Melbourne International Film Festival: 60 Films in 17 Days – Day 15
Something strange has happened, it’s 2am and I’m still awake. I do believe I’ve got my second wind, just in time to get me through the final weekend of MIFF. Yes it’s finally here, or sadly here, depending on the time of day you ask me I feel both excitement and sadness on the eve of the final two days of the festival.
I’m excited to see The Hollywood Complex on Saturday, which I’m hoping will fill the void in my heart which trash television usually occupies, but I am more excited for the Closing Night film, Drive, and the after party. Sunday brings my final four films, with The Debt being film #60 and Another Earth being one of my most anticipated of the festival.
In addition to the excitement I’m also feeling a little sad, not quite the feeling you get at the end of High School as you realise you won’t be seeing these people every day like you used to, probably a good thing, but more akin to the feeling on the last day of school camp. It’s been fun and memorable but you’re exhausted and you smell a little and all you want to do is have a hot shower, a home cooked meal and curl up and watch Flight of the Navigator … or maybe that’s just me.
Film #49 – My Wedding and Other Secrets
Day 15 began with a charming comedy from New Zealand called My Wedding and Other Secrets, it was exactly what I was in the mood for after my worst day at the festival had crushed my MIFF spirits.
Emily (Michelle Ang) and James (Matt Whelan) love each other but there’s a problem, Emily’s Chinese parents don’t approve of her dating a non-Chinese boy so they decide to keep their courtship a secret, including when they decide to get married. They marry for love but also for the student allowance they’ll receive which will help Emily make her student film and will help James attend a video game course he’s been dreaming of. When the secret becomes too hard to bear, Emily is faced with the decision of being true to James and herself or pleasing her parents.
Though this film peaks too early and it pushes the quirkiness too far at times, it is an enjoyable and breezy rom-com from New Zealand writer director Roseanne Liang and writer Angeline Loo. They capture the awkwardness of growing up and taking a stand against family while falling in love for the first time. Whelan in particular is strong as the geeky James who brings the most laughs through his honest performance, he is, in a way, a sort of New Zealand Jason Segel.
There are some issues with pacing, which is surprising considering the film’s short run time. There are also some unnecessary or unbelievable characters, such as the taunting fellow film student slash gay friend who pushes Emily’s career.
It’s refreshing to see a film such as this come from New Zealand after last year’s delightful film Boy. In comparison the last Australian film I saw at the festival was X, a film that made me long for an Australian film with the heart and charm shown in My Wedding and Other Secrets.
Film #50 – The Curse of the Gothic Symphony
This Australian documentary follows a small team of passionate classical music lovers who set about staging the cursed Gothic Symphony in Brisbane. The symphony is the longest and most complex ever written and was penned by Havergal Brian some 80 odd years ago. Having only ever been performed four times live it proves to be a monumental task that provides the audience with a few laughs.
I was obviously watching this film with an audience who were knowledgeable or involved in the classical music scene. They all found it utterly entertaining, laughing nearly constantly before the actual concert footage started. I felt like I wasn’t privy to some inside joke, that I didn’t get what was so funny.
That said, despite being completely clueless in the world of classical music I found this documentary interesting for the level I could engage it on. There were some rather questionable graphics and re-enactments employed to tell the back story of Havergal that reminded me a lot of the budget clips used on the abc’s First Tuesday Book Club, that while clearly necessary lowered the overall appeal of the film.
Film #51 – The Bengali Detective
70% of murder cases in India go unsolved each year. The workload is too much for the official authorities to handle; with a mere counterfeiting case taking three years to reach trial there’s a desperate need by the Indian people for a hero. In steps Rajesh Ji and his team of private investigators who take on cases from marital infidelity to murder.
The documentary follows Rajesh on three cases but soon deviates to his personal life, his sick wife and the dancing he and his team do to relax, eventually auditioning for a television show, providing the greatest laughs.
This is a fairly light-hearted documentary considering the nature of some of the subject matter, I was perhaps expecting a grittier film, especially when covering the murder of three young men found on a train track. The film comes off as more fluffy and less serious, with the dancing antics taking over a large proportion of the film. There are of course more serious parts, with the death of Rajesh’s wife proving to be quite moving.
A great introduction to the situation in India but those wanting a more in depth investigation will be left disappointed.
Film #52 – Tiny Furniture
This was one of my most anticipated films from writer director Lena Dunham. I’d been following her on twitter for some time, and was so happy that her offbeat and unabashed humour, which drew me in in the first place is present in, and really makes, the film.
The idea of a twenty something college graduate moving back home and trying to figure out what they’re going to do with their life is hardly original, but Dunham has put her unique spin on this to create a refreshing, honest and relatable comedy that has you constantly laughing.
One has to admire Dunham, who also stars in the film as 23-year-old Aura, for exposing herself so much on screen, not just physically but mentally by revealing prejudices against her body type through YouTube comments and non committal male characters. She is a young woman that girls can relate to in both appearance and the struggles in her life, working a crappy job for minimum wage, trying to fit back into her family after years away at college, facing rejection from the men in her life and making new friendships while trying to hold onto the old ones, Tiny Furniture is a great achievement for Dunham.
The supporting cast is wonderful, with Dunham’s sister Grace playing her on screen sister Nadine, she is very reminiscent of comedic actress Aubrey Plaza, with a dry, witty delivery. Jemima Kirke is also wonderful as Aura’s childhood off-the-rails friend Charlotte.
It’s such a relief to watch an anticipated film and really enjoy it. Dunham’s screenplay is refreshing and her direction is strong, taking full advantage of every scene the film doesn’t dip into any lulls. This is a brilliant film full of fresh characters and wonderful performances, a true highlight of the festival.