HERALD SUN: TO 10 PICKS AT MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL / by chad walker

ADVANCED STYLE

USA

Since 2008, New York photographer Ari Seth Cohen has been snapping fashionable senior citizens for his hugely popular street-style blog, Advanced Style. Now, with help from fashion videographer Lina Plioplyte, he’s bringing these vivacious, vibrant and outspoken older ladies to the big screen. Ranging in age from 60 to 90 years old, the women (and gentleman) of Advanced Style offer proof that even in our youth-obsessed culture, age is no barrier to being fabulous. Their message is simple: growing old doesn’t mean you have to let yourself go, and their passion, energy and creativity provide a masterclass in living life to the fullest.

Don’t be afraid to dig through your closet and dress to the nines for the screening of this engaging documentary.

 

APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOUR

UK/USA

Shirin storms out of the apartment of her girlfriend Maxine after a breakup, and proceeds to look back through her history of failed relationships. She moves in with pretentious artists, gets a job teaching filmmaking to five-years-olds, and employs a series of ill-advised schemes in an effort to win back Maxine.

Writer/director Desiree Akhavan, best known for her cult web series The Slope, stars in this story of a bisexual Iranian-American woman trying to find her way in modern-day Brooklyn. Appropriate Behaviour is an intelligent, engaging comedy that heralds an exciting new voice in indie cinema (with Akhavan soon to be seen in the next season of Lena Dunham’s Girls).

 

CUT SNAKE

Australia

Tony Ayres (Tim Winton’s The Turning, MIFF 2013; The Slap, MIFF 2011) returns with his first feature film since The Home Song Stories (MIFF 2007): a psychologically powered crime thriller loosely based around Brisbane’s Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub blaze.

It’s 1973, and in an attempt to put his old, troubled, life behind him Sparra Farrell (Alex Russell,Carrie) has moved to a new city with his fiancée, Paula (Jessica De Gouw, These Final Hours, MIFF 2013). But when the brutal Pommie (Sullivan Stapleton, 300: Rise of an Empire) tracks him down, Sparra realises he’ll have to fight to keep the past from ruining his future.

Supported by the MIFF Premiere Fund, Cut Snake eruditely shows how one man’s biggest enemy in moving forward can be himself.

 

DIOR AND I

Peek behind the scenes of the fashion event of a generation.

The unveiling of a new clothing collection by the House of Christian Dior may be a regular occurrence, but it’s not often that a fresh Artistic Director takes the reins of the iconic label. Dior and I delves into the dramas and designs of newcomer Raf Simons as he prepares his maiden line for the beloved brand, after several years designing for Jil Sander and his own label. Known for his minimalistic style and coming from a ready-to-wear background, his first dalliance with Dior haute couture is fraught with trials, but also flirts with triumphs.

Bounding from the ever-busy atelier to the ravishing runway, director Frédéric Tcheng prolongs his love of documenting the details of the well attired, in a fitting successor to Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel and Valentino: The Last Emperor.

 

FELONY

Australia

While celebrating a major bust, Sydney drug cop Malcolm makes a mistake that will haunt his life, and which threatens to make or break the careers of two other police: rookie officer Jim and veteran detective Carl. As these three become embroiled in a tense game of cat-and-mouse that pushes each man to his limits, questions of justice, guilt and innocence will be turned inside out and the quest to disguise and unravel the truth will undo them all.

Premiering to glowing reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival, Felony is tautly written by Animal Kingdom actor Joel Edgerton, who stars alongside Tom Wilkinson and Jai Courtney. Director Matthew Saville’s (The Slap, MIFF ‘11; Roy Hollsdotter Live, MIFF ‘03) feature follow-up to Noise, Felony abounds with moral conundrums, unexpected developments and gripping suspense.

 

I AM BIG BIRD

USA

Profiles Caroll Spinney, the 80-year-old puppeteer who has been behind Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since the show’s first season. Relying heavily on Caroll’s incredible archive of home videos dating back to the 1950s, I AM BIG BIRD captures how the love radiating from Caroll has created a worldwide cultural icon and answers why he can’t say goodbye to the characters he cherishes.

Since the very first episode of Sesame Street, one man has played two now legendary characters. But while Caroll Spinney’s peers have long since slipped into cozy retirements or pursued other dreams, he has held on. His refusal to willingly yield the Bird isn't due to stubbornness; he simply believes that while any trained puppeteer can operate Big Bird, he’s the only one who can give the Bird his soul. Through his iconic characters, he has taught letters and numbers, but the lasting lessons, the ones that continue to shape generations of children, radiate from beneath the feathers. There are the lessons of tolerance, born from the ruthless bullying Caroll faced as a teen. There are the lessons of forgiveness, born from Caroll’s reconciliation with his father whose temper and savage beatings scarred him. And there are the lessons of love, born from Caroll’s deep bond with his wife, whom he met on Sesame Street. Caroll can’t say goodbye to Big Bird because he is Big Bird. Using current interviews and never-before-seen home videos capturing intimate moments from his life and career, I AM BIG BIRD will peel away the instances that inspired his creation of characters that have influenced generations of children. And, as the yellow feathers give way to grey hair, it is the man, not the Muppet, who will teach us the greatest lesson of all: how to love unconditionally.

 

PAPER PLANES

Australia

Twelve-year-old Dylan lives with his father in the West Australian outback. One day at school Dylan discovers he is extremely good at making and flying paper planes. While attempting to refine and develop his newly realised ability, Dylan finds himself caught up in the world of competitive paper-plane making, leading to new friendships, new rivalries and new realisations about his own family.

Supported by the MIFF Premiere Fund, Paper Planes is a magical new world premiere from writer/director Robert Connolly (Tim Winton’s The Turning, MIFF 2013). Featuring a cast of Australia’s finest, including Sam Worthington, Deborah Mailman and David Wenham, this is a modern tale of friendship and family and the joy of learning to spread one’s wings.

 

PREDESTINATION

Australia

After tackling zombies (in the FIPRESCI Award-winning Undead, MIFF 2003) and vampires (Daybreakers), the Spierig Brothers take on time travel in this stylish, intelligent thriller.

Loosely based on the Robert A Heinlein sci-fi short All You ZombiesPredestination is the story of a temporal agent on the trail of a terrorist, in an intricate web of twists and secrets. Ethan Hawke carries much of the film with a nuanced performance as the time-travelling agent, backed by an on-form Noah Taylor as his enigmatic boss. Sarah Snook (These Final Hours, MIFF 2013), meanwhile, dazzles with a revelatory and intimate turn, lending both her character and the film an uncommon emotional weight.

Shot on location in and around Melbourne, Predestination offers a distinctive blend of sci-fi, noir and crime fiction with a Bukowskian streak. True to the Australian twins’ directorial style, it investigates bigger questions — here, of destiny and identity — with wit and insight.

 

PULP: A FILM ABOUT LIFE, DEATH AND SUPERMARKETS

UK

Following his cinematic Love Story (MIFF 2012) to New York, New Zealand director Florian Habicht returns with a cinematic love letter to Sheffield … and its best-known 90s export, Pulp.

After a ten-year hiatus, Pulp reunited in 2012 for a two-year worldwide reunion tour, hitting London, New York and ... Sheffield. This is a concert film (after a fashion) of their final show, in their hometown, among the common people.

Pulp is as much a mildly absurd portrait of the unlikeliest of stars as it is an intimate picture of the city of Sheffield, and its inhabitants; of how each informed, and informs, the other. The band’s rangy, geeky frontman Jarvis Cocker takes centre stage as a mirror of the imperturbable locals, lending credence to the cocked-eyebrow subtitle ‘A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets’ and its askew, Gondry-esque nature. Pulp emerges as an odd duck, seemingly above the triviality of the music business; in Sheffield, they’re a perfect fit.

 

THE SKELETON TWINS

USA

Saturday Night Live alumni and Bridesmaid’s Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader juxtapose their comic skills with knockout dramatic performances in this warm, darkly funny film.

Maggie and her twin Milo haven’t spoken for ten years but when a crisis hits they attempt to make amends back in their hometown in New York State.

Craig Johnson’s film about adult siblings working through their past issues is accentuated by a finely finessed script (written by Johnson and Mark Heyman, co-writer of Black Swan) and those revelatory performances from Wiig and Hader. Their chemistry is effortlessly channelled into the shorthand communication and shared humour of siblings that bubbles to the surface despite a prickly past. Impressive cameos by Luke Wilson and Modern Family’s Ty Burrell only add to the film’s enjoyment.