CineBarr: Sydney Film Festival Blog #2

15 June 2012 | 6:39 pm | Ian Barr

Do audience members have to give running commentaries? Or breathe so LOUDLY through their noses??

It's day eight of the festival as I type this. Usually this is the point where I complain about fatigue, lamenting the dilemma of getting the rare opportunity to see challenging cinema, or at least films that warrant more than a tweet-review as the credits roll, and that festival cram-viewing is, ironically, the worst possible context for 'festival films' (*crickets*). Truthfully though, my viewings have been comparatively light on my freelance budget (ie, still two a day on average), and SFF isn't that kind of film festival. The average punter is an old man who just wants to see a nice little movie with a good story from another country, and the handful of 'auteur choices' feel valiantly or obligatorily programmed, even when they make up a bulk of it. For instance, the long-awaited return of Leos Carax with Holy Motors at Cannes last month is, here, a sole-screening late addition to the program 'starring Kylie Minogue!' (more on that one closer to its August release date, but in the meantime: !!!).

But really – different strokes, there's nothing wrong with that, and there's no way for me to say any of the above in person without sounding like a massive chump (I've tried). And such quibbles hardly compare to digital prints going haywire, film prints getting wack projection, audience members giving running commentaries or breathing VERY LOUDLY through their noses, etc etc. There is the sense that the festival environment brings out the worst theatre-going etiquette in some people and I always feel sympathy for the patient filmmakers who travel the globe to present their work and end up getting bombarded with stupid questions in the post-screening Q&A. Or extended reviews/analyses posing as questions. (suggested trolling question: “how much of the budget was improvised?”)

While I'm ranting, it's worth complaining about some of the actual films, as the slimmer program means the duds stand out in sharper relief. Like, what's the deal with L? I know the 'Greek Weird Wave' is a thing, but did 2009's Dogtooth really have enough pull to justify two films from the same collective in the program? [The other being the intriguing, if not altogether satisfying Alps.] And while it's certainly nice to see some 35mm Bertolucci on the big screen, it feels like that sidebar program came at the expense of exposing a less heralded name to audiences, as past retrospectives have. Again, though, these complaints reflect back on Sydney itself more than the festival. And again, different strokes – and I am responsible for the unsuccessful albeit correct #reviewersthinktheyknoweverything hashtag on twitter.

Fortunately, the festival isn't solely about sitting in a theatre, and there's the newly established Festival Hub at Town Hall to hang out at. It's a lovely, chill place, with panel discussions on daily and beautiful portrait photos of filmmakers/actors donning the walls. Although, its advertisement on the Ten Network, complete with burlesque performers and the promise of industry folk, makes me wonder how long it'll take to transform into the cinema-themed equivalent of The Ivy. If that does happen, the fest will be over anyway by the time this goes to print.