Monday 14 December 2015

A Cinephile Diary - Michael Campi finds movies, food and mobile phones in abundance in Melbourne

It's been a busy week with my old friend Sam Ho visiting from the U.S. where he's just relocated to a city between Seattle and Vancouver, much closer to America's Golden Gate than his previous long-term home in Texas. Escapes to his original base in Hong Kong can be achieved much more easily.  He was the programmer of the Hong Kong Film Archive for some time and worked within the film festival framework in Hong Kong too.   He was in Brisbane again this year presenting a small selection of HK films at the Brisbane Asia-Pacific Film Festival. Festival Director Kiki Fung worked with him in Hong Kong some years back.  

Sam came to Melbourne to give a talk at ACMI last Sunday -  A brief history of HK cinema. With Sam's delightful extension of his material and with so many by-ways of his experience, the allocated two hours stretched to three, complete with some rare clips from older Hong Kong films.  Only one audience member left after the announced two hours duration had elapsed.....

100 Yen Love
In the Japanese Film Festival in Melbourne (about sixty new features and a small Ichikawa Kon retrospective) I saw Hashiguchi Ryosuke's THREE STORIES OF LOVE and Take Masaharu's 100 YEN LOVE, both of which were in Vancouver IFF a couple of months ago. .  Some might find the former is a somewhat protracted look at three variations on love in the modern age but it's very much worth the time involved for its fine shifts in dynamics and excellent performances. People might remember the director's gritty early gay films like A TOUCH OF EVER and LIKE GRAINS OF SAND to the more mainstream HUSH!, and more recently the nicely nuanced ALL AROUND US. 

I liked 100 YEN LOVE very much. Not too many movies deal with thirty-somethings lacking professionalism and needing the motivation to set up some goals yet their crossed paths make for involving drama.  It's the ugly duckling woman who seeks release and fulfilment in the boxing ring.  

Two Sono Sion films were shown last Friday night.  Separate sessions. No idea if a director's double was intended. I waited in the foyer outside the two ACMI cinemas sitting alone on the small bench. A man carrying some kind of digital game device approached me and asked if I'd come for love and peace.  Having seen a lot of films lately, I had forgotten this was the title of the more unlikely of the two features that night. LOVE AND PEACE, the movie, was something of a delight though in trying to describe it it's not easy to convey its winsome charm.  However TAG is real evidence that the director should not have embarked on far too many films to handle successfully in a short time. Neither had any sense of the propulsion of LOVE EXPOSURE, more than a dozen of his films ago, way back in 2008.....

Those RKO movies still pileup at 3am on 7Two but sometimes showing signs of too many years of being slotted into commercial television schedules.  A John Farrow the other night was missing about 15 minutes of its already short running time.  What a pity, through a technical glitch, I missed the beginning of the last film George Abbott directed solo, TOO MANY GIRLS, before those two musicals with Stanley Donen many years later.  A roll call of directors on hire can be found in The Saint and The Falcon series.  Almost none of these RKO titles appears in the edition of Leonard Maltin sitting on my table but I remember people saying from day of Maltin's long-running series of publications that one that these volumes should never be discarded: as new entries were added, some older ones had to go.  More evidence of fashion and the changing shape of what movies are available for home viewing as time goes by.....

The southern end of Chapel St. Prahran is becoming something of a food hub I keep reading as it's not so close to my townhouse.  At the same time reviewers remind us that street parking has become outdated there. The curiosity is palpable but travelling by car involves less than short drives there and back.   The other discouraging factors are the intensity of the crowds waiting outside for frequently well over an hour and the din inside these mostly upmarket Asian offerings.  More for the sociologist to study. Scientists advise we can't really enjoy and digest food in a noisy environment.

We were going to try a hot new Vietnamese place in this vicinity for my birthday. It promised an exciting venture from the gifted hands of a lady who runs several very successful food enterprises in Vietnam's food capital, Hoi An.  We made the online booking (no phone access)  but when the confirmation arrived it revealed we had only 75 minutes for eight people to be seated, choose their contribution to the communal eating, enjoy all the delicate flavours described on the website, pay and leave.  There was a series of correspondences between the management and me about the time allocation but by then we had cancelled the booking.  A pity because we had eaten at two of the original Hoi An places and enjoyed them very much indeed.  I hope I managed not to be abrupt expressing disappointment with their short dining time and didn't mention that the last time we had too brief a time to eat a restaurant meal it was a cheap eats in Victoria St, Richmond where we made a booking and arrived at 7pm to be told that we had 45 minutes left out of the 105 minutes allocated from 6pm.  Something had been lost in translation about when we should have started the food journey.

More happily I can report that a wonderful coffee shop called Operator 25, between La Trobe St. and the Victoria Market, supplies an extremely memorable series of dishes and very good coffee.  Breakfast till late afternoon. Its one of those places that takes great delight in surprising with their food inspirations and also keeps up very good and unfussed service.  Plentiful free tap water for example and staff so watchful they would immediately pick up a piece of cutlery thrown by a small child nearby.  The reopened MaHa in the city, near the Elizabeth and Queen Sts., corner, is exemplary as well in their attention to detail in four separate shared plate food excursions (different numbers of courses) plus bright and knowledgable service. A pleasure to be a guest in both of these places.....

Two friends with seniors' cards are taking three grand-children to the latest STAR WARS epic at IMAX.  Nearly a cool $200 for five tickets including a $10 per person surcharge for premium seats, a booking fee and so on.   Although this new instalment is showing 24/7, our friends had to wait a while for a suitable family session time to be available.  For me, it's one to see for completeness sake.    The last three STAR WARS films (eps. 1,2,3) were so grindingly awful......

Recently I was at the re-opened Chinatown Cinema in Bourke St to see the new Taiwanese hit movie OUR TIMES and a wave of nostalgia swept over me as I remembered I had climbed those same stairs long ago to see THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK in 70mm.  Come to think of it my first experience of Hou Hsiao-hsien was up the same carpeted flight when our film festival first screened A TIME TO LIVE AND A TIME TO DIE.  Unfortunately OUR TIMES is far from the marvellous heights of Hou in those days.  

The six young Chinese audience members sitting in groups of three in front of me demonstrated a catalogue of ways to use glowing mobile devices throughout the length of a feature film.  The young man directly before me wore headphones for the duration, choosing music cues from his digital device although he did watch the screen intently.  Beside him, his colleague spent part of the session time recording sections of the film on his phone or scanning its recent social media additions.  To his left yet again the third young man simply scrolled his screen occasionally.  However the girl sitting two rows down spent the entire film flipping through her device.  Almost never did she watch the film on the screen.  Maybe it was enough to follow the drama from the soundtrack.  The other two young ladies did variations of scrolling and watching.

Definitely time for me to abandon such venues and watch these films at home.

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