Simply messing around in films: the Melbourne International Film Festival


The Gerts have spent the last fortnight wallowing in the Melbourne International Film Festival, and now scramble out shaking the water off their fur and carrying a few  tidbits in their teeth. Here are Gert 1’s films; we’ll post Gert 2’s on Wednesday.

Daisies: Vera Chytilova’s  Czech New Wave classic from the sixties banned by the regime supposedly because it shows food being wasted as the two doll-like heroines trash a feast, but more likely because of its nihilistic verve and all-out iconoclasm. The two dollies, who speak in a chiming monotone, decide to be “bad” and exhaust all the boundaries of good taste and decorum in doing so. Dada meets Bunuel.  Huge fun.

 The Lobster: the first English language film from the highly-original Yorgos Lanthimos, a surreal black black comedy with a savage sting and a killer ending, depicting a world in which it’s illegal to be single. Colin Farrell at first does all he can to find a match, then deserts to a guerrilla organization with a diametrically-opposed philosophy, led by the merciless Lea Seydoux. Winner of this year’s Cannes Jury Prize.

The Liar (Kim Dong-myung): Ah-Young has a millionaire swagger as she sashays round the most expensive real estate in Seoul with obsequious estate agents in tow, airily orders the most expensive refrigerator in the store, or test-drives prestige cars. In reality she works in an up-market beauty clinic, a meek handmaiden to the truly rich, and lives in a cramped apartment with her alcoholic sister and resentful younger brother. Obviously this is about the rampant consumerism and obsession with appearance and status of modern South Korean society, but at its heart it’s a mesmerizing pyschological study of how individuals flail and fail when they have no solid sense of self. Kim Khobbi is wonderful as the chameolonic Ah-Young.

Tehran Taxi: director Jafar  Panahi was jailed in 2010 for “propaganda against the regime” and banned from making films for 20 years. This hasn’t prevented him from smuggling out two  movies in 2010 and 2011, both filmed secretly at home while under house arrest.  In theory, he still has a six-year jail term to serve. But now he’s managed to make Tehran Taxi, in which he drives the streets of Tehran picking up a selection of passengers from the righteous to the shifty to the belligerent to the heroic to the just-trying-to-get-by, recording their conversations on digital cameras mounted on the dashboard. There are some very funny scenes (the two stroppy matrons in a tearing hurry, carrying a bowl of goldfish; the man injured in a minor accident dictating his will in the back seat over the shrieks of his wife) but underlying the good-humoured atmosphere is a sense of threat that grows stronger as the film goes on. Panahi’s niece, an opinionated schoolgirl who is making her own film as a school project, belabours him as he drives with her teacher’s instructions not to film “sordid realism” and to make sure the baddies don’t have Iranian names. Perhaps the clearest message about totalitarian societies in general is in the response of Panahi’s friend when asked what the person who mugged and robbed him looks like: “He looks like you, me and everyone else.”

The film won the Golden Bear at Berlin.  Panahi, of course, wasn’t allowed to attend the ceremony – but his niece was. Is it possible the regime took her pronouncements seriously?


Disappointing was Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s documentary about Peggy Guggenheim (Peggy Guggenheim – Art Addict), a strangely wooden piece given the number of interesting people Guggenheim was involved with. There is, however, a delightful clip of Gert’s favourite, Gertrude Stein, shaking hands with a giant white poodle.





8 thoughts on “Simply messing around in films: the Melbourne International Film Festival

  1. I’m hoping some of these films might make it to the London Film Fest in October. The Liar sounds excellent. Was Todd Haynes’s Carol included in the Melbourne Festival? That’s the one I really want to see.

    1. Just checked the program and no, Carol isn’t there. But it will certainly have commercial release. I tend anyway to go for films I think I might not otherwise get the chance to see. I thought The Liar was very good, though I have my doubts about the ending. Will be interested to hear about the London films. Will you post?

    2. Ooh, I don’t know! It may depend on how many films I end up catching. The advanced ticketing process has been highly problematic in the past so I might play it by ear this year.

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