Time to resurrect an old blog?

I’m not quite sure where the last x years have gone but I really didn’t think it had been so long since I’d touched this old blog. Looking back I think my mix of distractions has changed quite a bit – with books and film taking the lead over music, art lagging behind due to disorganisation at making it to things, and poor old craft being relegated to the “I wish I still had time” category.

That aside it is currently the most wonderful time of year in Melbourne – MIFF which means lots of film!!

My fun starts tonight, as I realised I couldn’t quite be in two places at once this morning despite wondering if perhaps, somehow I could. This evening I see Miss Sharon Jones! and Kiki. Maybe I’ll even write about some of the films, as I am seeing a crazy amount, and they do make for good conversation.

See you in the cinema perhaps.

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This Is Not A Film

The new documentary by Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb This Is Not A Film is compelling viewing. The film may be simple but it’s why we’re seeing it that is so interesting, essential and infuriating. It is no secret that the film was smuggled out of Iran and into France so it could be screened at Cannes earlier this year.

While under house arrest we watch a day in the life of Panahi. He goes about regular activity while waiting to hear if the sentence handed down to him in December 2010 of six years jail and a 20 year ban on making or directing movies, writing screenplays, giving any form of interview with Iranian or foreign media or leaving the country has been lifted or altered in appeal.

We see a man who has been stripped of the means to do what he does best, what he has such passion for; make films. It’s heartbreaking. At one point Panahi is describing to his friend the last screenplay he put forward for approval (which was denied) and has never been made. He is so alive describing in such fine detail this screenplay, but also has the knowledge it will never exist.

This is a must see film.

This Is Not A Film is being released at selected cinemas in Australia by Sharmill Films on November 10.

xx

Postscript: In late October a Tehran appeals court upheld a six-year jail sentence and 20-year filmmaking and travel ban against Jafar Panahi. More on this at The Guardian or Yahoo7 (originally from AFP).

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

On Monday night I finally saw the new Werner Herzog documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010). It’s a film I was most disappointed to miss at MIFF due to scheduling so the opportunity to see it at a MIFF preview screening was promptly taken up.

This 3D documentary takes a look at the Chauvet Cave in Southern France, discovered in 1994 which contains the oldest known cave paintings dating as far back as 30,000 to 32,000 years. This film’s subject matter is fascinating. The art history and archeological significance of the cave is astounding. Add the expected Herzog quirkiness and you have 90 minutes of wonder.

I was utterly captivated. It seems implausible that with so little available footage (the crew was small, 3D cameras are sizeable and the allowable footprint in the caves is very limited) that I could remain intrigued for the length of this film. The same paintings were shown more than once but through different expert’s eyes. Each with their own passion for the piece.

I’d been conditioned to think of cave drawings as just one thing but these drawings are enchanting. They are such perfectly realised images, with feeling, depth and motion. The shading, texture and shapes of the surface have been accounted for in the placement of the drawings and the 3D allows the viewer to see this more clearly. I was completely drawn into this film.

I can understand those who see the flaws in it. How it could have easily run for half the time, how the characters chosen could have been more selectively pruned, but then it wouldn’t be a Herzog film – would it? And you either enjoy his style of documentary film making or you don’t. I for one do.

Another thing. The music. The minimalist soundtrack by cellist Ernst Reijseger is beautifully haunting and a wonderful accompaniment to the drawings and the film. It’s available on Winter & Winter. Do track it down.

Joining the dots

Last night I finally saw Withnail and I the way it should be seen: on the big screen, in a cinema with other patrons laughing along, a drink in hand and good company. I was at the Astor Theatre for a suitable double feature, wondering why I’d never seen it at the cinema before.

I’d watched it often enough on DVD but not when it was fresh and new, I came to the film quite late. My first experience of anything to do with the film had been without even realising it. One of my early band obsessions was Ride. By the time their second album ‘Going Blank Again’ came out in 1992 I was well and truly hooked. I was completely unaware that the soundbite at the start of track 7 “even a stopped clock gives the right time twice a day” was Marwood from early in the film, or that the track title “Cool Your Boots” was another quote (Danny) from late in the film.

It’s an odd moment when you do eventually join the dots and find you’ve come to things backwards. That album is so familiar to me. It was at a time when the music I was listening to, my friends, seeing bands, going out, dancing, socialising, that was everything. I knew the soundbite was from a film, but at the time that was enough. It’s years later that I wonder why I never did wonder more back then.

So why write this now? Seeing the film large, loud, with full surround sound at the cinema really made that connection hit home. Even though I’d made it previously the size and volume, ok the volume, lets bring the focus to the sound where it’s due as that’s what really did it. I’ve already said my first accidental run-in with the film was via the audio and although I was watching the film my instinct shot me back to my first association which was listening to the music that came with that sound. I sometimes worry about the way my mind works, or wanders.

Either way what it does for me now when I watch the film or listen to the album is it makes both experiences a little more enjoyable, as I have that extra connection I missed for so many years, and that’s got to be a bonus.

So why not flash back to the early ’90s with Ride and Cool Your Boots. Enjoy!

MIFF catch-up

It was bound to happen that with so much on I wouldn’t get around to writing a word about anything I was seeing. I now understand why taking time off during MIFF felt like such a necessity. I miss that privilege. So here I am, last day of the festival. On my way to the Forum for my final volunteer shift, sleep deprived after 16 days of squeezing more than I should out of myself, burning the candle at three or four ends to accommodate as many films as I could and then to top it off – Closing Night, what fun. It’s been such a wonderful festival, it always is but this time it’s been different. I haven’t simply seen a spectator I’ve got to stick my head behind the curtain and it’s been lots of fun.

But the films. Can I write anything coherent about the films I’ve seen in my current state? I think I’m likely to have to add a further post or two after the festival as a personal reminder of what I’ve seen or particularly enjoyed. I’m still cursing that I can’t find my marked up guide from last year’s festival with my film selections but can recall the films I saw in 2001. What ludicrously!

The tail end of my festival has been exceptional, though I still have two films after my shift today but believe they are relatively safe bets (Another Earth and Le Havre). Friday afternoon I saw a fun Australian feature Swerve. Friends that had already seen it mentioned the story felt familiar which I wouldn’t argue but I enjoyed the ride. I loved Melancholia. I know after the first screening there was lots of chatter from both sides of the Lars von Trier camp shouting adoration, maybe with this I missed the negative comments also floating about. I didn’t notice the 130 minute length, the time flew for me, but others I’ve spoken to this weekend wished for it to hurry up, ‘do’ something, ‘say’ something other than simply look visually stunning. Stunning it did look right throughout. The final shot is awe. For me though the entire film had me gripped. The story first told through Justine’s eyes suffering depression then Claire’s with another ailment I found so honest and true.

But here I am at the steps of the Forum. Shall finish this another time.

MIFF 60, it begins

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Melbourne International Film Festival, it’s my 11th festival (yes I was a bit slow off the mark) and it’s also my first festival in a while where I’ll be juggling work commitments with festival sessions. I’ve been fortunate for the past few years to have an accrual of leave allowing me to take the full festival as paid leave, grab a passport and pretty much settle in and develop a vitamin D deficiency while chalking up as many films as I could handle between countless coffees, drinks and chats with films loving friends.

This year I’ve taken a different approach. I decided to put my hand up to volunteer for the festival. Something I’d wanted to do for a while but it would mean giving up on my 60+ sessions. As it turned out, this is to be the year. I’ll mostly be gracing the corridors of the Forum (my favourite Melbourne venue) with one side trip to IMAX.

Last night saw the donning of one’s finery for the festival’s rather lax interpretation of a ‘black tie’ Opening Night. Seeing as only this week I commented on twitter that ‘we really did wear a lot of black in Melbourne’ I opted for a very bright, very girly, vintage frock from the wardrobe. Pity about the winter chill but bright yellow and red accessories it was to be. It’s always fun to dress up for a night.

I only clicked on Wednesday that this year’s opening night film, The Fairy, is the new film by the creators of Rumba (MIFF 2008) which I thoroughly enjoyed. This was another charming little slapstick comedy from directors Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy, though Rumba’s running time of 77 minutes possibly suits their style of film making a little better than the 93 minutes allocated to the The Fairy.

The Fairy

After the screening we all waltzed our way around the corner from the frocked up GU (it’s amazing what a layer of curtains can achieve) to the more fitting Melbourne Town Hall where most flocked immediately to the bars for liquid refreshment. Not boozing for the evening I was able to wait for the masses to thin out then politely ask for a mineral water. There was plenty of opportunity for film chatter with friends, opinions on the film we’d just seen, what we were most looking forward to seeing, if we’d make it to an 11am screening tomorrow etc. After much harassment and no opportunity for a hasty exit without being spotted, I joined the AFI circle for a ‘quick dance’ before leaving. Once you start of course you don’t stop and before I knew it the house lights were on and it really was time to go. Much fun was had and again what a great start to the festival!

Now wait for it, I woke up and booked a film! I saw the King of Comedy this afternoon which was great. There was a big group of us there which made for even more fun. I’m not sure what was better, seeing it on the big screen or Glenn Dunks cackling two seats over.

In other news, my first volunteer session is on Sunday!