Monday 10 November 2014

The general cinephile view, obtained from a random survey of both my friends, about the need to put on a British Film Festival, especially without any apparent co-operation from any Brit cultural partner (the only sponsor mentioned being an Arab airline,) is that this event is borderline between insult and injury. It does ensure that a number of films that will get released in the near future have a nice average ticket price bounce to the start of their box office careers but please, this event has to be the final word in why punters should start revolting. Following on from, this month alone in no particular order, the Japanese Film Festival (66 films), the Jewish Film Festival (40 films or so), the Baltic Film Festival, The Russian Resurrection Film Festival, (20 films), The Iranian Film Film Festival (an excellent six film selection but still almost entirely ignored by an media to my knowledge), Antenna Documentary Film Festival and a couple of others, the way ahead is clearly emerging. Identify a ‘niche’. Dont bother previewing. Dont expect reviews (though this week’s Weekend Financial Review did carry a report on the Palestinian Film Festival except it was an event held in London and the report was a reprint from the The Economist).  Most of all, if you can, find somebody who will tip in a bucket of money to cover expenses. It may be a government body, it may be an Arab airline but it’s all good. In the case of the somewhat ignominious Brit event who can blame Palace Cinemas themselves for developing and marketing it as part of their usually minimum $16 a ticket admission policy by which you only get movies at normal prices long after this circus has left  town. Maybe some blame should be spread around however for opportunities lost. A six film selection from the 60s as part of the inevitable retrospective consisted of Zulu, If..., The Italian Job (“a combination of action, humour, and anincontrovertible sense of style, that truly embodies the Swinging ‘60s”), Darling, Billy Liar and A Hard Day’s Night. Please.....the last named film is currently screening every day or so on a Foxtel channel using the excellent Criterion restoration. Surely trying to extract $28 admission from punters is way past what the market might bear.... but I wouldn’t know really.

Stop, please its madness..... and a waste of money.

....But notwithstanding this rant, Michael Loebenstein writes: Just to let you know if you're free and fancy a documentary film screening: I'm a discussant at a post-screening Q&A at the Jewish International Film festival (JIFF) here in Sydney on Mon 10 November at 7PM, for the documentary THE DECENT ONE. Although not involved with the film at all (which I haven't seen yet either!) Trevor Graham and I will discuss the ethical and aesthetical issues of using archive footage in documentaries. The local program notes for the film can be found here.

I missed an earlier opportunity to see the film at the Vancouver Film Festival. VIFF’s program note was as follows: On May 6,1945, soldiers of the 88th US Infantry Division occupied the family home of SS commander Heinrich Himmler in Gmund on Lake Tegernsee where they discovered hundreds of private letters, documents, journals and photographs. This chilling film makes use of these materials and copious archival footage to provide unique and at times uncomfortable access to the life and mind of the merciless "architect of the Final Solution” who committed suicide by cyanide pill while in British custody on May 23, 1945.The film’s title (which seems to require a question mark) comes from one of Himmler’s letters, in which he writes, “In life one must always be decent, courageous and kind-hearted.” How can a man be a hero in his own eyes and a mass murderer in the eyes of the world? How did this nationalistic lower-middle-class man become Hitler’s henchman responsible for developing and executing the strategies that led to the murder of millions of Jews, homosexuals, Communists and Romany people? Where did his ideology originate? Director Vanessa Lapa provides answers by using voice actors to read through dozens of chronologically presented letters and diary entries, so that audiences follow Himmler from his days as a student in Munich, where he developed his anti-Semitic beliefs, to his adherence to the burgeoning National Socialist party and his rise to the leadership of the SS. "Engrossing… A fascinating story."—Screen

...and further notwithstanding, Barrie Pattison has sent in notes about some films in the Russian event:  First, a chance to catch up with Mihkhalkov’s OBLOMOV.  Whether its content should ever have escaped type face is questionable. The care and skill they poured into it makes it impress tho the ending is really dragged out. Mikhalkov himself thought it was too long.  The film is overshadowed by his equally literary but even more accomplished UNFINISHED PIECE FOR MECHANICAL PIANO.  Elena Solovey does radiant in both. I discover she’s still working. There’s someone who should have had a better career. Interestingly, they did a new digital transfer and, while it wasn’t real sharp, the colours which were muddy in film copies, came up brilliant - the bottle of red cordial, the yellow light in the window in the hut on the ice or the ripe green of the grass fields. It's one of the things that drive it. Presumably the negative was boot leg Eastmancolor processed by their dodgy labs and, when you take it further into crummy by printing it on Sovcolor (East German Agfa), it shifts into the muddy end. Wish I’d seen MECHANICAL PIANO restored.

Karnavalnaya noch / Carnival Night/ Carnival in Moscow is not what I would have expected from Eldar Ryazanov, after the outstanding high serious Ruthless Romance. Interesting to see Igor Ilyinsky from the Protazanov silents staring in a film from the fifties. He's the bureaucrat trying to turn the New Year’s party, organized by those fixed smile thirty year old youngsters, into something more ideologically correct, with wannabe comic results. OK to see the performers with circus, ballet and operetta training deployed. A try for good production values and it moves along nicely. It is of course a Russkie equivalent of US films like Band Wagon or Mr. Big, touting the virtues of popular culture but the comparison makes it look strained. Never saw anything like this back in the day. Another better than film presentation though the tones are still muted against contemporary Technicolor.

Barrie has also passed on a note from film-maker Carmelo Musca about a TV screening of Carmelo’s new film: Hello Friends, I Hope this finds you.Tribal Scent screens on Wednesday 26th of November at 8.30pm on NITV (free to air ch34).

I am very proud of this film. A few weeks ago it screened in the market place at Cannes for MIPCOM TV in an article the editorial crew of Real Screen selected Tribal Scent as one of the stand out films, in their words......."The gorgeously shot Tribal Scent follows the journey of Noongar activist and aboriginal Renaissance man Dr. Richard Walley ....." Please tell all your friends to watch it. Thanks stay well. Carmelo

....and talking about the Russians brings us to...A world-wide petition is circulating regarding the treatment of Russian film archivist Naum Klejman who, with his dedicated staff, seem to be a victim of the vicious way things get played out in Putin’s Russia. An international shirtfront is proposed by way of a petition organised from somewhere in the British Film Institute. If you want to know more I (actually my techo-wiz brother) have posted some freely circulating documents on the Film Alert website. This includes an explanatory letter from the head of Bologna’s Cinteca Gian-Luca Farinelli. Please have a read and if you think there might be some injustice here have a look at the petition and its very heavyweight signatories and add your voice.

....and this being a week for rants, I pass on this letter of complaint from a punter unhappy at Event Cinemas treatment of various films from Asia recently screened: Dear Sir/Madam Twice in the past few weeks, I have been made aware of your company’s lack of information concerning some of the films you have been showing, mainly at your George St cinema complex.The first instance was when a Korean friend of mine told me about a film called Roaring Currents she had seen a couple of days beforehand; she recommended it to me, knowing of my love of cinema. This was on a Saturday so I referred to your full-page ad in the Sydney Morning Herald, only to find the film was not mentioned. Fortunately, I was able to find out screening times through your website. While the film was no classic, I was glad to see it. A week ago, the exact same scenario happened again, but this time via a different friend, for a China/Hong Kong film titled The Golden Era, which I saw last Wednesday. Once again, there was no mention in your Saturday newspaper ad. In addition, I have since learned that the recent screening of an Indian film has received the same (non)attention. I was going to say that you had treated that film, like the first two mentioned, in a cavalier fashion, but treating something in a cavalier fashion implies that there is something there; it is the complete opposite to your treatment of these films, which seems to be to ignore them. Why do you not advertise some films in your newspaper ad? You seem to spare no expense in advertising the latest Hollywood product. Why do you bother showing Asian films if you are not going to inform the public they are on? I’m not of Asian background but I am interested in seeing films from that part of the world. No other cinemas that I go to selectively advertise their offerings. . . 

I look forward to your explanation.


.... and for some interesting news,  you can go to a story in the New York Times  which suggests that all the legal difficulties regarding Orson Welle’s unseen last movie The Other Side of the Wind, made intermittently between 1970 and 1976 may have finally been resolved and the film might be shown sometime in 2015. Then if you read the comments sent in you might adjudge that this isn’t being entirely welcomed by fans, some of whom think it may harm Orson’s posthumous reputation somewhat. But everyone will want to see it so let’s get it on soon somewhere close at hand and then get out a splendid DVD.

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