The Melbourne International Film Festival kicks off tonight with the red carpet Australian premiere of Pedro Almodovar’s new film I’m So Excited. This year I was lucky enough to be offered a place on the festival’s short film selection panel, so I’ve managed to squeeze my way in for the big night. I’ll be reporting back on this and more than seventy other films that I’ll be viewing over the course of the next eighteen days.
Inevitably, there will be at least a few works of genius, a decent number of solid cinematic experiences, some forgettable fluff and a handful of train wrecks so bad that I’ll have to leave early. But what am I looking forward to most? Here are five films that I’ve got high hopes for this year.
The Dance of Reality
Alejandro Jodorowsky returns from a decades long hiatus to direct this semi-autobiographical account of his childhood in Chile, infused with the surreal imagery that has delighted and disturbed viewers throughout his career. For those who haven’t seen his psychedelic western El Topo, or his grand meditation on life and reality, The Holy Mountain, I’d definitely recommend getting up to speed before committing to this one. But personally, I’m excited.
Andrew Bujaski uses vintage analogue video equipment to film this 1980s set tale of a chess tournament where the players are actually computers whose programmers are each battling to create the most superior form of artificial intelligence. All this is set within a bizarre subculture of unfettered nerdiness. The word on the street is that this is something very special.
A few years ago, a young filmmaker by the name of Mark Hartley caused quite a stir in Australia with the Quentin Tarantino supported documentary, Not Quite Hollywood. The film was an incredible celebration of the largely forgotten low-budget splatter flicks, post-apocalyptic driving movies, and sex comedies that flourished in 1970s Australia, all housed under Hartley’s newly coined term, Ozploitation. This year Hartley returns with a remake of one of these Ozploitation classics, Patrick, the tale of a hospital-bound catatonic teenager with telekinetic powers that make Carrie look like the prom queen. Fingers crossed.
Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel co-directed this documentary filmed aboard the Leviathan, a commercial fishing vessel helmed by New England fisherman. Praised for its unique and almost abstract visual imagery, some have compared its discombobulating style with the work of Stan Brakhage. I’m not sure exactly what to expect with this one, but I suspect it will be something very special.
Shaul Schwarz, an award winning war photojournalist, directs this documentary on the bizarre and violent culture in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez. Here, drug barons are celebrities, rendered into mythical figures by the songs of the narcocorrido musicians – modern day mariachi’s who make their living by turning monsters into legends. This promises to be a fascinating look into modern day Mexico, and the increasingly morbid state of affairs it faces.
Time to get watching.