There were some difficulties of a sort for the Melbourne International Film Festival as a whole this year: projection and sound issues that stemmed from some of the cinemas used being well into their under-resourced dotage; dissatisfied murmurings from previous years were definitely several notches louder this year, with MIFF’s board and controllers now clearly aware that problems need to be rectified.
The documentary program, spread across several streams that took in 60 titles, continued to fare well, with the strength of audiences for the little known titles comparing well to the sold-out sessions for the blockbusters such as Andrew Rossi’s Page One: Inside The New York Times and Alex Gibney’s Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, which the director introduced at one screening with the piquant observation that the moral murkiness of his story matched the breaking phone-hacking scandal from the United Kingdom.
Two of those lesser known titles deserve recommendation and discussion. French filmmaker Florent Tillon’s Detroit Wild City survived a ponderous introduction – his countryman Sasha Pirker’s ramble through architect Oscar Niemeyer’s Parisian headquarters for the French Communist Party with The Future Will Not Be Capitalist: fascinating building, torpid short documentary – to undertake a geographic exploration of America’s post-industrial future. Detroit, as captured by Tillon, is a city of ghosts, with whole blocks abandoned as people depart and once vast factories become empty shells.
The camera ranged through deserted streets, where nature is literally taking back sidewalks and yards and dystopic industrial remnants that suggested outtakes from The Road. Tillon found various survivors and pioneers, from a hardy retrenched worker who’d become a jack of all trades to the elderly, immobile citizens and an explorer of the ruins, to the city official tasked with trying to control the one burgeoning population (wild animals) and the hardy farmers tilling the soil in former suburbs. The individual experiences were interesting, but the film lacked a sense of proportion and an examination of past and present official responses. It was the atmosphere – the eerie post-human quiet – to which the documentary was drawn.
The standout in the always popular Backbeat music section was The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, an examination of shared identity that went far beyond music’s usual tug. French-born, New York-based filmmaker and curator Marie Losier spent years in the orbit of Genesis P-Orridge, the confrontational experimental artist and pioneering industrial musician whose 1993 marriage to Jacqueline Breyer turned his focus inwards. The pair, deeply in love, pursued the concept of pandrogyny, with both undergoing extensive plastic surgery – including breast implants for P-Orridge – so as to resemble each other.
Nothing about P-Orridge’s life and work was conventional, and he typically met Breyer, a nurse and dominatrix rechristened Lady Jaye, when he bunked down in a friend’s B&D dungeon after a big night out. But even amidst the deliberately mismatched visuals, some from P-Orridge’s extensive archive, and grinding soundtrack rhythms from his eclectic back catalog, the simple strength of their mutually deep affection shone through. If you stripped away the cultural traits, this was simply two people who knew they were soul mates, with their at home banter touchingly simple in its domestic dedication. Genesis and Lady Jaye – who passed away unexpectedly in 2007 – shared everything, making music, art and their own bodies a creative endeavour. Without ever embracing the maudlin, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye proved to be a genuinely moving experience.
About this writer
Land, Money and Power… Dig deep into Australia’s epic history of mining.
A simple and concise introduction to the life of world champion cyclist, Cadel Evans.
Discover le Tour - the tactics, achievements, scandals and names you should know.