[Editor's Note: Glenn of Stale Popcorn fame, pictured left, will be covering the Melbourne International Film Festival for us. Yay! He'll hit titles we're interested in because we've definitely perused his plans. -Nathaniel]
Glenn checking in. As I type this it is August 2nd, opening night of the 61st annual Melbourne International Film Festival. With the festival proper beginning tomorrow, I have 32 films booked (whether I get to them all is another thing altogether...) but I've caught a few biggies beforehand.
You have probably heard about Wayne Blair’s The Sapphires, what with its rapid ascent from unknown Aussie musical to full blown Harvey Weinstein pet project. While I can’t see this chintzy sixties-set musical garnering much in the way of Academy buzz – unless the music branch’s “no end credits original songs!” attitude suddenly changes for the swingin’ original tune “Gotcha” – I can’t see how its light-as-air sensibilities can’t turn it into a pretty money-maker for The Weinstein Company and net itself a couple of those eternally in flux “Musical or Comedy” Golden Globe nominations in the process.
Musical Madness, Kylie Minogue and Holy Motors after the jump...
Adapted from the local jukebox musical of the same name (which, coincidentally, starred Christine Anu who you may remember as one of Zidler’s “Diamond Dogs” in Moulin Rouge!), Blair’s directorial debut sizzles with effervescent energy particularly during its soul/r&b musical numbers. That the songs pack some punch is hardly a surprise when you’re working with such veritable favourites as “Heard it Through the Grape Vine”, “I’ll Take You There” and “Who’s Loving You”, but the genuine surprises are to be found amongst the cast. Deborah Mailman is by now a national treasure, bringing instant class and attention no matter what the project. She’s fabulous and the film’s international run should make her some instant new fans (can I recommend Radiance?). Chris O’Dowd, so charming and fun in Bridesmaids, makes good on his leading man promise as the girl group’s dishevelled manager. And it must be said that Jessica Mauboy has improved greatly since her screen debut (after coming to prominence on Australian Idol and releasing several pop album) several years prior in the musical Bran Nue Dae.
It sounds and looks great (cinematography by Samson & Delilah director Warwick Thornton!) and although the screenplay’s a bit creaky and only grazes the serious social issues of the time, a lighthearted aura of feel good pride sweeps over the final act like dust through the outback. (B – full review)
Perhaps in the oddest of head-to-head duels of a prestigious film festival, the Cannes Film Festival in May saw two Aussie popstars vie for attention of the global press. Mauboy’s presence in The Sapphires is arguably fine and has garnered her US industry interest, but isn’t particularly special. Therefore the winner of this match up is Kylie Minogue in Leos Carax’s bonkers paean to the dying world around him, Holy Motors. Minogue appears late in the proceedings, but makes an instant impression as a depressed woman (or is she only acting that way?) who sings her way through a run down old department store. Yes, it makes sense in context!
Holy Motors was surely the breakout success of Cannes, despite not winning any awards from the decidedly un-humoured jury president, Nanni Moretti. For all the talk of his first film in 13 years being a truly WTF? experience, Holy Motors proves to be a charming examination of modern day life with a stinging dose of sadness. Carax’s wholly original concept of a man (Carax regular, Denis Lavant) taking upon different identities as he travels throughout Paris in the back of a white stretch limousine is really an almost Jacques Tati-esque look at the way modern society has become increasingly insane. Still, Carax is a smart filmmaker and he’s willing to admit his own hypocrisy. He knows full well that the death of film and transition to digital (explored in wildly different manner in both Hugo and The Artist) would mean that Holy Motors wouldn’t exist, so when Minogue sings “who were we when we were who we were back then” it is essentially Carax asking if it really was all that great back in the so-called “good ol’ days”.
Visually inventive and hypnotic to watch, Holy Motors is a slice of experimental filmmaking that should cross over into the fringes of the mainstream. I’m not sure when (if ever) it will see the light of day in America (an Australian release at the end of August is set), but it would sure be a hoot to see it garner much deserved Oscar nominations for at least make-up and original song. We can only hope. (A/A- – full review)
Did you guys catch Oren Moverman’s Rampart in its release earlier this year after a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Oscar qualifying run? I know Nathaniel is a fan of Moverman’s debut, the twice-nominated The Messenger, but it skipped cinemas in Australia and I’ve never managed to catch up with it. Having watched Rampart though I can definitely say my interest has severely diminished in ever doing so. What a miserable git of a film this one is. I don’t even want to think about it apart from the smoggy, sun-bleached cinematography and the talented ensemble. (D)
If the name Patrik Eklund sounds familiar (er…) then that’s because he was Oscar-nominated for his live action short Instead of Abracadabra. I’ve not seen it, but his feature debut, Flicker, is a droll small-town comedy that’s all sorts of wacky fun. If its laughs aren’t of the gut-busting variety then they’re certainly more consistent that most recent Hollywood offerings. And at only 100 minutes it is wonderfully concise, too. It’s nice to see something from this part of the world that isn’t all apocalyptic tundras, ya know? I suspect you’ll be seeing this flick (LOL! See what I did there? Oh never mind…) aim for American arthouse crossover success some time over the next year. (B+)
Hey, we’re just getting started!
Early next week we look at Oscar-bound The Sessions with John Hawkes and Academy (!) Award (!!) Winner (!!!) Helen Hunt (!!!!), new Todd Solondz, and Berlinale hit Sister.