KATYN: I’m led to believe that following Chop Shop at Palace Cinemas on Tuesday the 5th of August I went across town to Regent 1 to see Katyn from Poland at 9pm. For a late session there seemed to be quite a few people there and it was enthusiastically introduced by the BIFF presenter. Why had I been drawn to it. I think like it was with S21 in 2004 there is a morbid curiosity for me in the acts of great terror and the powerful resilience that survives it. The need to remember horrors and to hopefully learn from them. Katyn was directed by Andrzej Wajda who served in the Polish Resistance during the war and whose father was killed in the Katyn massacre. Polish officers who became POWs following the German invasion were rounded up the Soviets when they took control of the country in1941. 20,000 were murdered by the Russians who later claimed it was the Germans. For 50 years under communist rule no one could speak openly about the truth of the massacre but the Polish people knew and eventually the truth came out when the Warsaw Pact fell. The Polish Reserve Officers murdered were the best and brightest of their generation, the future captains of industry and leaders of the nation. Wiped out. Wajda made an excellent film which I found seriously riveting having never known of the subject matter. Another great film that sadly I fail to recall many details of but I remember clearly being moved and saddened. Deeply saddened.
RAJA 1918: Another education into a piece of history I knew little about followed with the next film I saw Raja 1918 back at Regent 1 the next day August 6 at 7:10pm. This film from Finland told the story of a young military officer being sent to man run a border post near Russia following the Finnish civil war. With the creation of the Soviet Union some are fleeing Russia but Finland itself in a delicate new nationhood does not want to offer refuge. These larger realities are framed in a story about a young man trying to do the right thing and pulled in different directions. Another excellent movie with something to say. The film’s producer Jorn Donner father, Kai Donner’s experiences was the basis for the main character.
STONE: The same night I went to the next session at 9:30pm in Regent 1 to watch another film in the Ozploitation program – Stone. Growing up every now and again you’d see a VHS of a very old movie with a cool looking cover that made it look like it was cut from the same cloth as Mad Max. The film was Stone and now I was seeing it. Sandy Harbutt wrote, directed and starred in the 1974 classic about a cop going undercover with a biker gang to capture a serial killer amongst them. A celebration of the outlaw spirit, the cop goes native learning to respect the biker’s ways. B-grade, cheap, nasty I found it dated and in parts average but still shot through with some intent and craft. Tellingly I mentioned the screening to a stand offish IT guy at QUT. He talked about being a motorcyclist and seeing Stone back in the day upon release. He spoke with such fondness maybe even reverence that I doubt he would find for many other films. Stone like films of its ilk may not impress a lot of us but for some it speaks to them in the way that most culture doesn’t. Counter-culture indeed.
SIDE NOTE: I didn’t know it at the time but this was the last time I went to see a film at BIFF at the Regent. I saw a lot of movies at Regent with Karen over the next couple of years. The Duchess just a few short weeks later, Milk, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, preview screenings of Kick-Ass and Zombieland which were nights to remember. Amongst others. The last films screened there were in June 2010 and the cinemas have since been demolished. The foyer is heritage listed and remains. I also remember years earlier going to see Catwoman with my friend Rach. Catwoman of course sucked but there was Catwoman from the theme park Movie World and she cracked her whip just above us in the first few front rows. But when I think about the Regent I first and foremost think about BIFF, the BIFF offices upstairs gotten to via the older elevator, the ghost stories about the storage room beneath the stairs, the old paintings on the old walls, the secret staircases I dragged 35mm reels up, the bar where we hung out after volleying. The Regent and BIFF are forever linked together in my memories, moments in time that I am forever grateful for.
THE VISITOR: Thursday August 7 and I checked in to see The Visitor after work at 6:50pm at Palace 1. No doubt feeling a little fatigued at this point but I was excited to see the next film from the director of The Station Agent who you may recall my dear friend Mike introduced me to. It was also starring character actor Richard Jenkins. It told the story of a middle aged professor and widow who discovers people are living illegally in his New York apartment when he visits there for a conference. Its true that this film has something to say about immigration and so forth. The couple he finds in his apartment are supercharged charismatic (one of them Danai Gurira pre The Walking Dead and Black Panther fame) and endearing but director Thomas McCarthy has in three films shown a great gift for subtlety and letting scenes stand by themselves to let you the viewer take away what you want. That kind of understatement can be frustrating for those of us who want an emotional catharsis of which I include myself but his films remain some of my favourites. The Station Agent, Best Picture Winner Spotlight and this The Visitor. All about those who are forgotten by society and all about the need for humans to look after each other.
BLACK ICE: Friday night 08AUG2008 at 7:20pm in Palace Centro 1 screened the Finnish German co-production Black Ice. My goodness this was a sexy film and a well made one. To call it a thriller is perhaps misleading, to say it is about adultery seems unfair too. It’s actually about a female friendship that comes out of an unlikely set of circumstances which raises questions about how it will ultimately resolve itself. Starring Outi Maenpaa (she’s really terrific and beautiful) as a doctor and wife of an architect who finds out her husband (Martti Suosalo) is having an affair with one of his students played by Ria Kataja. The wife adopts a persona to get to know the mistress better and understand why her husband has been unfaithful. Instead she and the mistress become quite close. Black Ice also stunningly captures the wintry landscape Northern Europe and the clear black and white palette of the film stands in direct contrast to the murky morality of the characters. I thoroughly enjoyed it and urge anybody to check it out but I wouldn’t say it is ultimately a happy film.
Dead Time: Kala: From Black Ice I believe I had tickets to Dead Time: Kala in Palace Centro 1 as well at 9:40pm. At this point I’d been staying up late 8 nights in a row to see various films and it eventually all caught up with me. Dead Time: Kala was from Indonesia directed by young Joko Anwar, it was trumpeted as a mix of comic book style and neo noir trappings with subtext about Indonesian society and early Sam Raimi energy. I can neither confirm nor deny any of this since I slept through most of it but I can tell you what I saw looked fantastic in terms of visuals. I apologise Mr Anwar but you known I’m tired when I fall asleep in a movie theatre. I should really make amends and track it down for a viewing now.
I have dim memories of grabbing a few bites to eat in the restaurant outside Palace Centro throughout the week and catching cabs home but in the end this extravagance would have to end. I was about to start the final weekend of BIFF 2008 and following it my life would centre on someone other than myself.