The Melbourne International Film Festival ran from August 3 – August 20 this year, screening hundreds of international and local films. With after-parties, director Q&As and IMAX screens, it’s a film-lovers dreams. But for those who couldn’t make it (myself included), we’ve put together a mini after-guide to the festival – featuring top picks and reviews from two young Australian film critics.
Kai Perrignon is a USA-born, Melbourne-based third year Screenwriting student at Victoria College of the Arts. He’s written for RMITV’s In Review and also co-hosts their film review web series Super Rate, both of which hopefully look good on a CV.
While his favourite films range from classics of the Japanese New Wave to the experimental works of the American Underground, he’s recently begun to delve deep into the annals of trash cinema. He can often be heard using the phrase, “absolutely disgusting and ethically questionable… but also really fascinating.”
When he’s not writing film criticism, he’s writing an enormous amount of screenplays, exploring ideas of connection, cynicism, and alienation in a confusing world. Sometimes, he practices writing comedy on Tinder, which has only resulted in heartbreak. Occasionally, he crews on independent films in the hopes of latching onto someone successful.
Kai hasn’t won any awards, but he organises his bookshelf according to what would make the best first impression to a date. His Sea Foaming-exclusive picks for MIFF 2017 are:
By The Time It Gets Dark (2016)
Drama/Fictional, Thai – 105 minutes
Anocha Suwichakornpong’s poetic By the Time it Gets Dark begins in a place of self-aware introspection. A fictional director is trying to make a film about an infamous massacre of student protesters in Thailand in the 1970s, but she finds herself unable to approach the moment with authenticity. Just as we begin to understand her plight, however, the narrative splinters into a more freeform discussion of identity, history, and the filmic medium itself.
Much like her previous film Mundane History, Suwichakornpong’s new film eschews clarity and easy answers for a sometimes incomprehensible realm of free-association. But that lack of clarity does not hinder the emotional impact of her work, as the story’s continuous unveilings are grounded by a melancholic tone. By the Time it Gets Dark is an elegiac meditation on what it means to comprehend history, and the impossibility of doing trauma justice.
The Endless (2017)
Science Fiction/Horror, English – 111 minutes
Indie-horror darlings Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson’s new film The Endless is another triumph for the genre-defying duo. A meta-textual horror story about cults, Lovecraftian horrors, ruts, and genre storytelling itself, The Endless follows two brothers (played by the directors themselves) who return to a “UFO death cult” from which they once fled, only to find that there may be some truth to the cult’s ramblings.
Fans of the duo’s prior work will find much to love here, as their latest acts as a sort-of spiritual sequel to their 2012 debut Resolution. Newbies need not worry, though, as The Endless is an ambitious and satisfying work in its own right. It’s a film about running in circles and trying desperately to escape – whether that be in life or in storytelling. Consistently creepy and mysterious, structurally genius and slyly beautiful, The Endless overcomes its occasionally choppy pacing with some of the most intelligent storytelling of the year.
Alipato – The Very Brief Life of an Ember (2016)
Crime/Drama, Filipino – 88 minutes
Khavn’s latest film is like a John Waters movie from hell. Formally audacious and completely tasteless, Alipato’s alternating hostility and sincerity can be a jarring mix. In the first half, a gang of mostly naked children terrorise the slums of the Philippines. In the second, their leader comes back from prison to find his old haunts mostly unchanged and scarred.
Khavn applies an extremely highbrow technique to the most lowbrow of imagery, an approach that sometimes verges on condescending instead of celebratory, but his sparing use of truly beautiful sentimentality pulls his film clearly to the side of sympathy for his freaks. Alipato is a film obsessed with dick jokes and the juvenile, but it’s also one that seriously considers the socio-economic strata constantly re-enforced by exploitation and circumstance. Death and rebirth flow like piss and shit in Alipato, but the constant new blood seems doomed to die again before it can mature.
Born and raised in Melbourne, Greer finished a Bachelor of Film and Television at Swinburne University in 2015. Since then, she’s worked on short films as an editor and colourist, and is just as interested in the craft of creating a film as she is the end result.
Passionate about both screenwriting and film analysis, Greer enjoys writing long-form not only about individual films, but also about broader topics such as genre trends and conventions, the relationship between a film and its audience, and the ever-changing boundaries of the film medium itself. She tries to find the balance between getting excited for a film, and going in to the cinema knowing as little as possible.
She loves sci-fi, animation, kids’ movies, narrative-heavy video games, and struggling to stay under her word count. Her Sea Foaming-exclusive picks for MIFF 2017 are:
Loving Vincent (2017)
Crime/Drama, English – 95 minutes
Loving Vincent is absolutely gorgeous, I almost cried within the first five minutes of the film purely because of how beautiful it was. Every frame of the film is oil painted in van Gogh’s distinctive style, with scenes and characters built around his paintings.
The actual story itself is a fairly straightforward murder mystery, so the strength of the film really lies with the sheer artistry of the animation. When the artists are allowed to break away from the semi-realistic rotoscoping and fully embrace the painted/animated medium, it truly shines. It doesn’t just rest on the beauty of van Gogh’s work, but transforms it.
The Graduation (2016)
Documentary, French – 121 minutes
This was my first MIFF film this year. It’s a doco about the application process for an extremely competitive French film school. Both the potential students and the juries are featured, so you see the entire process from both perspectives. I went to uni to study film production myself, and the entire film was like an extended flashback to every awful oral presentation I ever did. For a film essentially about a series of exams, it was so tense.
I enjoy fly-on-the-wall style documentaries and this one was no exception. There’s no narration or explanation after the fact; what happens, happens, without comment or judgement. The film leaves everyone waiting until the very end to find out who was accepted, and even if most of the subjects’ appearances are brief, I was definitely emotionally invested in who made it in.
24 Frames (2016)
Drama/Experimental, Persian – 120 minutes
The director of 24 Frames, Abbas Kiarostami, passed away last year. Knowing that definitely informed how I felt about this film. It’s a series of vignettes constructed largely from photos the director took, imagining what might have happened before or after the snapshot. There’s no dialogue, just the sounds of animals, weather and (occasionally) people.
With so many scenes exploring similar settings – the beach, snowy mountains, birds – it did feel repetitive, and I could feel myself getting bored. But the final scene was so intensely emotional – it blew me away. It was incredibly sad. I don’t think I’ve ever before watched a film and felt ready to walk out halfway through, but then almost be in tears by its conclusion.
The 10th Victim (1965)
Science Fiction/Action, English/Italian – 93 minutes
This was the most fun I had all festival. It’s an Italian dystopian thriller comedy from the 1960s – something everyone needs a little more of in their life. A woman shoots a man dead in the first ten minutes with her bra and it just gets more and more ridiculous from there. She’s a professional ‘hunter’ – a legally authorised murderer – and if she gets her last kill, she’ll win a million dollars.
Of course, it’s never that simple, which is what made it so fun. Her job is complicated by, of all things, a TV deal to commit the murder as part of a drink advertisement. The movie really digs into reality TV, voyeurism, and gratuitously violent entertainment in a way which even a lot of contemporary stories struggle to. It’s also completely impossible to predict and has a great 60s style; a really strong, funny and surprising film.
Jot these down on your to-watch list and channel some MIFF vibes. Get your friends together and host your own after-party. Write out complex, critical movie reviews while you’re drunk.
What I’m trying to say: you don’t need tickets to get the MIFF experience.