The Sydney Underground Film Festival is a fantastic event which brings weird, wonderful, challenging and sometimes controversial cinema to Sydney’s inner west. This year I plan on checking out 10 films + enjoying some of the food, drink and entertainment that comes along with the fest. I’ve decided to record my thoughts on the films and the festival in a 3-part diary – Days 1&2, Day 3 and Day 4. Check out the first entry after the jump.
It was a perfect balmy Sydney evening for the opening night of the festival. Drinks and chats were had pre-film as the planes took off overhead. Prior to the film commencing we were entertained by the unusual but extremely entertaining Betty Grumble. I’m not sure if I’d call it Burlesque, but it was certainly quite a sight. The opening night film was The Dance of Reality, while I had Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction and Magic Magic lined up for day 2.
This was my first Jodorowsky film and I must say I’m glad I had a bit of forewarning going in. The Dance of Reality is a journey deep into the director’s history, soul and psyche. It was part genius, part nonsensical and part family drama. The film is loosely based on Jodorowsky’s autobiography of the same name. It blends and muddles his own family history with poetry, mythology & story and his belief that reality is a type of dance. The film had me for the first 70-80 minutes but lost me in the latter stages. 130 minutes is a long time to watch a film which often diverts to the surreal and away from the already skewed narrative. There are incredibly images in this film that will stay with me for some time, as will the music, which nicely tied the eccentricities of the story together. 3/5
Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction – dir. Sophie Huber
Harry Dean has been a working actor for over 50 years, with more than 170 film credits to his name. Although trained in theatre, he quickly figured out that film was less work, got you more girls and paid more. In Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction we spend 77 minutes with the man many call a legend of the screen, but who his friends call Harry Dean. An extremely private and softly spoken man, for whom talking (particularly about himself) isn’t something he tends to do. With the help of some of his oldest friends such as David Lynch and Kris Kristofferson, we are privileged to learn what kind of man he really is. He doesn’t believe in self, the rate the Earth spins around the sun scares him and he regrets not pursing a musical career. He talks about missing Marlon Brando, living with Jack Nicholson, and his girlfriend leaving him for Tom Cruise. An intimate film which looks gorgeous on the big screen – the black and white in particular allows us to see the story that Harry Dean Stanton’s face tells. 4/5
Magic Magic – dir. Sebastián Silva
Alicia (Juno Temple) has been sent to South America to spend time with her cousin Sarah (Emily Browning). The inexperienced and reluctant traveler is completely out of her comfort zone and is anxious and uncomfortable. In a remote home in Southern Chile, she starts to lose her grip on reality and slowly descends into madness as the delusions overcome her. Unable to sleep and unable to trust those she is staying with (particularly the creepy Brink, played by Michael Cera) her behavior becomes more and more erratic, and the environment seems more menacing. Is it all in her head? Are they really all that sinister and is the situation as worrisome as we are lead to believe by Alicia? Director Sebastián Silva could easily have used cheap tricks and jump scares in Magic Magic, and they fact he didn’t is a credit to him and the film. The creepy location, tense music and warped perspective courtesy of Alicia are more that enough to create a chilling atmosphere. Juno Temple was fantastic as Alica – I was genuinely concerned for Alica and felt how scared she was. Michael Cera was also great as Brink – who knew he could play creepy so well? I think this film will grown on me and I’m keen to revisit it in a few months time. 3.5/5
By Sam McCosh