MIFF 2012: The Dark Side of Cinema

Contributing Writer; Melbourne, Australia (@Kwenton)
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MIFF 2012: The Dark Side of Cinema

The internet is buzzing right now with thoughts on the 61st Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), one of the biggest and oldest film festivals in the world. Many thought provoking and hype-fused articles have surfaced with the official public availability of the festival guides highlighting personal favorites and breaking up the selections per MIFF-customized categories.

 thought I would turn my hand to something a bit different, instead highlighting all the truly dark, deprived and damn depressing titles on offer, as there seems to be quite a few alongside the bigger art-blockbusters and whimsical Euro-centric fare. Click the title of each for more information.

This is a humane film from Hong Kong and celebrated director Ann Hui that grimly looks at ageing and death, made more heartbreaking by the fact that it is captured so realistically and that Andy Lau's real-life grandmother plays the role.

A part of Facing North: Swedish Cinema in Focus, this twisted parable of crime and redemption is heightened by the tragic and melancholic performance by Ingrid Bergman who plays a woman with a disfigured face who leads a criminal life until by a strange twist of fate her face is restored by a plastic surgeon she intended to initially blackmail.

A foreboding black and white noir animation about a train dispatcher in Czechoslovakia who is haunted by ghosts from the war he fought in, Alois Nebel comes to a head when a stranger disrupts his quiet but troubled life.

A completely crushing and emotionally draining piece of cinema from auteur extraordinaire Michael Haneke that bluntly and painfully exposes the inevitable loss of ones beloved.

Here is something quite different. A thriller of a sound-recorder who mixes cheap horror films and whose life begin to reflect the terrors and exploitative nature of the sordid business he is involved with. 

A film that has been adored here at ScreenAnarchy, I have the pleasure of finally catching up with it. Anything dystopian is going to be an oppressive and impressive experience and there has been nothing but praise for this one. 

To real life now, the most depressing subject of all as a category of MIFF Street Level Visions: Indie Docs from China exposes a corrupt, unjust, dirty and incompetent country. Crime and Punishment is an insight into the fallacies of the police force but other documentaries from this category include Petition which is heartrendingly infuriating and Beijing Besieged by Waste.

Finally a new Todd Solondz film! This guy has made some seriously messed up and taboo films over the years, Dark Horse looks to have scaled back the level of disturbing but is nevertheless a look at a protagonist somewhat pathetic as a thirty-something man child in arrested development that cannot seem to progress in life.

A film that reflects our current time, with our current inquiry into what makes our bodies tick and the human gene this parable of science and genetic engineering gone wrong reflects these overblown fears and anxieties.

A documentary about the darker side of modelling, recruiting and exploitation to feed the ever-hungry Japanese market we follow Siberian models through the immoral process to be used and abused by the system they believe will give them an opportunity outside their poverty stricken lives.

Bobcat Goldthwait returns with a very cynical and blunt (but very true) message about our consumerist society and overall lack of manners or respect. Everyone will get a tinge of joy watching a jerk get whacked by these fully functional killers, like Bonnie and Clyde with better reasoning and a full blown philosophy on the justification of murder.

Like it or hate it (I am in the latter) Sono's latest is a damn depressing post-trauma exercise that has no light at the end of the tunnel, and despite what the synopsis reads there is no hope to be found here. Brutal, serious and uncompromising, not fun at all.

My Joy (it really wasn't) is the film that preceded In The Fog. A massively depressing and hard going anti-epic of life on the bitter roads in Russia. In The Fog is a moral dilemma set in the murky Russian woods during World War Two, do not expect any happy endings.

Östlund is a director that rubs some people the wrong way. His divisive effort Play uncannily portrayed a sociological hyper-tension that's scope appears to have expanded for Involuntary. The film is comprised of multiple tales of people in compromised positions that are pushed to breaking point due to mob mentality and peer group pressure.

Frodo scalping chicks? Where do I sign up. But seriously the grittier remake of the schlock 80's classic sees Elijah Wood play one seriously messed up boy. If the trailer is anything to go by this looks to be a truly disturbing experience.

Cannot wait to see this. The beauty pageant world meets the violent underground Mexican cartel as Miss Baja California is caught up in the chaos and is based on the story of a former Miss Hispanic America.

An Indian indie about the smut industry in the early 80's. Described as Bollywood meets Boogie Nights this is as enticing a comparison as one is likely to find, but the trailer reveals a progressive slow burn that adds that something extra that makes it required viewing.

The first of three Paradise: films from controversial figure Ulrich Seidl explores his favorite topics of taboo, exploitation and racial discrimination, wrapped up in a darkly comic and inaccessible package.

Shot on a minimal budget this sci-fi thriller about a cult and a prophet from the future promises a completely unpredictable plot development, highly recommended.

Speaking of cults, Islamic fundamentalism is criticized in the highly controversial quickly filmed drama The Blindfold. Set on the streets in Indonesia this tales splits up three protagonists each majorly affected by the manipulative spread of religious fervor plaguing the city.

A documentary about a penis museum and the last remaining uncollected specimen, the human penis and the potential donors involved makes for a highly discussed topic at dinner.

Mads Mikkelsen plays a teacher accused of pedophilia in this stark drama that plays out when the entire town begins to turn on him.

A Korean dark animation about bullying and the twisted repercussions that follow, this nihilistic film has a lot to say about a degrading society.

More WTF than dark, but The Legend of Kaspar Hauser is a twisted black and white retelling of the classic story starring Vincent Gallo in two roles of hunter and hunted. If UFO's, island mistresses and space cowboys are not for you perhaps the pumping Vitalic soundscore will appeal.

Twisted and horrific short stories that interconnect and come from the sharper minds of indie horror, V/H/S is sure to offend and scare the crap out of you.

So there you have it, just some 'so good to feel bad' examples of the impressive world cinema ready for consumption at MIFF. For the entire schedule visit MIFF's Website.
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Joe YoungJuly 13, 2012 7:59 AM

"the tragic and melancholic performance by Ingrid Bergman"

It´s not Joan Crawford you mean..?

"Östlund is a director that rubs some people the wrong way."

Well, at least he follows his own personal vision....few directors dare to do that nowadays in sweden.

"A documentary about a penis museum"

What..? Ok...have to see this one day, thanks Mr Belette.