Monday, November 14, 2011

Brisbane International Film Festival in review

I've just arrived home from my final BIFF film viewing for 2011. It's been a great two weeks filled with some amazing films and I want to share some of my experiences with you! Normally at the time BIFF rolls around I'm about two feet deep in end of year exam study so I miss out, but not this year! Of the 130+ films that were showing this fortnight I managed to make it to six. I wish I could have made it to more but my financial situation made that a little difficult unfortunately. It'll probably look like I went on a bit of a genre-frenzy with my selection when you see it below, but this year's BIFF was pretty dark and genre-y. Lots of sci-fi, thriller and horror and more than a few bleak films about depression, the end of the world and Hell rising up to take over the world. Light stuff just in time for Summer!

So below are a few personal reviews about the films I saw. They're more about my emotional reaction to the film, so if you'd like to expand my (surely) cryptic comments click through the link to the IMDB page.

Attack the Block (United Kingdom)
A really solid film that kicks some major butt. The film follows a gang of London youths as they try to survive an alien attack. The young actors were superb, Nick Frost's cameo was hilarious, and the SFX were pretty decent. A perfect blend of cinematic extravaganza, comedy, allegory and story.

Helldriver (Japan)
I can't even describe how crazy good this film is. It is one of those insane Japanese films that blends multiple cinematic techniques with an extremely bizarre story, hilarious lines and plot points and insanely gratuitous violence. It's shlock horror at its best and I guarantee if you like you horror with a side of outrageous (and sometimes sickening) comedy this is the film for you!

Cronos (Mexico)
This is a classic film from 1993 that was shown as part of the Cannes Critics Choice selection. It is a simply beautiful film about an antiques dealer who discovers a device created by a 15th century alchemist to grant immortality...but at a price, it turns you into a vampire. Though this may sound like a horror/supernatural thriller, the crux of the film is the emotions and relationships that exist between the antiques dealer (Jesus), his wife and his granddaughter. The performances of Jesus and his granddaughter were stunningly haunting and will stay with me for a long time.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (America)
Honestly, I only really saw this film so I could see if Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's sister (Elizabeth Olsen) actually had the acting chops reviews were crediting her with, or if it was nepotism gone mad. Elizabeth does indeed have a fair whack of talent behind her, and she manages to successfully embody a young woman coming to grips with life outside of a Manson-like cult, and the paranoia and fear that follows. It follows the typical indie film stylistic devices, which I do find tiring on occasion, but the strength of the film is the quality of the performances, and their ability to push the narrative along to greater depths.

This is an example of a film made on a shoe-string budget that understands its limitations yet works creatively within those limitations. It's incredibly shlocky, but it is obviously hamming it up as it references a multitude of 1980s video games, Rambo-esque films (the opening sequence will have you crying with laughter) and more current pop culture. This is a genre film made by a group of friends who obviously love genre films and wanted to pay homage to that. It's not going to win an Oscar any time soon but it sure as hell is a lot of fun! I'll be quoting it for months!

Melancholia (Denmark)
This film is not for everyone. It's very long, very stylised and very, very "arty". I'm a huge Von Trier fan but I found this film a little too much for me, it was liking watching a 2.5 hour perfume ad. It's beautifully shot, well-acted and the writing is consistently good, but I found myself bored much of the time. There are some interesting metaphors introduced on the subject of depression but it just wasn't enough to sustain a very simple story. Perhaps if the film was half an hour shorter I'd have come out happier than I did. Personally I think it was more suited to a 15-20 minute short film. Also, the opening sequence, while stunning, was some of the most pretentious "art" I've seen in awhile.


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