Thursday, October 31, 2013

Another Year, Another BIFF

1. The Past dir: Asghar Farhadi
At the very first BIFF I attended I saw four films. The last of those films was Farhadi’s About Elly and I’m convinced that when the workers tore down the Regent Cinema a year or so later they found a chair with my hand prints imprinted in it. Aside from being nerve-wracking About Elly was the first film I ever saw that hinged on an entirely different set of cultural norms to those I was familiar with. All of which is a rather long winded way of saying that I have no intention of missing a Farhadi film.

2. Outrage Beyond dir: Takeshi Kitano
The only previous Takeshi film I’ve seen is Hana-bi. Having said that, I love that film’s curious mixture of brutal violence and goofy sentiment. I also love its idiosyncratic editing and marvelously suspenseful bank heist scene. In short it’s long past time that I saw another – even if it is the rather tepidly received Outrage Beyond.

3. The Missing Picture dir: Rithy Panh
This film’s reception plus its premise of brutal history mixed with dollhouse reconstructions makes it a must see.

4.  Fallen City dir: Zhao Qi – and 5. ‘Til Madness Do Us Part dir: Wang Bing
Ever since I went to Rotterdam in 2012 and saw films like Bachelor Mountain, Shattered, Born in Beijing and Apuda DV, ethnographically minded documentaries from China have been one of my favorite film types – a feeling reinforced by seeing Petition and Three Sisters recently. Documentaries seem so much more revealing when they focus on their subjects’ behavior or when the interviewer actually leaves space for the interviewed to really express themselves. And the rapid change, dramatic rural/urban divide and history in China create so much rich subject matter to be mined. So of course I’m seeing the two Chinese documentaries at BIFF – especially the one by Wang Bing, the acknowledged master of the form.

6. The Congress dir: Ari Folman
The bits I liked most in Waltz with Bashir were the flights of fancy so I'm totally up for a Folman movie that is nothing but flights of fancy.

7. La Jetee dir: Chris Marker
This film is actually showing with a documentary salute to the avant garde/documentary film-maker but I’ll be honest: the real draw is this famous short masterpiece. I’ve wanted to catch it ever since seeing Gilliam’s expansion of the material and, if anything, its haunting black and white still frames seem like they’d suit the material even better than Gilliam’s typically gaudy approach.

8. Le Joli Mai dir: Chris Marker
More Chris Marker, duh.

9. Andrei Rublev dir: Andrei Tarkovsky
I’ve seen four Tarkovsky films to date and only one (Nostalghia) has left me less than stunned and impressed. The only reasons I’m not seeing more is that I have commitments that mean I can’t attend one Sunday and I still find it hard to resist the siren call of the new. Absurd I know, but there it is.

10. Stray Dogs dir: Tsai Ming-liang
Films from Taiwan’s poet of urban isolation are stupidly hard to come by in Australia (and I’m resistant to pirating/watching on youtube). However I did see the amazing Rebels of the Neon God at GoMA earlier this year and it’s left me feeling a little wistful and melancholy ever since.

11. The Act of Killing dir: Joshua Oppenheimer
A fair part of my bachelor degree involved South East Asian history. As such I’m familiar with the circumstances and the broad outlines of the massacre this documentary focuses on, as well as current day attitudes towards it. The chance to see one of the participants reflect on his role is far too intriguing to pass up.

12.  Bends dir: Flora Lau
Carina Lau and Christopher Doyle, duh.

13.  A Touch of Sin dir: Jia Zhangke
This guy made The World and Still Life.

14.  Like Father, Like Son dir: Hirokazu Kore-eda
That first BIFF I mentioned earlier? Well another one of those four films was Kore-eda’s Still Walking. My subsequent hunt to track down every fiction feature he’d ever made was my induction into the heady world of auterism (still haven’t seen Hana). He’s no longer one of my favorite directors – he’s neither distinctive nor consistent enough for that (dubious) honour – but I’ll always have time for him. (Incidentally this blog's banner image is taken from one of his films but I'm not saying which one...)

15.  Norte, the End of History dir: Lav Diaz
The last time I tried to sit through a Lav Diaz film (Florentina Hubaldo CTE) I walked out – after giving him what I still think was an entirely fair three hours – in an ultimately futile attempt to catch a different movie. Frankly a film whose subject was as much shot length as it was trauma (its ostensible theme) was a pretty draining experience for me (I’m not a proper cinephile, I know). However this has received way too much praise for me to ignore it and I’ve been turned around on directors before.

16.  The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith dir: Fred Schepisi
My knowledge of Australian classics is appalling. It’s well passed time I brushed up.

17.  Bethlehem dir: Yuvai Adler
Sounds kind of like The Band’s Visit by way of Infernal Affairs? I haven’t actually read a whole lot about this (no kidding!) but everyone seems to dig it…

18.  The Selfish Giant dir: Clio Barnard
Reviews make this sound kind of like Lynne Ramsay’s first two features and those are two of my favourite things in the world.

19.  Nobody’s Daughter Haewon and 20. Our Sunhi dir: Hong Sang-soo
The only Hong Sang-soofilm I’ve seen is The Day He Arrived but apparently that makes me an expert? Whatever. His sense of humour is pretty well aligned with my own and the regretful, self critical streak that lies underneath it is way, way too familiar.

21.  In Bloom dir: Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross
I have a list on Letterboxd that documents a dubious trend that I would write a trend piece on if I were a journalist: namely an increasing number of quality coming of age films helmed by women about girls/young women. The upshot of that is that this is kind of an obligation for me. It’s going to be tough but I’ll get through it.

22.  Only Lovers Left Alive dir: Jim Jarmusch
I haven’t seen nearly enough Jarmusch and I love those that I have seen. Also I adore that title. Say it with me, “onLy Lllovers Llleft aLllive!”

23.  Omar dir: Hany Abu-Assad
See my boneheaded comments re:Bethlehem.

24.  Why Don’t You Play in Hell dir: Sion Sono
On the available evidence (trailer for this plus Love Exposure) I’d happily play any-damn-where if Sion Sono was hosting in playful, gonzo mode.

25.  Arraianos dir: Eloy Encisco
I think this is an ethnographic documentary? If so see my comments on the Chinese docos, if not it should be fun finding out what it is!

26.  3x3D dir: Jean-Luc Godard, Peter Greenaway and Edgar Pera
Despite not having seen a single Resident Evil film I consider myself to be something of a 3D connoisseur and a stalwart defender of its worthiness. Not necessary? How often is widescreen, or colour, or steady-cams or any of the technology we’ve come to consider normal actually essential to a particular film’s ends? Why is it only when something deviates significantly from the current norms (say a film shot in black and white or 3D) that we even start to ask this question? The real question is: is it fun? And goddammit, it’s like a moving pop up book; of course it’s fun! Also have you seen Flying Swords of Dragon Gate? No? Then shut up!

27.  Manuscripts Don’t Burn dir: Mohammad Rasoulof
And Rasoulof movies are always amazing.

28. Hiroshima Mon Amour dir: Alain Resnais
Because this is a freaking gorgeous film and not even the worst final lines of dialogue in the history of the motion picture can erase the potency of what comes before. (This entry may be a little hyperbolic – if so it’s in keeping with the rest of this list.)

29.  Stranger by the Lake dir: Alain Guiraudie
My interest is entirely puerile.  Actually it’s not, I just wanted to say that at some point and it’s less embarrassing if I attach those remarks to a film not named Blue is the Warmest Colour.

30.  Blue is the Warmest Colour dir: Abdellatif Kechiche
Controversy schmontroversy, this won the Palme d’Or and, since 2007, I’ve always seen the Palme d’Or winner in a cinema. (This is probably going to be the last time in a long time that I’m going to be able to do this too.)

31. Tom at the Farm dir: Xavier Dolan
My brother looks startlingly like Mr Dolan so watching his films is like pretending that my brother has this whole other life going on that I have absolutely no idea about. 

Regretfully missing: All Is Lost, Starlet, The Story of My Death, Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari, Short Term 12, The Devil's Playground, The Darkness, Blue Ruin, Foxfire, Ilo Ilo, An Autumn Afternoon, Venus in Furs, The Rest of the Tarkovsky

Seen elsewhere: A Hijacking, The Paradise Trilogy (Love, Faith and Hope), Oh Boy, Child's Pose, Prince Avalanche, Borgman, Cutie and the Boxer

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