The day is finally here – the Melbourne International Film Festival launches tonight. Tickets to many of the high-profile films have already sold out, and you might be worried that you’ve missed the boat.
Nothing could be further from the truth – many of the must-see films still have seats available. Here’s a guide to the best of what’s left of the fest.
The Last Wave (1977)
David (Richard Chamberlain) is a Sydney lawyer haunted by visions of a giant wall of water. Having taken on a case involving a group of indigenous men accused of murder, he immerses himself in Aboriginal history and discovers that the past may very well be a guide to the future. Close to 40 years on, Peter Weir’s 1977 film has lost none of its haunting power.
The Monkees were one of the stranger offshoots of the ’60s – a pop band made for a sitcom that nonetheless managed to escape the confines of commercial television with this: one of the most bizarre television spin-offs ever made. Written by Jack Nicholson, this surreal effort may have killed their careers then, but today it’s increasingly seen as an essential part of the decade.
Enter the Void (2009)
Gaspar Noé’s notoriously hallucinogenic tale of a drug dealer who promises to protect his stripper sister even beyond death divided critics thanks to a blatantly melodramatic script. But it became an instant classic thanks to its candy-coloured neon visuals and a camera that roves through everything in its path – even the human body.
Grey Gardens (1975)
This groundbreaking documentary by the Maysles brothers takes audiences inside the private world of mother-daughter duo “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” Beale, distant cousins of Jackie Kennedy living in a run-down mansion in New York’s exclusive Hamptons. Living in trash yet with aristocratic charm, they quickly became audience favourites, even though all they really wanted was to be left alone.
The Duke of Burgundy (2014)
What begins as a tribute to ’70s Spanish sexploitation filmmaker Jesus Franco swiftly becomes something altogether different. British director Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio, 2012) digs down to find real substance in this increasingly offbeat look at a relationship between two women in a world without men, cars, or much of anything else beside butterflies.
Finders Keepers (2015)
When John Wood lost his leg in a plane accident, he decided to keep it in a storage locker. When he failed to keep up the payments, a bargain hunter swooped in and bought the contents, planning to use the leg as a tourist attraction. And that’s just the beginning of this documentary examining lonely men, the media’s love of offbeat stories and the strange paths reality television can take us down.
Turbo Kid (2015)
In the grim “future” of 1997, civilisation has collapsed and the only real currency is old comic books and ’80s collectables. But when The Kid meets fellow teen Apple, their burgeoning romance is cut short by the kind of crazed manic than can only be defeated by a Nintendo Power Glove. This salute to all things ’80s is nostalgic fun and a satisfying slice of trashy action in its own right.
New Zealand special-effects legend Jason Lei Howden takes on directing duties with the gore-filled story of Brodie, an outcast metal head who meets his kindred spirit, Zakk. No sooner have they started a band together than they discover some sheet music that promises them ultimate power. Do they play it? Does it summon up an ancient evil that only they can defeat?
Film-ception: Films About Films
Covering the final 24 hours in the life of Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini (best known for the hugely divisive Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, 1975) before he was murdered, Abel Ferrara’s latest film (with Willem Dafoe as Pasolini) is both a salute to a life tragically cut short and an examination of his passionate creativity, right down to creating scenes from the film Pasolini was planning to make before he was killed.
Eisenstein in Guanajuato (2015)
It's 1931 and Russian director Sergei Eisenstein (The Battleship Potemkin, 1925), having failed in his bid to break into Hollywood, drives to Mexico to shoot a new epic, the never-finished masterwork, ¡Que viva Mexico!. Director Peter Greenaway’s sexually explicit exploration of a man’s struggle to conquer his own passions and keep his art alive shows that even in his seventies he’s a force to be reckoned with.
In 1982, three friends set out to remake Raiders of the Lost Ark shot-for-shot. It took years and nearly killed them, but eventually they succeeded – except for one big fight that was simply beyond their abilities. Now the friends are getting back together to film that one missing scene. Packed with scenes from the ’80s and today, this documentary illustrates the price of following your childhood dreams just a little too far.
The Forbidden Room (2015)
Director Guy Madden’s 30-year career peaks with this fevered exploration of the early years of film, where plots of movies now lost collide and overlap in a cascade of short tales. Romantic skeletons, blood-sucking bananas, a giant floating brain and cameos galore from European arthouse stars are just part of the fun in this bizarre experience.
Always Hungry: Food Cinema
City of Gold (2015)
Jonathan Gold is the only food writer to have won the Pulitzer Prize, and in this documentary director Laura Gabbert follows this colourful character across LA as he explores – and devours – the rich variety of cuisines that have sprung up across the spread-out city.
For Grace (2015)
Chef Chris Duffy will stop at nothing to earn a three-star Michelin rating for his Chicago restaurant, but as he reaches for the top a string of revelations about his troubled past provide contrast to the ever-improving meals he’s serving. The food might be perfect, but at what cost?
Good Things Await (2014)
Niels Stokholm has run a biodynamic farm in Thorshøjgaard, Denmark for three decades. But while his produce is served on some of the finest dining tables around the globe, increasingly his farming methods are under threat from EU guidelines that have him facing constant fines and threats to shut him down. With Stokholm not getting any younger, will his life’s work survive?
Australiana: Close to Home
Based on Lawrence Leung’s hit live show, this story of a young man who falls in with an older conman (Timothy Spall) and learns the tricks of the trade has already had extra screenings put on to meet demand. So if you’re interested in learning how the cons work, or just seeing a unique coming-of-age tale, you’d better move fast.
The Principal (2015)
Continuing MIFF’s tradition of highlighting the best in Australian television drama, it is showing the first two episodes of this upcoming SBS drama directed by Kriv Stenders (Red Dog, 2011). When up-and-coming educator Matt Bashir (Alex Dimitriades) is offered the chance to take charge at Sydney’s notorious boys-only Boxdale High School, it’s hard to know whether the move is a step up or a step out. The troubled campus is the kind of place he wants to fix, but are some social problems beyond the reach of just one man?
Stories I Want to Tell You in Person (2015)
Acclaimed Australian playwright Lally Katz plays herself in this adaptation of her one-woman play written to explain what she did with the money she was given to write a completely different play (she spent it on fortune tellers in New York). It will screen with Oscar winner Adam Elliot’s latest stop-motion animation Ernie Biscuit, the story of a Parisian taxidermist who accidentally travels to Australia with his pet goose.
Golden Oldies: Focus on Seniors
Ryuzo and His Seven Henchmen (2015)
Tired of retirement, aging crime boss Ryuzo gets a little too drunk one night with his former right-hand man and together they come up with a scheme to create a crime gang made up entirely of old-age yakuza. But when the young guys think they’re a joke, it’s up to their elders to teach them the meaning of respect. This is a film by Japanese actor and filmmaker “Beat” Takeshi Kitano.
After a decade away, Krisha, the aging black sheep of her family, has returned for Thanksgiving. But the happy reunion soon crumbles as it turns out the past isn’t something she or her family can easily paper over. Filmed in nine days at the home of director Trey Edward Shults' parents, and with his aunt in the lead role, this is a deeply personal film from the first-time director.
My Love Don’t Cross That River (2014)
Married for 76 years, Jo Byeong-man (98) and Kang Kye-yeol (89) sing to each other and fall asleep hand-in-hand, still deeply in love. But as Jo grows frailer, it becomes clear that they will soon be separated. This film covering the last 15 months of their marriage is the most successful documentary in Korean history, and a heart-warming look at the most enduring of loves.
Red Amnesia (2014)
Chinese grandmother Deng is alone in life. Her husband is dead and her children (in her mind at least) have been carried away by the cultural changes sweeping through China. But a series of mysterious phone calls soon lead to a stranger following her on the street. Could it be that her long-buried past isn’t quite so securely locked away? More a mystery than a thriller, this is a film built of a portrait of a Chinese generation used to harsh change, yet struggling to deal with a world that has moved beyond them.
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