AFI staff go to MIFF – Part 2: Simon Elchlepp

Here at the AFI we love going to the movies of course, and not just Australian ones. The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is always a busy time as we try to fit in as many films as possible around our office hours and other commitments. In this short blog series you can get to know some of your friendly AFI staff members through their eclectic MIFF picks. In Part 1, Lia McCrae-Moore shared her MIFF 2011 highlights so far. Here’s the second installment.

Simon Elchepp

Simon Elchlepp

Simon Elchlepp is the AFI’s Office Administrator and has just discovered that Love My Way is indeed as awesome as everybody says it is. Otherwise, there’s a pile of new Blu-rays and DVDs in front of his TV that refuses to grow smaller. With a bachelor thesis on Moulin Rouge! and a Masters degree in Cinema Management, this German expatriate finds Melbourne, with its dozens of film festivals, to be a great place to live.

“For me, the biggest fun about film festivals is the chance they offer to go and watch films that probably won’t make it to Australian shores via a theatrical  or DVD release. Ergo, my MIFF program usually ends looking pretty eclectic and… well, let’s say curious. I’m shockingly easy prey for those blurbs in the MIFF program that tease me with the promise of something bold and original.

Fruit of Paradise

Fruit of Paradise - ART in capital letters.

An ‘utterly unexplainable, totally intoxicating rush of surrealist imagery’? Yes please, I’ll have one of those. And while Fruit of Paradise isn’t quite as impenetrable as its description suggests, it’s definitely a head-spinning, stunning-looking trip back to the 70s, when films dared to be unapologetically ART (indeed all in capitals). And it’s also the perfect companion piece for legendary animator Jan Swankmajer’s Surving Life, a combination of live-action sequences and animated photo cut-outs. The film is a light-hearted, surreal comedy about an aging man’s dreams and repressed childhood wishes that’s both fun and touching. And for this former film student, every movie where the portraits of Freud and Jung get into a fistfight gets two thumbs up from me!

Another obsession of mine is films with slightly excessive running times, so four-and-a-half hours filled with actors walking around in gorgeous period costumes and plotting intrigues and counter-intrigues happens to be right up my alley (Mysteries of Lisbon). And thankfully, my patience is rewarded with an engaging story that unravels over several decades and features a dizzying number of characters whose lives intertwine in ever new ways. Also, the cinematographer deserves a bunch of awards – every scene looks like a 18th/19th century oil painting. Now, let’s see if the Portuguese distributor of the film’s Blu-ray delivers to Australia…

Mysteries of Lisbon

Mysteries of Lisbon - every scene looks like an oil painting.

After a slice of low-budget, post-apocalyptic Korean arthouse cinema with End of Animal (how’s that for a niche genre?) and the gutsy Danish war documentary Armadillo, something a bit more escapist is required to cleanse the palate. And Elite Force: The Enemy Within delivers all the way through. It’s not quite City of God with even more guns, but it’s easy to see why this film became the biggest box-office hit of all time in its homeland Brazil. Supremely sleek and racing along at breakneak speed, this is one of those rare all-guns-blazing action thrillers that also manages to tell a pretty complex story where few of the protagonists are clear-cut villains or heroes. Now, when can I take these films home to watch them again?”

Elite Squad

Elite Force: The Enemy Within - palate cleansing.

“Stay tuned for more AFI staff picks from MIFF 2011.”