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Beware the Creeper!

Iain's life as a psychotic crimefighter

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The Rest of the 2010 Sydney Film Festival

The Disappearance of Alice Creed

Taut three person thriller about a kidnapping. Great performances all around but a special shout out to Eddie Marsen playing slightly against type (slight spoiler there.) Starts as if it's another Hostel/Saw knockoff but goes in another direction entirely. Not by any means an ambitious film, but a clever crime thriller worth a DVD hire at least.



Weird combination of Tatiesque and post-Jackass/Apatow masturbatory humour.

Contains large amounts of Gerard Depardieu, who plays a retired meat worker who has to collect documentation of his working history to receive his pension. This would be worth seeking out when it appears (inevitably) on SBS. Parts of it are generally funny and the road movie aspect of it gives you glimpses of a fairly de-romanticised French landscape, filled with run-down hotels and decrepit fun fairs. Apart from Depardieu and the always welcome Yolande Moreau (playing his wife) it has Isabelle Adjani playing what we are lead to believe is the ghost of his ex-girlfriend (I don't think it's explicitly spelt out - you know the French.) Has a very odd combination of Tatiesque slapstick and extremely earthy humour. I quite enjoyed it, but there are things in it I really don't need to see again.


Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Winner of the Palm D'Or this year at Cannes, so a real coup for the festival. Uncle Boonmee is dying from a liver problem and the ghosts of his wife and son appear to lead him into the next life. Treads the fine line between entrancing and soporific. A ghost film about memories and visions of the future.

This was my first exposure to Apichatpong Weerasethakul's films which have been getting a lot of critical attention (the best introduction is apparently Tropical Malady). I'm not sure whether I'll seek out the others. I liked the prosaic introduction of the spirit world - there is surprise but no fear when the ghosts appear (early in the film) even when Uncle Boonmee's dead son appears as a monkey spirit (looking like a demonic Wookie.) "Joe" (as he prefers to be called) has a sparse style with long shots and little to no camera movement. He's also a fan of in camera special effects, which are still effective in this day of CGI (the appearance of the first ghost was so subtle the audience didn't notice until one of the characters reacted to her presence.) Unfortunately it makes his films slow and cumbersome. I was entranced by this, it's the type of film that makes you enter a completely different head space, the type of film I actually want to see at a festival, but it's so measured and, well, worthy that it makes it difficult to recommend to others.


Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno

This was a film I was desperate to see, when I first heard about it.

A film about the making of a film by one of the great French directors that was never completed. Unlike Lost in La Mancha the misfortune's that befell L'Enfer were primarily of Clouzot's own making.

On the face of it, L'Enfer has quite a simple story: a husband suspects his wife of having an affair with the local mechanic and is driven mad with jealousy. If Clouzot had left it that, it probably would have been a minor masterpiece (the documentary shows not just the unedited footage but enacts parts of the script with two actors to fill in the holes.) Clouzot, however, had just seen Fellini's 8 1/2 and wanted to give his film just something a little... more. Like showing the inner turmoil of his protagonist with all the cinematic tricks he could muster, and quite a few that he hadn't quite discovered yet.

And then he was given the worst thing a director in his position could receive: an unlimited budget.

He was making the film at the height of the op-art movement so he employed two artists as consultants so he could work their optical illusions into the film. He experimented with multiple exposures. During a water skiing scene, he wanted the lake to turn red but his lead actress (Romy Scheider) to maintain normal coloration - his answer was to colour her skin and change her clothes so that when the red filter went on the lens, she would look normal. This required a whole series of tests. Meanwhile the lake was due to be flooded, the lead actor was getting more and more frustrated with the lack of progress (and the running scenes - he had to run over and over again - the suspicion was that Clouzot was just fucking with him at the end.) Then the lead actor left. They tried to replace him, then Clouzot had a heart attack and called off production.

This documentary pieces together the story behind the film, shots both of the film and of the test footage and enactments from the script. Oh, what might have been. Still, I'm kind of glad Clouzot didn't live long enough to experiment with CGI.

Anyone interested in film and special effects should seek this one out.


The Killer Inside Me

Michael Winterbottom's adaption of a Jim Thompson novel, starring Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Ned Beatty and a whole host of familiar faces. This was the most commercial film I saw at the festival but also one of the most polarising. Casey Affleck is a deputy sheriff in a small Texas town and he has some trouble with the women in his life, specifically beating them within an inch of their lives, and somewhat further. There are two very, very hard to watch scenes in this which have raised charges of misogyny against Winterbottom but, having read the book, he's just doing an accurate adaption. Perhaps too accurate for modern audiences. It's certainly worth seeing for Affleck's performance (which is astonishing - he is much, much better than his brother) but it ultimately becomes an exercise in nihilism and I find it hard to recommend it.


Four Lions

This was the other film I was anxious to see. I'm a big, big fan of Chris Morris so I was desperate to see his first feature film, but also enamoured of the prospect of seeing the man himself at a Q & A afterwards (albeit with Julian Morrow of the Chaser team.) Chris Morris is, IMHO, one of the only true comic geniuses alive today - his work is hard to find in Australia as the only local release was a CD of his "interviews" with Peter Cook called "Why Bother". I picked this up years ago from an ABC shop and whilst listening to it, realised that somehow this Chris Morris guy was not only keeping up with Peter Cook's improvisation but embellishing it and leading it into newer stranger fields. Since then I've picked up: his masterpiece, the tv series "Brass Eye"; "The Day Today" (which is Alan Partridge's first appearance) and "Jam" (a series that originally started on radio, like "The Day Today", but is far more experimental in nature.) I've also stumbled across a fan group that are archiving his radio programmes (he started, like Kenny Everett, as a dj)

Chris Morris is notorious for the subject matter of his satires - the most notorious episode of "Brass Eye" was all about paedophilia - or rather, the media response to it (a distinction that the English media found impossible to make, of course.) So it is well within his ambit to make the first laugh out loud, slapstick comedy about suicide bombers. "Four Lions" is careful not to criticise Islam itself (though there is a scene revolving around the difficulty of a member of the faithful entering a room with a woman, when the room divider was removed during a renovation) rather it focuses on the excesses of fundamentalism (not only religious, but also judicial) and driven men in general (there are scenes I'm sure even SF fans would identify with.) That the film is hilarious until it's not is by no means accidental. Morris makes you like these deluded men, so knowing what's coming up becomes harder to take.

"Four Lions" will be receiving a release in general theatres - but I can't imagine it running for long. Catch it when you can.


Australia's Lost Films and the search for Captain Thunderbolt

Finally we attended an interesting talk on the campaign of the National Film and Sound Archive to find films considered lost. The poster child is "Captain Thunderbolt" a stirring biopic on the infamous bushranger/ murasaki_1966 and I retraced his steps earlier in the year during our trip up to the New England area. All that exists is the trailer (below) and a cut for television 16mm print held by the ABC. Apparently it was a huge success overseas and so there are hopes that a proper 35mm print will resurface. We also saw an archival interview with the director, Cecil Holmes , footage he edited of the aftermath of Cyclone Tracey, and the third part of a portmanteau film "Three in One" with a Romeo and Juliet style story set in 50s Sydney. We tend to forget how little of the past of our major cities are caught on film.

Here, then, is the trailer of "Captain Thunderbolt". If you know of a 35mm print, please let the NFSA know.