In this short blog series, get to know some of your friendly AFI staff members through their eclectic picks from this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival. In Parts 1, 2 & 3, Lia McCrae-Moore, Simon Elchlepp and Tany Tribuzio shared their MIFF 2011 highlights so far. Here’s the fourth installment.
Jane Carracher is the AFI’s Finance Manager/IT Director/Social Co-Ordinator/Cake Buyer/Longest Serving Staff Member. While she has never officially studied film, she has been an avid fan from the day she first threw Jaffas at her noisy annoying brother, who was interrupting her quiet enjoyment of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.
“For my MIFF experience this year, I decided to make the most of my membership and purchased two eMini Passes. Adding a ticket to opening and closing nights, MIFF can become quite an expensive exercise, but it only comes around once a year, creating a wonderful filmy buzz around the city, so it’s well worth the investment. To date, I’ve only seen 12 of my scheduled 25 films, so an intense final weekend is ahead (whilst no doubt nursing a potential sore head on the final day!).
Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson in Irish comedy 'The Guard'
Kicking things off was the Irish comedy The Guard, starring Brendan Gleeson as a drinking, womanising, slightly racist and disinterested small town cop, who reluctantly assists straight laced FBI agent Don Cheadle hunt down a group of drug runners. This was an engaging and accessible film with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, and Brendan Gleeson turns in a hilarious performance.
My first weekend ended with Martha Marcy May Marlene, followed by 13 Assassins. MMMM was an engrossing slow burn, with many shocking moments and a very ambiguous, though satisfying ending. Elizabeth Olsen (who has an uncanny resemblance to Maggie Gyllenhaal in Secretary) as the titular character(s), is a damaged cult escapee trying to return to normalcy by reconnecting with her sister. Olsen’s performance was phenomenal. As was John Hawkes, who through dreamlike flashbacks, played the seemingly charming though ultimately menacing Charles Manson-esque cult leader.
An engrossing slow burn - John Hawkes and Elizabeth Olsen in 'Martha Marcy May Marlene'
The subtitles at the beginning of 13 Assassins were only shown for a fleeting moment, making the story a tad hard to follow, initially. But the final 40 minute battle between the sadistic Shaolin lord and his 200 strong army, against the mere 13 samurai assassins clarified any doubts. Blood was in abundance, and the fight choreography was a thrill to watch. A surprisingly witty film, 13 Assassins was extremely satisfying and a lot of fun.
Surprisingly witty and satisfying - '13 Assassins'
I’ve only scheduled one of the retrospective screenings, which was the De Niro/Scorsese collaboration The King of Comedy. Going into it, I had no idea what this film was about, despite it being almost 30 years old. After a small hiccup with the projector, I discovered that De Niro plays aspiring comedian Rupert Pupkin (one of the best character names in history!) who ambushes and tries to convince his idol, played by a surprisingly straight Jerry Lewis, to let him on his late night TV show. Jerry politely tries to fob Rupert off by getting him to “Call his office”, which only fuels Rupert’s delusions that he’s about to hit the big time. Things spiral out of control from there, with the film foreshadowing the “Celebrity for the wrong reasons” phenomenon which is so prominent today. De Niro was fantastic, as was Sandra Bernhard, who played an equally obsessed fan. I was in awe of how cringe-worthy their antics were and couldn’t take my eyes of the screen. One of my new/old favourites!
A celebrity for all the wrong reasons - Robert De Niro as Rupert Pupkin in 'King of Comedy'
The first documentary I attended was The Black Power Mixtape 1967 – 1975 which was a fascinating look at the Black Power movement through the eyes of Swedish journalists. The footage was remarkable, and in amazing condition, whilst the commentary from contemporary artists and people involved in the movement itself, provided a powerful insight and alternative perspective into an important era in America.
Tiny Furniture has been the biggest surprise for me so far. Going into this I was expecting a pretentious hipster indie bore (who knows why I scheduled it in?). However, writer/director/star Lena Dunham, who plays Aura, perfectly captures the aimlessness of post-university graduation life, in a charming and witty way. Adding to her misery is the breakup with her college boyfriend, and going back to live with and fit into the lives of her mother and sister (who are actually that in real life) is another adjustment she struggles with. She discovers her mother’s diary from the same period of her life, which seems to provide Aura with some comfort in the knowledge that she is not alone in her uncertainty. Throughout the film, she reconnects with a similarly aimless, though not as concerned, childhood friend, and invites a potential love interest (an arrogant “YouTube star”) to stay with her. She also drifts away from a close college friend. We leave the film not knowing what is in store for Aura, but have faith that she will find her way. I related to this film immensely, which is why it is perhaps my favourites of the festival so far.
The final 10 minutes (especially the ending) of Our Idiot Brother, was a major let down, though I suspect this was due to a studio cut. The characters seem to do a major 180 without any rhyme or reason, and the final scene reminded me of the ending to 500 Days of Summer, which was a frustrating and unnecessary “meet-cute”. Despite this, I can’t help but love any film Paul Rudd is in (especially any in which he breaks out his mad dancing skills). Here he stars with Rashida Jones, Adam Scott and T.J. Miller in adorable supporting roles.
Can't help but love Paul Rudd in 'Our Idiot Brother'
Of the films I am still to see, I’m most looking forward to the offbeat superhero flick Super, Beats Rhymes and Life which follows the conflict laden comeback tour of the pioneers of hip-hop, ‘A Tribe Called Quest’, the closing night film Drive starring Ryan “Hey Girl/Baby Goose” Gosling, and Sundance indie darling Another Earth.
If you’re curious in seeing the films I have lined up, I have been using this extremely handy scheduler which you can view here. Hope your MIFF-ing has been enjoyable as mine!”
Stay tuned for more AFI staff picks from MIFF 2011.