Wednesday, July 29, 2009

MIFF 2009 : Part 1

One of the redeeming things about being in Melbourne during winter - I say redeeming ecause I'm not one of those strange people who like cold weather, short days, etc. - is the annual Melbourne International Film Festival. Having missed it last year, I was looking forward to it even more this year, and I again bought the mini-pass, meaning I'll be watching 10 films in the festival in a matter of about 14 days. Some short reviews of the films I've seen so far...

A Korean vampire film, directed by Park Chan-wook (Old Boy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance). A priest is inexplicably infected with vampire blood, after volunteering to be a subject for experiments for a vaccine trials. He dies, rises again, and returns to Korea with something of a religious cult following. As he discovers his thirst for blood, he leaves the monastery and becomes entangled in a tryst with a down-trodden married woman.

As in his other films, Park creates a strangely quiet other world, which resembles our own, but has an eerie feeling of being a stage. Thirst felt a little overworked, being part schlocky, humourous vampire flick, and part morality tale. Not your average vampire film, and worth seeing if you're a fan of his other work.


Described as French 'torture-porn', I was a little apprehensive to see this film. I'm not squeamish, but I'm not a huge fan of pointless inflction of pain. Lucie, a girl who inexplicably escapes from an abusive childhood, is both physically and mentally scarred from her experience. She finds some comfort in her friendship with Anna when she's placed in an orphanage, though she is still plagued by nightmarish visions. Cut to fifteen years later, when Lucie tracks down her childhood tormentors, and exacts her revenge. Then the real action ensues.

The problem I had with this film was not exactly the inability to suspend disbelief, but it something close to that. While the explanations that unfold as the film progresses weren't preposterous, I found them a little flimsy. And it seems to me that the film had to have been created around the original premise, which for me seemed a rather weak excuse for the extreme violence which would likely be the prime motivator for much of the film's audience to go and see it.

That being said, the acting was was great, and the cinematography and editing superb. Thrilling, a little chilling, if you can forgive the denouement.

Two college friends Ben and Andrew are reunited in something of an indie take on a bromance. Ben is now married and planning to have children, and Andrew has spent his years since college travelling the world.
Over the course of a drunken and drug-buffered night, the two talk themselves into making an 'art film' to enter into the local alternative paper's 'Humpfest' amateur porn competition. Leading up to the big event, the two engage in what are often painfully frustrating conversations trying to be 'more open-minded' than one another, while Ben also deals with breaking the news to his wife Anna.

While there wasn't any particular thing wrong with the film, it ultimately didn't work for me, because neither of the two male leads were particularly likeable or engaging. The conversations they shared trying to explore the notions of their masculinity ended up making them both look like a couple of douches who like to think they're self-aware and in touch with their sexuality. I don't know, was that the point? Much like Sideways, there will be people out there who will ejnoy this. I wasn't one of them. Parts of the movie were funny, but mostly I just found it rather dull.

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