Life of Riley (2014) MIFF Review

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France 108 Mins

Adapted from an English play by Alan Ayckbourn, Life of Riley tells of the last year or so of the life of George Riley, but through the eyes of six people close to his life. Riley is never seen, but is referred to constantly.

When I read that it was adapted from a play, I expected more of an adaptation as opposed to be simply the filming of a play. I did like the sets, which were quite stylized, though I was frustrated by the scene changes with the camera taking us down various country lanes over and over again. I was also unsure of the choice of close-ups that had an odd, animated lined background, and I could not understand why. It was quite amusing to see very English sensibilities being represented by French actors speaking French, but I don’t understand the choice to not utilise the differences in style and substance between stage and film.

Life of Riley is screening at 11am on Monday August 4 at the Forum and at 6:30pm on Sunday August 10 at the Capitol. Book tickets at MIFF or call 9662 3722

Ping Pong Summer (2014) MIFF Review

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US 92 Mins

It’s 1985. Rad Miracle (Marcello Conte) is on his summer holidays, trying to avoid his family and meet girls. First, he meets Teddy Fryy (Myles Massey), an African-American kid from Baltimore who shares his love of rap and breakdancing and they become tight. Then, he meets his crush, Stacy Summers (Emmi Shockley), a local girl addicted to slushies – with additives. But to gain her heart, he thinks he needs to beat local bully Lyle (Joseph McCaughtry), flanked by hilarious bully sidekick Dale (Andy Riddle) and there’s only one way to do this. Ping Pong.

I loved this film so much. It’s a hark back to days of holiday friends, being trusted to be away from the temporary family home for hours at a time, walkmans and teenage crushes. I think it really works so well because all of those cheesy lines that the audience roars with laughter at were really the expressions that we wanted to use (and often did use); and we were laughing with familiarity and love. But some of those lines are truly magnificent, and a mash-up of lines from Dale alone is certainly warranted (come on, Internet. Bring it on!).

If you ever felt like you were doing the worm and wondered what you really look like – check out this film. Chances are, you were just like Rad Miracle.

Ping Pong Summer is screening at 1:30pm on Sunday August 3 at Hoyts and at 6:30pm on Monday August 11 at the Forum. Book tickets at MIFF http://miff.com.au/program/search or call 9662 3722

Han Gong-Ju (2013) MIFF Review

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South Korea 112 Mins

Han Gong-Ju is a schoolgirl who has been moved from her school to one who would take her, even though everyone insisted that it was not her fault. She is suspicious of her schoolmates and of the woman she lives with and does not know who to trust. Just when she seems to be settling in, the tragic event that caused her to be moved is revealed.

Han Gong-Ju is one of those films that just kill me. Much of the film is light and comic, yet the sinister grumble of something bad is lurking not far beneath the surface until it finally is revealed. It is painful and quite horrible but amazing, one of my favourite films in a long time. Having a look in the MIFF program, I see this film is the debut of director/writer Lee Su jin. Debut. Wow.

Han Gong-Ju is screening at 9pm on Tuesday August 5 and at 9pm on Thursday August 7 at the Forum. Book tickets at MIFF http://miff.com.au/program/search or call 9662 3722

Our Sunhi (2013) MIFF Review

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South Korea   88 Mins

Sunhi (Jung Yumi) is a university student who, for no explained reason, has not been attending for some time. She asks her professor for a reference and he writes a terrible one, and when she asks for a replacement, he admits to having feelings for her. Along the way, she catches up with an ex-boyfriend and another guy, both of whom have feelings for her.

I became increasingly annoyed and bored with this film. Every scene was filmed with a static camera, and there was very little editing throughout. While I found some of the repetition in the dialogue amusing, the very similar scenes of pairs of characters getting drunk and revealing themselves to each other was tedious and the end made very little sense. It’s a shame, because I liked the initial premise, but a lot of it was quite uninteresting.

Our Sunhi is screening at 6:30pm on Sunday August 3 at the Kino and at 4pm on Thursday August 14 at the Forum. Book tickets at MIFF  or call 9662 3722

 

Web Junkie (2014) MIFF Review

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China 74 Mins

China is the only country in the world to officially register internet addiction as a clinical condition. The main concern is for the teenagers, so the state has set up a series of rehabilitation camps for teenagers. They are like a combination of a boot camp, a prison and a psychiatric ward. The teenagers run drills, attend school and do chores, and then attend individual, group and family therapy sessions.

Whether or not you agree with China that internet addiction is a clinical condition, it seems that locking kids up is somewhat heavy-handed. The conditions of the camp are very basic and, in some cases, quite run down. The therapists and doctors all seem to be quite young, mostly women who are receiving pressure from above to get results that can be reported. When the boys (and the documentary very much focuses on the boys) lose it a bit, they are comforted, but given that many were tricked into coming, in some cases, even drugged, it is not surprising that they would get angry. Will it make a difference to the teenagers, spending a few months in this place? Who knows?

Web Junkie is screening at 9pm on Sunday August 3 at the Kino and at 1:45pm on Sunday August 9 at Hoyts. Book tickets at MIFF or call 9662 3722

Joe (2013) MIFF Review

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US   90 Mins

Joe (Nicholas Cage) is a hard-living, chain-smoking, heavy-drinking man living in Mississippi, running a work crew who are poisoning trees in the forest so they can be cleared for a pine tree plantation. Gary (Tye Sheridan) comes to work for him, a fifteen-year-old who is trying to support his family despite the selfish behavior of his destructively alcoholic father, Wade (Gary Poulter).

A couple of days after watching Joe, it keeps playing in my mind. It was such a hard film.

The slow pace dragged out the pain that the characters are going through and raised the torment for the audience – and this was particularly painful during the scenes with the evil Willie-Russell (Ronnie Gene Blevins). Joe loses control a few times and this would have been the perfect place for some crazy Nicholas Cage acting, but instead it was a considered and sinister release of the rage we see building up throughout the rest of the film.  Tye Sheridan is rapidly building a great rep, and I hope that he has good support and is able to continue to pick strong roles and build an excellent career.

I was surprised to learn that, apart from a few of the key actors, most characters are played by non-professional actors, including Gary Poulter who played Wade. I find this type of casting often doesn’t work as I become distracted by the poor acting, but not in this film. Wow. Just… wow.

Joe is screening at 9pm on Monday August 4 at Hoyts and at 6:30pm on Thursday August 7 at The Capital. Book tickets at MIFF http://miff.com.au/program/search or call 9662 3722

Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets (2014) Film Review

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UK   90 Mins

Are you a Pulp fan? If you are, go and see this, and then race home and listen to all of your CDs over and over again, and order this on DVD and watch it again and again and again. Because it’s pretty ace. If you’re not a Pulp fan, I don’t think there is a lot here for you.

It was made in the lead up to their last UK concert in 2012 in their hometown of Sheffield. Filmmaker Florian Habicht (who made Love Story which was part of the MIFF 2012 program) interviewing not only the band and those around them, but also various people around Sheffield who had varying different experiences of and with Pulp.

It’s worth staying til the end of the credits as well.

At times, there was a bit much of these random interviews and there could have been a bit more from the band, but it was the interviews that made this not just about Pulp, but about Sheffield. And the music – there’s plenty of footage from that last concert, and of the crowd singing along. It’s nice to be singing with thousands of people in that way.

Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets is screening at 9pm on Friday August 1 and at 9pm on Sunday August 3 at the Forum. Book tickets at MIFF http://miff.com.au/program/search or call 9662 3722

 

CHEATIN’ (2013) MIFF Review

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USA 86 Mins

It must have been Idiots and Angels, part of the 2008 MIFF program that introduced me to the animation of Bill Plimpton and I’ve been a fan ever since. His work consists of a rough, hand-drawn style that takes the viewer through insane plots, and CHEATIN’ is no different.

Ella and Jake meet in a mysterious encounter at the dodgem cars in Carnival Lane, and before they know it, they are married. But he is a handsome man, and when he refuses to stray, she manipulates the situation so he thinks Ella is cheating and then she seeks a mysterious revenge, and things have to hit rock bottom before there is a chance of resolution.

CHEATIN’ is screening at 6:45pm on Friday August 1 and at 9pm on Sunday August 10 at ACMI, and at 6:30pm on Saturday August 16 at Kino. Book tickets at MIFF http://miff.com.au/program/search or call 9662 3722

The House That Eye Live In (2014) MIFF Review

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Australia 52 Mins

Dirk de Bruyn has been making experimental films for over forty years, documenting his life, moving to Australia as a small child from Holland and finding his place in the world.

Experimental film can be pretty nuts – jerky, strange, and some can be really annoying. I feel about experiemental film very much as I feel about contemporary art in general – a lot I don’t get and some I don’t like, but when it works for me, I can be really moved. The work of de Bruyn which is featured within this film is no exeception – some I didn’t get, but there was a lot that I absolutely loved.

What was wonderful was seeing how he works, physically with the film. Why he made certain choices, how he took ideas and brought these to film.

I think it is a film that anyone wanted to make films should see. These days, making film like this is extremely cost prohibitive as film is so rarely used now. However, I think it is important that there is so much that can be learnt from this film.

 

The House That Eye Live In is screening at 6:30pm on Tuesday August 12 at ACMI. Book tickets at MIFF http://miff.com.au/program/search or call 9662 3722

La Belle Vie (2013) MIFF Review

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France (93 min)

Sylvain (Zacharie Chasseriaud) lives a nomadic existence with his father Yves (Nicolas Bouchaud) and brother, Pierre (Jules Pelissier). But Pierre has enough and leaves them, and the others must hit the road again, assuming a new identity and hiding. After meeting and falling in love with Gilda, Sylvain is drawn to a different life, with stability and consistency.

La Belle Vie has beautiful pacing, very slowly revealing the story. Gradually we learn that they are on the run because Yves did not want to give up custody after a divorce, and it raises some very interesting questions; is a life of hiding, regardless of the joyful experiences that can be had in places such as the beautiful French countryside, be better than life at home? Was the father right in taking the children? What about the mother?

The end of this film is one of my favourite final scenes ever – so totally and utterly open-ended.

La Belle Vie is part of the Next Gen program and has screenings on Tuesday, August 5 at 11am and Thursday August 14 at 1:30pm at ACMI. Book through ATOM http://www.metromagazine.com.au/screenings.asp