over the latter half of the festival.
After close to two weeks of films, shorts, free screenings, seminars and events, the Brisbane International Film Festival 2005 is now at an end.
As the BIFF staff herded the last of the patrons attending the closing night film The Jacket so heralded the end of another festival.
This year has been a very interesting year for the festival. On board for the next three years is the naming rights sponsor Vision, who are apparently putting up a massive residential tower. It's indicative of the new direction BIFF has taken this year - all for a good cause of course - to bring in more money to make the festival bigger and better than ever.
This year we ended up with a longer festival, A greater and more diverse selection of films, more advertising, a seemingly endless parade of special guests and a lot more activity.
BIFF (and by association the PFTC) seem on the brink of leaving their troublesome early teenager years behind them and blossoming into a young adult. At previous BIFFs I have always been able to see the seams - where the staff have hurriedly stitched together things to get them by. But this year the festival seems a lot more organised, a lot more like a confident, self-assured, multi-layered event.
A sign of their new-found confidence seems to be shown by the way they have expanded upon the successes of previous years and made them even better. For the last year or two there has been the children's festival of films, but this year it is significantly expanded and even has its own catchy name - Cinesparks. It's continued success with young and old alike show how versatile a festival can be - by opening it up to the "younger generation" we guarantee the future of BIFF itself.
The public screenings at the Southbank Piazza are a fantastic idea also - hopefully the bums on seats will translate to future paying patrons at BIFF next year. If only the Piazza could improve that awful screen they use the venue would be close to perfect.
The program at BIFF this year was also an interesting one. I was disappointed with the 2004 offerings and the festival's reliance on certain Asian offerings at the expense of other cultures. 2005 has seen the balance redressed somewhat with some great films from Turkey, Iran, Korea, Canada and of course Australia.
Some of my own personal highlights this year have been the aussie drama Puppy, the ultimate feelgood film Bombon El Perno, two offerings from France, Changing Times and 36 Quaides ofreures, the Turkish melodrama Time of the Heart, and the bittersweet comedy of Mighty Celt.
There really was something for everyone at the festival this year. Sure, you are always going to get a few duds here and there (check out my daily film diaries for a few prime examples!) but that is always going to be case for any festival. The program description is never going to fully capture what the film is going to be like, it's just something you have to experience for yourself.
I talked earlier in the week about my dislike for the SouthBank Cinemas and my yearning for a return to the majesty of the Regent. I'll revise my comments slightly and say that if you are there at the right time, SouthBank comes alive. Between screenings over the weekend I enjoyed the markets and fine dining and really felt the place was alive. Heck, even finding a comfy tree and having a bit of a snooze was something you wouldn't be able to do over the river at the Regent.
But during the week it can be a bit of a wasteland. The cinemas are one block back from the main action, surrounded by residential apartments and soulless office blocks. So its hard to ascribe the vibe of the parklands themselves to this area, they are just a bit too removed from it all.
Two years ago BIFF utilised the just finished Myer Centre cinemas as their secondary venue - and it was perfect. A short walk between the two to catch screenings was all it took. Although I arranged my schedule this year to minimise the running around, I still had to dash backwards and forwards over the river to get to my next screening, something it would be great to avoid!
Time for a quick list of some of my loves and hates that I haven't covered already:
The Austcorp ad before each screening. I don't know what it was but each time I saw that kid's right foot crash down at that awkward angle early on in the ad it made me smile.
The BIFF staff (particularly the volunteers). They are always great, but this year they seemed to be even greater. Well done guys (and gals!).
Festival guests. As I said above, there seemed to be a lot more guests this year. Fantastic stuff. Can often make an average film great.
Free public screenings. Great idea to get the general public interested in a festival. Not too sure the sight of two boys having a wank on the edge of a diving board is a particularly good way to get them interested... but hey... Y Tu Mama Tambien has a whole lot more to it, doesn't it?
Increased advertising. Street banners, television advertising, SBS and ABC Movie Show coverage, it was all there this year.
The BIFF ad. Too short, pretentious and badly edited. Due to the differing screens it was presented on, it often looked like the film was skipping. Editing flicks in time with one part of the backing track often were not repeated when the track did the same "flick" again. Remember when BIFF used to run competitions in conjunction with the ad? Seems like such a long time ago...
The Vision ad. More human than building my ass.
Commuting between venues. As my friend said after a screening "damn, I wish they had put that light rail service in". It's not particularly dignified to arrive at your next screening with your hair tousled like Zsa Zsa Gabor courtesy of the gale force conditions on the Victoria Bridge and just feeling a little "pongy".
Not enough short films. Yet again there were precious few short films before the screenings. Isn't BIFF getting enough applicants (doubtful) or are they all just awful and not worth screening (more likely)?
So there you have it, my thoughts on BIFF 2005. I would be interested in hearing other attendees thoughts on the festival. Leave some comments on the message board (lord knows it needs them!).
Sunday 7th August 2005
Even though the festival winds up on Monday, today is my final day of film screenings. And what a way to finish off. I had a look at Spike Milligan - I Told You I Was Ill, which, as the title hints, is a doco about Spike Milligan. You see Spike through the eyes three of his four children from his first two marriages.
We view his life as related by his children, what they observed, how they learned to live with this man who at times could be quite depressed and unstable. We travel back to his beloved second home at Woy Woy, and witness the bizarre Spike Millgan festival that takes place there.
This documentary has tons of archival footage also - home movies, scenes from his television and radio work, and rare news footage.
Absorbing for any fan of Spike or english comedy in general. 9 out of 10.
I'll be back tomorrow to provide a bit of a wrap-up for the festival - my faves, my disappointments, what I thought worked this year and what I thought didn't.
Saturday 6th August 2005
Second last day of the festival, and boy has it gone fast. This is probably the first year I haven't had a bit of fatigue at the half way point - seeing 30 or so films over the course of just under 2 weeks can be a bit taxing, especially when you have to fit it around work and family commitments.
Today was my biggest day film-wise, with five films to see and enjoy.
First up, I had a look at Woman is the Future of Man, a Korean offering looking at a few days in the life of some young Koreans.
The story, such as it is, has two young men catching up with a former flame who has moved to a nearby province, and how this reunion affects them.
What it really turned out to be was a clear message of "all men are bastards". Scene after scene of men either abducting women, raping women, forcing women to satisfy them sexually and being generally unkind to women.
Sure, it is meant to be an allegory for the way Korean society is/was once, with its subservient women, but the film lays it on way too thick.
Tiring in its one-eyed portrayal of men Woman is the Future of Man doesn't have a lot to make it interesting once you take on the man-bashing elements. 4 out of 10.
Time of the Heart on the other hand, is a gloriously sentimental tale of three men and how they all have their hearts broken by the same woman.
It's description belies the true nature of the film - its all about love, romance and making the right choice that pleases all.
Unashamedly romantic, from its use of 50/60s crooner music and its gorgeous setting in a landmark Turkish hotel through to its leading lady who could have easily stepped out of a Clark Gable or Cary Grant movie, this film is a fun tale that never disappoints. 8 out of 10.
The year's BIFF has had a look at the plethora of road movies that have been made over the past 40 or so years. My only foray into this genre at this year's festival is the UK offering Gallivant. It might be hard to imagine how an island as small as England can lend itself to a road movie format, but what this film lacks in wide open stretches of blacktop it compensates for with the characters that dot the film.
The filmmaker has taken on his journey around the coastline of England, Wales and Scotland his mother, and young daughter, afflicted with a debilitating mental and physical condition that will probably end her life before she reaches her 21st birthday,
The trip is intended as an off-beat travelogue, seen through the eyes of his daughter and mother as well as an opportunity to spend some quality time with them both, perhaps the last time he will be able to do so.
At times difficult to watch due to the visual style employed, Gallivant is however rewarding and offers many treats for the viewer. 7 out of 10.
An Australian film that has been getting a lot of favourable buzz is Look Both Ways, by film-maker Sarah Watt. Sarah is best known as the creator of award-winning animations, and she has brought that talent to this film is an ingenious way, mixing live action with her unique animation.
Look Both Ways is about how people cope with the challenges life throws your way, whether it be cancer, the death of a loved one, a tragic accident or the difficulties of being a parent.
There is a small underlying story running through the film, but it isn't particularly important. What is more important is watching these characters come to life as they all come to the realisation of their respective situations.
Well performed, acted and with some beautiful visuals, this is a film that does Australia proud. It is a shame though that it be virtually ignored by a film-going public anxiously awaiting the next opus from Jimeon. 8 out of 10.
The least amount of time I have to spend writing about my last film for the day, the better. Hotel is a minimalist (read, we don't have to explain shit, so there) German film about a young girl taking up a position at a hotel which borders on a forboding forest.
I couldn't make much sense of this quite boring film, other than perhaps it was some sort of look at faith.
A complete waste of time. 1 out of 10.
My only films tomorrow, my last day of festival fun, are Heavens Gate (and the making of), and Spike Milligan - I Told You I Was Ill.
Friday 5th August 2005
A quick festival review today, my one and only film was Pin Boy, an Argentinian film about a young lad who takes the job of a parapalos, somebody who sets up the pins in a bowling alley.
It can be back-breaking work, but at times incredibly boring, which funnily enough is what I thought of this film.
There are some wonderful ideas in Pin Boy, the friendship of the fellow parapalos, the stories they share and philosophy they expound. But the film never gets out of first gear - we watch young Ringo at work, we watch him at home getting changed and sleeping. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
If the purpose of director Ana Poliak was to drum into the viewer the mundane life of the pin boy, then she succeeded, otherwise this film doesn't have enough to sustain much interest at all.
Probably close to half the audience at my screening didn't last the distance with this one. No meat. No meat. 2 out of 10.
Tomorrow - a feast of five films. Woman is the Future of Man, Time of the Heart, Gallivant, 2005 FIPRESCI Award Winning film Look Both Ways and Hotel.
Thursday 4th August 2005
Showcase screenings are one of the best things BIFF introduced in recent years. It gives the ordinary person a chance to feel special by seeing a film presented in a grand way. For those whose wallets go into convulsions about the merest though of paying $60 to go to Opening Night, the Showcase screenings are a perfect way to feel a bit posh while still retaining your financial dignity.
Tonight I saw the second of the two BIFF screenings, the French cops and robbers drama 36 Quaides ofreures. This year with BIFF using the SouthBank cinemas as a headlining venue, the screening took place in the old IMAX theatre (which sadly closed down a few years back cause nobody wanted to see yet another film about a tiger).
They have kept the seating relatively intact, and just modified the screen so it is more suited to the standard films that are now shown in it.
As a result, the theatre must have the widest screen in Brisbane showing non-IMAX films.
36 Quaides ofreures stars Daniel Auteuil and Gerard Depardieu as two cops competing for their bosses job. They head up elite units, one homicide, the other going after the rest.
The outgoing Inspector says that in this contest, the unit that can bring to justice a ruthless gang of professional criminals will be the one to take his job.
There is no love lost between the two units, but everything is not as it seems....
This film is about as clos as the French get to producing something that could be described as "Hollywood". There are no surprises here - it's all very formulaic and predictable. That isn't to say it isn't a good film - like with a lot of cinematic eye candy faults can be ignored as long as one is entertained. And at least in that respect it works.
The wheels do fall off in the final act a bit with the staggering amount of coincidences piling up, but if you just want to be entertained and see how the French handle a film of this kind, then you can't go far wrong. 8 out of 10.
Only one film tomorrow, the Argentinian drama Pin Boy.
Wednesday 3rd August 2005
With the festival well past its half-way point now, it's probably time to make a comment or six about how it has been going so far.
The biggest aspect of the festival that has stood out for me is the venue shake-up. Utilising the Regent and SouthBank Cinemas has been an interesting move, if not entirely successful.
Now of course BIFF has done it before, in past years they have sent us over the river to the State Library, off into the depths of New Farm to the Centro and up the spirally staircase to the Myer Centre. We are used to wandering around Brisbane for our festival fare.
What gets me is the lack of atmosphere at SouthBank. With the Regent you are instantly soaked in it as you come in off Queen Street - the carvings, the beautiful central staircase and the wonderful cinema interiors that just ooze with class.
SouthBank just doesn't have that, and the harsh concrete and metallic surroundings will never even be able to hint at that sort of feeling.
In my opinion the area needs more of a filmy feel to it. At present its a small oasis in a desert of bland accommodation, over-priced restaraunts and fast food outlets.
Hell, I would even prefer the way it was two years ago when BIFF utilised the Myer Centre - at least you were only a short walk away from what was and still should be the central hub of the festival - The Regent.
Anyway, down to today's films.
First up was a Malaysian digital offering My Beautiful Washing Machine. A lonely man buys a second-hand washing machine, which then breaks down. When he is about to throw it away, it somehow metamorphasises a subservient girl who does his washing, cooking and cleaning.
The man thinks his life is set until he decides to try and prostitute her to earn some extra money. She runs away, and lives with another man who has similar problems with his own machine.
This film has the same problem I found with an increasing amount of digital film-makers - just because the tape is cheap doesn't mean you have to shoot and shoot and shoot. It's about 2 hours long, 1 hour of which could have easily been excised to make for more interesting viewing. It's poorly structured, almost dialogue free and features uninspiring camera-work. Dreary, dreary, dreary. 2 out of 10.
At the other end of the spectrum was my other film for today - Manners of Dying. We are afforded a look at an execution, but this is no ordinary glimpse into prison life. This drama allows us to view the execution and the preceding events multiple times. Each time we see it the situation is different; the prisoner is agitated, then he is calm. The guards are attacked, in others they are thanked.
Surfacing as a constant throughout these differing looks at the last few hours of the prisoner is his request for the tapes of his execution to be sent to his mother. We see the Prison Superintendent considering this request throughout the film as different outcomes to the execution are played out before us, making the the view appreciate Superintendent's decision that much more difficult than we first think.
Despite myself I was enthralled by this film - it was made on a very small budget but the performances and set design more than compensate. Unlike similar films such as The Green Mile, Manners of Dying shows us a no nonsense look at the different ways a man can spend his last few hours on this earth. 9 out of 10.
Just one film tomorrow - the BIFF Showcase screening of 36 Quaides ofreures, starring my favourite French actor, Daniel Auteuil!
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=1564
originally posted: 08/04/05 10:28:53
last updated: 08/10/05 11:22:03