BIFF: 5 AUG 94
20, 1995 10:55
10:53 Pymble, New South Wales-Australia :: 20 FEB 95
Whoops. This one's been sitting around for a bit. Here's a review of
some films I saw last year.
22:15 Toowong, Australia :: 5 AUG 94
BIFF stands for Brisbane International Film Festival. BIFF is in its
third year. While Brisbane's population nears 1.5 million and it grows
at a rate akin to Vancouver's, this is a significantly smaller festival
than the event staged annually in Vancouver. Still, it boasts an interestingly
varied and powerful film inventory, a good enough line-up that I spent
more than $200 CDN on tickets. I'll provide synopses of some of the films
Muriel's Wedding (Australia)
- Dir: Paul J. Hogan Prod: Lynda House
& Jocelyn Moorhouse Scr: Paul J. Hogan
- DOP: Martin McGrath Edit: David
- Cast: Toni Collette, Rachel Griffiths, Bill Hunter,
Jeanie Drynan, Daniel Lapaine, Matt Day, Sophie Lee, Chris Haywood.
35mm/Col/1994/105mins Language: English
No, 'Crocodile Dundee' didn't write and direct this film, but I bet he
wish he had. Paul J. Hogan is not the Akubra lidded one from down-under.
(Incidentally, I've yet to hear any Australian use the phrase "down-under".)
Muriel [Toni Colette] lives in Porpoise Spit. She is fat. She is a fashion
accident. She listens only to music by ABBA. If she can get married she
will erase all these shortcomings; to marry is to succeed.
When asked what I thought of it, I described this film to Gary Ellis,
BIFFs General Manager, as "Heathers meets Strictly Ballroom,"
without the death and dismemberment. It matches Ballroom's quirky tone
and captures sublimely the lower middle-class kitsch so well portrayed
in Ballroom. The film's best moment is a production number mimicking cut-for-cut
ABBA's "Waterloo" 'shlock'-video.
Meanwhile, Hogan deftly and hilariously tackles the identity crisis Muriel
experiences after her self-serving circle of friends, none of them named
Heather, ceremoniously dumps her. To be sure, her family of layabout siblings,
disturbed mother and philandering, abusive, politically crooked father
provide no support. Muriel finds salvation in a new friend [Rachel Griffiths,
a scene stealer even when she's off screen] who cracks her shell wide
open. Fulfillment follows in the form of a white wedding with all the
trimmings and a gorgeous groom to boot-or does it?
This is another low-budget Australian directorial debut that's going
to clean up at the box office.
- Dir: Susan Lambert Prod: Megan McMurchy
Scr: Jan Cornall DOP: Ron Hagen
- Edit: Henry Dangar Music: John Clifford
- Cast: Victoria Longley, Angie Milliken, Richard Roxburgh,
Jacqueline Mckenzie, John Jarrat
35mm/Col/1994/88mins Language: English
Talk is exactly what you'll get in this dialog intensive film. Julia
[Victoria Longley] and Stephanie [Angie Milliken] make comic books. Stephanie,
the marketer, is desperate to have a child and, perhaps, a relationship.
Julia, the artist, has both and a crisis: she is pregnant and her husband
is having an affair. The dialog takes several breaks in a series of Julia's
visual reflections on her current comic-book project in development. As
always, the artist finds inspiration in her own life so these reflections
fit deftly into and even propel the narrative. Lambert has struck on an
effective and visually compelling device. But the film's solid foundation
is Julia and Stephanie talking.
Oh yeah, the climactic love scene set my skin tingling. It features a
fully clothed couple engaging in an achingly luxuriant and thoroughly
erotic caress that never enter an erogenous zone.
Absolutely the most sensual moment in film I've ever experienced.
The Accompanist (France: L'Accompagnatrice)
- Dir: Claude Miller Prod: Jean-Louis
- Scr: Claude Miller, Luc Beraud from a novel by Nina
Berverova Cine: Yves Angelo
- Edit: Albert Jurgenson Music: Alain
- Cast: Richard Bohringer, Elena Safanova, Romane Bohringer,
Laurence Monteyrol, Samual Labarthe, Bernard Verley, Claude Rich
35mm/Col/1992/111mins Language: French
To begin with, newcomer Romane Bohringer's performance received kudos
from many critics, yet here she presents a repertoire of three looks:
dour reserve, reserved grin and reserve. For a character study to succeed
the characters must draw you in. None of the characters here warrents
interest or even sympathy.
Irene is a gifted singer whose rising star in Vichy France necessitates
appearances for Nazi supported events. Her husband, a rich businessman,
must either trade with the Germans or be relegated to the privations and
oppression to which occupied France generally falls prey. Irene's lover
is a handsome member of the underground who decries the husband's collaboration,
but not Irene's and that is all we learn of him or the lover's frequent
trysts. Enter Irene's gifted young and naive accompanist, played by Romane.
An interloper, a fly on the wall, through her POV the plot unfolds.
Essentially: husband and wife become escape Vichy and their forced collaboration
and and arrive in beleaguered London where opulence comes without feeling
the moral dilemma of the collaboration. The lover follows. The triangle
explodes and destroys all.
I'm sure the director expected redemption through Romane's story, her
halting moves away from her emotional detachment. But when Irene asks
of her, "Are you in love? You have changed so much!" I smirk.
Change? I saw only the same reserve.
There is little tension. We are given no basis for believing the love
affair, or to care about the success of the marriage. Plot, characters,
actors, all walk through the motions. I could have walked out.
18:11 Brisbane, Australia :: 7 AUG 94
The Ballad of Little Jo (USA)
- DIR: Maggie Greenwald PROD: Fred
Berner and Brenda Goodman
- SCR: Maggie Greenwald CINE: Declan
Quinn EDIT: Keith Reamer
- LEADS: Suzy Amis, Bo Hopkins, Ian McKellan, David
Chung, Carrie Snodgress, Heather Graham, Sam Robards, Rene Auberjonois
35mm/Col/1993/128mins Language: English
Watch out for this director. Ballad is Maggie Greenwald's first feature
and it's a winner. This thoroughly researched Western revsionist fable
is based on the real life Josephine Monaghan. It adroitly depicts life
on the range for the physically and emotionally harsh existence it was.
Few would long for the realities of this muddy, vulgar home on the range.
But emerging through it all with grace and raw courage is Little Jo.
Josephine Monaghan began life in the 19th century as a member of Buffalo's
high society. A romantic indescretion leading to a child out-of-wedlock
provokes her shamed parents to cast the whore out. Josephine heads west
alone but determined. The realities come crashing down in the form of
a failed rape and Josephine takes the drastic, and illegal, step of dressing
and acting as a man.
History does not document much of Little Jo's life, and Greenwald confides
that much of the account is fictionalized. It is a compelling premise
whatever the details, and in Greenwald's hands it becomes a story well
told. Poignant moments of role-reversal are shared between Jo and the
Asian "Tin Man" who begins as no more than a domestic servant
but becomes her confidant and lover. Particularly sublime is Greenwald's
treatment of the classic "caught bathing in the river scene"
which is turned completely on its head. In this telling it is the waist
length tresses of Tin Man that are are let down and the camera takes us
on a luxurious trip of the surrogate woman's lean, taut and thoroughly
beatiful physique. When Jo happens along, the sight sets her long repressed
Fine performances, sumptuous cinematography, an honest script and the
sure handling of Greenwald result in an interesting view into the West
we've never seen. Worthy of note: of the 7,000 or so Westerns ever made,
Ballad is apparently the first directed by a woman.
- DIR: Pauline Chan PROD: Jim McElroy
SCR: Robert Carter, Pauline Chan
- CINE: Kevin Hayward EDIT: Nicholas
Beauman MUSIC: Douglas Stephen Rae
- LEADS: Saskia Reeves, Robert Reynolds, Sami Frey,
Jacqueline McKenzi, Kiet Lam, Hoa To, Thierry Marquet
35mm/Col/1994/95mins Language: English
Another exceptional feature debut from a woman director. Though constructed
around four strong, divergent characters, the film hinges on Saskia Reeves'
performance as the photographer of a husband and wife journalistic team.
Reeves subjugates her ambitioins to capture difficult realities on film
and assumes the role of supporter to her husband's editorial ambitions.
These of course come at the expense of truth. The professional relationship
parallels that of their emotional and sexual relationships and Reeves
appears either unable or unwilling to wrest her identity from the self-possessed,
Throwing these naive children of the West into turbulent French Indochina
of 1950 brings their tensions to a boil. Chan adds fuel to the fire in
the form of a bisexual French plantation owner and his over-stimulated
and provocative teenage daughter. It is this plantation, and the conditions
under which the locals work it, that Reeves and husband have been assignd
to review. For the sake of the husband's ambtions the review must be favourable
to the French.
Finally, as if this is not enough, the communist Viet Minh have infiltrated
the plantation... Look out, it's gonna blow!!!
-- Responses Sought --