Thursday 6 December 2018

Defending Cinephilia 2018 (4) - Rod Bishop draws on all modes, all medias, all venues

Cinema Reborn 2018 – a miracle in Emerald City

The Top Banana of this Film Alert site took up a challenge proffered during a dinner of Australians at Bologna’s Cinema Ritrovato – why not a “Bologna Down Under”? Easier said than done, but on the smell of a vinegar syndrome rag and only a few months to organise, Geoff Gardner embarked on his cinephiliac mission: “A Festival of Restored Classics and Archival Prints from Cinema’s Grand Heritage”. 

Only one cinema (AFTRS) in this so-called international city was capable of covering all the technical requirements. Geoff formed a committee of two groups – some aging cinephiles, who Phillip Adams in his introduction to The Night of Counting the Years slandered “as being in need of restoration themselves”, and a bunch of whip-smart, millennial cinephiles (one of whom would happily spend the rest of his days watching Bresson and Rivette). 

Everything ran like clockwork: 18 films were treated to impeccable projection at AFTRS; a healthy contingent of Melbournians came to represent Australia’s film culture capital; David Hare journeyed over the Ditch to introduce Ophüls’ Sans Lendemain and Fassbinder’s In a Year of 13 Moons; Francis Ford Coppola sent his 35mm print of One From The Heart from the States and refused any screening fee; Michael Thornhill emerged and a print of Between Wars was sourced from the Brits; the nonagenarian Ian Dunlop skyped in an intro to selected episodes of his remarkable People of the Western Desert; Ozu’s Tokyo Twilight and Parajanov’s The Color of Pomegranates played to full houses and Margaret Pomeranz attended almost every session, every day, on her own dime. Roll around Cinema Reborn 2.0– in May next year.

The Big Easy International Film Festival

In a state with two much larger festivals (The New Orleans Film Festival and the Louisiana Film Festival), The Big Easy International Film Festival ran at the same time as New Orleans’ annual Tennessee Williams Literary Festival. In a French Quarter establishment slap-bang in the middle of the Lit festival’s multiple venues, the Kerry Irish Pub on Decatur Street may not seem like the ideal place, but NOLA is an idiosyncratic city. Admission was free, booze readily available and there was even an Aussie short film in the 3-day mix - Postal from Swinburne University with the inimitable John Flaus in the cast.

Around the corner, the Lit festival’s annual Stella-yelling competition was in full swing – contestants screaming “STELLA!” from Streetcar Named Desire at crowds on balconies above them; meanwhile the Indians were out in the suburbs parading their magnificent costumes on Super Sunday; and revelers bought T-shirts printed with quotes: “I like a lot of places, but I like New Orleans more – Bob Dylan” and “There are only three great cities in America – New York, San Francisco and New Orleans. All the rest are Cleveland – Tennessee Williams


Josef von Sternberg
I laughed a lot at the whip-smart Death of Stalin; at Jesse Plemons in Game Night and at Mom and Dad’s malevolent intent to murder their suburban children. The “way too indie” film of the year was Jeremiah Zagar’s We The Animals. It was hard going past Juliet, Naked as the best Rom-Com and the music doco Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami is definitely worth seeking out. Criterion’s lovingly produced box-set Dietrich and von Sternberg in Hollywood is worth every cent. 

TV Series

David Lynch’s Twin Peaks The Return seemed to stretch all the boundaries of the TV series with the aurally-challenged Lynch effortlessly stealing every scene he was in. Park Chan-Wook's The Little Drummer Girl, with the outstanding Florence Pugh, showed once again that good le Carré adaptations preference the author’s compelling characters rather than his spy intrigue. Also The Bureau Season Three, Four Nights in Havana, Homecoming, Mystery Road, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Patrick Melrose, the Sense8 Finale, Bodyguard and A Very British Scandal.

“No Worries” conquers the world!

Maybe five years ago, I first noticed this iconic Aussie expression being liberally used in films and TV series from the USA. The Brits started adopting “no worries” soon after and now it’s even appearing in the subtitles to European TV series. But “no worries” in a Western? By the Coen Brothers? (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs left). That’ll take some beating. 

Editor's Note: Contributions to this annual series are open to all and are welcome at any time for the next month or so. Previous entries for 2018 include thoughts by Adrian MartinPeter Hourigan and Adam Bowen. Click on the names to find them.

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