Category Archives: Melbourne International Film Festival

MIFF reportback part 1: The Duke of Burgundy

DukeofBurgundyFilmPage

I watched Peter Strickland’s latest offering, The Duke of Burgundy, already being a big fan of his 2012 effort, Berberian Sound Studio. I appreciated Berberian Sound Studio as an homage to the Italian giallo horror films of the seventies and didn’t need any more encouragement to see his new one other than the fact it was Strickland’s tribute to the seventies Euro sleaze films of directors like Jesse Franco and Walerian Borowczyk.

But it wasn’t until about twenty minutes in to The Duke of Burgundy, that I felt I ‘got’ what both movies were trying to do and just how clever Strickland’s approach is.

The Duke of Burgundy is about the BDSM relationship between two female entomologists, Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna), the submissive, and her older dominant lover, Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen, who you may recognise from the Danish television series, Borgen). The story is set in an unspecified provincial European town in what looks like the seventies and, as you’d expect if you’ve seen Berberian Sound Studio, Strickland nails every aspect of recreating the genre: the aesthete, the soundtrack, the surrealistic ambiance, how the characters feel and react, the sex, which alternatives between being outright smutty and languorously erotic. Woven into this are some wonderfully deft touches, including the complete absence of men and the strange, sexually charged club in which women get together to discuss matters entomological.… Read more

My 10 anticipated films of the Melbourne International Film Festival

The Duke of BurgundyThe 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.

Sunrise

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.… Read more

Jodorowsky’s Dune: the greatest film ever not made?

Original-Dune-posterThere are so many ways to read Jodorowsky’s Dune, the documentary of cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s doomed effort make the film version of Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction epic, Dune.

It is, by turns, a love letter to seventies science fiction; a study of the clash between Hollywood filmmaking culture and the mores of the European avant garde; and a celebration of unrestrained creativity and artistic determination. I don’t mean to sound trite, but it is a film every creative, whatever they do, should see. The overall effect, for this reviewer at least, was akin to artistic vitamin shot. I walked out thinking, ‘if Jodorowsky was prepared to go to such lengths to realise his vision, hell, I can, too’.

Jodorowsky’s Dune is also wonderful glimpse into one of the greatest films never made, a list that includes Stanley Kubrick’s adaption of the Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, Sergio Leonie’s M, the Rolling Stones’ short-lived attempt to make the little known but excellent 1964 dystopian novel Only Lovers Left Alive, and Terry Gilliam’s take on Don Quixote. But more on this particular aspect of the film later.

You can read the rest of this review here at the Overland Magazine site.

Mud, madness and masculinity: William Friedkin’s Sorcerer

scheiderPerfect films usually only ever appear so in retrospect. A case in point is Sorcerer, William Friedkin’s 1977 reimagining of the Henri-Georges Clouzot 1953 classic, The Wages of Fear.

The gloriously remastered print of Sorcerer, showing as part of the Melbourne International Film Festivals ‘Masters and Restorations’ program, is an incredible tale of failed masculinity, predatory capitalism and madness.

It was a commercial flop upon release, only recouping nine million of its original twenty one million dollar budget, largely due to appearing at almost the exact same time as the first instalment of Star Wars. Friedkin viewed it as the toughest job of his career. Shooting was littered with accidents and problems, including the film’s riveting central scene, where trucks must cross a rickety rope and timber bridge over a raging river in the middle of a fierce tropical storm. The sequence, due to weather and other reasons, occurred over two countries and took three months to shoot.

Three men, on the run from past mistakes, have ended end up in a run down, impoverished town in an unspecified Latin American banana republic (the real location being the Dominican Republic, which at the time was under an actual military dictatorship).

Jackie (Roy Scheider) was part of a heist on a Catholic Church that ended in a car crash in which all the other members of the gang are killed.… Read more

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).… Read more