My CIFF Diary – Day Six

I missed the middle weekend of CIFF due to a wedding in Sydney, but I was soon back in town for some more CIFF goodness.  The week got off to a good start with one of the best films of the year.

CIFF Film Three – Amour

 Director – Michael Haneke
Starring – Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert
Writer – Michael Haneke
Year – 2012
Running Time – 94 mins

For me, Amour was one of the best films of the festival and indeed of the year. It is a powerful, beautiful, emotional and at times grueling tale of one man’s love for his wife

I have not seen any of Haneke’s previous work, but from what I can tell Amour is true to form.  The depths of the story are immense and the direction, whilst simple, is frankly masterful.  We see the world purely through the eyes of the two leads and apart from brief moments, we are confined to their spacious Parisian apartment.  Heneke uses this simplicity to great effect, building deep emotional layers that are at times confronting, but always compelling.

The two leads bring a lifetimes worth of experience to the role and there was not a single moment in the entire film that I did not fully believe in their characters and their relationship.  A simply stunning achievement of a film, which you simply have to see.


CIFF Film Four – Sightseers

Director – Ben Wheatley
Starring – Alice Lowe, Steve Oram
Writer – Alice Lowe, Steve Oram
Year – 2012
Running Time – 95 mins

After the emotion of Amour, I was looking forward to a slightly lighter film with Sightseers.  I knew nothing of the plot so didn’t really know what to expect going in.   However, what I wasn’t expecting was a pitch-dark comedy about serial killers, the countryside and caravanning.

Alice Lowe and Steve Oram play an unlikely couple who set off on an ‘erotic odyssey’ in the back of a caravan in the heart of the English countryside.  However as the wheels start coming off, the odyssey quickly turns into a killing spree with the couple leaving a trail of dead bodies in their rear view mirror.

The small cast are all on murderously good form, with Lowe and Oram playing off each other exceptionally well as a sort of Bonnie and Clyde for the Caravan Club generation.  The two have a very odd kind of chemistry and are at their best when interacting with unsuspecting tourists. These exchanges are beautifully socially awkward with perceived slights quickly punished by our dangerous duo.

The other main star has to be Ben Wheatley’s direction.  The killing scenes are brutally shot and scored.  You see each drop of blood and feel each crunch of bone.  In one particular scene you feel like you are with the body the whole way down.  Shot against the backdrop of the beauty of the Lake District and filmed mostly using natural light, Wheatley doesn’t present this as a green and pleasant land, instead its pissing down and grey most of the time, a bit like our couples’ mood.

Sightseers is one of the best and most original British comedies of recent times and comes highly recommended. It has also confirmed a long-held suspicion about what caravanners really get up to.



My CIFF Diary – Day One

My passion for film has reignited since I arrived in Australia just over a year ago after spending the best part of 12 years living overseas with no access to a regular cinema.  I have spent the last year reacquainting myself with the cinema experience as well as introducing myself slowly into the online world of movie related geekery.  It was here that I read Ryan McNeil (from the always informative and insightful The Matinee)  account of attending the Toronto International Film Festival, as well numerous Australian bloggers who attended both the Sydney and Melbourne film festivals.

Their experiences sounded incredible, so it was fair to say that I was quite excited about attending the 16th Canberra International Film Festival (CIFF), which whilst not on the same scale as others, still boasted 60 films from 30 different countries.  Additionally, this was not only my first time attending CIFF but it was also my first ever festival.  There was lots to look forward to.

I skipped the opening gala evening and showing of Ken Loach’s The Angel’s Share, as it was over $50 a ticket, which seemed a little extreme, so my CIFF kicked off on the second day with two screenings at the beautiful, yet contemporary, Arc Cinema at the National Film and Sound Archive.

CIFF Film One – Grabbers

Director – Jon Wright
Starring – Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley
Writer – Kevin Lehane
Year – 2012
Running Time – 94 mins

This was a great start to my festival, essentially a tale of Tremors in Tipperary.  Richard Coyle (of Coupling fame) stars as a Garda officer, who alongside Ruth Bradley is posted to a small island off the Irish coast, which is invaded by blood sucking aliens. As so many often do, the local community turn to drink in order to drown their sorrows only to discover that being drunk may actually be their salvation.

Horror comedy is such a hard genre to get right, but Grabbers is pitched perfectly in this regard.  The aliens look convincing, the story is ridiculous yet solid and the wide supporting cast put in entertaining performances whilst gently poking fun at their own stereotypical tendencies.

Highly recommended, Grabbers will grab you from the off and is a smart, intelligent and above all else funny horror comedy which succeeds where so many others have failed.


CIFF Film Two – Berberian Sound Studio 

Director – Peter Strickland
Starring – Toby Jones, Tonia Sotiropoulou, Cosimo Fusco
Writer – Peter Strickland
Year – 2012
Running Time – 92 mins

Toby Jones stars as a British sound engineering sent to work on a Giallo Italian horror film in Rome.  Jones, more used to recording the sounds of the British countryside, sons finds himself at odds with not only his new employers but also with the dark nature of the film.

This was a real contrast to Grabbers and much more hard work.  The first half is interesting, especially looking at how a sound is mixed into a film, so much so that I will never look at vegetables and fruit in the same way again.  The second half however dives deeper into Jones’s consciousness and it is hard to tell at times what is real and what is reality.

This deeper second half brought a significant amount of walkouts in the screening I was in, and if I am honest, I did consider it as well.  However in the end I was glad that I stayed, but I am not sure I could really tell you what the last 20 minutes meant.

Worth watching for Toby Jone’s performance as well as a fascinating the opening half; however if you want to understand the second, then knowledge of 1970’s Italian horror films and especially Giallo would certainly help.


New Releases: 15 November 2012

Now that the Canberra International Film Festival juggernaut has left town, it is time to return to our regular programming. Not a huge amount opening this week here in Canberra, no doubt as everyone is running scared of the might of the twiglet.

So for your viewing pleasure, I give you:-

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 – Saga is definitely the right word to describe this watchable but ultimately spotty franchise.  Credit must be given to Alex over at Time For a Film who braved ridicule and went to a midnight showing. You can read his review here.  Playing everywhere (you can’t escape it).

Robot and Frank – Originally played at CIFF and now given its own run at Dendy.  By all accounts an engrossing tale of a retired jewel thief given a robot to keep him company around the house.  Sam from An Online Universe was quite taken by it and you can read her review here.

There is still a huge amount of film goodness on our screens that I need to catch up with.  This is what I am currently missing:-

The Master – This hugely devise Paul Thomas Anderson film finally makes it to the ACT.  But be warned, it is certainly not for everyone. I almost certainly will not get round to this, so I recommend reading Cam William’s thoughts over at The Popcorn Junkie.   Playing at Manuka and Dendy

The Sessions – A man with an iron lung intent on losing his virginity contacts a professional sex surrogate in order to fulfil his dream.  By all accounts this is both a moving and inspiring film.  Playing at Manuka

Seven Psychopaths – You know what film this is which is apparently best seen with as little previous knowledge as possible.  Playing at Dendy and Hoyts

Alex Cross – The reboot of the detective Alex Cross books written by James Patterson. I used to be a big fan of the books and didn’t mind that original films, but this is supposed to be shocking. However I will probably still give it a go, but probably on rental.  Playing at Hoyts.

Bachelorette – Some say this is better than Bridesmaids. Playing at Hoyts.

End Of Watch– David Ayer the writer of Training Day and Fast and Furious takes the helm of this gritty drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peria as two hotshot cops who go up against the local cartel. Playing at Hoyts.

Housos v Authority  – I am so sick of seeing this trailer which seems to be playing in in front of every film I sit down for.  Apparently this is a satirical look at residents of an Australian Housing Commission project.  Not sure I have been in Australia long enough to get this, even if that does make me un-Australian.  Playing at Hoyts

You Will Be My Son – A French tale of family, friendship and conflict all wrapped in a vineyard.  Don’t know too much about this one, but the trailer looks interesting.  Not sure I will get round to it though.  Playing at Manuka.

The Week That Was 4 – 11 November

Welcome to The Week That Was where I take a look back at what I have watched over the last seven days. And what a week it truly was with 19 films crammed in; 16 of which were in cinemas.  Can you tell there was a festival in town?

Ok, so let’s get into it then, here is the tale of the tape for the week.  As always you can check out my full 2012 watch list here. Also look out for the My CIFF Diary series which should be up during the week.

Cinema Screenings

Amour –  A stunning, poignant and immensely impressive portrayal of one man’s love for his wife.  One of the best of the festival by far.  ★★★★★

Sightseers – A killer comedy about serial killers in the countryside which finally reveals what I have long suspected about caravaners★★★★

The Hunt – A powerfully shocking Danish drama about paranoia, injustice and what happens when the truth doesn’t matter anymore. In my top three CIFF films★★★★

American Mary – A deftly directed and slickly stylised horror about a trainee surgeon cutting a second job as an underground surgeon. This is what would have happened in Lisbeth Salander had gone to Medical School.  ★★★

I, Anna – A gripping and gritty British noir with British acting royalty Gabriel Byrne, Charlotte Rampling and Eddie Marsden★★★

Chasing Ice – A beautiful and compelling but frankly terrifying tale of one man’s obsession to record glacial melt levels.  After this I don’t need that house on the beach anymore….★★★

No – Gael Garcia Bernal stars as an ad executive hired to run the No campaign against Pinochet in the 1988 Chilean election. I must admit, I had a bit of a sleep during this one.  ★★★

The Loneliest Planet – My least favourite film of the festival about a young engaged couple who go on a trek in the Georgian countryside.  Almost as much pointless walking as The Two Towers and no wizards to boot.  ★★

Love Story – An intriguing, unique and organic tale of a Kiwi who merges fact, fiction and fantasy in search of true love in New York.  An interesting premise which got a little tired towards the end.  ★★

Sleepless Night – A fierce and unflinching French undercover cop drama which is being remade by Hollywood as we speak.  See it before they do.  But like a French Training Day, but with more Gitaines. ★★★

Searching For Sugar Man – Another highlight of the festival and looked gorgeous on the new Arc Cinema projector.  It is best to know nothing about this film prior to watching so I will say no more★★★★★

The Imposter – See above….first impressions weren’t that good, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. All credit goes to the Editor. ★★★

Turn Me On Dammit – A delightful Norwegian coming of age comedy/drama about sex, school and small town mentalities.  ★★★

Rust and Bone – Powerful French film making again, with an impressively raw performance from Marion Gottiard.  Warning – you will end up humming Katy Perry on the way home.   ★★★★★

Room 237 – Fascinating look at the many layers of The Shining, but it simply can’t be healthy to have watch the film as many times as the makers of this doc must have done.  ★★★

The Shining – This film will never be the same for me after watching Room 237. It will be better.  ★★★★★

Couch Screenings

Casino Royale – Bond homework in preparation for when we here at the other end of the world finally get Skyfall.  First rewatch in a few years, still equally good.   ★★★

Quantum of Solace – I’m thorough in my homework, which is the only reason why anyone would want to return this misjudged direct sequel to the far superior Casino Royale.  Craig is still good, but hampered by the script.  ★★

Friends With Kids – Never before have I disliked two lead characters more than I did in this tale of two best friends who decide to have a baby whilst keeping their relationship plutonic in order to avoid the stress that a baby puts on a marriage. Offensive, unfunny and horrendously overacted.  With friends like these, who needs enemies. 

TV Shows

Nothing – no time at all!


2012 Score Sheet

Cinema Screenings – 67
Couch Screenings – 68
Total (new films) – 135
Re-watches – 45
2012 Total film count – 180
How about you guys, seen anything good?

New Films In The ACT

The Canberra International Film Festival is in full swing with strong crowds enjoying a wide variety of different films.  The Festival  culminates this weekend with another strong programme including Rust and Bone, Smashed, The Impostor, Room 237, The Loneliest Planet and Save Yer Legs. If you are in Canberra or the region than I would strongly recommend trying out at least one screening at CIFF as it is a real experience and not to be missed.

But for those not in a festive mood there is plenty on offer elsewhere this week, such as:-

The Master – This hugely devise Paul Thomas Anderson film finally makes it to the ACT.  But be warned, it is certainly not for everyone. I almost certainly will not get round to this, so I recommend reading Andy Buckle’s thoughts over at The Film Emporium.   Playing at Manuka and Dendy

The Sessions – A man with an iron lung intent on losing his virginity contacts a professional sex surrogate in order to fulfil his dream.  By all accounts this is both a moving and inspiring film.  Playing at Manuka

Seven Psychopaths – You know what film this is which is apparently best seen with as little previous knowledge as possible.  Playing at Dendy and Hoyts

Alex Cross – The reboot of the detective Alex Cross books written by James Patterson. I used to be a big fan of the books and didn’t mind that original films, but this is supposed to be shocking. However I will probably still give it a go, but probably on rental.  Playing at Hoyts.