Monday, June 16, 2008

Sydney Film Festival round up Part 1

Well we’re over half way through this years Sydney Film Festival and we’re already witnessed some wonderful cinema within the walls of the State Theatre, the Dendy Opera Quays and the George Street cinemas. It’s still a glorious sight watching festival regulars bolting between screenings, festival pass blowing in the wind.

My favourite film thus far has been the fabulous Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In. Based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist the film portrays the trials and tribulations of a twelve year old boy dealing with bullies, his parents divorce, school and living next door to a vampire. Subtlety using ideas and motifs from many classics of the genre, in particular Salem’s Lot, but redefining them against the chilling, snow covered vistas of the Swedish countryside. The film brings fresh blood to often staid and predictable vampire genre. Visually the film is stunning, from the nocturnal vampiric attacks to the final swimming pool massacre, director Thomas Alfredson shows a show hand during even the most uncomfortable moments. The fact that it is two twelve years olds discovering love and dealing with an uncontrollable thirst for plasma only adds to the frisson and the two young leads are outstanding. One of the best horror films of recent times.

Running a close second was In Bruges, the tale of two hitmen hiding out in the small Belgium town of Bruges. Colin Firth and Brendan Gleeson star as the killers and both give career best performances in the hilarious, moving and beautifully played film that twists and turns whilst always giving our heroes a human side, despite the horrific nature of their chosen career. The script is razor sharp; written and directed by Martin McDonagh, the playwright has an audacious turn of phrase and Firth revels at the opportunity to spit out some wicked one-liners. Ralph Fiennes appears at the films blood soaked finale as a cockney gangster who would make Sexy Beast’s Ben Kingsley proud.

Guy Maddin made a welcome return to the festival after Brand Upon the Brain astounded viewers at last years festival, despite the fact that his The Saddest Music in the World was voted last place by the audience a few years ago. A point brought up, much to the directors amusement and festival director Clare Stewarts embarrassment, during Maddin’s hilarious Q&A session after his latest film My Winnpeg was shown. The gala screening of his hilarious travelogue featured a live on stage narration. Two thumbs up must also go to the trashy Donkey Punch, love that outboard motor in the face scene…(best since Dr Butcher MD!) and the high school nightmares of Class. Another nice surprise was the quirky Russian fairy tale Mermaid. I also very much enjoyed Steve McQueen’s Hunger, a beautifully shot retelling of the hunger strikers of the early Eighties, in particular Bobby Sands. The director used his artistic background to stunning effect and was aided by some fabulous performances. The unusual structure of the storytelling was slightly unsettling and there was an assumption that the audience had some prior knowledge of the subject but this warts and this expose definitely lived up to its Cannes hype.

I missed out on Takashi Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django but did manage to catch the director’s Crows: Episode 0 which was enjoyable but to be honest, we’d seen it all before. You, the Living also showed initial promise but descended into an episodic mess that when it worked certainly raised a smile, but come the films conclusion it garnered little more than a shrug of the shoulders.

The retrospective season this year is the amusingly From Kerr to Eternity gave me another chance to revisit Jack Clayton’s The Innocents. Last time I saw this classic was at London’s then National Film Theatre as a prelude to the Q&A with the legendary Freddie Francis and the film still looks wonderful. The black and white photography is beautiful to behold giving the film a sense of ominous foreboding way before the film’s startling conclusion and Debora Kerr gives a fabulous performance as the Governess who has to deal with the young tearaways of the title.

That’s it for now, there are plenty more movies to see so I’ll be back with a final round up next week.

1 comment:

Film Fan said...

The Sydney Film Festival is brilliant, thanks for this Dave!