You always say you're going to MIFF but it's started and you still haven't bought a single ticket? Or you want to go to more films but can't make yourself do a second plough through the extensive program? Don't worry: Here's 10 films that sound tantalising.
2 Autumns, 3 Winters
Frankly, “whimsical” and “ennui” are not the sort of words I respond well to in film summaries but it is impossible to ignore this French indie title about 30-something Parisians facing medical emergencies and matters of the heart. Why? Because MIFF's artistic leader, Michelle Carey, told a gathering of Sydney journalists in June that she loves the film. Given she watched hundreds and hundreds of features in order to present 220 features, her stamp of extra approval is powerful. The characters in writer/director Sebastien Betbeder's 2 Autumns, 3 Winters confess their innermost feelings to camera but I'm not afraid because that's the only thing that works for me in TV reality series.
Some think 3D is going to save cinemas but I don't think they will ever truly need saving. And I think that the new technology of 3D is just that. But 3x3D, Critics' Week closing night film at Cannes and the only 3D film in the MIFF program, sounds fascinating in a highbrow way. It comprises three films directed by Peter Greenaway, Jean-Luc Godard and the prolific multi-faceted Portuguese director Edgar Pêra. Expect art, history and reflection set against Europe's capital of culture, Guimarães.
What is a festival for if not to witness the results of filmmakers taking on risky projects? Yes, this one stars the always-enticing craggy-faced acting legend Robert Redford but there's no-one else in sight, only the vast ocean. Redford met writer/director Jeffrey 'JC' Chandor when his debut film, Margin Call, premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. All Is Lost is a lean, realistic tale of a sailor battling to keep his boat afloat and will be enlightening for those who think scriptwriting is about dialogue. It will be released in cinemas by Universal and tickets are expensive but include closing night festivities.
Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker
No MIFF top 10 is complete without a film from the always-popular Backbeat strand and my pick is this one. The quote used in relation to this documentary says the man at its heart is “the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced” but it's hearing some of his amazing blues that is the clincher. You always know that musicians are worth listening to when you learn how much they inspired other musicians: James Booker most certainly did and still does.
“If a person is gay and seeks god and has good will, who am I to judge him?,” Pope Francis said this week during an informal press conference aboard a plane travelling from Rio de Janeiro back to Rome. Homosexuality and Catholicism have been explored in many films and this new addition to the canon is from Polish writer/director Malgorzata Szumowska. A portrait of a young priest in a tiny rural community, it won the Teddy Award at Berlinale and the Grand Prix at the Istanbul Film Festival.
Cows are adorable and this film has about 50 of them, all regarded with great affection by the UK dairy farmer who depends on them for a living – and has so far survived the commercial forces that have killed many family businesses. This is observational filmmaking in a world where more and more documentaries are experimenting with form, but that and Stephen Hook's charm are its strengths according to the reviews that came out of Sundance. Sadly, MIFF patrons will not be able to buy fresh milk from The Moo Man's bovine stars as audiences could in the early days of its UK cinema release.
The Pyjama Girl Case
At around the same time that such iconic titles as The Devil's Playground (Fred Schepisi) and Don's Party (Bruce Beresford) were being made, a European crew was in Australia making this film. Loosely based on the 1934 real-life murder of Linda Agostini, The Pyjama Girl Case is in MIFF's small Italian giallo section. While some critics have questioned whether it belongs in this subgenre at all, they don't question its intriguing structure, the depth of Dallia Di Lazzaro's performance and the fascination of seeing a body in a formaldehyde bath. Director Flavio Mogherini was in Australia several years earlier as production designer on another Italian film, Girl in Australia.
Somebody Up There Likes Me
Sometimes decisions about what to see at a film festival are based on rather unorthodox criteria. Such is the case with this title, which is included in the program spotlight States of Play: American Independents. I've never met the US writer/director Bob Byington but, coincidentally, I have spent a lot of time with his mum Mary Byington. Given she'll be holidaying in Japan during MIFF I feel morally obliged to go. But then again I've got fond memories of his earlier film Harmony and Me, seen via a borrowed DVD, and the trailer of this new one sounds like it too has lots of dry humour and relationships as they really are.
This film can proudly join the other terrific Australian films – Last Train to Freo and Wasted on the Young are my favourites – made in Perth under West Coast Visions, an initiative aimed at developing local filmmakers. Writer/director Zak Hilditch's debut is a fine piece of work that could easily have faltered given the enormity of its emotional content: knowing they only have a few hours to live, all the characters in the film, in their own way, are going mad. Nathan Phillips plays James, who decides he just wants to get wasted but changes his mind as a result of the young girl that enters his life.
Writer/director Mahdi Fleifel spent his formative years in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain El-Heweh in Lebanon before moving with his family to Denmark. For several decades he kept returning for holidays, staying in close contact with his best friend Abu Iyad – who, unlike Fleifel, can't leave whenever he likes – and keeping a video diary throughout. The film is fashioned, in part, from that footage and is a remarkable window into a way of life and into the politics of the region, but it is also punctuated by the filmmaker's witty narration. A month ago A World Not Ours won the top prize at the Edinburgh International Film Festival