THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2018 PART V

 

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THE CAMERAMAN: I’m not an expert on Buster Keaton, having only seen The General many years ago at BIFF 2005 but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to check out another one of his films screening at BIFF 2018. Arriving solo on an early Saturday morning 20OCT2018 at the Gallery of Modern Art South Bank I quickly saw a line backed up outside the entrance to the 11am session. Clearly I was not the only who thought this was a good idea. On the 80th anniversary of The General I watched the great organ player Ron West accompany live, and here on the 90th anniversary of The Cameraman I was to see David Bailey play the gallery’s 1929 Wurlitzer which came up out of the stage just beneath the screen. The audience was amused by his inventive addition of the iconic Jaws theme amongst other playful choices.

The Cameraman was a crossroads for Keaton, the silent era was fading, he lost creative control in his ventures and his personal life was about to go through an upheaval. In some ways The Cameraman is the last great Buster Keaton film despite him going on for quite some time after. The audience was full of all types of people drawn to the opportunity to see something as unique as a silent film. The print had long been believed lost and the film survives today as a mesh between two old prints. In some ways Keaton’s old movie seems more grand now, in an era of CGI effects I heard one youngster marvel they must have built that whole set for such a short gag, Keaton’s stunt work and balletic grace remains impressive even if it is reported he was not allowed to do them all himself this time around. Some things have dated its true, you can see the construction of how we’re meant to feel but the reason why these films remain timeless is the same reason they had such broad appeal back in the day. The characters were archetypes, the story simple and the gags broad because that is what it makes them universal. Seeing The Cameraman at BIFF 2018 was a treat. Afterwards David Bailey received an ovation.

 

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IN THE AISLES: The next day Karen and I went and saw at 3:45pm at New Farm Cinemas In The Aisles which was in a way a choice made jointly by Karen and I after she got Arctic and I got Ash Is Purest White. From Germany and starring Sandra Huller, Franz Rogowski and Peter Kurth it tells the story of a night shift at a retail store in Germany. A few things came flooding back to me of my time working at BIG W as a young man, the veteran who knew all the good hiding spots, the jittery movements of using a power pallet jack for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect with In The Aisles a romcom that turns dark maybe but instead I got a powerful character piece about three people. There is so much care in every frame and shot of this film from Thomas Stuber that perfectly creates the geography of the store and being out of it. Delicate dialogue that says enough of the characters thoughts but not all of it and the way that the people who knew you at work know you in a way your family never will and vice versa. That they are a family of sorts. I don’t know if it will create the buzz needed but it would be no injustice if this received a nomination for Best Foreign Film at this years’ Oscars. I also noted that seeing a film at an old cinema like the New Farm Cinemas made it feel more like BIFF for me and reminded me the Old Regent Cinemas.

BIFF 2018 for me at least will go down as a particularly rainy BIFF. Also my suggestion would be to move the dates back to the traditional late July Early August run rather than having BIFF running the same time as the Byron Bay Film Festival and I wouldn’t mind seeing Palace as one of the venue partners in future. However I saw some fantastic movies at BIFF 2018 which was a relief since there were so many good ones on offer. I didn’t cover the globe as much but I saw 7 films, two from Australia, three from Europe, an American classic and one from Asia. Only one of them bad. Still have not gotten around to seeing an Iranian film at BIFF yet and there were plenty on offer this year. I couldn’t help but notice there were lots of callbacks to earlier BIFFs and earlier films I had seen there, that is the nature of film festivals I guess. One thing I am very excited about is Artistic Director Amanda Slack-Smith continuing in the role and seeing what she comes up with next year.

-Lloyd Marken

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THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2018 PART IV

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TERROR NULLUS: We attended the Gallery of Modern Art at 6pm Wednesday 17OCT2018 to watch a free but sold out screening of Terror Nullius. This “film” made me feel really old, I’ve always slanted a little to the progressive side of things but as I get older I found more and more my tastes, politics and views are more and more out of touch. As a fat middle aged white male I can’t help but sometimes wonder why is there so much negativity attached to those things and feel a little targeted even as I acknowledge the traditional disadvantage of those who were not those things throughout history. Even that sentence feels so little limiting though, I guess I hesitate at the politics of division but want to support new opportunities and new voices to be heard. To that end I’m happy that Terror Nullius exists, I’m happy there are people out there with this viewpoint who put films like this out there. If it is for youth and the fringe dwellers and if I’m neither one of those now then so be it.

Terror Nullius is a cutting together of old archival footage to present a new narrative, it is intended to reinterpret conventions of storytelling, cultural norms and to provoke. It is also meant to entertain I hope. Yet I rarely laughed, I found it one note and while some moments resonated in how they cleverly spliced together things (Mel Gibson’s abusive phone rant cut together with Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road for one), for the most part it felt repetitive and unimaginative. Like a kid thinking they’re a freedom fighter because they wearing a Che t-shirt at uni rather than say fighting and dying in the jungles of Central America for a communist guerilla. As a former arts student who railed against the policies of a conservative Prime Minister it s interesting to reckon with the passing of time and the challenging of norms that come from a culture I grew up in that has evolved into something new. The makers interviewed at a Q&A afterwards seem like intelligent, thoughtful and hard working people with ideals. If you enjoy their work I am happy for you and I wish them continued success. Yet for me Terror Nullius was boring, disrespectful and for the most part a wank.

-Lloyd Marken

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2018 PART III – ‘ASH IS PUREST WHITE’ AND ‘ARCTIC’ REVIEWS AVAILABLE ON WEEKEND NOTES

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The Brisbane International Film Festival traditionally opens on a Thursday and runs over two weekends concluding on a Sunday. This invariably creates a hopeful and excited mood going into the first weekend and a reflective and wistful one going into the second.  It was no different this year but as opposed to the films seen at BIFF 2017 Karen and I really enjoyed the ones we saw this year and so our moods were further lifted after the first weekend.

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On Friday night we went to Event Cinemas  at the top of CBD shopping centre the Myer Centre which is always sitting on top of a building shutting down as cinemagoers attend late into the evening. We were there to see the director’s cut of the latest film from Chinese director Jia Zhangke and starring his constant collaborator Zhao Tan – Ash is Purest White. While he is a well known Chinese sixth generation auteur I was unfamiliar with his work and interested to see how I would find the street level modern style he is well known for. I had concerns it would prove as fascinating but also as unstructured as say the Han Jie’s Walking on the Wildside from BIFF 2007. Instead I found a moving movie that reflected the changing economy of a booming nation through the prism of small time criminals and one incredibly strong woman. I was lucky enough to have a review I wrote of the film published at Weekend Notes and you can read it here https://www.weekendnotes.com/ash-is-purest-white-film-review-brisbane-international-film-festival-2018/

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The next day Karen and I went to Reading Cinemas in the northern suburb of Newmarket not far from where Karen once lived with her sister for several years when we were dating. Reading only opened there last year and has quickly established itself as a first rate cinema with comfortable seats, great menus and most importantly large screens and hi-tech sound systems. We were there to watch Arctic from Iceland starring Mads Mikkelsen which almost served as a rebuke to the muddled The Mountain Between Us from last year and showed how you make a great survival yarn. Again I’ve been fortunate enough to have my review published with Weekend Notes which you can check out here https://www.weekendnotes.com/arctic-film-review-brisbane-international-film-festival-2018/ In short the Brisbane International Film Festival 2018 got off to a flying start with it’s first weekend.

Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.

-Lloyd Marken

 

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2018 PART II – OPENING NIGHT FILM ‘CELESTE’ REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

 

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A new milestone was reached for me the other day in regards to my work for Scenestr magazine. I was lucky enough to cover the opening night of the Brisbane International Film Festival 2018 for Scenestr which I will cherish for a long time to come. This follows on covering opening night in Brisbane for the Cine Latino Film Festival 2017 and the Italian Film Festival 2018 and reviewing Australia Day for Scenestr at BIFF 2017 and two events at the Byron Bay Film Festival 2017. Given my fond memories and deep love for the BIFF though I think long time readers will understand why this was a particular highlight to take in.

Karen was unable to attend so a mutual friend Rosie was kind enough to keep me company as we rubbed shoulders with industry insiders and guests. Opening night film Celeste an uneasy character drama starring Radha Mitchell was a bold choice from Artistic Director Amanda Slack-Smith for opening night. You can read more of my thoughts here http://scenestr.com.au/movies-and-tv/celeste-brisbane-international-film-festival-opening-night-and-film-review-australian-cinematheque-goma-20181015 and there is plenty more BIFF coverage to come.

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Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Celebrating 25 years in 2018 of publishing history they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and now Victoria! every month too.

-Lloyd Marken

BIFF 2018

Copyright of BIFF from their 2018 Facebook site.

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2018 PART I – SPECIAL PREVIEW SCREENING OF ‘WOMAN AT WAR’ REVIEW AVAILABLE ON WEEKEND NOTES

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Long time readers will recall the affection I hold for my hometown film festival. We lost BIFF for a little while there 2014-2016 and I planned to write of my fond memories of it when it suddenly came back last year thanks in no small part to Palace Cinemas. Now having gone out to tender, it is back this year with a new home base at the Gallery of Modern Art and a new Artistic Director in Amanda Slack-Smith but we will always owe a debt to the Zeccolas for their part in bringing BIFF back in 2017. Palace Cinemas are not venue partners for BIFF this year instead a wide range of cinemas are involved including New Farm cinemas which held the first Brisbane Film Festival back in the 1960s.

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Seen recently at New Farm Cinemas. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Karen won tickets through local rag and BIFF Sponsor The Courier Mail to attend a special preview screening at GOMA the day before opening night. We were welcomed by the Artistic Director to watch Woman At War from Iceland. The whole event had that air of being let in on a little secret and getting a sneak peek of what was to come. The atmosphere was warm and friendly and full of mutual love for cinema. A perfect way to kick off the film festival before “kicking off” the film festival, whoever came up with the idea should pat themselves on the back.

 

You can read more of my thoughts here https://www.weekendnotes.com/woman-at-war-film-review-brisbane-international-film-festival-2018/ with a review I have had published with a new sixth publication Weekend Notes.

Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.

-Lloyd Marken

 

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2017 PART IV

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THAT’S NOT ME: This little Australian film directed by Gregory Erdstein is the kind of little local film that can be championed by home country festivals and boost them towards international deals. One of Karen’s picks I was still happy to go along and had solid hopes. If you’re keeping score all of Karen’s choices came a cropper and mine didn’t fare much better but I picked the best film of 2017 so there’s that. Karen still stands by The Party and I still don’t think it’s that great. We saw this film at Palace Centro Cinema 7, Thursday night at 6pm 31AUG2017 and grabbed some chow from a nearby Italian restaurant after.

Co-written and co-produced by star Alice Foulcher, who plays dual roles of aspiring actress Polly and her twin Amy also an actress who gets a big break and is off to Hollywood. Specialising in the kind of awkward understated character driven humour that Ricky Gervais made an industry out of, I admired a lot in this film but can’t say I really enjoyed it. I admired the work from Foulcher and the rest of the cast, to be natural in their performances and to play their roles as imperfect humans.

I liked the low production values that still lit atmospherically backyard townhouse parties favoured by young broke artists getting older every day. I liked how it was shot in L.A. and Victoria and showed how clearly without the 35mm film lenses of my childhood Hollywood more and more is just another pretty Pacific Ocean town not too different from where I live. As a comedy though I seldom laughed and as a character piece I found it more and more challenging to get caught up in the plight of this flawed character no matter how honest and real she was written and performed.

 

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AUSTRALIA DAY: Those who follow my blog will recall I covered with some excitement getting to review this film at BIFF for Scenestr magazine. Australia Day screened at 6pm, Palace Barracks Cinema 1 Saturday 02SEP2017 with BIFF 2017 closing down the following day. It turned out to be a great way to finish off BIFF 2017 with a good local film made here in Brisbane. As “press” I got to mingle at a party beforehand and by mingle I mean stand and chat to my wife. I did notice Hornblower himself – Iaon Gruffudd was present. BIFF 1.jpgAfter the film there was a Q&A with some cast, producers and director Kriv Stenders who also made the excellent closing night film of BIFF 2017 The Go-Betweens: Right Here which I later saw at Byron Bay. Kriv Stenders is one of the great modern directors of Australian cinema and the producers were local boys, of Hoodlum Productions, who had done good and were making their first feature film. Karen and I went to Libertines again afterwards for delicious crab sliders and other favourites where I noticed them celebrating with loved ones.

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Libertines on the night of 2nd of September, 2017. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

You can read more of my recap of events here and my review of the film here but suffice to say it was a great way to end our attendance at the Brisbane International Film Festival 2017. Australia Day was a moving energetic film perhaps not subtle in its themes but I found it terribly effective and affecting. I put it in Honourable Mentions for my end of year list and I still stand by it. Getting to be on assignment for Scenestr at BIFF was a personal highlight and I was pleased everything went well.

 

All up Karen and I had seen 7 films, 2 from Asia (one animated from Japan and another from Vietnam), two films from the U.S. (one a documentary), two films from Australia and one film from Europe (in this case the U.K.) Not a bad collection and while only two really passed the grade with me they did so by a far margin. BIFF is returning in 2018 and I hope to share some memories with you about it soon. I also hope to write about my attendance at the Sydney Film Festival in 2008 at some point but we have come to the end for now of my recaps of past BIFFs. I hope you have enjoyed, I admit there is a nostalgic twinge for the ones of the previous decade that I do not get for 2017 but time moves on. You treasure memories and create new ones and I look forward to making many new BIFF ones. I will close by thanking Palace Cinemas once again for bringing back my beloved BIFF.

-Lloyd Marken

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2017 PART III

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Some films arrive at Brisbane International Film Festival having won at Cannes or made a splash at Sundance and expectations can be high. Films like Chop Shop or 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Most come with some kind of buzz or recognition but you don’t know what film you’re really going to fall in love with until you see it. That was how it was like for me and the formerly mentioned and S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine and Black Ice and The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess and Away From Her and Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.

 

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IN THIS CORNER OF THE WORLD: Again Mike was steering me to good things with his recommendation of Japanese animated films. On a whim I choose to see a Japanese animated film that was screening at BIFF 2017. On a quiet Sunday afternoon 27AUG2017 Karen and I arrived at Palace Barracks for a 12:45pm session and I saw the best film of the year. Set before and during World War II, it followed the story of one young girl’s personal growth into a woman set against the backdrop of Japan’s transformation during those years ending with the agony of defeat and the simple need to rebuild no matter the trauma if there is to be a better tomorrow. A film that took Japan 70 years to make but it is a timely reminder of the true losers in war and the hope that comes from tomorrow. I was later lucky enough to have my review of the film published in the magazine FilmInk but I never see truly happy with the words I use to recommend it. See it for yourself.

 

CITIZEN JANE: BATTLE FOR THE CITY: Monday night after work Karen and I went to Palace Centro Cinema 7 to see the American documentary Citizen Jane: Battle for the City at 6pm. Some good documentaries have screened at BIFF and Citizen Jane had a lot to say about rising populations and the urban housing projects of yesteryear. There are many lessons that could be learnt from the showdown between activitst Jane Jacobs and urban planner Robert Moses in mid-20th Century New York that is relevant to today. Yet as the film went on I found myself asking for a different viewpoint, it seemed the film lacked any nuance or alternative argument. It wanted to celebrate Jane and belabour these foolish men who had built buildings but torn down communities. A under-resourced but indomitable spirit and intelligent mind going up against big interest groups is compelling to be sure but I couldn’t help but feel there was more to it than that. That Jane Jacobs had got it right and if not for her efforts we would have lost out more but why she had to fight, whether there were good intentions gone wrong there, what the solutions ultimately are for us now in the 21st century I felt the film could have gotten into a bit more. By not presenting somebody from the other side arguing their case you don’t really have a debate that you win. Just an echo chamber that feeds your narrative. Still maybe I was tired, I think I may have nodded off for a little and it wasn’t a bad film by an means.

 

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THE WAY STATION: Wednesday night 30AUG2017, 6pm we went to Palace Barracks Cinema 1 for The Way Station from Vietnam. Trumpeted it as a seminal moment in the history of the Vietnamese film industry it was a gala screening we attended. Directed by Hong Anh a famous actress in Vietnam it won best film, best actor and best cinematography at the ASEAN film awards. Not bad for her feature debut. It follows the story of a young man who gets work in the kitchen at a small restaurant and starts to learn the secrets of the compound he lives and works in. It was a passion project for Hong Anh and it deals with ideas of gender, sex and family. We had a Q&A afterwards with Hong Anh and 2017 Festival Co-Director Maxine Williamson and something that impressed was her discussion of how to shoot the space of the restaurant.  For me they did a great job of keeping it interesting, maintaining clear sense of geography and also bringing forth such a strong sense of place that it almost becomes another character. In some ways this a tragic story and I can’t deny that it was not one of my favourites but it was shot well, had interesting ideas and took me to another small pocket of the world I had never been in which I what I love best about the films I see at BIFF. Afterwards we came outside to eat food put on by the nearby Libertines which Karen and I both love. These included little bamboo boats with mushrooms dumplings inside them.

-Lloyd Marken