MIFF announcement time again! Every year the Melbourne International Film Festival relishes in its big catches from the Croisette, and this year has basically peaked, with picks appealing to every moviegoer. More after the bump.
Thirty-five features from Cannes are set to sweep audiences into worlds of imagination, wonder and varying realities through high-stake thrillers, darkly witty comedies, compelling documentaries and the latest cinematic discoveries.
The festival will present big award winners from this year’s Cannes, including the 2017 Palme d’Or winning The Square, a deliriously strange detonation of art and imagination from Swedish director Ruben Öslund, whose Force Majeure was a MIFF highlight screening), featuring a riveting performance from Danish actor Claes Bang and scene stealing performances from Elizabeth Moss and Dominic West; Loveless, the must-see winner of the Jury Prize and a razor-sharp portrayal of a marriage in the state of collapse from one of the greatest Russian filmmakers working today, Andrey Zvyagintsev (Leviathan).
MIFF favourite Yorgos Lanthimos is back with regular co-writer Efthymis Filippou (The Lobster, ) for The Killing of a Sacred Deer – bringing Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman together in a darkly comic modern rendering of an ancient Greek morality play. Thrillers that packed a punch include Good Time, where Robert Pattinson electrifies in the pulse-quickening heist thriller from American indie stars Josh and Benny Safdie who were subjects of a MIFF focus in 2015.
Films from European directors that set Cannes ablaze include master auteur Michael Haneke’s (Amour, The White Ribbon) Happy End, which sees the director reunite with the great Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant in a cutting portrait of bourgeois European Life; Let the Sunshine In, the Directors’ Fortnight award-winning film from Claire Denis, with Juliette Binoche delivering a shining performance in the starring role; and veteran French director Philippe Garrel’s Lover for a Day, shot in lyrical monochrome.
Films exploring corruption and injustice include the winner of the prestigious Un Certain Regard prize A Man of Integrity, from acclaimed Iranian writer/director Mohammed Rasoulof (Manuscripts Don’t Burn), which is a potent thriller that captures one man’s desperate battle to stand up to a corrupt system; and Tehran Taboo, the boundary-pushing new animation from Iranian-born first-time feature director Ali Soozandeh, which tackles the sexual taboos of Islamic society and reveals a world of hypocrisy and political corruption.
Works of distinct individuality from exciting new voices in the cinematic landscape include the satirical and witty I Am Not a Witch, inspired by real-life rural witch camps in Africa and directed by first-time feature director Ryngano Nyoni, with cinematography by David Gallego (Embrace of the Serpent); Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, a Spaghetti Western directed by a shining star of the blossoming Indonesian film industry, Mouly Surya; and Michael Franco’s Un Certain Regard Jury Prize winner April’s Daughter, a gripping depiction of maternal devotion gone wrong.
Continuing to uncover and capture the bizarre and bold, the festival is proud to present Nothingwood, first-time documentarian Sonia Krunlund’s rousing portrait of Afghani writer/actor/director Salim Shaheen that captures the auteur using the resources available to him to make cheap, fast, out-of-nothing films; co-produced by Maren Ade (Toni Erdmann), Western is the acclaimed Cannes hit from German writer/director Valeska Grisebach that uses non-actors in a European standoff to evoke the spirit of the titular American genre; starring and co-written by Saturday Night Live alumns including Andy Samberg as producer, Brigsby Bear is the latest thigh-slapping comedic effort to double as an SNL “Where Are They Now?” reunion special; and hope springs from Josh Hartnett, a blonde wig and a Tokyo-to-California jaunt in Oh Lucy!, Atsuko Hirayangi’s affectionate feature film from her previous short of the same name.
Slower, more meditative works centered around image, exploration and self-reflexivity include Claire’s Camera, in which Isabelle Huppert reunites with director Hong Sang-soo to present an uncomplicated and refreshing meditation on the joy of chance encounters and the power of art; 24 Frames, a minimalist hymn to the capturing of images and the final work by the late Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami.
Set to screen at MIFF as part of Night Shift, A Prayer Before Dawn is a claustrophobic, face-pulping mash of growling sound, kinetic editing and so-real-you-have-to-flinch fight scenes from French provocateur Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire; and Blade of the Immortal is samurai, swords and Takashi Miike – celebrating his 100th feature with the tale of an immortal swordsman looking to reclaim his soul.
Hot from the Un Certain Regard section, Closeness explores family relations intermingled with ethnic tensions in a stunning, disturbing debut from young Russian filmmaker Kantemir Balagov; shot in nine parts, each in sweeping unbroken takes, Beauty and the Dogs is based on a real incident of a young Tunisian student plunged into an infuriating and intimidating bureaucratic nightmare; and Until the Birds Return, a film of three stunningly rendered dispatches from the still-scarred people and landscapes of modern Algeria, by young gun of North African cinema Karim Moussaoui.
And finally, Chilean filmmaker Marcela Said’s sophomore feature Los Perros explodes class privilege when a wealthy woman falls for her older riding instructor, a man accused of war crimes; and A Gentle Creature, the latest film by Sergei Loznitsa (In the Fog) that shifts from rusted realism to dreamy fantasy as it follows a woman (Vasilina Makovtseva) on a voyage through multiple layers of violence, indignity and human cruelty.
The full program will be announced on Tuesday 11 July with public tickets on sale Friday 14 July. Stick to Screen Anarchy for more on MIFF as it develops.