Huddled over my laptop one cold evening, I receive a message from a friend. “Shared a smoke with Geoffrey Rush tonight while wearing comfortable pants.” It rings like the crack of a starters pistol. Here we go again. The Melbourne International Film Festival is back in town.

Like many a Melbourne cinephile, my life between the dates of July 21 and August 7 will become an extended smash-cut montage of scribbled diary entries, dimming lights, sticky floors and drunken philosophical debates. Over just three weeks, MIFF will unleash almost 400 films and remind nearly 200,000 Melburnians what it’s like to experience film not only as consumable entertainment, but as a genuine cultural event.

To celebrate, Broadsheet presents our 10 picks of the bunch from MIFF’s 60th anniversary program.

Let the arguments begin.

Persecution Blues: The Battle for the Tote
Shot over seven years, local filmmaker Natalie van den Dungen’s ode to Collingwood’s iconic rock venue covers the Tote’s storied and sordid history from it’s 21st birthday to last year’s battle to stay alive in the face of laws that threaten the soul of our city’s music scene. A real slice of Melbourne’s rock ‘n’ roll history.

Submarine
Directed by Richard Ayoade (The Mighty Boosh, The IT Crowd), Submarine stars Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige and Aussie Noah Taylor in a dramedy about a 15-year old would-be genius and his attempts to impress an eczema-suffering pyromaniac. Featuring original music from Arctic Monkey’s Alex Turner Submarine is an offbeat gem.

I am Eleven
Tender, illuminating and funny, I am Eleven documents Genevieve Bailey’s four-year journey around the world speaking with 11-year-olds from India to Melbourne about what life is like at such a crucial age. Bailey’s insightful documentary screens as part of MIFF’s Australian Showcase.

Melancholia
Woody Allen once described comedy as tragedy plus time. Lars von Trier discovered the maxim doesn’t yet apply to jokes about identifying with Hitler, when his stunt at a Cannes press conference this year resulted in a ban from the prestigious festival.

Always divisive, he comes back to MIFF with Melancholia, an apocalyptic and visually stunning family drama boasting a cast that includes Keifer Sutherland, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kirsten Dunst. Bound to trigger arguments, fans of previous films such as Dancer in the Dark and Dogville will already be cueing up for this one, so get in quick.

Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest
Michael Rapaport’s chronicle of the 90s hip-hop legends rise and demise features interviews with the likes of Pharrell Williams, Mos Def, Beastie Boys and The Roots. A must-see for anyone who’s first taste of Lou Reed came from Tribe’s Can I Kick It.

13 Assassins
The prolific director behind cult favourites Audition and Ichi the Killer, Takashi Miike comes back to Melbourne for the first time since 2007 with 13 Assassins. Touted as his homage to Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films of the 50s and 60s, Miike’s Assassins is no derivative tribute. A moving, poetic, and at times disturbing film, it’s as easily loved for its drama as much as its magnificent action. Pure cinematic gratification.

The Slap
A few years ago, The Slap made literary waves by examining the fallout of a man’s decision to physically punish someone else’s child. As part of MIFF’s innovative Prime Time section, Melburnians have the chance to take in a special world premier of the two first episodes of ABC’s TV adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ acclaimed novel.

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress
Every year more than two million people try to book a table at famed Spanish restaurant, El Bulli. Director Gereon Wetzel takes us behind the scenes with El Bulli chef Ferran Adrià and his team as they prepare to open for a new season. This one’s bound to get Melbourne’s serious foodies frothing.

The Kid with a Bike
Grand Prix winners this year at Cannes, Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne return to MIFF with The Kid With a Bike. Starring newcomer Thomas Doret and Hearafter’s Cecile de France in a drama about a young boy’s denial of paternal abandonment, this is yet another stirring portrait of working class life from the celebrated Dardenne brothers.

Drive
Closing this year’s festival is Drive, Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn’s “neo-noir heist film turned high octane chase” starring Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine) and Cary Mulligan (An Education). A hypnotic mash of B-grade action/exploitation and high European style, Drive has left critics almost universally breathless and nabbed Winding Refn the Best Director prize at Cannes.

MIFF runs from July 21 to August 7.

Wine sponsors of this year's festival, Mandala Wines, have some double passes to MIFF to giveaway through us. To win tickets email win@broadsheet.com.au with the subject 'Wine and movies'.

miff.com.au