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 Films In The ACT


A big week ahead in the ACT as the Canberra International Film Festival kicks off with a plethora of great films across three different venues all screening over the next 10 days or so.  I have a pretty hectic festival schedule taking in 20 flicks and you can see the full details here.  If any bloggers are heading to Canberra and fancy meeting up then drop me a line.  Details in the contact section above.

If nothing takes your fancy at the festival then the following are all opening in the ACT this week:-

Bachelorette – Some say this is better than Bridesmaids, see what Sam over at An Online Universe thinks. 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 (where else….)

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.

My CIFF Casualty List

After a lot of pondering, my CIFF schedule is now locked in and can be seen in full here.  As with any schedule there are inevitably casualties due to screening clashes and as I am quickly learning you just can’t see everything.

Therefore I have had to regretfully say farewell to :-

The Angels’s Share – I could only make the opening night screening which was $50 which seems a bit steep for a film that I can rent from iTunes for a tenth of the price

Save Yer Legs – Closing night screening and again priced at $50, decided to take the cheaper option and see Paris-Manhattan instead.

Smashed – Clashed with Room 237 which I was very keen to see.  This was a tough call.  Still not convinced I have got it right.

The Shining – Clashed with Like Someone In Love and whilst it would have been great to see The Shining on the big screen, especially directly after Room 237, I had to prioritize seeing new films over rewatches.

There is also a three-day block in the middle of the festival that I am missing due to a wedding of a good friend which knocks out a whole range of films, but the biggest being Monsieur Lazhar; probably my biggest casualty of all.

The Week That Was 23 – 31 September

Welcome to another Week That Was.  Quite a lot has happened over the last seven days, so lets get straight into it.

First off the Canberra International Film Festival which runs from 31 October – 11 November was officially launched.  The programme is varied with a mixture of strong Australian films alongside plenty of international fare.  I spent a good part of Monday trawling through the programme and even though I will miss out on the middle weekend I reckon I can still get in 20 films.  You can see my provisional schedule here.

Secondly, as you can tell from the rather natty new red badge on the sidebar, I officially became a member of the Large Association of Movie Blogs or The Lamb for short.  I have been reading other Lamb blogs for a couple of years now so it feels good to finally (and officially) be part of the flock.

And thirdly but most importantly, my youngest turned three this week which we celebrated with a Tinker Bell themed birthday party and a trip to see Tinker Bell: The Secret Of The Wings at the cinema.  Having 18 kids round for the party was truly exhausting, but worth it.

In amongst all of this I managed to get back into the cinema again, so here is the tale of the tape from the last week.  As always you can check out my full 2012 watch list here:-

Cinema Screenings

Beasts Of The Southern Wild  – I went in with very high expectations after reading nothing but glowing reviews for this gritty, intelligent and highly emotional drama about a family in the Southern Delta dealing with all that life and Mother Nature has to throw at them.  I am pleased to say that this held up incredibly well to its billing and will no doubt be in my top ten of the year.  Highly Recommended

The Expendables 2  – Exactly the opposite to the above.  I went in with very low expectations after reading nothing but damming reviews of this sequel to the 2010 ensemble 80s action reunion, but this time with added Chuck Norris and Jean Claude Van Damme.  Unfortunately this also lived up to its billing with a script full of badly timed puns and cringeworthy cliches, which when coupled with badly executed and over the top action set pieces, produces a film very wide of the mark and not even close to the classic action films it is trying to imitate.  Jean Claude Van Damme was great though.  Approach With Caution

Looper – An intelligent and highly entertaining sci-fi  drama which just about stays on the right side of believable.  Look out for the review later this week. Still can’t believe how good Emily Blunt was, this woman can do no wrong.   Highly Recommended 

Tinker Bell: The Secret Of The Wings – Part three in the Tinker Bell story and this time Tinkers gets all rebellious and crosses the border to the winter side.  Don’t worry she doesn’t go all Darth Vader like but manages to get into a few scrapes along the way.  Another fun and really quite watchable tale which went down a storm with the girls.  Watch It 

Couch Screenings

Jeff Who Lives At Home – I didn’t like this Duplass brothers film about a stay at home Jason Segal who after being sent on an errand by his mother embarks on a journey to try and find his own destiny.  I just couldn’t connect (or care about) any of the characters and the plinky plonky (attempting to be ever so indie) score, alongside the awful script almost had me tearing my hair out.   Approach With Caution.

The Loved Ones – Well, was this a surprise on the same level as Holy Motors from a few weeks back.  Went in knowing nothing about the film except that it was an High School Aussie film which I assumed was going to be a comedy drama type thing.  Oh no, not even close.  This turned out to be an exploitation flick, which bordered on torture porn on occasion, about how far a young girl and her father will go if you turn down an invitation to the prom.    Probably great if you like that type of thing; me not so much.  Approach With Caution (quite literally)

TV Shows

Nothing new started this week.  Trying to narrow down what my next series will be.  I suspect either season 4 of Breaking Bad or Season 5 of Dexter.

2012 Score Sheet

Cinema Screenings – 43
Couch Screenings – 54
Total (new films) – 97
Re-watches – 38
2012 Total film count – 135
How about you guys, seen anything good?