Film Carew: Melbourne International Film Festival

11 July 2012 | 9:55 am | Anthony Carew

Film Carew previews 40 films from MIFF 2012. Words and trailers!

The Melbourne International Film Festival launched its 2012 program last night, the website goes live today, and the festival guide hits the streets on Friday. Meaning: MIFF is suddenly upon us; the event that dominates the local cinematic landscape set to roll from August 2-19, screening 250-ish feature films, innumerable shorts, and staging all kinds of related events, galas, and novelties. For all those planning on poring o'er the program with a diary and a highlighter, here's the indispensable Film Carew Guide To MIFF 2012: 40 films of note to get you through those 17 days.

Alps (Greece, director Yorgos Lanthimos)

Fresh off its win in competition in Sydney, Lanthimos' vicious, ridiculous follow-up to his masterwork Dogtooth is, like its predecessor and Kinetta before, obsessed with authoring the world around you as you see fit; this, once again, a parable for totalitarianism, cultural delusion, and cinema at once.

(Monday 13 August, 9pm, Forum; Sunday 19 August, 6.30pm, GU)

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The Ambassador (Denmark, Mads Brügger)

Brüger returns after his MIFF-2010-owning The Red Chapel with another savagely satirical lark on corruption, oppression, and the bizarre performance-art pantomimes of the totalitarian state; this time venturing behind the Diamond Curtain of the Central African Republic.

(Tuesday 7 August, 6.30pm, ACMI; Thursday 9 August, 9pm, GU)


Amour (France, Michael Haneke)

Following past Cannes triumphs for his towering masterworks The Piano Teacher, Caché, and The White Ribbon, everyone's favourite austere Austrian asshole scored another Palme d'Or this year. This time, though, his acerbic critiques on cultural guilt and misanthropic evil melt away in the face of tenderness and humanity; Amour a bold portrait of old age.

(Friday 3 August, 9pm, Forum; Monday 13 August, GU)


Barbara (Germany, Christian Petzold)

Petzold is one of the most interesting directors working in World Cinema, if only in that his films always have this sense of uneasiness about them, awkwardly approximating a genre picture whilst never cohering into something easily consumable or familiar of form (aside from The State I Am In; that's just perfect). I haven't seen Barbara, but I certainly will; and surely, again, will then get into some discussion/argument with someone who hasn't liked it at all.

(Thursday 16 August, 6.30pm, Forum; Saturday 18 August, 1.30pm, GU)


Beasts Of The Southern Wild (USA, Benh Zeitlin)

The most insistently-hyped and critically-fellated US indie of the year arrives with ratcheted-up expectations, wildly conceived stylisation, and a next-important-US-auteur reputation to live up to.

(Wednesday 8 August, 9pm, Forum; Friday 10 August, 6.30pm, GU)


Beijing Besieged By Waste (China, Wang Jiuliang)

MIFF 2011 delivered the glories of Florent Tillon's Detroit Wild City, a series of metropolitan landscapes that found abandoned buildings being left to the dogs (and birds, insects, and neo-agrarian opportunists). Wang's documentation of the sprawling dumps outside China's capital has a similar sense of peering into a future of social collapse: the world's budding superpower a backwater sewer of casual corruption and incomparable pollution.

(Friday 10 August, 9pm, ACMI; Sunday 12 August, 6.30pm, ACMI)


Berberian Sound Studio (UK, Peter Strickland)

Strickland's prior pic, the grim Romanian revenge tale Katalin Varga, was one of MIFF's great unexpected discoveries of recent years. Berberian Sound Studio finds the fiercely-independent Englishman in Italy, with Toby Jones, staking out a Gialli homage with a Broadcast soundtrack(!).

(Monday 13 August, 9pm, ACMI; Saturday 18 August, 4pm, GU)


Bestiaire (Canada, Denis Côté)

Following last year's oddball father/daughter drama Curling, Canada's strangest auteur makes a minimalist portrait of animals in confinement; silently watching, through aching long takes, creatures navigate their man-made entrapments. It plays as sad, weirdly-sweet meditation on the ruination of the natural world and the disaster of dominion.

(Saturday 4 August, 4pm, ACMI; Wednesday 15 August, 4pm, ACMI)


Beyond The Hills (Romania, Cristian Mungiu)

Mungiu's last film, the pitch-perfect 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days placed at #3 on the Film Carew Countdown of the best films of the past decade, so forgive me if there's some budding excitement for his straight-from-Cannes latest. The below video is comically unrevealing, spoilin' only the sombre wardrobe of its monastic setting.

(Monday 13 August, 9pm, ACMI; Saturday 18 August, 4pm, GU)


Carré Blanc (France, Jean-Baptiste Léonetti)

Dystopian near-future parables on corporatised culture, runamok bureaucracy, and oppressed humanity are, of course, the best kind; and Léonetti makes his splashy debut with all manner of foreboding-and-confusing style.

(Friday 3 August, 11.30pm, GU; Tuesday 14 August, 9pm, GU)


Chasing Ice (USA, Jeff Orlowski)

Sad, first-person survey of the changing landscape in polar areas; the melting icecaps leaving an ever-receding mass driven back by the furnace of global warming.

(Saturday 4 August, 11am, GU; Saturday 11 August, 1.30pm, GU)


Chicken With Plums (France, Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi)

It's a comedown from the towering profundity of Persepolis, but Paronnaud and Satrapi's adaptation of the latter's graphic novel mixes live-action with animation in a storybook story overloaded with overwhelming sadness.

(Sunday 5 August, 1.30pm, Forum; Friday 10 August, 4pm, Forum)

Damsels In Distress (USA, Whit Stillman)

13 years after The Last Days Of Disco, Stillman returns at an opportune time; Girls' creator Lena Dunham's love of the gabby '90s indie icon —not to mention the continuing clout of the peers he also influenced, Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach— placing Whit back on the cultural map. And, glory be, Stillman's frothy college comedy-of-manners brings mumblecore pin-up Greta Gerwig along for the comeback ride.

(Wednesday 8 August, 6.30pm, ACMI; Friday 10 August, 9pm, Kino)


Dark Horse (USA, Todd Solondz)

As someone old enough to have watched Wiener Dog at MIFF back in the days of grunge, another chapter in the chequered career of America's foremost cinematic misanthropist feels both warmly familiar and completely repulsive. Just as ol' Todd'd want.

(Monday 6 August, 4pm, Forum; Thursday 9 August, 9pm, GU; Wednesday 15 August, 9pm, GU)

Headshot (Thailand, Pen-ek Ratanaruang)

Pen-ek's crime pictures —like 6ixty nin9 and Last Life In The Universe— are far less charming than his formal experiments like Nymph and Ploy. Which means there's a mild tinge of disappointment to Headshot's hit-man-ish tale; even though that's well-and-truly washed-away by an artful portrayal of self-destructive criminal deathwishin' as form of Buddhist transcendence.

(Friday 3 August, 1.30pm, Forum; Sunday 5 August, 9pm, GU; Sunday 12 August, 11am, GU)


Himizu (Japan, Sion Sono)

Sion Sono working from a cult manga holds all the promise of ridiculous over-the-top-ness, happy perversion, and stylised extremity.

(Tuesday 14 August, 9pm, GU; Saturday 18 August, 9pm, Forum)


Holy Motors (France, Leos Carax)

I've yet to see Holy Motors, so I still have no idea how the long-maligned and eternally overlooked Carax has gone from misunderstood, disliked cult figure to 2012's toast of World Cinema; could it really just be Kylie Minogue?

(Saturday 11 August, 9.15pm, Forum; Tuesday 14 August, 6.30pm, Forum)


The Imposter (USA, Bart Layton)

Is the truth stranger than fiction? Or is this the latest in an ever-longer line of 'questionably true' documentaries? Layton's tall tale —travelling Frenchman claims he's Texan family's long-lost son— reveals, of course, that the truth doesn't matter; that perceptions and delusions colour every individual's reality their own troubled shade.

(Saturday 11 August, 9pm, ACMI; Friday 17 August, 6.30pm, GU)


Into The Abyss (USA, Werner Herzog)

Even if he interjects himself a shade too forcefully into conversation, the ever-inquisitive Herzog is cinema's great interviewer; who else could have such happy conversations about ghastly murders with Texan men awaiting execution on death row? Here, as always, Herzog's documentary studies are blessed with madness and magic.

(Saturday 4 August, 1.30pm, GU; Monday 6 August, 6.30pm, Forum)


I Wish (Japan, Hirokazu Kore-eda)

Kore-eda —once memorably retrospectivised by MIFF— has never been quite so sentimental as with I Wish. It may share a preponderance of child protagonists with Nobody Knows, but this chipper tale of kids-of-divorce navigating the minor trails of pre-adolescence has none of that social critique; instead seeing small wonder in Japanese devotion to family and fondness for super-fast trains.

(Saturday 4 August, 1.30pm, Forum; Monday 13 August, 6.30pm, Forum)


L (Greece, Babis Makridis)

As Dogtooth begat Attenberg begat L, so the once-singular Yorgos Lanthimos (see: Alps, this year) became the father of a budding movement; the Greek Weird Wave being both genuinely weird and utterly unexpected. It used to be that the Greek film industry was one of those that made you feel better about the local film industry, but no longer; who could ever imagine an Australian Weird Wave even being possible? Anyway: L is suitably absurdist and mocking and provocative and silly and shambly; Makridis is no Lanthimos, but obviously blessed with genuine cinematic élan.

(Sunday 5 August, 9pm, ACMI; Tuesday 7 August, 6.30pm, GU)


The Law In These Parts (Israel, Ra'anan Alexandrowicz)

Investigative interview-piece with the legal minds entrusted with establishing and interpreting law in the Disputed Territories, who range from morally-torn to unashamed. A fascinating study on the place of ethics in a military occupation; and how the legal process turns moral greys ever greyer.

(Saturday 5 August, 6.30pm, GU; Friday 17 August, 11am, Forum)


The Legend Of Kaspar Hauser (Italy, Davide Manuli)

The trailer for Manuli's oddball, black-and-white, myth-making style-piece might be the greatest music video involving Vincent Gallo since the Great Egotist's immortal Paris-paradin' promo for Honey Bunny.

(Saturday 4 August, 9pm, GU; Monday 6 August, 9pm, ACMI)


Like Someone In Love (Japan, Abbas Kiarostami)

The exiled Iranian auteur —one of cinema's most feted greats— traipses from France to Japan, but he sees the new, neon-lit landscape through the same incomparable eyes (or, y'know, dark glasses). Like its wildly-successful predecessor Certified Copy, it's a sort-of-love story in which formalist gameplaying and social roleplaying confuse the audience, and, of course, there's that eternal Kiarostami device: conversations in cars.

(Sunday 5 August, 9pm, GU; Saturday 18 August, 4pm, Forum)


Miss Bala (Mexico, Gerardo Naranjo)

It's an 'action thriller' by name, but Naranjo's film doesn't deserve to be reduced to genre fodder; his depiction of a scorched-Earth turf war in Tijuana delivered with utter cinematic command; a sensory shocker whose perspective shots hold the audience eternal prisoner.

(Tuesday 7 August, 9pm, GU; Saturday 11 August, 6.30pm, GU)


Modest Reception (Iran, Mani Haghighi)

Full-Orson helmer Haghighi —a recurring collaborateur of Asghar Farhadi— delivers an elusive, confusing piece of symbolic provocation in which a pair of big-city shysters play out Godly charity, an elaborate con, or Brewster's Millions: tossing bags of cash at often-unwilling locals in the rural mountains. The big questions —who they are and why they're doing it— are, of course, left unanswered; the only truth emerging from the unreliable narration being money's infinitely-corrupting nature.

(Saturday 4 August, 9pm, GU; Monday 13 August, 1.30pm, ACMI)


Monsieur Lazhar (Canada, Philippe Falardeau)

The Inspirational Teacher movie is, normally, one of the more artless and tactless genres in cinema, but Falardeau's beloved film transcend the tired tropes of the form; its titular teacher teachin' his kids about dignity, grief, and catharsis in the wake of a teacher's suicide.

(Saturday 4 August, 4pm, GU; Wednesday 8 August, 6.30pm, Forum)


Moonrise Kingdom (USA, Wes Anderson)

This portrait of young lovers retreating into imaginary worlds mirrors Anderson's own cinematic retreats into fantasy; feeling, in such, like the culmination of his career, and his entire aesthetic. So let's just call it like it is: Moonrise Kingdom is Anderson's best film. And the best film of the year so far. And one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen.

(Friday 3 August, 6.30pm, GU; Tuesday 7 August, 6.30pm, Forum)


Neighboring Sounds (Brazil, Kleber Mendonça Filho)

Film-critic Filho has stirred up a chorus of praise with his debut feature, whose formal assemblage —static wide-shots, meticulous sound-design, subversion of narrative expectations— creates a sense of unease that plays into the pic's tale of paranoia in the surveillance-state of modern cities.

(Tuesday 14 August, 6.30pm, GU; Saturday 18 August, 11am, Forum)


No (Chile, Pablo Larraín)

After slaying MIFF nerds with Tony Manero and Post Mortem, Larraín shifts to a less-hideous instance of Chilean history, with a glorious era-specific hitch: this portrait of a populist '88 uprising shot on fuzzed-out, chillwavey VHS.

(Wednesday 15 August, 6.30pm, Forum; Friday 17 August, 9pm, GU)


Oslo, 31. August (Norway, Joachim Trier)

Following up his charmed Reprise, Trier sketches out 24 hours in the life of a recovering heroin addict, with the streets of Oslo coming to the foreground; this a lingering tale of alienation, emptiness, and ennui in the modern metropolis.

(Saturday 4 August, 4pm, Forum; Thursday 16 August, 11am, Forum)


Pink Ribbons, Inc. (Canada, Léa Pool)

Scathing takedown of the breast cancer industry, whose billion-dollar fundraising drives —all pinkwashed products and mindlessly-optimistic cutesiness— line corporate coffers foremost, with the remaining cash dumped on ineffective, directionless, and pharmaceutically-minded research.

(Monday 13 August, 9pm, GU; Thursday 16 August, 4pm, Forum)


Room 237 (USA, Rodney Ascher)

A smirking survey of the ridiculous conspiracy-theories on the 'true' meaning of Stanley Kubrick's paranoid masterwork The Shining, Room 237 finds unlikely transcendence, getting to the heart of cinephilia —and cinematic criticism— itself. Discuss.

(Saturday 4 August, 1.30pm, GU; Friday 17 August, 9pm, GU)


Ruby Sparks (USA, Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris)

Zoe Kazan's neat screenplay poses as some Mannequin-esque tale of an author (real life beau Paul Dano) whose fictional creation (Kazan herself) comes magically to life, yet serves as satirical critique of the spate of Manic Pixie Dream Girls fantasised en masse by brom-com writers.

(Saturday 11 August, 6.30pm, GU; Saturday 18 August, 1.30pm, GU)


Safety Not Guaranteed (USA, Colin Trevorrow)

There's a dispiriting trend in American indie cinema to come up with awesome ideas then squash them into the prisons of genre; a trend that Safety Not Guaranteed doesn't entirely buck, yet manages to rise above. It's about time travel, sort of, and harbours both Aubrey Plaza and a heart o' gold.

(Friday 3 August, 9pm, GU; Tuesday 14 August, 9pm, ACMI)


Side By Side (USA, Chris Kenneally)

Kenneally's slickly-assembled documentary feigns debate over digital vs celluloid as it surveys the changing image-capture climate, but with its host of big-wig filmmakers, busy edits, and montaged parade of movie-magic moments, the pic plays as cheerleading celebration of filmmaking via any format.

(Sunday 5 August, 1.30pm, GU; Wednesday 8 August, 4.30pm, Kino)

Tropicália (Brazil, Marcelo Machado)

Fans of Os Mutantes, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso et al will flip their wig over Machado's riotously-enjoyable documentary, which captures the ambition, transgression, and rebellion of Brazil's psychedelic epoch in a wild fashion far superior to stock rockumentaries.

(Saturday 11 August, 8.45pm; Thursday 16 August, 4.30pm, Kino)


When A City Falls (New Zealand, Gerard Smyth)

Ambling through the ruins of Christchurch with his camera rolling, Smyth mounts a people's portrait of Life During Quaketime, soliciting enlightening vox-pops from a cross-section of society; reflecting how hierarchies crumble in times of crisis.

(Tuesday 7 August, 4pm, Kino; Saturday 11 August, 1.30pm, GU)


Whores' Glory (Austria, Michael Glawogger)

The latest for the fearsome Austrian titan —a portrait of the clock-punching hells of third-world sex workers— marks the final chapter in his documentary 'trilogy' on toil in the globalised world; which means plenty when you consider Megacities was one of the best documentaries of the '90s, Workingman's Death perhaps the best of the '00s.

(Monday 6 August, 9pm, GU; Wednesday 15 August, 9pm, Kino)


Wuthering Heights (UK, Andrea Arnold)

One of the most audacious adaptations of classic literature ever, Arnold throws out all Emily Brontë's over-syllabus'd words and turns her tale of tortured love torn asunder into grimy socio-realist ache on the wiley, windy moors; near-silent save for the gale's eternal howl.

(Tuesday 7 August, 6.30pm, GU; Sunday 19 August, 6.30pm, ACMI)