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

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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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Copyright of BIFF from their 2018 Facebook site.

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2018 PART I – SPECIAL PREVIEW SCREENING OF ‘WOMAN AT WAR’ REVIEW AVAILABLE ON WEEKEND NOTES

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Long time readers will recall the affection I hold for my hometown film festival. We lost BIFF for a little while there 2014-2016 and I planned to write of my fond memories of it when it suddenly came back last year thanks in no small part to Palace Cinemas. Now having gone out to tender, it is back this year with a new home base at the Gallery of Modern Art and a new Artistic Director in Amanda Slack-Smith but we will always owe a debt to the Zeccolas for their part in bringing BIFF back in 2017. Palace Cinemas are not venue partners for BIFF this year instead a wide range of cinemas are involved including New Farm cinemas which held the first Brisbane Film Festival back in the 1960s.

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Seen recently at New Farm Cinemas. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Karen won tickets through local rag and BIFF Sponsor The Courier Mail to attend a special preview screening at GOMA the day before opening night. We were welcomed by the Artistic Director to watch Woman At War from Iceland. The whole event had that air of being let in on a little secret and getting a sneak peek of what was to come. The atmosphere was warm and friendly and full of mutual love for cinema. A perfect way to kick off the film festival before “kicking off” the film festival, whoever came up with the idea should pat themselves on the back.

 

You can read more of my thoughts here https://www.weekendnotes.com/woman-at-war-film-review-brisbane-international-film-festival-2018/ with a review I have had published with a new sixth publication Weekend Notes.

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