After the opening night choice of Los amantes pasajeros (I’m so Excited!), which enthusiastically promised the complexities of a Pedro Almodóvar script and direction but instead relied on bland character conventionalities, I was disappointed to say the least. While it offered a few impressive elements of absurdity, I have little desire to think anything more of it. To reveal one of its major deficiencies, I’m so Excited! is a comedy, and I definitely wasn’t laughing. Whether it was due to this deflated introduction to the 63rd Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), or if it was as a direct result of the films I saw in those first days, I was, initially, poised to be critical towards the state of contemporary film exhibition. Much film culture is presently exploring the consequences of new production and exhibition formats (such as the expiration of specific notions of materiality and the possible loss of a purity of creative context), and MIFF certainly bottled that down. While doing so, it remained a celebration of the present and the future; melancholy is not a preservable state, after all.

Conversations about the death of film are unavoidable in today’s film culture, and its unpleasant emotions and associations are always going to be intensified in a festival environment. The anxieties felt in response to it were reflected content-wise, but in a turn from the mood of helpless regret and sadness of loss that accompanies such conversations, MIFF also highlighted the positives in the new direction that cinema is heading in. While the environment of filmmaking and the appreciation of its art have arguably been in decay, at least since Susan Sontag’s poetic eulogy to a particular mode of film appreciation in 1996, there has also been a revival of cinephilia. A film festival is a place where contemporary cinema does not have to be something that caters to the short attention span, defined by assaultive editing, bland action plots, and empty casting. When overstimulated by more than three films a day, it might be difficult to lose yourself in other people’s lives and faces, a powerful draw of screen culture lamented by Sontag. But at a festival packed with daily screenings, losing yourself to cinema as a whole, as a being, becomes an enjoyable, and unavoidable, delight.

As though searching for some new way to love and show love for this wondrous “seventh art”, there was a selection of films whose narratives provided analogies for the potential death of film, and the anxieties surrounding it. The Congress was the most remarkable and self-conscious of this group. It is not a flawed sci-fi, as some have claimed, but a cautionary warning about the future of cinema, a portentous mixture of celebration and despair about the death of familiarity. Robin Wright stars as a version of herself – in a reality that can only be this one. On the basis of a few memorable starring roles in the distant past of her career, she is offered a deal by the all-powerful studio Miramount, which will upload all of the details of her body, appearance and facial expressions, and forever own a digital version of the actress, to cast as they please in perpetuity. The film spends a little under half of its 122-minute running time in this reality, and then, once Wright signs the rights to her digitised body over to Miramount, takes us with her into the parallel animated zone of Abrahama.

The Congress

The Congress

The plot, adapted by writer/director Ari Folman from Stanislaw Lem’s 1971 novel The Futurological Congress, floats in and out of grasp, being at once involving and being so convoluted it becomes elliptical. It looks wonderful though: widescreen landscape cinematography, broad skies, animation with wonderland-esque qualities, interestingly drawn characters that collapse history and time, and a seductive camera; its slow movements accompanied by Max Richter’s full-bodied score that embellishes Wright’s, and the audience’s, immersion in this futuristic reality. Wright even sings Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” and Leonard Cohen’s “If it Be Your Will”, sadly ironic inclusions whose well-known chords and tunes bring the distant world closer to us.

Seeing it on the first weary Saturday night of the festival, I was awed by the reminders of The Matrix (Andy and Lana Wachowski, 1999), Southland Tales (Richard Kelly, 2006), and the end-of-cinema extravagances of Leos Carax’s Holy Motors (2012). The latter two films are just as wonderfully messy as The Congress, which I hope will also reward many repeat viewings. Like those films, The Congress embodies the anxiety that we are losing control of the world, and are being forced to bear witness to the triumph of the machine over humanity.

In his influential essay on Greta Garbo as a symbol, Roland Barthes wrote, “how many actresses have consented to let the crowd see the ominous maturating of their beauty[?] Not she, however; the essence was not to be degraded, her face was not to have any reality except that of its perfection, which was intellectual even more than formal.” (1) The preservation of such essence is what is offered to Wright by the studio that wants to digitise her image, but by complying, she – and the audience, for possibly desiring and demanding it – destabilises the future. At the end of the film, Wright is given a choice: to remain in a dystopian, struggling reality, or to live her days in the uncertainty of an animated, romantic alternate reality. I’m still not sure how things turned out, but with its mind-bending, glacially spectacular audiovisual finale, it works as an epic festival film.

One way that the actor stays alive, of course, is through the recycling or reclaiming of their image. This process has been livened up in the past few decades through the increasingly popular practice of film collage, a realm explored only partially successfully by György Pálfi’s Final Cut: Hölgyeim és uraim (Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen). By its very existence, this film comments on the death of film as a simple, whole entity, celebrating it with a new kind of cinephilic appreciation. With her so heavily on my mind from The Congress, I noticed Robin Wright Penn’s name in the opening credits, followed by her more recent moniker, Robin Wright, in the film’s closing acknowledgements. I wonder whether this instability of name has anything to do with Wright’s insecurities about her screen and broader public persona, alternately linked to and independent from ex-husband Sean Penn. To be featured in a film that supposedly worships you, however slightly, and then to not even be credited with consistency suggests that something is wrong with the way cinema is viewed and circulated.

More “experimental” fan project than film, Final Cut is little more than an exercise in fun. The cinephilia at play here is purely aesthetic, a result of an encounter that doesn’t value the sensory intensity of the filmic moment, and can hardly be heralded as the new kind of cine-love that Sontag was left desiring. Pálfi creates a “new” story out of assembled film footage – but the result is not as tightly composed or pointed as work by recent purveyors of this art like Christian Marclay or Tracey Moffatt. The few attempts at score layering, sound effects placements, and Kuleshov effect editing are only moderate successes. What Pálfi does here is impressive only in the shallowest sense, in that this is a 90-minute assembled collage of over 500 clips, something that many cinephiles only dream of doing. I had a particular problem with the “female performer sequence”, which began with synchronised image and soundtrack of Rita Hayworth performing “Put the Blame on Mame” in Gilda (Charles Vidor, 1946), completed with a substitution of a selection of recognisable female performances, including Liza Minnelli in Cabaret (Bob Fosse, 1972). This montage, while intending to represent the “ideal” woman, only debases the power of Hayworth’s performance in the original film by absenting her from it, and is complicated further by the fact that the song itself was sung by Anita Ellis and lip-synced by Hayworth. When Hayworth’s body is replaced by those of other women, the direct connection to one of the most iconic screen performances in Hollywood film history is lost, and Ellis’ voice becomes something of a loose referent. The specifics of Gilda’s production and Rita Hayworth’s physical performance are imperative to the lasting power of the scene and, along with the specific cultural energy of Ellis’ voice, are wiped out when performances so clearly indebted to it (like Cameron Diaz’s in The Mask [Chuck Russell, 1994] and Jessica Rabbit’s in Who Framed Roger Rabbit [Robert Zemeckis, 1988]) are suggested as equal through the power of the montage. But, most obviously perhaps, the few shots of clocks in the “time sequence” (I think there were four clocks, one from The Addams Family [Barry Sonnenfeld, 1991]) reveal how rushed or inexact the selections were, particularly in relation to Marclay’s masterful 24-hour collection of them. The structure is surprisingly unstructured, and repetitive; this type of audiovisual collage is now at a very high standard, and comparatively, Pálfi’s effort just doesn’t measure up.

Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen

Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen

Although very different, Shirley: Visions of Reality, from Austrian artist and filmmaker Gustav Deutsch, also uses existing work by another artist to expand the filmmaker’s ideas into a feature-length film. Deutsch used 13 works by American painter Edward Hopper as pivot points to create a series of intricately staged vignettes, imagining a woman – Shirley – travelling through time as the narrator of each scene. This concept is intriguing but unfortunately the execution, while attempting to bring movement and depth to Hopper’s paintings, made them flatter and more static than the originals. In its stillness, the camera was too still; in her calm, detached narration, Stephanie Cumming’s Shirley was heavy and mundane; in the restagings of Hopper’s vibrant colour schemes, the mise en scène was surprisingly dull. Like Sally Potter did with Ginger and Rosa, a deceptively sharp melodrama on the culture of rebellion and activism in 1960s Britain, Deutsch incorporated Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most famous equal rights speech, heard through a radio broadcast. In Potter’s film, the speech was heard as a political and personal inspiration, a revolutionary truth, amidst a dangerous landscape of struggle. Formally, Shirley does not allow for the same engagement of the political or aesthetic dimensions of sound and cinema, and is an awkward and ultimately empty exercise in distanciation.

Museum Hours was one of my most anticipated films, having read about it months earlier after a recommendation, and having missed its popular, short run at IFC Center in New York, where director Jem Cohen was in attendance. This portrait of an emerging friendship between Johann, a security guard at Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Art Museum, and Anne, a Canadian woman visiting the city, is both tenderly observational and carefully intimate. Cohen’s barely moving frame is as deliberate as those of the artworks it features. The film presents a parallel between Johann’s life, standing and watching over his museum, waiting for the guests to leave, and the present life of Anne, who, more or less, sits and watches over her friend, waiting for her to heal. Both of these activities engaged their participants in meditative spaces and states, and again, in with synchronicity with the audience, much like that space we engage with in a large film theatre. Following her friend’s death, Anne sings to herself, “Why in the darkness do I see so clearly?” In the darkness of a theatre, lulled by a sensory fullness and watching lives flash and unfold around us, film audiences know the answer.

Much anticipated, too, was Claire Denis’ Les Salauds (Bastards), and having overheard remarks about its unpleasantness, I could not help being disturbed by the subject matter. My friend with whom I saw the film, and a number of my peers, expressed murmurs or outbursts of anger that Denis should create a film about the sexual oppression of women that had no female characters with independence or agency. Denis seemed to witness horrific sexual and emotional oppression with a numbing passivity, which affected something like a simultaneous care and disregard for women. My viewing companion’s first charge was to squeamishly deplore its misogyny, but as I’ve learnt to cringe at the exploitation of that word in recent times, I could not agree.

The sexual and emotional violence in Bastards is confronting because it is not only aggressive towards women but to all of humanity. But it also confronts, and I believe constructively, the often-impossible black and white divide between abuse and complicity. Shooting for the first time digitally, Denis has made a beautiful film, one that stimulates bodily and sensory identification with its own world. This rich sensory layering is expected in Denis’ work, but in Bastards it has perhaps a crueler purpose: to further complicate the centrifugal but intertwined forces of hatred and desire, exploitation and submission, trust and betrayal. One moment, towards the end of the film, still haunts me weeks after the screening. As a car speeds down a dark highway lined only with ghostly shadows, its three occupants, heavily engaged in a play of sexual stimulation, barely focus on the road. The driver shuts out the car’s headlights, and for a few beats, in almost total darkness, the sounds made by the car’s three occupants become louder, as does the sound of the car’s engine and its tyres burning the road (partly because of its increasing speed but also partly because our aural senses, in the absence of light, are more alive). It is commonly said that the most effective horror film relies on sound, rather than image, because sounds can provoke the worst associations in vivid imaginations. But here, Denis wonders, what happens when we see the aftermath of a horrific, high-speed head-on car crash, but don’t hear it occur? Shocking the senses after such a rich landscape of human and environmental sounds, this silence at this moment is truly unsettling.

Bastards

Bastards

The music program attracted my fancy this year with its focus on soul and rhythm and blues. Greg “Freddy” Camalier’s Muscle Shoals, I admit, had so much soul that it brought me to tears, and had me in a constant state of hyper-awareness with goose bumps tingling up my arms. It stunned me into stillness while my audience neighbour, an enthusiastic man of my father’s generation, tapped his right foot whenever a groove started to roll. But such pleasures are, sometimes, only superficial, and while Muscle Shoals traced a historical overview of the record company, the documentary itself was confusing and flawed. Its presentation of events was erratic, and it fast became clear that strict chronology was not being adhered to – fine, really, although this elasticity with regards time was more of a barrier to the film’s power than a help to its story. Also a problem, and a painful obfuscation of the documentary’s dramatic license, were the multitudinous shots of things like wheat fields, sunflowers and running water, and, oh help me, the painfully held close-ups framing faces, and slow-motion long shots of men in suits. This was the film’s downfall, and in general, it highlights a major problem of such documentaries whose makers indulge in far too much of what they presume to be “cinematic”. In the end, these interludes were boring, flat and reeked with pretension, and unfortunately held back Muscle Shoals from being as powerful as its music.

Once again, Chinese cinema was poorly represented in the festival program (as seems to be the case in recent years). What I did see was great, though. Jia Zhang-ke’s spectacular Tian zhu ding (A Touch of Sin) combines elements of Chinese opera, martial arts films, and social realist aesthetics to intertwine four stories into one. At the complete opposite end of the filmmaking spectrum is Gudu (Alone), a sensitive observation of the desperate poverty in rural China that is so often avoided not only by foreigners, but also by Chinese citizens themselves. With Alone, Wang Bing’s unsteady camera reflects the unsteady lives of three young girls living in mountainous Yunnan province, near the city of Kunming. Deserted by their mother, and with a father who lives and works away from his daughters in order to make money to enable their survival, the story of these girls’ lives is not an uncommon one, and documentarian Wang carefully observes the tasks that shape their lives. Wang’s camera rarely focuses, having a visual and aural distance characterised by a spareness and flatness of frame and a soundscape in which voice and more complex environmental sounds have to push through thick winds to be heard. Alone’s unsettling aesthetic makes this an uneasy film to watch; it depicts a place and a life that we normally only see at a distance, if at all. Here we see things too closely. It verges on the confinement of both the subject and the spectator. Works like this come out of an ingrained social and political neglect of humanity. Alone exists because the neglect can’t be tolerated forever.

Alone

Alone

In Ilo Ilo, the remarkable Singaporean feature from Anthony Chen (it is the only feature from that country to receive an award at Cannes), the nature of struggle – highlighted by children deserted by parents in order to earn money for their survival – is again treated with gripping honesty. It’s 1997, and a Filipino woman, Teresa, travels to Singapore to work as a live-in maid for a struggling couple and their difficult son, Jiale. Ilo Ilo is a province in the Philippines, but I wonder why this title was chosen for its screening here; the film’s Chinese title translates more literally as, “The parents aren’t at home”. This is a chilling reference to a literal and metaphorical situation that dominates the film: the relationships between both the mother and father and with their neglected son; the political, social and economic turmoil that was bubbling in the region in the late 1990s. This is a tight family drama – very involved but not melodramatic – that carefully portrays a series of events as the family’s life is altered by Teresa’s presence. The harsh reality of an illusory “better life” is felt when a man commits suicide by jumping from the confined balcony of a housing complex. Rather than dramatising the moment, Chen presents it soberly, without music, and with almost nothing but a sudden, ugly thud. While avoiding generalisation, the film highlights the similarities between these two countries in terms of an economic and lifestyle “dream” that barely has a chance to become reality. This suicide also mirrors that of Xiao Hui in A Touch of Sin. Neither Chen nor Jia dwell on these moments, and only allow the audience an outsider’s perspective, a view from ground level, on the street. In both scenes, we are shown a dead body, but after that we are given nothing more. The after effects on family and friends don’t matter here, only the harsh reality that suicide is often, as much as it can be, hidden from view.

I only got to one of the two Taiwanese films in the program, and that was the delightful Ming tian ji de ai shang wo (Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?), the second film from Arvin Chen, returning to MIFF after his 2010 debut Yi ye Taibei (Au revoir Taipei). This is an amicable romantic comedy handled by a vibrant ensemble cast that presents quite a loving view of Chen’s parent country of Taiwan. It is an easy film to watch with its beautiful cast, pop soundtrack (including a dream-worthy karaoke rendition of Carol King and Gerry Goffin’s titular hit song), and candy-coloured scenery. And while all this might make it sound like a film without the cinematic credibility of the more serious “art house” fare that traditionally makes waves at festivals, it is nevertheless a remarkable work with mainstream aesthetic appeal featuring a large cast of homosexual characters who love and are accepted by everybody around them. While it is hinted at, the idea that one might be made ashamed of homosexuality is never overtly brought up. For its candour in this respect, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? should hopefully join the ranks of lasting romantic comedies.

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

On a dark Wednesday evening, I ran through chilling rain and bleary streetlights from the Forum Lounge to Australian Centre for the Moving Image, and found a welcoming home in the warm streets of a sun washed Southern California. Starlet, indie director Sean Baker’s fourth feature, hardly had a scene set at night, the film lit mostly by the sun’s omnipresent glare. But although the cinematography aptly framed the San Fernando Valley’s beautiful blue skies, it was afflicted by something I noticed in so many films at this festival, the mutation of colours and the precision of landscapes brought about by digital cinema. For this particular film that aesthetic fits, making the flat urbanness and unstimulating colourscape of Los Angeles flatter and drabber. This film made a terrific double with Drinking Buddies by Mumblecore wunderkind Joe Swanberg, whose 90-minute running time is composed of almost entirely unscripted, improvised moments. The dialogue seemed extremely personal, as though these actors were really their characters feeling their way through life. One of the most appealing aspects of Drinking Buddies is that, in observing the dynamics of sexual and platonic attraction, it captures the intricacies of relationships and companionship, and the need for more than just romantic love in people’s lives. Like Starlet, in which a 21-year-old woman begins to search for and later depend upon the friendship of an octogenarian widow, the gifts offered by Drinking Buddies are found in its small moments, in the secret looks between friends and its resistance to the melodrama of in its emotional story.

With Nugu-ui ttal-do anin Haewon (Nobody’s Daughter Haewon), Hong Sang-soo brought one of the festival’s best actresses to the screen in Jeong Eun-chae. While it had some dramatically scripted and emotional scenes, it is in the semi-detached observational aesthetic so particular to Hong that the film becomes more character than plot-driven. This is seen most delightfully in the film’s opening dream sequence, in which Jane Birkin, playing herself as a tourist lost in Seoul, asks Haewon for directions. Neither her name, nor the name of her daughter, is mentioned in the few minutes of conversation that follow, and we only see her in profile. Nevertheless, his moment, rather than being about the presence of one of France’s most famous women, captures the endearing enthusiasm and screen presence of Jeong and the unspoken beauty of the mostly still frame. As I was watching Jeong’s tall figure awkwardly float across the screen, traversing through the urban landscape of Seoul, I couldn’t help but think of Diane Keaton as Annie Hall, a woman who introduced a new type of being on screen, and who popularised a sort of fashionable dagginess.

Keaton came to mind again when later that same day I was privy to Greta Gerwig’s entrancing figure wandering through the streets and interiors of New York in Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha. A companion tells Frances that she walks like a man, and while I hesitate to adopt such categories of description, it’s true that there’s something almost angry about the way she walks, as though irritated for having to walk. An aspiring dancer, and a working teacher, Frances says that she likes to choreograph dances that look like mistakes. Ironically, she is learning how to make her life look coordinated, rather than the series of mistakes and misfortunes that actually define it. The pull of this feature, and those like it, is to defend the rights of late twenty-somethings who are still sorting out their lives and futures, amidst peers who might be settling down. This is not particularly new, and there was nothing in Gerwig’s performance, Baumbach’s direction or their script that I did not anticipate with my knowledge of the reputations of the pair. In one scene, Gerwig runs through the sidewalks of lower Manhattan to the fitting tune but somehow mismatched lyrics of David Bowie’s “Modern Love”, something that Denis Lavant already did almost 30 years before in Carax’s Mauvais sang (1986). Baumbach’s response to critics noticing this similarity has been to argue for the particular timeless energies of Bowie, but his disinclination to acknowledge credit is maddening to cinephiles who know where its inspiration came from. Perhaps Gerwig is the new Keaton. Outside of this and the inevitable comparisons to the black-and-white aesthetic of Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979), I do appreciate that Gerwig is equally part of a new expression of intelligent anxiety from a female, rather than male, point-of-view.

Frances Ha

Frances Ha

With the visibility of women on screen so important in this particular social and political climate, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s Lovelace was an odd inclusion in the program, particularly as this biopic of the porn-star life of eponymous Linda Lovelace is a rather generic “insight” into the private life of a public persona. In fact, the script and its treatment of historical material, necessarily all subjective, present an incredibly shallow and altogether oversimplified account of the making of the infamous Deep Throat (Gerard Damiano, 1972). Lovelace severely neatens the elements of its subject’s youth and controversial “career” in pornographic film, but in all its efforts to turn this complicated history into a tidy narrative, the film adds nothing to the canon of films about Deep Throat, the pornography industry, or Lovelace’s own life. (Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s Inside Deep Throat, which screened at this festival in 2005, is much more valuable in this respect, as it examined the numerous forces that led to the production of the film and the dramatic impact it had on the social and legal status of sexuality and “obscenity” in the cinema.) Attempting to make it a straight-down-the-line women’s rights film, the script avoids the subtleties of relationships and desire (and that point where desire becomes disgust).

I could never quite believe Amanda Seyfried in the role of Linda, which is a real disappointment. The body on screen is intrinsic to the physical and emotional power of the cinema. Without that power, the significant connection between the film and its audience is lost. Firstly, Seyfried’s approximation of Lovelace’s native Bronx accent drifted in and out, sounding neither natural nor comfortably adopted. Although a few years older than Lovelace was at the time, the actor looks much smaller and younger than Lovelace in the actual Deep Throat. Polite beauty and innocence is the aim of her characterisation, particularly in opposition to her more daring but caring friend played by Juno Temple (whose elfin sensuality allowed her to portray a promiscuous 12-year-old in William Friedkin’s Killer Joe, screened at MIFF last year). In this age where festivals show films from all parts of the world, with all accents, social nuances, and behaviours captured onscreen, an accent like that is hard to forgive. More generally, though, Andy Bellin’s script is the major weak point of Lovelace. By attempting a rehabilitation of Lovelace’s image, the film becomes overtly moralistic and self-righteous.

Lovelace

Lovelace

The fresh and humble perspective of In a World…, a late addition to the program as one of the now traditional final-day screenings, was a surprise delight. Writer, director, producer and star Lake Bell has here made a film that is not only an unassuming story of female empowerment, but also one with a subject that is probably not very well-known and perhaps not immediately appealing to a lot of people. While it followed a traditional, structured plot, propelled by narrative cause and effect and character interaction, its ending was not “complete” in the traditional sense. Endings like this were one of my favourite things about this year’s festival. After following an uplifting, spirited, feminist narrative, In a World… finishes on a distinctly feel good note, with all the main characters, presumably, very happy – we’re not quite sure because the story doesn’t close. As the film begins, Bell’s Carol, a voice coach and sometime voiceover artist, has her enthusiasm crushed by her father who humourlessly tells her, “The industry does not crave a female sound”. But the female sound is well and truly celebrated in this film, with Bell joining a stream of strong, determined, and visible women in the industry.

Leviathan was the last film I saw at the festival this year. It was one of the most interesting, experimental, and revealing works in the program, and the perfect film to end on as an indication of cinema’s future potential. The camerawork in Leviathan is classically ugly, hard to watch, following as it does the cyclical rhythms of a rough and thankless ocean as it crashes around and through the decks of a fishing boat. This discomposure is part of what makes the film fascinating. In pairing the close framing of captured sea creatures with an often-uncomfortable aural sharpness, documentarians Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel create a sensory mimesis of life in the fishing industry.

The ocean generally photographs well, its deep and varying shades of grey and blue, and its vast and wondrous majesty lending themselves to over a century’s worth of film. Jean Epstein is amongst the filmmakers who have perhaps most famously and extensively filmed the sea, and even in his evident fear of it, he managed to demonstrate its awesome brutality, the beauty in its violent temper, and its mesmerising rhythm. Yet, the sea in Leviathan is not particularly beautiful; I did not feel welcome in its grasp, and I was not seduced by its grand allure. This is not a fault of nature but one created by the intrusion of man into its realm. The film’s experimental form found something of an irrepressible melodious chaos within it – finally realising Epstein’s own desire to incorporate “sound perspectivism” by filming the sound of the sea from beneath its surface, submerging the audience visually and aurally in the water. One long take has a camera placed in front of the boat’s bow, and as the boat slowly rises and crashes on waves, the camera follows, the huge hull of the trawler commanding the screen as it moves. In another, a camera attached to the boat’s keel films thousands and thousands of starfish, falling through the strains of a fishing net as it is drawn, full of edible catch, upwards to the boat. As thousands of sea creatures pour back into the disturbed waters, the bitter meaning behind the title becomes frighteningly clear. Leviathan leaves the sea – which, somewhere in its natural laws, must have an ordered rhythm – in devastating chaos.

Leviathan

Leviathan

My festival experience, despite the early starts and late nights (which were often much earlier and later than the festival itself because one cannot always put life on hold), was only a little chaotic but a wonderful success. A lifetime Melburnian, 2013 was my ninth year of MIFF attendance, and by far my most rewarding. I had a fortunate wealth of enjoyable screenings, and no small part of this is due to the wide selection of treats on offer for a cinephile with relatively limited local opportunities for film appreciation. Being so far removed from most of the rest of the world’s film production and exhibition, MIFF is an undeniable treat for Melburnians. The small number of screenings of recent restorations, including the DCP of Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme’s Le Joli mai (1962) and Agnès Varda’s first feature La Pointe Courte (1954), were rich additions to a program that was disappointingly shy of a retrospective. But there is no denying MIFF’s importance to Melbourne cinephiles and cultural disciples; the conversation about the death of film surrounds us, but MIFF helps keep “film” alive, brings people to the cinema for a collective appreciation of and tribute to its existence. I look forward to it every year.

Eloise Ross was a short fiction film panelist for the Melbourne International Film Festival in 2013.

This report was commissioned and edited by Adrian Danks.

Endnotes

  1. Roland Barthes, Mythologies, trans. Annette Lavers, Vintage, London, 1993.
  2. Susan Sontag, “The Decay of Cinema”, The New York Times 25 February 1996: http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/03/12/specials/sontag-cinema.html.