Revelation Perth International Film Festival

5 July 2012 | 10:31 am | Anthony Carew

A sneak peek into the Revelation Perth International Film Festival!

The Revelation Perth International Film Festival kicks off Thursday 5 July, bringing 32 features and a host of short films together in a curatorial collection that deals with low-budget cinema, though not necessarily uncommercial or experimental works. Here's a few of the things I've already seen in the program...

Eames: The Architect And The Painter portrays Eames plural: Charles and Ray, the husband/wife partnership who collaborated on furniture, architecture, installation, film, advertising, etc; becoming America's high king/queen of modernist design. Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey's chronicle of their shared career surveys their work with a general patter of tropes and platitudes: hyperbole-prone celebrity narration (James Franco!); endless talking-head pontification; and the Eames' films cut up into what feels like a PR piece for their legacy.

The Interrupters manages to live up to the prior documentaries of Steve James; studies of basketball (Hoop Dreams), mental illness (Stevie) and, um, basketball (No Crossover: The Trial Of Allen Iverson), that were all studies of America, that land of big dreams and failed dreams. James chronicles a crew of 'violence interrupters' working to effect change in crime-ridden Chicago, armies of ex-cons out to arrest unending cycles of retribution. James does so direct-cinema style: no voice-over, no editorialising, no judging. The approach of the mediators is to not take sides —no one is right or wrong in a beef where both bear grievances— and, so, too, does James; the root cause of violence not individuals —not gangs, drugs, degeneracy, etc— but society as whole; the problem is, essentially, America itself.

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Livid seems to have pretensions of artistic credibility, its airy mood and Gothic style suggesting a horror film beyond the usual. But once a trio of young rascals —out to pilfer ill-gotten 'treasure'— are locked in a mansion after dark, it's a parade of perfunctory scares delivered at intervals you can set your watch by.

Rampart finds Oren Moverman failing —badly— to recapture the moving-macho form of his Army Casualty Notifier drama The Messenger. His tawdry tale of dirty cops plays like a parody of some 'gritty' awards-show-chaser, with an unending cast of dressed-down celebrity actors all flailing wildly whilst Moverman's camera wobbles pointlessly, whipping around with a flounce that runs counter to the supposed socio-realism on show. And nothing is less real than the central, scenery-chewing turn from a hambone Woody Harrelson.

Surviving Progress is a superior example of the 'world is fucked' documentary; fitting in that sweet arthouse niche of pictures that take a subject —agribusiness, fishing, American foreign policy— and make it a potent symbol for society's imminent downfall. Here, there's no symbolism: instead, society itself is the study, and Mathieu Roy's picture artfully posits that current human existence is unsustainable and the persistence of free-market capitalism as overruling philosophy untenable. Best of all, it brings chimpanzees into the picture, and the naked ape's closest cousins are the eternal potent symbol.

The Trouble With Bliss feels like one of those tired writer's fantasies where a 35-year-old loser —unemployed and living at home with his parents, natch — proves 'comically' irresistible to women and 'lucklessly' lucks into catalysing change. For all the RPIFF's embrace of the underground, this feels like a tiny, minor film whose existence belongs wholly to the casting of Michael C. Hall and Lucy Liu.