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Sydney Film Festival - Day 8

by Michael Collins

It was the best of times it was the worst of times for Day 8 of the festival.

There’s a strong sense of Good On You and Job Well Done with the audience as I walk into the theatre. 900 Neighbours – the film about the residents of the Northcott Estate – was just shown. Whatever the content of the documentary it seems to have created a positive vibe of one of Sydney’s lesser regarded icons, so good on them.

OK, so Mutual Appreciation was one of those movies where you applaud at the end. Not because you liked the film, but because you got out of it alive. There was no appreciation for this film from me.

I will confess that I had my back up immediately. The way that it started with zero introduction, no music, no opening credits, no – well anything. And then there was the look of the film – all cheapo and black and white.

All cheapo and black and white is ok if you have the wit of say, Clerks, but this film had the wit of an empty coffee mug.

The film was evidently improvised. That’s ok, but a film like this still needs rehearsal, a plan and then some tight editing. Indeed anything at all to make it not look like a sad mess.

It had a very studenty film feel to it with the participants, the long shots and the improvisation. They can still work in a film, but not in this one.

It was like a routine from Theatre Sports except without even a shred of humour.

It was poorly shot. Sometimes we were staring at torsos while someone else was talking. Sure, that’s partially due to budget restrictions, but really some thought into how it was shot could have resolved issues like that.

The characters were thoroughly unlikable which acted as another barrier to engaging into the film. They were all angst-ridden, over-analytical of themselves and were more than happy to not be happy. It was genuinely difficult to watch this film at times. It was like having a whole bunch of repressed memories being brought back up when you were happy to keep them hidden.

I was planning to see another film at the festival by the same director, but now I am very unsure about that.

The following film could not have been more different. Perhaps Love from China was a grand musical. Beautifully shot by Christopher Doyle and another top notch cinematographer, Peter Pau (who did Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon), the film was a joy to look at.

The story was of a love triangle of sorts which is told via a movie being made within the film and the heavy use of flashback. The way the story was told was quite complex actually, but it rewarded those who stuck with it and thought through what was going on.

The editing at time was frantic and being a musical it had a heightened tone about it. It is difficult to not compare to the film to Moulin Rouge, but the director Peter Ho-Sun Chan was keen to avoid comparison to that film. He did however mention that he had other old school Hollywood films in mind when making this film.

Whatever be the comparisons, this was a wonderful film and well worth seeking out.

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originally posted: 06/18/06 12:28:44
last updated: 06/18/06 12:31:38
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