THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2019 PART III

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Following on from catching Memory: The Origins of Alien and Little Monsters on Friday night, the next day I set off to Dendy cinemas in the inner Eastern suburb of Brisbane Coorparoo to check out two more films at BIFF 2019. At 1pm I saw my first film up in Cinema 8.

 

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MAKING WAVES: THE ART OF CINEMATIC SOUNDFor any film buff this is a great introduction in the history of sound in cinema. I would struggle to explain what foley, sound editing and sound mixing all mean? I do know sound is layered in film and that it is a creative aspect like anything else in filmmaking. Such differences are explained and shown clearly in this documentary which for the most part is well paced.

Also director Midge Costin and his team have done a fantastic job cutting together sequences that showcase the power of good sound being added to an image and building up to some wonderful examples of where sound was so important to great cinematic moments.

It features lots of baby boomers and fixates a little too much on the 1970s but this was a pivotal era. Central figures of the American film renaissance like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and David Lynch are all on hand and along with their sound guys Walter Murch (The Conversation, Apocalypse Now) and Ben Burtt (Star Wars).

There are also efforts made to go over the change from the silent era to the advent of sound. However stuff I had been unaware of proved the most fascinating and it was mostly centred around pioneering women. Although I enjoyed hearing about the full scope of Walter Murch’s work in THX 1138. How many sound guys are also credited screenwriters?

For example you can thank Barbara Streisand for Dolby Stereo Sound in cinemas of the modern era. When reinventing herself and stepping into producing with A Star Is Born in 1976 she fought for the new technology to roll out in cinemas for her film to try to capture the energy of stadium concerts in the film.

Babs put her money where her mouth was too, insisting on a dramatically increased post production schedule for the sound mixing and editing out of her own pocket. When the film was a hit, Warner Bros paid her the money – history had been made.

Taking a leaf out of Ben Burtt’s book, Cecelia Hall added distorted animal sounds to the jetfighter plane sound effects for Top Gun and subsequently became the first woman to become nominated for Best Sound Effects Editing. She won four years later for The Hunt for the Red October. I enjoyed the stories of these pioneers and salute them all for their creativity.

 

My next film ran in the same cinema interestingly almost an hour later after I left cinema 8. I did talk to the one of the BIFF Vollys sporting a snazzy coloured T-shirt and advised me I had once done work as a Volly and was happy to see them back.

I asked if they still had the practice of letting Vollys sit in on films at the back after they had started and he told me they did. In fact they get passes to 4 screenings which is fantastic!

I took a seat and ordered a cheese platter, I highly recommend the chutney paste and some orange cheddar cheese that hit the spot. Nearby I could hear young people hanging around between sessions, working on creative projects on their laptops and discussing themes and the creative process. This was the joy of going to BIFF for the first time in 2004 and it made me happy to see evidence that some things never change.

 

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CHAINED FOR LIFE: At 3:30pm I went back into Cinema 8 and saw my last film of the 2019 Brisbane International Film Festival. Following on from an American/Mexican doco, two American documentaries and an Australian/U.K./U.S. zombie comedy I closed out the festival with an American film with a very unique British leading man.

Chained for Life is a satire about how we define desirability and disability in our culture and on film. Starring Jess Weixler and Adam Pearson as two actors on a film set for a horror movie. Interestingly child actor Charlie Korsmo makes a return to our screens as the eccentric “German” film director of the piece.

Weixler is the beautiful actress and the central focus of the film, and the film within the film. Pearson has been cast for his disfigured appearance as the monster of the piece that has a lot of passing references to Frankenstein. Also on board is Stephen Plunkett absolutely nailing it as a absolute wanker of a leading man who thinks he’s so cool and nice to everybody as they’re rolling their eyes at him. One scene with him and Pearson made me exclaim at the screen which just goes to show how good the film is.

There is also a lot of playing around the narrative and I will come clean and say at times the film may be went over my head and stopped resonating a bit but for the most part I was really enjoying what was being depicted and poked fun at.

Pearson with his gentle clear voice is an effortless star and this is the kind of role that lets him play beyond just how he looks while clearly addressing it. Check out an interview below that shows off how much of a pro the guy is.

The film reminded me of the personalities and dynamics of a small film set and not for the first time am I grateful for my older sister and how she gave me an insight and an understanding that others have to search for. A really good and interesting film to check out.

Well that’s it for another year at BIFF, gone too soon. Congratulations to Artistic Director Amanda Slack-Smith for another great programme and to the entire team. If I had to pick a favourite out of the films I saw it would easily be Midnight Family but I enjoyed all the films for different reasons and once again thank you for sharing in the journey.

-Lloyd Marken

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2019 PART II – ‘MEMORY: THE ORIGINS OF ALIEN’ AND ‘LITTLE MONSTERS’ REVIEW AVAILABLE ON WEEKEND NOTES

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I went into the final weekend of the Brisbane International Film Festival 2019 having seen the excellent documentary Midnight Family about a Mexico City ambulance crew.

MEMORY: THE ORIGIN OF ALIENS: Then on Friday night I went to Reading Cinemas at Newmarket to see a 6:15pm session of Memory: The Origins of Alien. I film A found interesting for the stories of the film I was unfamiliar with like the involvement of screenwriter of Dan O’Bannon.

 

It was an interesting film even if it seemed a little underfunded and dwelled on some points too long. I’ve been lucky to have a review published over at Weekend Notes that you can check out here https://www.weekendnotes.com/memory-the-origins-of-alien-film-review/

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Exiting Reading, I hopped in the car and drove over to New Farm cinemas who long term readers will recognise is an establishment I have some affection for. Catching a mocha with a mate over at the nearby 24 hour café Death by Decaf frequented by emergency personnel, hipsters, shift workers and young people out on the town. They make a damn fine mocha.

 

LITTLE MONSTERS: Then it was time to take in the late night 9:30pm screening of Aussie zombie comedy Little Monsters starring Lupita Nyongo’o. It was the kind of screening great for a film like this, close to full and with a Friday night crowd who wanted to be there and enjoy themselves. At a point when Neil Diamond’s classic Sweet Caroline featured somebody in the crowd voiced the bassline much to the delight of everyone else.

You can my review that was published on Weekend Notes as well here https://www.weekendnotes.com/little-monsters-film-review/

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Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.

-Lloyd Marken

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2019 PART I – ‘MIDNIGHT FAMILY’ REVIEW AVAILABLE ON WEEKEND NOTES

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BIFF IS BACK! The Brisbane International Film Festival is back for another year and long term readers will recall my affection for it. I volunteered at BIFF in 2004, 2005 and 2007. In 2008 I was down to see over 20 movies and met my future wife on the steps of the Palace Cinema on James Street. We lost a BIFF for a while there but it returned in 2017 where I attended with Karen for the first time Opening Night. I was also on assignment with Scenestr magazine to review Australia Day and then last year I was on assignment for Scenestr on opening night.

This year I was wrapping up a work secondment writing for the Queensland College of Teachers so missed Opening Night and ended up sitting out the first few days of the festival.

 

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New Farm Cinemas foyer after seeing ‘Midnight Family’. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

Yet on Wednesday 09OCT2019 at New Farm Cinemas Karen and I attended a 6:15pm session of Midnight Family missing the first few minutes. All up, I have bought tickets to see five films at BIFF 2019 with three of them being docos. I can’t wait to see them all and share with you.

 

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Midnight Family was a great documentary about private ambulance crews in Mexico City. I was lucky enough to have my review published at Weekend Notes which continues on from my first reviews published with them last year being reviews for films I saw BIFF. You can read my review here https://www.weekendnotes.com/midnight-family-film-review-brisbane-international-film-festival-2019/

Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.

-Lloyd Marken

 

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2018 PART V

 

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THE CAMERAMAN: I’m not an expert on Buster Keaton, having only seen The General many years ago at BIFF 2005 but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to check out another one of his films screening at BIFF 2018. Arriving solo on an early Saturday morning 20OCT2018 at the Gallery of Modern Art South Bank I quickly saw a line backed up outside the entrance to the 11am session. Clearly I was not the only who thought this was a good idea. On the 80th anniversary of The General I watched the great organ player Ron West accompany live, and here on the 90th anniversary of The Cameraman I was to see David Bailey play the gallery’s 1929 Wurlitzer which came up out of the stage just beneath the screen. The audience was amused by his inventive addition of the iconic Jaws theme amongst other playful choices.

The Cameraman was a crossroads for Keaton, the silent era was fading, he lost creative control in his ventures and his personal life was about to go through an upheaval. In some ways The Cameraman is the last great Buster Keaton film despite him going on for quite some time after. The audience was full of all types of people drawn to the opportunity to see something as unique as a silent film. The print had long been believed lost and the film survives today as a mesh between two old prints. In some ways Keaton’s old movie seems more grand now, in an era of CGI effects I heard one youngster marvel they must have built that whole set for such a short gag, Keaton’s stunt work and balletic grace remains impressive even if it is reported he was not allowed to do them all himself this time around. Some things have dated its true, you can see the construction of how we’re meant to feel but the reason why these films remain timeless is the same reason they had such broad appeal back in the day. The characters were archetypes, the story simple and the gags broad because that is what it makes them universal. Seeing The Cameraman at BIFF 2018 was a treat. Afterwards David Bailey received an ovation.

 

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IN THE AISLES: The next day Karen and I went and saw at 3:45pm at New Farm Cinemas In The Aisles which was in a way a choice made jointly by Karen and I after she got Arctic and I got Ash Is Purest White. From Germany and starring Sandra Huller, Franz Rogowski and Peter Kurth it tells the story of a night shift at a retail store in Germany. A few things came flooding back to me of my time working at BIG W as a young man, the veteran who knew all the good hiding spots, the jittery movements of using a power pallet jack for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect with In The Aisles a romcom that turns dark maybe but instead I got a powerful character piece about three people. There is so much care in every frame and shot of this film from Thomas Stuber that perfectly creates the geography of the store and being out of it. Delicate dialogue that says enough of the characters thoughts but not all of it and the way that the people who knew you at work know you in a way your family never will and vice versa. That they are a family of sorts. I don’t know if it will create the buzz needed but it would be no injustice if this received a nomination for Best Foreign Film at this years’ Oscars. I also noted that seeing a film at an old cinema like the New Farm Cinemas made it feel more like BIFF for me and reminded me the Old Regent Cinemas.

BIFF 2018 for me at least will go down as a particularly rainy BIFF. Also my suggestion would be to move the dates back to the traditional late July Early August run rather than having BIFF running the same time as the Byron Bay Film Festival and I wouldn’t mind seeing Palace as one of the venue partners in future. However I saw some fantastic movies at BIFF 2018 which was a relief since there were so many good ones on offer. I didn’t cover the globe as much but I saw 7 films, two from Australia, three from Europe, an American classic and one from Asia. Only one of them bad. Still have not gotten around to seeing an Iranian film at BIFF yet and there were plenty on offer this year. I couldn’t help but notice there were lots of callbacks to earlier BIFFs and earlier films I had seen there, that is the nature of film festivals I guess. One thing I am very excited about is Artistic Director Amanda Slack-Smith continuing in the role and seeing what she comes up with next year.

-Lloyd Marken

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2018 PART IV

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TERROR NULLUS: We attended the Gallery of Modern Art at 6pm Wednesday 17OCT2018 to watch a free but sold out screening of Terror Nullius. This “film” made me feel really old, I’ve always slanted a little to the progressive side of things but as I get older I found more and more my tastes, politics and views are more and more out of touch. As a fat middle aged white male I can’t help but sometimes wonder why is there so much negativity attached to those things and feel a little targeted even as I acknowledge the traditional disadvantage of those who were not those things throughout history. Even that sentence feels so little limiting though, I guess I hesitate at the politics of division but want to support new opportunities and new voices to be heard. To that end I’m happy that Terror Nullius exists, I’m happy there are people out there with this viewpoint who put films like this out there. If it is for youth and the fringe dwellers and if I’m neither one of those now then so be it.

Terror Nullius is a cutting together of old archival footage to present a new narrative, it is intended to reinterpret conventions of storytelling, cultural norms and to provoke. It is also meant to entertain I hope. Yet I rarely laughed, I found it one note and while some moments resonated in how they cleverly spliced together things (Mel Gibson’s abusive phone rant cut together with Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road for one), for the most part it felt repetitive and unimaginative. Like a kid thinking they’re a freedom fighter because they wearing a Che t-shirt at uni rather than say fighting and dying in the jungles of Central America for a communist guerilla. As a former arts student who railed against the policies of a conservative Prime Minister it s interesting to reckon with the passing of time and the challenging of norms that come from a culture I grew up in that has evolved into something new. The makers interviewed at a Q&A afterwards seem like intelligent, thoughtful and hard working people with ideals. If you enjoy their work I am happy for you and I wish them continued success. Yet for me Terror Nullius was boring, disrespectful and for the most part a wank.

-Lloyd Marken

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2018 PART III – ‘ASH IS PUREST WHITE’ AND ‘ARCTIC’ REVIEWS AVAILABLE ON WEEKEND NOTES

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The Brisbane International Film Festival traditionally opens on a Thursday and runs over two weekends concluding on a Sunday. This invariably creates a hopeful and excited mood going into the first weekend and a reflective and wistful one going into the second.  It was no different this year but as opposed to the films seen at BIFF 2017 Karen and I really enjoyed the ones we saw this year and so our moods were further lifted after the first weekend.

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On Friday night we went to Event Cinemas  at the top of CBD shopping centre the Myer Centre which is always sitting on top of a building shutting down as cinemagoers attend late into the evening. We were there to see the director’s cut of the latest film from Chinese director Jia Zhangke and starring his constant collaborator Zhao Tan – Ash is Purest White. While he is a well known Chinese sixth generation auteur I was unfamiliar with his work and interested to see how I would find the street level modern style he is well known for. I had concerns it would prove as fascinating but also as unstructured as say the Han Jie’s Walking on the Wildside from BIFF 2007. Instead I found a moving movie that reflected the changing economy of a booming nation through the prism of small time criminals and one incredibly strong woman. I was lucky enough to have a review I wrote of the film published at Weekend Notes and you can read it here https://www.weekendnotes.com/ash-is-purest-white-film-review-brisbane-international-film-festival-2018/

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The next day Karen and I went to Reading Cinemas in the northern suburb of Newmarket not far from where Karen once lived with her sister for several years when we were dating. Reading only opened there last year and has quickly established itself as a first rate cinema with comfortable seats, great menus and most importantly large screens and hi-tech sound systems. We were there to watch Arctic from Iceland starring Mads Mikkelsen which almost served as a rebuke to the muddled The Mountain Between Us from last year and showed how you make a great survival yarn. Again I’ve been fortunate enough to have my review published with Weekend Notes which you can check out here https://www.weekendnotes.com/arctic-film-review-brisbane-international-film-festival-2018/ In short the Brisbane International Film Festival 2018 got off to a flying start with it’s first weekend.

Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.

-Lloyd Marken

 

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2018 PART II – OPENING NIGHT FILM ‘CELESTE’ REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

 

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A new milestone was reached for me the other day in regards to my work for Scenestr magazine. I was lucky enough to cover the opening night of the Brisbane International Film Festival 2018 for Scenestr which I will cherish for a long time to come. This follows on covering opening night in Brisbane for the Cine Latino Film Festival 2017 and the Italian Film Festival 2018 and reviewing Australia Day for Scenestr at BIFF 2017 and two events at the Byron Bay Film Festival 2017. Given my fond memories and deep love for the BIFF though I think long time readers will understand why this was a particular highlight to take in.

Karen was unable to attend so a mutual friend Rosie was kind enough to keep me company as we rubbed shoulders with industry insiders and guests. Opening night film Celeste an uneasy character drama starring Radha Mitchell was a bold choice from Artistic Director Amanda Slack-Smith for opening night. You can read more of my thoughts here http://scenestr.com.au/movies-and-tv/celeste-brisbane-international-film-festival-opening-night-and-film-review-australian-cinematheque-goma-20181015 and there is plenty more BIFF coverage to come.

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Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Celebrating 25 years in 2018 of publishing history they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and now Victoria! every month too.

-Lloyd Marken

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