Sunday, 4 August 2013


(Alan Berliner; USA)

Quietly remarkable and devastating. The subject of the documentary, Edwin Honig, is fully within the grip of Alzheimers, and yet what is compelling is his lucidity in the face of a failing memory. A poet and translator, he still playfully engages in conversation while admitting that his memory has disappeared into 'a long endless thing.' Berliner breaks up the film by combining and tightly editing all conversations he had with his cousin, creating a simulation of sorts of memory itself. The recollection of conversations with others are often recalled not in chronological sequence, but in a fragmented re-ordered narrative that is never quite the same each time. Clearly the parallels between memory and film are obvious, but Berliner does a great justice to his film by not heavy-handedly jamming this to the forefront of its themes. The ides of this film, or film in general, as an archive or repository for memory resides in the margins, a quiet reflection that hums gently throughout as we see repeated shots of Honig grappling with the poet he used to be and that he no longer seems to be able to access. His past now a strange story belonging to someone else, Honig is horrifyingly aware of what has been 'killed off' inside of him.

Yet, this is not a maudlin or weep-inducing portrait of an illness. For starters, stories of Honig's failings as a husband and father slowly unfold through the course of the film, inducing an emotional distance from the man. But what really makes the film transcendent is how Berliner's own curiosity and observation bleed through the film and infect the viewer. Rather than aiming for the cheap emotional weight of the debilitating aspects of Alzheimers, Berliner desires to understand how memory loss affects one's humanity, how one remains a human while undergoing a gradual erosion of potentially all that makes up one's life. It is this deep and quiet curiosity that makes the film so rich and engaging.


(Peter Mettler; Canada/ Switzerland)

Starting with Joseph Kittinger's 31km skydive in 1960, this film moves gracefully from meditating upon the Hadron Collider, lava flows in Hawaii and the decaying city of Detroit, in order to muse upon the nature, perception and meaning of time.

In this meandering essay, time is viewed as inextricably intertwined with space, matter, death, and the mind, but Mettler does not simply jam together a gloriously haphazard collections of thoughts and images. In the final section of the film, it seems as if Mettler is folding all previous themes and images in the film into each other, creating a temporal palimpsest, a non-linear and looping exposition on time.

Beautifully shot (Mettler is majestic behind the camera - watch his 1994 film Picture of Light to see what I mean), and replete with geometric patterns, natural flows (wind, lava, sea, clouds) and quiet repose, this film is a delightful warm bath for the eyes.

But, as well as being visually rapturous, Mettler urges your mind to tick over, mulling on your own personal relationship to time, dwelling upon the mystery of your own life, long after you've walked out of the cinema.

Saturday, 3 August 2013


(Matias Pineiro; Argentina)

Pineiro is the new magician of talk-addicted film. Comparisons to the films of John Cassavetes are obvious, and probably occur with frequency, but the comparisons are perhaps apt. The pace, rhythm, and fire of talk and chat in Cassavetes' films urges intense focus, and the same holds true for Pineiro.

There is wit, deftness, clever puzzle-logic, and hidden layers to the barrage of words that abound in Viola, and this web of words creates a wonderful tension, a sense of not having firm footing, a feeling of constantly slipping. Not so much a feeling of losing a hold of the plot, but in not even knowing where the plot begins or ends.

This verbal trickery is wondrously matched by Pineiro's camera-work - by constantly focussing on faces, we lose grasp of surroundings and thus lose a grasp of whether a given moment is reality, dream, performance, or some odd limbo between all three.

In mastering this combination of verbal chicanery and tightly-framed cinematography, Pineiro has achieved more in 63 minutes than most directors can do in 120.

Friday, 2 August 2013


How the hell am I going to do this? Reviewing 10 short films in 15 minutes?

SECOND SUN (Joel Stern/ Pia Borg; Australia/ UK)

Angry screaming mega-pixels. Like a stroppy, industrial Jordan Belson in an arcade parlour. Not bad, actually.

WANTEE (Laure Provost; UK)

Nope. Nope. Nope.

THE STREAM 3 (Hiroyuki Sakurai: Japan)

Simple, short, shot on an iPhone, drizzly, stuck in a pipe, meh.


Oh, yes, now THIS was the whole reason for being here. Soft, diaphanous, scrawling and trawling through text, grasping some but never all, the whole a blissful mystery but so beguiling.

IYEZA (Kudzanai Chiurai; South Africa)

It'd make a great music video. But ultra slo-mo as the be-all-and-end-all of the piece doesn't really cut the mustard for me.

RECONNAISANCE (Johann Lurf; Austria)

Wonderfully simple, yet by the end of this 5 minute piece, there's an odd sense of not being entirely certain of what you've seen. Ostensibly this appears to be various shots of a decommissioned torpoedo-site, but unless I was going nuts it seems that there was more to this than expected. Still haunting my head.

DOUBLE GRAFFITI (Paul Winkler; Australia)

A genuine revelation here. Shot on 16mm, this film is a flicker-fest of constantly-rotating segments of graffiti-laden wall. The familiarity of tags is channeled into a intense new landscape of constant motion. Rather mesmeric.

DAD'S STICK (John Smith;UK)

A paean to his dead father, through the objects his father obsessively re-used. Smith's humour surprisingly rarely grates, and this becomes a moving piece on familial bonds through the quotidian objects.

CRYSTAL WORLD (Pia Borg; Australia/ UK)

Trying to do too many things. If the film focussed purely on the crystallisation process of underwater figures and objects, the film may have been stronger. Including segments from Night Of The Hunter seemed to throw it off balance.

...BECAUSE SUPERGLUE IS FOREVER! (Johan Grimonprez; Belgium)

I'm not sure that this worked. I think I expected something tighter from Grimonprez. The collation of news items, re-used footage, and news stories, etc read/ played by two young girl felt a little like a haphazard collision of ideas - an archival version of throwing everything at the wall and hoping it will stick.


(Nicholas Rey: France)

I saw this last year, but not on the big screen, so to see it blown up big and proud is just one hell of an experience. This is truly Cinema. Shot in 16mm, which is touted by Rey in a trailer for his film as a dying medium, this exquisite film revels in own divine self. The grit, grain, pockmarks are all so alive - crunchy, gritty, it makes the film a truly haptic, synaesthetic experience.

This is kind of fake-ethnographic film, a faux documentary of a world called Molussia. The camera spins on a number of occasions, shaking up the actual world being filmed - the recognisable fields, streets, houses, workers - and inverting it, making it another world. With sporadic commentary, derived from Gunther Anders book The Molussian Catacomb, interspersed over the shots of fields, seas, workers, it becomes believable that the places we see, the workers we see, all belong to the fictional City of Molussia.

The soundtrack often splinters, shreds, disintegrates into crackling shards. It sounds like cinema eating itself. Or as if this film is actually trying to form itself, make itself out of itself.

This is an utterly epiphanous film that keeps singing and resounding long after it is finished. I could watch it again and again and again. I could watch it at least 362,880 times, to be precise.


(Hala Lotfy; Egypt/ UAE)

Fascinating fiction feature debut from this Egyptian filmmaker. A full day is marked out in the life of a mother and daughter tending to their ailing husband/father, but it is the slow torpor of caregiving and the quiet pressures it exerts that breathes wonderful life to the pace, rhythm and texture of this film. In an ever-increasing world of 'slow cinema', Lotfy makes a deep and rich impression by allowing plenty of time for the characters to reveal their life, their world purely when glancing at another, or most crucially when lost in thought. 

Bold compositions, with remarkable interior shots set with angular crisp lines, and rich earthy tones - from sun-up to sepia-tinged sun-down, the film is bled into browns, greys, beige, murky white.

The final third of the film, while perhaps not as striking in visual tone to the earlier interior sequences in the home, is the most ensnaring part, as we see the daughter quietly undergoing a midnight revelation in private, moving from some kind of misguided selfishness to a deeper place of quiet repose, a place we can nearly surmise but not quite. We can read her thoughts, but can we really?

Thursday, 1 August 2013

MIFF 2013

Once upon a time I used to gorge myself silly on film during the Melbourne International Film Festival. For the past couple of years this has reduced to a tiny morsel, as fatherhood has imposed new routines and schedules. However, this year I'm hoping to pop along to at least ten films, maybe more, we'll just see how lucky I get with my time. 

As I'm in a new realm of having to be very very picky about what I choose to see, I'm opting, for the most part, for films that have not, and most likely will not, receive future distribution in Australia. Being extremely selective is proving to be an unusually rewarding experience, learning to sift and sift again through the possible selections to find films most enriching to my little ol' soul.

As part of a promise I've kept, I'm going to write a brief review of each film seen. Well, 'review' is not really the right word - the aim is to write up any thoughts, feelings, lack of feelings, etc, on the film just seen - the review has to be no more than 200 words, must be completed within the day it is seen, and must be completed in ten minutes. If this doesn't happen, I'm doing the dishes every day for a month.

Right, better get cracking...