Aug 212012



I have just returned from Melbourne where I attended my first ever Melbourne International Film Festival. While I only managed to see 8 films, I also did some sightseeing, ate a heap of great food, and most importantly met lots of fantastic film-loving people. After the jump is part 1 of my “Melbourne Diary” – thoughts on the films, the city, and just a holiday diary of sorts. This is a little different than what I usually post, but I thought it would be fun to document the trip.

Day 1


I flew into a cold and wet Melbourne mid-morning on Friday. I was surprised how much the city and it’s outskirts reminded me of Christchurch – I know people compare it to Wellington, but I got more of a Christchurch vibe. After meeting up with Andrew and checking into the hotel, we headed into the city and met up with Cam for burgers and beers for lunch. The three of us then took a tram out to Chapel Street where we visited the most awesome Now Showing, a store selling only the best collection of DVDs and Blu Rays. It was fantastic to meet the owner Dave, as he is someone who we had all known online for some time. Dave knows his stuff, and if you need help tracking down a rare/hard to find film, he is the guy to talk to.


Then it was off to The Forum for the first of three films of the day.

In the Fog (Sergei Loznitsa, 2012 – adapted from the novel by Vassily Bykov)

In the bleak and cold landscape of the German-occupied frontiers of 1940s USSR, a man is wrongly accused of collaborating against the Germans. He is given an impossible choice which leads his life in a depressing and tough direction.

This film was a hard slog and it isn’t one I particularly enjoyed. At 2hours 15minutes it was long, and it felt it. While the cinematography and sound was impressive, the story wasn’t really anything new and I was never engaged. I suspect that this story may have worked better as a book – I just didn’t learn enough about the characters to feel anything, despite the nature of the events which take place.



After the forum we headed to Greater Union for two films back-to-back, The Imposter, and then God Bless America for Andy and I. I’d heard a lot about how terrible the GU seats were, and they were all true. I swear I’m still having phantom GU muscle spasms. On the plus side the queues were managed really well, and all the staff were very friendly and helpful.

The Imposter (Bart Layton, 2012)

A young French man convinces Spanish and American Authorities that he is a child from Texas who had been missing for 3 years. Despite speaking with an accent and looking nothing like the child, Frederic Bourdin somehow manages to convince not only the authorities, but also the family of the missing child that he is their son. He travels “back” to America to take up his life with “his” family, and that’s when things get really weird…

This film is a true mind-bender; you think you know where it’s going but you honestly don’t. Frederic Bourdin is such a skillful liar and storyteller, that you realise you [the audience] is being played just as much as the authorities and friends and family of the missing boy were. As well as being an engaging and compelling true story, this film is wonderfully constructed. From the incredible editing, to the cinematography, and the catchy music – I really can’t fault the film. There will be a full review of this film coming soon on the site, but I think it’s safe to say this will be one of my top films of 2012.



God Bless America (Bobcat Goldthwait, 2011)

Frank (Joel Murray) is a very unhappy man – he is in bad health, his job isn’t going well (understatement of the year), and his home life is miserable. He hates popular culture and feels sickened by what counts as “entertainment” in modern America. Frank fantasizes about killing his stupid neighbours, and taking out his entire office of horrible people – he doesn’t think any of them add anything to life/society worth their existence. With nothing left to live for Frank decides to take out [in his opinion] the lowest scum of society – those who add nothing but stupidity, nastiness and hate. He finds an unlikely accomplice in Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), a high school student with as much as a disdain for life and people as Frank has.

The first 20 minutes of this film were very funny – I could relate somewhat to Frank’s feelings of despair and frustrating with modern pop culture and brainless people (we all have to deal with these sorts of people). Unfortunately for me I found the film got very repetitive and it lost it’s way from about the half-way mark. It’s also hard to buy into a film where the characters are taking out people by doing something that they themselves state they are actually against – a little too hypocritical for me.  On the plus side the music was great fun and there were some rather scathing pop culture references and jabs at celebrities which I quite enjoyed. Overall it was worth seeing – it definitely benefited from a receptive festival crowd.


Although the director was there for a Q&A afterwards, I was just too tired to stick around. Afterwards Andrew, Cam and I met up with Lisa and went for a couple of beers at a rather rowdy bar close by. It was a pretty great first day, but I was shattered afterwards. I don’t know how people manage multiple days of 4-5 films per day – I just can’t do it.

Next post will have thoughts on five more films and the closing night party.