Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sydney Film Festival 2007

My music listening has taken backseat to the movies over the last few days as it's Sydney Film Festival time again. There's actually an entire 'strand' dedicated to music, called Sounds on Screen, but I've not limited myself to that by any means.

So here, pretty much in note form, are some of the films I've seen so far. Hopefully this will help me remember them after 2 weeks immersion in the world of film !

12:08 East of Bucharest, is a dry 'post-revolution' film set in a small town outside of Bucharest, with a surprisingly funny finale that had us all in stitches.

Daratt is an unusual revenge story from Chad, with a great insight into some of the society there. One of the things that can sometimes get on my nerves in films, is a scene where great secrets are revealed, and yet in the next scene the characters are getting on without any apparent reaction or change in relationship as a result of the previous conflict. This film is full of scenes like that yet they didn't annoy me at all, and although it was mostly a low key film it still had me on edge right up to the final scene.

I Served the King of England is a riotous and absurd Czech film - based on a Hrabal novel that i'm going to have to hunt down. Apparently the largest budget Czech film ever made, it's possible that it could be mistaken as celebrating the life it portrays (the way rednecks have adopted Born in the USA for example) but in reality it's a wonderful satire on the delusions of Czech high-society during the first half of this century, visually rich and entertaining yet with serious ideas.

I'm still trying to work out if Antonia was a Brazilian Spice Girls or something deeper ! Often judgement gets suspended for foreign films, and i suspect that's the case here. I know my parents hated it - but i knew that would be the case from the first scene, which had Brazilian rap music shaking the State Theatre to its venerable bones !

More mainstream were the American films Bella and The Walker. I'm not really sure what The Walker was doing in the festival. While it's more overtly political that your average Hollywood release - with politics that please festival goers, of course - it had the cast (and budget) that you would think ensures a release into the chains later this year. Nevertheless, an enjoyable political thriller, and an outstanding performance by Woody Harrelson (tour de force, as they like to call it) as the eponymous walker, that is, friend and confidant of Washington's bored and rich housewives.

Bella is a different case. It too had the mainstream budget (the credits thanked 20 plus sponsors for the privilege of having their products prominently placed in the film) and production values of The Walker; and while the ethnic twist to the story (a USA/Mexico co-production apparently) adds to its festival appeal, i'm not so sure that the not-too-subtle pro-life theme would be so appreciated by that crowd.

Lastly (for now), the Chinese film How Are Your Fish Today was a kind of two-for-the-price-of-one deal, a chinese road-trip movie with bonus making-of weaved into the film. While not quite as funny nor original as its title deserved, nevertheless it's an interesting journey into a modern Chinese film-maker's world and motivations, as well as a visit to an older, more traditional village, Mohe, in China's far north.

Originally posted on June 12, 2007. And yes, it helped me remember these films so well I'm doing it all again this year !

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