So, right now I’m thinking that when Robbie Williams comes to town in December, I will be able to sell tickets for a seat at my dining room table, because so far this afternoon I’ve been treated to some very clear choral renditions of Advance Australia Fair and Waltzing Matilda from Suncorp Stadium, as it prepares for an international Rugby Union match later tonight. The mp3 player on my newly acquired mobile phone would be proud to achieve that kind of sound quality.
Before Robbie arrives to entertain us though, I’m looking forward to the Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF) next month. I’ve just been perusing the schedule and there are many decisions, or rather eliminations, to be made. I never feel compelled to go along to the opening or closing night films—admission to those requires parting with larger sums of money than for the usual screenings and I’m frightened by the thought of socialising with film industry types and their entourages in the after-parties that always follow. Besides, you can always be certain that the films shown on those occasions will have no trouble finding distributors, indeed they probably have deals already.
I didn’t go to the festival last year, so I’m not sure if the ‘Showcase’ event was introduced then, but it seems to be another kind of cinema event involving a party afterwards. It’s less expensive than the Opening Night, but more expensive that the Closing Night. Again, while I would be very interested to see Thank You for Smoking, 48 Shades and Like Minds, all of them will be released more broadly, even the Australian films. It would be good to see the film-makers talk about their work, which they seem to be doing as a part of these Showcases, but the whole party-afterwards puts me off. I prefer the straight forward question and answer sessions with film-makers that you get at the regular sessions where the director or an actor, sometimes a producer, are there as a guest of the festival.
After the films that are followed by parties are crossed off my list, I tend to draw a line through anything from the USA, the UK or France. Again, my reasoning here is that even if they won’t be at Hoyts or South Bank, they will show at the Palace or Dendy cinemas. To my mind, the only reason to see films from these countries at a film festival is if you must be amongst the first to see things. (If you haven’t guessed already, I tend to be amongst the stragglers in the uptake of any ‘new’ cultural phenomenon—that mp3 player on my phone is my first foray into the technology). Another reason, of course, is if you’re a fan of either the film-maker or the topic of the film. I remember, a couple of years ago at the festival, many of the Metallica fans who were turned away at the ticket counter to Some Kind of Monster seemed very disappointed. I was sympathetic to their plight, but for myself—not an aficionado of metal—I figured I could wait a couple of weeks until it began screening at the Dendy, at which time I thoroughly enjoyed watching those crazy rock stars scream at one another in group therapy.
Another measure I have for narrowing down the range of choices at the BIFF is to see whether the film is funded by SBS or ABC, in which case you can be sure it will appear on those broadcast television networks in the next few months. While ordinarily I prefer to watch a film on a cinema screen, when a television station is a production partner, generally the film has been made for the smaller screen and so little is lost in a visual and aural sense by waiting to watch it at home.
Even after all of these carefully considered eliminations, there is still much more to see than any one person can easily absorb over two short weeks. This year, there’s a major focus on women film-makers and women in film from the Islamic countries of Iran and Turkey. I’ve really enjoyed the Iranian films I’ve seen in recent years. I’m interested in seeing a recently recovered silent film with Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson in it, Beyond the Rocks. It must surely be compulsory to see the first heart throb of cinema in action on a big screen. Since there’s little opportunity to see experimental film, I’m intrigued by the description of Figner, the End of a Silent Century: ‘A homage to the man who has provided the sound of footsteps, door-slams, and fist fights for films in St Petersburg for decades. When Figner (playing himself) takes a train journey, reality, memory and fiction blur as his fellow travellers take the form of characters from films on which he has worked.’ I have very fond memories of The Five Obstructions, a documentary film where Lars Von Trier collaborated with Jorgen Leth, setting limits--an edit every 24 frames, anyone?--to recreate segments of Leth’s 1967 film The Perfect Man. I’m not sure I’ll be able to resist seeing Executive Koala from Japan. It’s the story of an office worker—a giant koala (his boss is a similarly proportioned rabbit)—who becomes a suspect in his girlfriend’s murder. Apparently there are song and dance routines in that one. I also want to see Klimt by Raul Ruiz. And the puppet animation of Kihachiro Kawamoto in The Book of the Dead.
I haven’t even touched on the films in the World and Asia Pacific Cinema pages.
Oh. Decisions, decisions.