Films I saw at MIFF 2017by luke-eberhardt | created - 21 Aug 2017 | updated - 15 Sep 2017 | Public
By far the best year I've ever experienced of the Melbourne International Film Festival to date, whilst also lending my hand in helping out at the festival. Here's all the feature length films I saw, once again ranked how I favourite them. ;)
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1. OtherLife (2017)
TV-MA | 96 min | Crime, Mystery, Sci-Fi
After inventing a drug that induces time-compressed virtual realities, young Ren grapples with partner Sam over how to use their powerful creation.
I can clearly remember seeing Australian director Ben C. Lucas' first feature film; 'Wasted on the Young' almost 6 years ago. Now I got the very lucky chance of seeing his latest film at MIFF this year entitled; 'OtherLife', and Australian Sci-Fi thriller that can be described as 'Strange Days' meets 'Total Recall'. I was also unaware it was adapted from a book called 'Solitaire' by Kelley Eskridge and had for a long time been developed adaptation from 'Highlander' and 'The Prophecy' creator Gregory Widen. As for the film itself, it's a terrifically unique locally produced sci-fi film, which makes the most of it's limitations on an independent budget, even with some high concept thought brought towards the film's provoking plot with many unexpected twists and turns, enough to respect it's own targeted audience too. Ben C. Lucas also utilizes his stylistic visuals to the film's slick futuristic look and feel, along with sharp editing able to cut between the reality presented and the manufactured visions, key to the film's subject matter. Overall, this film exceeded my expectations, I was incredibly invested in these great characters from charismatic performers, being smartly written and crafted to a point I decided this is my favourite film of the festival this year.
2. Blue (IV) (2017)
76 min | Documentary
BLUE is a provocative journey into the ocean realm, witnessing this critical moment in time when the marine world is on a precipice.
Director: Karina Holden
While it's hard to believe that human's are damaging the environment nowadays than ever before, Karina Holden takes our attention to the Sea in 'Blue'. Featuring some the brightest minds connected to Australian marine biology, it takes the most profound and horrifying human impacts to the sea and puts them up close and personal to the viewers as a way, 'You need to see this because it's happening' and it almost pales in comparison to any horror entertainment. As our hosts clearly explain everything to the minute detail the effect it has on the audience can be cathartic. In a way the film made me feel depressed, shocked, angry, sad, confronted and uplifted with a few tears of joy. While these documentaries about the impacts of Climate Change are becoming more frequent now than ever and it's easy to expect that type of subject matter when looking at a film such as this, I can honestly say it does what it sets out to do focusing on the ocean with outstanding cinematography and clear and horrifying commentary beautifully put together, it's something I highly recommend, even if it'll compete too much with 'An inconvenient Sequel'.
3. Loving Vincent (2017)
PG-13 | 94 min | Animation, Biography, Crime
In a story depicted in oil painted animation, a young man comes to the last hometown of painter Vincent van Gogh to deliver the troubled artist's final letter and ends up investigating his final days there.
Votes: 43,985 | Gross: $6.74M
A major effort in the making it must surely be an event to screen, 'Loving Vincent' is a fascinating and truly beautiful animated feature most stunningly of all is that the entire film, frame-by-frame is rotoscoped in the unique and stunning oil paint style of the late painter to tell a compelling, fascinating and heartwarming story about an investigation into the life of the posthumous master painter. Even with authentic settings and a cast of colourful character both figuratively and literally, the film is a hugely investing and outstandingly beautiful film to see, almost verging from the very dramatic plotting to the eye catching surrealist aspect of the art-house sphere this film is fixed within. While it's hard to determine whether or not the mystery of the late painter's death can be explained, especially alongside the historical accuracy aspect of this film, everything else about it from the initial premise alone is enough to recommend to all audiences young and old to experience even well before you could say 'Oscar for Best Animated Film' since the oil work paintings are it's signature look while the feel comes from the technical and written aspects alone. I wish I could give this my perfect grade though something inside me is doubting it figuratively especially along the lines of historical accuracy and overall sustenance.
4. Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience (2016)
G | 44 min | Documentary, Short
This documentary examines the origins of the universe, including the beginning of life on Earth.
Terrance Malick takes us on a journey throughout time, from our very beginnings in space to the evolution of life and our times. Narrated by Hollywood superstar; Brad Pitt with a very philosophical undertone to go with the initial explanation of talking these concepts to a child. As an Imax experience, with the initial picture quality and immaculate detail captured by the outstanding cinematography, the film is a gorgeous wonder to look at and experience throughout it's 45 minute run-time. It may be short but it showcases a lot, from the cosmic activity of the universe, earth's beginning's, evolution of the landscape, life and to question our important place here on this earth as one thing of many in the universe. I didn't find it all that surprising nor did I think the film offered any deeper thought than the philosophical nature the narration was offering in conjunction to the imagery it was capturing. Nonetheless, this is what Terrance Malick is doing best these days, while it doesn't push any boundaries like 'The Tree of Life', it's amazing to witness and be captivated by what Malick is implying.
5. The Butterfly Tree (2017)
TV-14 | 97 min | Drama
Fin has recently lost his mum to illness. He's getting on with life, going to school, and on the surface seems to have adjusted well, but underneath a complex set of emotions are surging. ... See full summary »
Here we have a new Australian film set within an exotic beautiful tropical Queensland rain forest landscape. It's also aided by an endearing story of a young boy whose not only deeply fascinated by his town's new florist who shares his passion with the beauty of butterflies and the natural world much like his own mother who had passed away long ago. In a way he also falls in love with this older woman thinking he can learn more about the best things in life than his own dishonest father. I was truly captivated in not only with the level of outstanding visual imagery of this film but also it's relatable character's and the film's simple yet compelling sense of plotting. Not only does this film embrace natural beauty and nature as it's core themes but, it can also touch upon the darkness of human nature as out characters are pushed to their brinks within the second and third acts. I absolutely adored this unique Australian story brought to life by director; Priscilla Cameron, whose debut feature I dearly hope gets to be seen by a larger number of audiences both local and international.
6. Ellipsis (II) (2017)
85 min | Drama
In the middle of a crowded city the paths of two strangers, a man and a woman, collide. This accidental, chance occurrence sets in motion a chain of events that sees the two strangers ... See full summary »
Australian Actor; David Wenham makes his directorial feature debut with 'Ellipsis' a heartwarming and entertaining film in the tradition of Richard Linklater's 'Before Sunrise'. Centered on a guy and girl who coincidentally meet in Sydney after one has their phone case broken. What follows is a series of events of all kinds of charming, quirky and ordinarily hilarious circumstances as these two people spend a night together that has a slight romantic undertone. Wenham does a fine job at capturing the urban city life of Sydney in all central areas involving not only our two main leads but also their occurrences that have incredibly memorable roles they could easily happen in real life. Wenham also uses the power of the film being entirely improvised bringing out the rawness of the performances, character development and subjectivity between this unlikely pair, whose endearing relationship is hard to describe. Seeing this make me ever more convinced Wenham is an upcoming talent who can deliver unique cinematic experiences, this just being one of the very big surprises at the Melbourne International Film Festival, I dearly hope it gets to be seen by a larger audience over time, across the country and across the world.
7. A Quiet Dream (2016)
101 min | Drama, Family
This is a story about a girl which three insignificant men care deeply about. The men look up to the girl considering her to be an idol of their own. But one day, a new guy appears in her life.
Lu Zhang takes what made Yazujiro Ozu or Jim Jarmusch's work iconic and places it within the outer limits of Seoul in South
Korea. Like the aformentioned work's influence, this film has very minimal plot and focuses on the mundane lives of at least
three man and a young woman they like, their circumstances and their involvements within one another's lives. Using the tonal
control of Black and White cinematography and very wide camera shots, this certainly looks and feels very much like a old school
Ozu or Jarmusch film, as does the absence of a soundtrack relying purely on the performances and dialogue at hand. I found the
acting to be robust and natural to say the very least as did the film try to capture a very Jarmusch-esque dead-pan humour, though
even with a film with very little plotting, it's easy just to watch, be entertained and invested in the lives of these characters
that seem more ordinary than what one may think. A small crowed pleaser to say the very least.
8. The Endless (I) (2017)
Not Rated | 111 min | Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi
As kids, they escaped a UFO death cult. Now, two adult brothers seek answers after an old videotape surfaces and brings them back to where they began.
Votes: 25,945 | Gross: $0.27M
They say 'fear of the unknown, is the greatest fear there is'. Well, The Endless is that type of film that uses the unknown to their benefit to increase the fear and underlining mystery of the film. Centered on two brother trying to reconnect with their cultist upbringing with a very H.P. Lovecraft inspired context. It's an excellent film that uses it's thought provoking plotting to it's surreal nature of the story and the philosophical nature of the cult members to provide a great sense of drama, conflict and mystery. More of less they say 'minimalism is more' and here it's just about right, filled with terrific writing, acting directing and cinematography, 'The Endless' is a film that should be seen by a large number of audiences to appreciate as one of this year's best. Luckily enough I was able to see it at the Melbourne International Film Festival when I did.
9. Blade of the Immortal (2017)
R | 140 min | Action, Drama
Manji, a highly skilled samurai, becomes cursed with immortality after a legendary battle. Haunted by the brutal murder of his sister, Manji knows that only fighting evil will regain his soul. He promises to help a young girl named Rin avenge her parents, who were killed by a group of master swordsmen led by ruthless warrior Anotsu. The mission will change Manji in ways he could never imagine - ... See full summary »
Votes: 13,181 | Gross: $0.15M
Catching a Takashi Miike film at the Melbourne International Film Festival can be a real treat, even when you've found out the Cult Japanese Filmmaker has actually made a 'Great Film'. 'Blade of the Immortal' an adaptation of Hiroaki Samura's manga series is possibly a perfect fit for Miike, combing the best of his Jidai-geki tribute material and plenty of chanbara sword slashing, this film sets Miike right where he belongs. The film is in itself a tales of atonement and revenge taking it's cues from the likes of 'Unforgiven', 'Leon: The Professional' and this year's 'Logan' all added to the classic Japanese Edo period, it's an electric film from start to finish full of all out sword fights, blood splashes and the deeper meaning of what it means to face the consequences of one's actions as well as living for a greater meaning than just oneself. I can't recommend this film more than enough, it's defienitely one of Miike's best in years, even if you've never seen one of his film's beforehand.
10. Jungle (I) (2017)
R | 115 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama
A group of friends join a guide for a trek into the Bolivian jungle, searching for an Indian village. The men soon realize that the jungle is a difficult place to be.
Greg McLean may have created the most terrifying Australian threat within Australian Cinema with the 'Wolf Creek' franchise. Here, he adapts one of the most brutally painstaking but incredible true stories of a young Israeli man; Yossi Ghinsberg who got lost and survived the Jungles of Bolivia in the early Eighties. The film maintains it's fascination with the story alongside it's charismatic performers, with Daniel Radcliffe once again proving he's an actor of strong diverse caliber in the main role. Whilst the supporting roles were great too, It's McLean's skill to really make the harsh unforgiving environment stand out, once Yossi is separated from his company, the film delves into a 'Man-vs-Nature' against all odds with hardly any previous experience to back it up, even with some brutal toughness pushed against he's character there's plenty of suspense as audiences can't help but be invested in this once ordinary man. That isn't to say the film has any flaws though, while the editing is quick and skillful the film's tonal can be very inconsistent, especially within the subconsciousness snapping between serious flashbacks and silly fantasies we like to have to escape our horrors. Though even, with a film that's deeply flawed, you can't dismiss it due to being beautifully shot, written and powerfully acted. In the end, 'Jungle' is a cautionary tale, that should be taken lightly, just be warned about what you're getting into before seeing it.
11. Boy on the Bridge (2016)
85 min | Drama
In a seemingly idyllic Cypriot village, twelve-year-old Socrates' careless summer days of riding his bike and tantalizing the local residents come to an abrupt end when he finds himself at ... See full summary »
The Joy of youth mixed with the consequences of one's actions against the morality of one vile criminal are the underlining themes of 'Boy on the Bridge'. Set within an isolated mountainous village in Cyprus with a communist backdrop, it centers around a young boy wanting to find his own cause to fight for much like mis grandfather before him he never knew. Only when he's faced with a situation that affect not only his family but his entire twon does a strange and thought provoking series of events play out. Whether it's suspecting a murder, proctecting what one values or owning up to the consequences of a youth's actions for being guilty or not, is purely for the audience to be invested and experience. Beautifully written, shot and acted, this is another unique film experience I had at MIFF.
12. Ethel & Ernest (2016)
Not Rated | 94 min | Animation, Drama, History
The life and times of the parents of the hailed British graphic novelist, Raymond Briggs.
This beautifully animated adaptation of Raymond Briggs' Graphic Novel is delightful and endearing from beginning to end. Following the lives of Briggs' parents from their first date in the 1920s, throughout the second world war whilst raising their son, until each of their deaths in the 1970s. The film captures the time periods accurately to the brim, it's almost like stepping back in time. While I've also never read the graphic novel, I not only thought the direction was as fine as ever for a traditional animation but I also thought the voice acting felt just as real as the characters delivered their very natural dialogue. Most of all however was the subject matter and contextual nature of the time periods the film captured within the eyes of these characters, It definitely made viewers question their own places in the 21st century. While it might have run short of a 'Best Animated Feature' Oscar or any other award from last year or coming close to this year, I seriously recommend seeing this film, if it ever were to get a wider release date, just for people to see Raymond Briggs' personal story of his family on screen in such colour and animation.
13. Until the Birds Return (2017)
113 min | Drama
Three stories set in today's Algeria. In Algiers, Mourad, a property developer is wealthy and more or less satisfied with his lot but he does not know how to make happy those close to him; ... See full summary »
A Beautifully constructed film showcasing the lives of three people or three stories interconnected in the vastness of the Algerian landscape. This film gives us a clear peak into the life and times of these ordinary characters as they face the hardships of modern times. Karim Moussaoui gets right to the center of modern Algerian society touching upon it's civil war back drop and cultural contextual nature in such a fascinating manner. It's hard to not be invested in the central drama and conflict set against these characters within the film's concentrated three act structure. The film focuses on themes such as guilt, responsibility, love and honest living, aided by it's stunning cinematography to bring out it's deserted setting, fine direction, and well written and acted characters, it's the most unique cinematic experience I've from a country I've never really paid attention to let alone aware it even had much of a film industry.
14. The Void (I) (2016)
Not Rated | 90 min | Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Shortly after delivering a patient to an understaffed hospital, a police officer experiences strange and violent occurrences seemingly linked to a group of mysterious hooded figures.
Votes: 27,146 | Gross: $0.15M
It's become apparent to me that the generation who grew up with the great cult-genre films of the 1980s are now grown up and wanting to make films of their own to attribute those classics. 'The Void' is just one such example of a genuine cult horror that feels as if John Carpenter or David Cronenberg could of made it way back in that day. Even with a film whose subject matter lingers on the absurd and truly terrifying death resisting views of the world that go outside our own perception, that still doesn't count how wonderfully weird this film really is. It's plotting involves a cast a characters caught up in desperate needs, going up against a force almost greater than nature, or human nature for that matter offering plenty of chills and gore laden insane cult-like occurrences. For that alone as the characters aren't as deeply developed as the best horror's are, I feel this film is as good as it gets when it comes to the content it's offering in the long run. With solid acting and a slick direction with plenty of amazing practical effects lane out for the devilish creatures and insane deaths what not to be entertained with in a film such as this. recommended for all cult fans young and old as it's that good.
15. Lucky (I) (2017)
Not Rated | 88 min | Comedy, Drama, Western
The spiritual journey of a ninety-year-old atheist.
Votes: 16,437 | Gross: $0.96M
I didn't originally expect to see this film though I found it to be a fine tale of an old man living out his existence in an isolated town in the middle of the American desert. Most of the tropes are here, though luckily given a fresh twist to tie into our modern times as does the main character's conservative views kick in to not obey the modern laws. Harry Dean Stanton gives a fine performance as the title character, able to connect and have great chemistry with the other locals around him as the audience follows his POV most of the time. Even with the presence of David Lynch acting in the film being close to director, John Carrol Lynch, It made me think of 'The Straight Story' which had similar themes along the lines of old age and adapting to the ever changing world. What kept the film going were the great characters that added a great sense of levity and humour to the narrative, along with the smartly written script and beautiful cinematography capturing the modern ever changing time of the old american west. Recommended mainly to the patient crowed who'll enjoy deadpan humour based on natural acting and the appeal of elders.
16. My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea (2016)
PG-13 | 75 min | Animation, Comedy, Drama
An earthquake causes a high school to float into the sea, where it slowly sinks like a shipwreck.
Votes: 873 | Gross: $0.07M
Unaware of this being a first feature or debut for any matter. I found this film to be a hilarious self parody of high school life intersected with the plot to 'A Poseidon Adventure'. This unique film uses a very distinctive graphic novel inspired animation and look to it's characters and setting. it can be described as a sort of flash animation taking up an amateur comic design all to encompass this world of it's satirical message. Even while the animation is wonderful to look at and is fluid in most parts, the film is also surrealistic using the very unusual conventions to it's advantage to express moments of a suspenseful nature or subconscious behavior within the character's visual thought portrayal. Other than that the writing is excellent able to take what's cliche about high school life and turn it on it's head with a disaster plot that doesn't take itself too seriously at all, with plenty of laugh out load jokes. Lastly, I didn't think the film hit any high notes as being a huge recommendation on my part , though I really enjoyed it for what it is, an impressive and enjoyable debut animated feature.
17. The Untamed (2016)
Not Rated | 98 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
A couple in a troubled marriage locate a meteorite, initiating an encounter with a mysterious creature. Their lives are turned upside down by the discovery of the creature, which is a source of both pleasure and destruction.
Votes: 4,000 | Gross: $0.03M
I didn't know what the hell I was getting into at the time though, I found this film to be a weird combination of family drama with an H.P. Lovecraftian intersection into the narrative. While not some straight up creature feature, it's that explicit image that's going to stick to people's minds when they watch this film. Forget that tentacle scene in 'Rogue One' that felt unnecessary, here it plays an important part in underlining the central subject matter of either helping out one with their social problems or being a strange source of their destruction since it came from an unusual origin that not all surprising. It was mostly a well crafted film with some great cinematography showcasing the outskirts of Mexican society in the countryside. As was the written aspect of the mystery underling in the drama of it's character's, audiences are forcefully invested in. You this certain something exists and there's proof throughout the film to reveal why, though the pacing is slow and the film doesn't offer a lot of thinking power to initial plot progression. Why you may forgive the film for it's flaws, it's nonetheless a weird fascination of the unknown interrupting our daily lives, recommended purely for those who love the weird underside of life.
18. Yourself and Yours (2016)
86 min | Comedy, Drama
A foray into the uncanny with a spin on Luis Buñuel's "That Obscure Object of Desire"
Ignore the over-dramatic and over glamorization of Korean Soap Opera Drama and indulge in some small piece of South Korean Cinema that's more realist than aimed at popular crowds. Sang-soo Hong has made a very ordinary but relatable account of ordinary lives caught up in intermingling conflicts of domestic issues. Taking on the style of the not at all glamorous Sang-Soo's scripting even makes great use of it's actor's chemistry and structure throughout the film's run time. It's the type of Adult cinema older people would be more accustomed with even when coming from someone who is very well versed in South Korean Cinema of the noughties until today. I enjoyed the natural effect the film gave off as did the scripting and dialogue in particular, it just goes to show South Korean can make more contemporary tales without trying to be radical or glamorous.
19. Hostages (I) (2017)
103 min | Crime, Drama
The movie describes real events that took place in 1983, when seven young Georgians, all from intellectual elite families, attempted to flee the Soviet Union by hijacking an airliner. The ... See full summary »
Sometimes true and cautionary tales have deadly consequences, or so that's what Rezo Gigineishvili's film based on such true events about a group of young people from Georgia wanting to leave the Soviet Union portrays. The film captures the genuine authenticity of early 80s period sense along with a talented cast that makes these characters stand out it's almost hard to believe they're based on real people. Most of the time however, I found the film meandering when building up it's drama before anything else within the plot escalated. Nonetheless, this is a film that lives up to being based on true events I never would have known about and as shocking as the impacts are within the film's most thrilling sequences so is the overall subject matter at hand. By the end viewers will be conflicted as well as compelled and challenged when looking back as such devastating communist times.
20. The Force (2017)
92 min | Documentary
THE FORCE goes inside an embattled urban police department struggling to rebuild trust in one of America's most violent yet promising cities.
Votes: 552 | Gross: $0.06M
'The Force' looks deeper into the real life drama and corruption of the Oklahoma Police Force, where a number of the controversial murders took place and the inception of the 'Black Lives Matter' movement. Capturing a lot of camera footage on the time and place these events occurred helps the viewers understand the general conflict the people as well as the city council have the force. For the most part, it almost feels like a real life drama for the sake of the film being an investigation on the reporting and independent journalism and for the most part that works. However, the lack of conventional interviews makes the documentary feel lackluster in offering counterproductive POVs up close or personal to ensure any compelling arguments that's happened over the past 3-4 years. The film itself is just, 'fine' for that matter, well made, edited, shot and it very eye opening into a modern central conflict between police force and general public that's not only captured the nation but the entire world. Insightful for the most part, but also bleak and not enough personal intersections to gether everything up at the end.
21. Gemini (II) (2017)
R | 93 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
A heinous crime tests the complex relationship between a tenacious personal assistant and her Hollywood starlet boss. As the assistant unravels the mystery, she must confront her own understanding of friendship, truth and celebrity.
Votes: 3,951 | Gross: $0.20M
My very last MIFF screening was something I very much was curious about but never held in high regard especially compared to the various other films I saw. In a way, 'Gemini' is a film that's just 'fine', nothing too special, but well, made, written, acted, directed, edited, casted, etc, etc. Even whilst being a sort of drama set within Hollywood as a murder mystery meets a slight sprinkle of a crime thriller, it doesn't offer much else than what it's offering story-wise. Part of me wanted to like if not admire this film in the high standards it set out to do, but the overall execution which in itself is slow moving in the middle act and in the conclusion feels predictable, but I can't due to those certain flaws alone it paled in comparison to film's I saw it do better. While not overall disappointing, I think it's worth watching for it's passable quality alone. Not enough to attract a huge fan-base though recommendable to be worth it when nothing else it on or could be found on certain streaming services.