The Film Fluff Report – days 8 & 9 @MIFF2015

Friday was a two film day, starting with a Romanian film called “One Floor Below”. This was my first film to be preceded by a short film (Australian), entitled “Albert”. The cinema was packed, but with an audience we rarely see at a film festival. Lots of burly men, uniformly dressed in snappy black suits and sporting interesting haircuts. Their women folk were also dressed in black (not unusual for Melbourne) and lots of glittering jewellery. Several of the men were on their phone. We thought we had stumbled into a coven of Romanian mafia, but all became clear with the screening of the short – they were the friends and financiers of the film maker, and as soon as the short finished they arose as one and left the cinema! It was quite extraordinary.

“One Floor Below” was somewhat perplexing. A young woman in an apartment block is found dead, under suspicious circumstances. Patrascu had heard her arguing with a male neighbour, and had seen the neighbour leaving her flat. It was obvious from the exchanges that the two were intimate. But for some reason, which one assumes is from a desire to keep his family safe, he withholds this information from his wife and the police, yet lets the neighbour infiltrate his life and is obviously concerned about the gossip about the young woman.  Whilst I enjoyed the reality of the film making (and I particularly loved his labrador dog Jerry), the lack of logic as to why he kept this information to himself left me unsatisfied – surely his family would have been safer if he had told the police, particularly as he had a friend in the police force. Close but no cigar.

From Romanian I then went to Australia, to see the ‘World Premiere’ of “Downriver”. The Forum was full to bursting with an adoring crowd of cast, crew and family for the film’s first screening.  The story in a nutshell is of a young man who is released from jail after serving some 10 years for the killing of a little boy, when he himself was only 8 years old. He remains haunted by the act, and the fact that the boy’s body was never found – he wants closure for the child’s mother and answers for himself as he knows that the child’s body was beside the river when he ran away, leaving his mate behind. Where downriver did the body end up?  Secrets lie with his ‘friend’ and the friend’s family, who have taken out a restraining order on him. Excellent acting and cinematography, this film had too much gratuitous sex for my liking but more importantly had a great gaping lack of believability at the denouement which ruined it for me (and some others I spoke to afterwards). I can’t tell you what that is but there is no way that what we see could have happened.

One of the many joys of the film festival when you overdose on the films like I do is how you ricochet from one country to another in the course of a day. Saturday saw me in Argentina , Long Island and ending up in China.

In “El Cinco” we meet Paton, who at the age of 35 is still playing semi professional soccer but, after he receives a 7 match suspension, recognises that the time has come to hang up his boots at the end of the season. The film deals with the difficulties many sports ‘stars’ have when leaving the game that consumed their lives for so long, the expectations of fans and family, and trying to find a new way of living (especially when you have never finished your education). I found this film to be heartwarming and engaging, but it would have benefited from a trimming down from 100 minutes to 85/90 minutes in length.

Next was “Grey Gardens”, a documentary from 1975 by the Maysles brothers who had the good luck to stumble upon the story of Big Edie and Little Edie Beale who are living in a run down mansion in the Hamptons. Big Edie (the Mother) is in her 80’s, largely staying in bed, and was once a real looker (and isn’t too bad even today). Little Edie is her daughter, now in her 50’s, who is totally crazy but also totally endearing, with her bizarre wardrobe (she seems to wear only cardigans, but they are worn as skirts and head dress!), and proclivity to dancing and reciting poetry at random times. She adores the camera – and the attention of the Maysles. Little Edie is the erstwhile carer of Big Edie as they muddle along in the filthy and decaying grandeur of the family home, which they rarely leave. What gift to a documentary maker were the Beales!

The final film for the day was “The Assassin”, which won the Best Director award at Cannes this year. This film looked absolutely gorgeous, and this will sound silly, but the fabrics in all the costumes and furnishings were ravishing. And, the women were beautiful, so there was lots to like in this movie – despite the fact that it was rather hard to work out exactly what was happening and who was who. For example, who hell was the woman wearing the golden mask? Who was the man we see in the woods, who helps save her uncle? However, this is nitpicking, as you get the general gist of the story, and just indulge in the beauty of what unfolds before you. However, not sure that qualifies it for the Best Director award.

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