The Film Fluff report – MIFF Day 1

Hurrah, the Melbourne International Film Festival ( or MIFF as we know it) has started. I have my Passport in hand, and 48 films booked. Hopefully, I will be able to grab some time in between films to keep you updated on what I have seen. Here is a start – Day 1. Don’t expect a Margaret and David type critique – I’m more of a film fluff than a film buff!

I saw 3 films on Day 1, 2 of which I really enjoyed, the last one not so much.

I started the day with a South Korean documentary, “My Love, don’t cross that river”. And can I tell you, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house as we watched the seasons unfold around an aged couple who, even after 76 years together, still love each other to bits and take great delight in each other’s company. He is 97 and she is 88 when we first meet them and we are with them over the course of the next 18 months. Still playing games with each other, still walking hand in hand, still doing everything together. However, he is not well, and we watch helplessly as his lung condition worsens and he loses his spark for life, but not his love for her. We are privileged to see into their life and their love for each other, and ultimately into his death.

Next was a Brazilian film called “The Second Mother”. No surprises here – the well worn story of the maid who is the substitute Mother for the young son in a wealthy household. Ostensibly ‘part of the family’ there are clear demarcations and a well known but unwritten class hierarchy, that gets thrown into chaos when her daughter comes to stay during her college entrance exam.  Despite the staleness of the story, it is an enjoyable film, enlivened by an excellent performance by the maid, Regina Case who is apparently a much loved star in Brazil.

The day finished with “Phoenix”, a German film from the same director (Christian Petzold) who made the intriquing “Barbara” in 2012.  I found this less than satisfying – completely implausible story line and somewhat mannered acting. Nelly is an Auschwitz survivor with a gunshot wound to the face. She has been found by a friend? a relative? and taken to have reconstructive surgery. She emerges from the surgery looking not quite how she used to be, but apparently she is now very wealthy (how does that happen??). She hankers to find her husband, and seeks him out in a club called Phoenix – lo and behold he is there, doesn’t recognise her but sees the similarity to the wife he believes is dead and coerces her into impersonating the supposedly dead wife so that he can get this hands on the money. She goes along with it so she can be with him, and hopefully can show him that it is really her and he will love her once more. Turns out he ain’t what she thought he was. Ho hum. There were titters in the audience at various times, which I don’t think was the director’s intent.

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