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Guv and Dusty do the Sydney Film Festival - Part 2
by Andrew Howe and Michael Collins

Guv and Dusty's gonzo look at the Sydney Film Fest was too big for one article, so it's been turned into two. Behold, part two!

Thursday, 21st June - Look back in anger
I had the day off, so I decided to check out State & Main. I only mention this because there's a scene where Philip Seymour Hoffman tries to hide a naked woman from his new-found love interest that bears certain similarities to a scene in Divided We Fall which, in my full review of the film, I use as an example of the pathetic Carry On style of comedy favoured by Hrebejk. The difference is that in State & Main the characters behave like real people, and since you genuinely want Hoffman to get away with it the result is an immensely satisfying set-piece. The scene in Divided We Fall, on the other hand, is tedious and uninspired, not the least because the characters in that film are divorced from reality (the whole film is divorced from reality, but that's another matter). Just thought I'd clear that up, is all. - ABH

Friday, 22nd June - To all things, an ending
As the fatigue poisons take their toll, Closing Night arrives not a moment too soon. The audience award went to Divided We Fall, which resulted in much gnashing of teeth from the punters, with the only saving grace being that The World of Apu was runner-up. For the record, the others were The Lost World (a restored version of the 1925 silent film, which is a ridiculous choice given the calibre of the competition), Pellet, and When Brendan Met Trudy at the State, and Ali Zaoua, You Can Count on Me, Before the Storm, Compassionate Sex and Blue Collar at the Dendy.

Closing Night kicked off with the world premiere of La Spagnola, a largely-subtitled Australian comedy that shows Silent Partner how it's done. Lola, a Spanish immigrant, is dealing with a rebellious teenage daughter and the loss of her husband to an Australian woman. The film's creators took a risk by investing the characters with few redeeming qualities, but the dark undertones make for an unusually affecting experience. Add to this a set-piece involving an unusual use for a popular vegetable which will have you gaping in disbelief (if you can stop laughing long enough, that is), a couple of brutally-honest sex scenes, and a refusal to resort to schmaltz or insincere emotion, and you've got a film which, if the gods are kind, will be the next big Australian export.

The final film of the festival was Everybody's Famous, a Belgian release nominated in the same category as Divided We Fall at the 2001 Oscars. It's a relatively slight comedy about a father's efforts to advance his unattractive daughter's singing career, but it has its moments, and Josse De Pauw turns in a memorable performance in the lead. It's a feel-good flick unsullied by any attempts to canvass anything a little deeper (basically the Chocolat of the Foreign Film category), but it sees you from the cinema on the right side of positive, and after spending two weeks immersed in the long dark night of the soul I wasn't complaining. - ABH

We come to the end of the festival, relatively thrombosis free. We can still see. we have not starved. We have made it to the end of the festival. While that's an achievement, the festival ending was rather anti-climatic and disappointing.

La Spagnola was not quite on the mark for me - not funny enough for a comedy, not emotionally involving enough to be an out-and-out drama. It was a rather short 90 minutes and perhaps there should have been more time spent on developing what the characters were thinking.

With everybody scrambling for their allotted 15 minutes of fame, Everybody's Famous is another reminder of how much nonsense it all is. With other films like Series 7, Battle Royale, and even Josie and The Pussycats, you would think that wannabe stars would finally wake up to themselves. Alas no. The film's over-the-top finale made sure you know it's all a satire - and an amusing one at that. - MC

Post-festival reflection - The new ticketing arrangement (introduced last year) still works, although it is rather odd that the 10 films for $100 actually costs over $140 when bought through the ticket agency. Of the films seen, Time and Tide was the most thrilling, When Brendan Met Trudy the funniest, and Disco Pigs the most powerful. Best all-rounder was Divided We Fall. So that's it. It's finally over and I survived - I went and saw Josie and The Pussycats to recover. - MC

I have little hesitation in proclaiming this year's festival a major success - the slate was definitely stronger than the 2000 festival, and the organisers proved their ability to hone in on quality films which would otherwise go unseen. A few films from last year's programme went on to enjoy some measure of success (Jesus' Son and A Room for Romeo Brass), but since many of this year's films have already enjoyed an international release (You Can Count on Me, Yi yi, Before Night Falls and When Brendan Met Trudy), Battle Royale may prove to be the only sleeper.

There can be little doubt to me that the Apu Trilogy deserves acclaim, but since they were reissues I have no hesitation in awarding my highest honour to Yi yi. The honourable mention goes to Battle Royale - other releases on the above list were, when considered objectively, better films, but Kinji Fukasaku's creation rocked my world in ways that the others never could. This year's Special Achievement Award is the Once Upon a Time in the West Award For Standing Around, which goes to Platform, since it's what most of the characters spend 2 1/2 hours doing. The only difference is that in Once Upon a Time in the West the gunslingers were waiting for their nemesis - in Platform, they're just waiting for Godot.

I'm going to sleep for a few eons - wake me when Lord of the Rings hits the screens. - ABH


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=395
originally posted: 07/03/01 17:06:24
last updated: 07/07/01 20:41:25
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