My 2014 Melbourne International Film Festival top ten

sorcerer-truck-on-bridgeThe Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) kicks off in few days. As usual, there’s a packed program full of cinematic goodness. If you’re wanting to check some films out but are stumped as to what to see, here’s my ten picks.

Sorcerer, 1977

The newly remastered print of Sorcerer, William Freidkin’s 1977 homage to Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1953 classic, The Wages of Fear, is up there as one of my top MIFF picks for the festival. The story is about a group of four men, each of them on the run from various sins committed in their past life, who are hired to transport a truck load of volatile dynamite across an incredibly hostile stretch of Central American jungle. Freidkin may be better known as the director of The French Connection (1971) and The Exorcist (1973) but this hard boiled slice of pure cinematic noir is, in my opinion, his best film.

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films – 2014

I really enjoyed Mark Hartley’s documentaries, Not Quite Hollywood (2008), about Australia’s Ozsploitation film scene, and Machete Maidens Unleashed (2010), his look at American film making in the Philippines in the seventies and eighties, so expectations are high for this one. Electric Boogaloo is the story of Cannon Films, the Hollywood B-studio responsible for such cinema gems as Lifeforce (1985) and the pre-Rambo, Rambo film, Missing In Action (1984).

A Hard Day – 2014

As regular readers of this site will know, I’m a major fan of South Korean crime cinema. A Hard Day redefines the motion of a tough day at the office when a police detective has to deal with a divorce notice from his wife, his mother passing away and an internal police investigation into allegations he is corrupt in the space of 24 hours. As if that wasn’t enough, he accidentally hits and kills a pedestrian. He tries to cover the death up, but someone has witnessed the act.

Black Coal, Thin Ice – 2014

I have been hearing good things about Black Coal, Thin Ice for months. The third film by director Yi’nan Dao, this gritty noir is the tale of a former cop, now a alcoholic security guard, who is haunted by a failed murder investigation he was involved in five years earlier. When bodies start appearing again, murdered in similar circumstances, the ex-cop sees the possibility of making up for past mistakes.

The Legend Maker – 2014

Despite not knowing anything about the Ian Pringle, the writer and director of The Legend Maker, this independent Australian crime film looks great. It concerns an ageing forger who wants to get out of the game and is under threat of death from a thug known as the Croat.

Whitey: The United States of America v. James Buglar – 2014

Another film I’ve heard a lot about, this documentary centres on the trial of legendary Boston criminal, James Whitey Buglar. Buglar terrorised the city in a criminal career spanning thirty years, including murdering over a dozen people. Despite this he was given an almost free reign by the FBI and local police, who never charged him with so much as a misdemeanour. This documentary examines why.

Phase IV – 1974

Phase IV is the only film ever directed by Saul Bass, the man behind the opening credits of such classic films as Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960). It revolves around desert ants that suddenly develop collective intelligence and begin to attack humans. It is up to two scientists and a stray girl they rescue from the ants to save human kind. Phase IV is a cult favourite and is showing at MIFF with the recently discovered original ending (removed by studio executives) restored in all its glory.

Jodorowsky’s Dream

The story of possibly the greatest film ever not made, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed attempt to make a movie of Frank Herbert’s sprawling science fiction novel, Dune. It’s also a wonderful meditation on the joy of unrestrained creativity.

Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten – 2014

A look at Cambodia’s marvellous and vibrant pre-1975 rock music scene, almost completely eradicated during the short by bloody rule of the Khmer Rouge. I’ve previously written about this music and the people who made it. The director, John Pirozzi, also did the cinematography for City of Ghosts, a 2002 crime film shot in Phnom Penh, so I’m expecting a terrific documentary and some wonderful imagery.

Concerning Violence – 2014

Swedish director Goran Olsson’s documentary is an homage to and examination of African liberation struggles of the sixties and seventies, based on Franz Fanon’s influential The Wretched of the Earth. Again, advance buzz on this documentary has been good. Perhaps not the most obvious film to see at MIFF, but I can’t help feeling current events in Africa make this film a must see.

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