Sandy George started with a 'short' list of 36 unseen films then whittled it down with further research, an open mind and instinct. She concludes with a bonus list of 10 films she has seen and unreservedly recommends.
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16 Jul 2014 - 2:34 PM  UPDATED 16 Jul 2014 - 3:52 PM

Abuse of Weakness

I’m intensely curious about this film, Catherine Breillat’s fourteenth, in part because of the conviction that the best cinema around at the moment blurs the line between fact and fiction. Breillat suffered a stroke about a decade ago and during her recovery she gave nearly all her savings to a man she sought out to be in a movie she was planning to make based on her novel Bad Love, which was to star Naomi Campbell. The film never happened, he was eventually incarcerated for taking advantage of her diminished mental capacity and Breillat wrote a book about it all. Abuse of Weakness stars Isabelle Huppert and rapper/dancer Kool Shen and is an adaptation of that book. Breillat is known for her bold explorations of sexuality; how she bares all in this film will be intriguing. Here is a clip.

 

Appropriate Behaviour

My reason for wanting to see this film is simple: the feedback from Sydney Film Festival audiences was outstanding. I can see why given the strength of this dryly-funny clip. Director and lead actress Desiree Akhavan – and MIFF guest – drew on her own experiences as a young gay Persian-American New Yorker when she wrote the screenplay about a woman dealing with a romantic break-up – yes, she has said that all her work comes at the cost of her parents’ dignity! Akhavan was one of the driving forces behind the web series The Slope. Here is a long video interview with her.

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Force Majeure

I love a film that digs deep into human behaviour and this drama sounds like it does exactly that. The family that is centre stage is lunching on a balcony when an avalanche comes storming down the mountain threatening to engulf them. The father makes a run for it, leaving his wife and two kids behind. As it turns out, the tumbling snow has no direct affect, but his actions greatly affect his position as the head of the family. I’ve seen Force Majeure (aka Turist) described as “emotionally perceptive almost to a fault” and “superbly directed” and one reviewer even suggested that the film could provoke break-ups among the audience! Much is also made of writer/director Ruben Ostlund’s dark humour. The film won the Jury Prize in Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival this year. The trailer is here.

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Watch scene clips

 

Goodbye to Language

The Indiewire quote used in the MIFF program reads “Godard’s full-length take on 3D is bold, brilliant and exactly what the format needed” and this prompted me to go looking for the whole review. Critic Oliver Lyttelton makes it clear here that the film has little narrative drive and “incessant” voiceover but he also praises the film’s sense of play and, yes, it’s use of 3D. Goodbye to Language – don’t you love the title? – shared the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival with Mommy, another MIFF title. I’m also in because the venerable Jean-Luc Godard has been making films for 50 years so must know a thing or two about filmmaking! Oh, and there’s a recurring dog throughout the story, such as it is.

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The Gold Spinners

For something completely different, I’m opting for The Gold Spinners; perhaps because of how much I’m entertained by the absurdity of what The Gruen Transfer teaches me about appealing to the consumerist instincts of human beings. According to my research, The Gold Spinners is both a study of one successful advertising man – whom this trailer describes as “an American-like self-made man”! – and of what was happening in Russia in the 1960s. The archival footage looks sensational.

 

Jacky in the Kingdom of Women

A film in which women have absolute power and men are merely household slaves who have to remain veiled at all times? Well, it has to be farce doesn’t it? (She says sarcastically.) Charlotte Gainsbourg plays the daughter who is about to inherit the kingdom and Vincent Lacoste is the focus of the story, one of many men who wants to marry and impregnate her. Lacoste also played the lead in French-born 30-something director Riad Sattouf’s only other feature, The French Kissers. Sattouf used to be a cartoonist and creator of comic books so he must have a fine sense of comedy and the trailer here makes it look like there’s a lot in this film.

 

My Mistress

Forgive me Leanne (producer Leanne Tonkes), but I’m going to admit something: I felt a bit “whatever” about this S&M-themed unconventional love story when it was financed. I’d need a week and 1000 words to write about why with any semblance of truth, but nonchalance has been replaced by utter excitement as a result of this trailer. Clearly I didn’t think deeply about the fact that Gerard Lee (Sweetie, Top of the Lake) was writing it and director Stephen Lance has a lot of stylish skill to apply to his debut feature. (See some of Lance’s work here including a Megan Washington music video.) Generally, I avoid films that are going to be released in cinemas but I cannot wait to see this one – and the screenings come with all the bells and whistles of a world premiere. There are many other world premieres among many other Australian films at MIFF including Cut Snake, The Animal Condition and The Legend Maker.

Watch trailer

 

Song from the Forest

This earth is full of people and places that are wildly different from each other and changes in transport and communication and technology are bringing them together. My incessant curiosity about that is why Song from the Forest is on this list: a documentary about a US musicologist who chased a piece of music he heard on the radio all the way to lush central Africa and ended up making a pygmy tribe his community. The film swings from there to New York to back again and I’m particularly interested in seeing and hearing the reaction of his 13-year-old son to one of the world’s most famous cities. Surely it would have been a mind-fuck for him! Song from the Forest won the best feature-length category at IDFA, the respected documentary festival in Amsterdam.

 

Web Junkie

There are 400 rehabilitation camps for web-addicted teenagers in China? Really? According to this documentary, yes. China’s government is apparently the first to actually label the ailment a psychological disorder and a health hazard and most of the patients are adolescent males. Directors Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia have focused in on three addicts in a Beijing clinic, examining their treatment and their lives once they return home. I expect the film to infer much about the enormous social changes young people are facing in the world’s most populous country – and maybe worldwide. Web Junkie debuted in competition at Sundance and will be shown on the BBC’s highly reputable Storyville strand. MIFF promises it will be “as entertaining as it is bizarre”.

 

White God

Goodbye to Language has one dog, this one has dozens, as evidenced in the trailer here, and it is completely thrilling to watch them en masse. Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó’s story is about what happens after a teenage girl and her beloved pooch are separated and his efforts were rewarded with the top award at Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival this year. He said here that he always uses dogs to symbolise minorities: "I wanted to tell this tale as a metaphor about the European fears about dealing with minorities.” This is the other film on this list that is definitely going to get a cinema release but I couldn’t help but include it. Oh, and there’s more dog action in this making-of video.

Note: All 10 of these films are unseen (and I will not be held responsible for their quality). Ten films in the program that have been seen and are unreservedly recommended are: 20,000 Days on Earth (but you might have to beg, borrow or steal a ticket); Boyhood; Fell; In Order of Disappearance (if you don’t mind blood, violence and humour all mashed up); Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (especially if you like cinematic strangeness and Fargo); Locke; Of Horses and Men; Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets; Felony; and What We Do In The Shadows.