The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is almost upon us and, this year, I am seeing more than my usual quota of films. I won’t go into detail regarding everything I’ve booked, but here are the ten films I am most excited about.
The Duke of Burgundy
Confession: I missed this in my first pass of the MIFF program and, thankfully, was alerted by a friend to the fact it was playing. Despite some problems with the last quarter of the film I adored Berberian Sound Studio (2013), Peter Strickland’s tasteful, authentic non-Tarantinoesque homage to Italian giallo films of the seventies. So The Duke of Burgundy, a tribute to the Euro sleaze films of Jess Franco and Walerian Borowczyk has me very excited.
My search for a decent Indian neo noir continues with Partho Sen-Gupta’s 2014 feature, Sunrise. In 2012 I sat through all six hours of Gangs of Wasseypur, the sprawling saga of two rival crime families in the Indian state of Bihar. It held together well for the first half before degenerating into a Spaghetti Western-like shoot ‘em up. In 2013, it was Monsoon, a Mumbai based crime drama about a rookie cop and his corrupt older partner. It showed promise but I felt it was too focused on achieving the right aesthete at the expense of story. Sunrise, about a man who nightly search through the seedy back streets of Mumbai for his long lost daughter gradually makes him unhinged and hallucinogenic, comes highly recommended. I am hoping to do an interview with Sen-Gupta during the festival for this site.
Battles With Honor and Humanity
The late Kenji Fukasku was probably best known for his 2000 cult hit, Battle Royale. But long before that he helmed a series of ground breaking crime films, including the wonderfully bent Blackmail is My Business (1968), Street Mobster (1972) and a quartet of Yakuza films, kicking off in 1973 with Battles With Honor and Humanity. Set in Hiroshima after World War II, the movie chronicles a returning Japanese soldier’s decent into organised crime. I saw it long ago on the small screen where I missed a lot of the story and nuance. I’m expecting it will terrific on the large screen at the Forum.
A debut Australian crime feature by Grant Sciciuna, the advance mail on this film has been very good. A young man is sent to prison for his role in the drowning death of a boy. Haunted by the crime, upon his release he sets out to find the child’s body for his grieving mother.
Dark Age is one of two films I am seeing playing as part of MIFF’s David Gulpilil retrospective. Gulpilil plays one of a pair of Indigenous trackers helping a Northern Territory park ranger hunt down a giant salt water crocodile rumoured to have killed two people. Released in 1987, this Ozsploitation ecological horror film quickly fell into obscurity and this is a rare to see it on the big screen.
The Last Wave
Another Gulpilil film I am looking forward to seeing in a theatre after having seen it numerous times on the small screen. Peter Weir’s 1977 dystopian thriller has aged well in my opinion. Not only is its depiction of the clash between the white justice system and Indigenous tribal law still highly relevant, it is a remarkably prescient film about climate change and ecological unbalance.
A riveting 2015 documentary looking at two anti-drug vigilante gangs on different sides of the United States/Mexican border. If the film has half as much impact as the trailer suggests, it is going to be good.
Burroughs: The Movie
William Burroughs fascinates me. Despite being dead for nearly twenty years, the old hustler’s fingerprints can still be found all over popular culture. This documentary, which started as a small student film and, as a result of receiving unprecedented access to its subject – who never missed an opportunity for self promotion – morphed into a full length movie, has been on my TBW list for a while now. Originally released in 1983, the print, once thought to been lost, has been remastered.
A documentary about the 95 per cent of the Internet that goes unindexed by search engines and, in particular, the activities of Ross Ulbricht, founder of the illegal digital marketplace, Silk Road.
Heaven Knows What
This 2014 film, about a homeless young girl’s experiences in the underbelly of the New York drug scene, is one of my roll the dice picks. Part of MIFF’s Josh and Benny Safdie retrospective, I know virtually nothing about the Safdie brothers or their films. Very positive word of mouth from a number of trusted sources convinced me I should give it a try and I’m really looking forward to it.