The Death of MIFF 2016

MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2016

Films 50 through 57
The last hurrah!

It ends on the coast of the Monterey peninsula, with each of us on horseback. It ends in full and rich restored colour. It ends, twofold, with a score settled (with Dad Longworth) and promise on the horizon (with Louisa). It is beautifully cliché, mumbled, and peppered with superb lines. (Incidentally it also features watermelon and other foods chiefly foreign to the festival goer throughout the 17 days that never did look so unappetising. One can’t take three oranges for supper to their 6.30 session, but jaundice, all in all, is a small price to play for the ride.) MIFF 2016, of course, ends with One-eyed Jacks (1960), with a brooding Brando as both Rio (in the film) and director (outside of the film). It ends with a card playing Mona Lisa and a lucky hand hanging on the saloon wall. It ends with arch villains, arching, sneering, leering, and finding fault with the monotony of a fish diet and waves that ceaselessly ‘flop.’ It ends without subtitles, and house lights that come on too soon, before the final kiss to sunset’s backdrop. It ends at the farthest point from a documentary about Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence (Innocence of Memories), or does it? Rio might not collect Louisa’s cigarette butts anytime soon, like Kemal did Füsun’s, but that’s Westerns for you.

The glorious intensity of MIFF is over for another year. As I enter a period of mourning, others will tell me that there are still films I can see, and this is true. But, well, Louder Than Bombs, I saw that at last year’s MIFF, and besides, what I miss is the tightly packed crush of it all. Not unlike those ceaseless waves. I like finding common threads between films. I even like the burning kneecaps I experience from sitting in the same pose, hour after hour. I like keeping the world of Other Things I Have to Do at bay as best I can, responding only to urgent emails. I cherish this sweet holiday of mine, this concentration, in every sense, of features, docos and animations. I need to pop this into past tense.

It has ended, and we are now at the farthest point from doing it all again soon.

57 films in 17 days! Or rather, 5,708* minutes of film. (What a beast! How neat those figures.)

Once more I have attempted to draw up a list of favourite films only to undo own list with additions. Exhibit A [Source: own Twitter account]:

Top (unordered) dozen #MIFF2016 films still a-sparkin' upstairs:
LOST & BEAUTIFUL
RESET
THARLO
TA’ANG
A DRAGON ARRIVES!
HEART OF A DOG
THE HAPPIEST DAY IN THE LIFE OF OLLI MÄKI
FRANCOFONIA
KEDI
SIERANEVADA
MY LIFE AS A COURGETTE
BEHEMOTH
with love to Setsuko Hara

THE DEATH OF LOUIS XIV, MIMOSAS, DON'T BLINK: ROBERT FRANK, STARLESS DREAMS, LO & BEHOLD, lo! I make lists only to break them. Pocketing moments from all #MIFF2016.


So, please, let’s cast aside this list. This soulless list cannot tell you of the moments harvested from scenes that I intend to keep close. It is instead within these visuals that you’ll glean the heart of my festival experience. Cinema has made me a besotted Kemal.

I am keeping the mischief of Luna New Year mice in the wonky cupboard in Life After Life. Those bare trees as well, and those two references to Greek Mythology and Camus, to the eternal labours of Sisyphus and his boulder. I am treasuring the hand of an unknown woman shielding a flickering candle flame in Ta’ang. I am storing Louis the Fourteenth’s gangrenous left leg (The Death of Louis XIV) together with the impossible bright light of the outside world as I left the cinema. From candlelit Serra to Collins Street in the late afternoon, the path of the travelling collector is not an easy one. To this I am adding the bittersweet tenderness of Abbas Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry (1997) and the impossibly loud jackhammer of Swanston Street on a Sunday evening. Just as the film “blurr[ed] the lines between beginning and ending, actor and non-actor, life and death, all worlds slip into one.” (Imaging Life: The Ending of Taste of Cherry, Senses of Cinema). These experiences feed my memories. These experiences ensure nothing fades. They are dust motes visible in the sunlight. Recollections and impressions, they are real.

A black and white pearl necklace discarded in the sand from A Ball at Anjo House and a Francofonia sepia-toned gallery space within the Louvre (just one, not all. Besides, what is Paris without the Louvre?) are side by side in my collection. Better file away those unbuttoned buttons too. Where to put that quintet of slaps to the cheek? And nestled alongside the lamb held snug in a shepherd’s sack, a sheared ponytail retrieved from the floor of the hair salon, and a silvered mirror for it to be reflected just off centre (Tharlo). Whether classically framed or viewed from the sidelines, slightly skewed, I am not fussed. So long as you squeeze in a sense of movements’ brilliant urgency from Reset, a chain of kowtowing from Paths of the Soul, and Robert Frank’s “is that focused” bite (Don’t Blink: Robert Frank). File under: resilience, only to later re-file under: determined beauty, as quiet as it speaks volumes.

On the shelf above, I’ve placed Lolabelle’s keyboard and cataracts (Heart of a Dog), near where Rat Catcher, Deniz, and Gamsiz from the streets of Istanbul are at liberty to rest (Kedi). On the shelf below, Sarchiapone sleeps on a green grass pillow by Pulcinella’s mask cast aside in favour of mortality (Lost and Beautiful). If you listen closely, you will hear not only the sounds of contented sleep, but the music and generosity of spirit of Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble.

Gathered from Sound of the Mountain: the shifting expressions of a Noh mask, a deft pinch on the nose to quieten the sound of snoring, shellfish for the table, tender interactions between a father and his daughter-in-law, the appearance of familiar forms lit by candlelight during a power blackout. A cold serve of polenta from the table of Sieranevada, budding love growing old on the promenade from The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki too. The taste of stale sweets during a typhoon (After the Storm), the comfort of a head finally resting upon a shoulder (Don’t Call me Son), and the earnest clomp-clomp-clomp of Isabelle Huppert’s philosophy professor as she runs through in Things to Come, but really, Huppert in anything, and nothing else (save the real Pandora) from the film. (I didn’t catch Elle.)

The soaring flight path of a young golden eagle with tremendous feathered trousers (The Eagle Huntress), sheep grazing on a remaining paradise patch of green earth alongside an encroaching coal mine in Inner Mongolia (Behemoth), yes, all this and more, I am in the process of pocketing or have already done so. Faces blacked by the coal, and weary muscles scrubbed clean, but not quite. Moments that speak of hope, strength, purpose, and love; moments that speak of sorrow, longing, tragedy also; making things whole, I’m archiving them all. In the same manner that I draw up lists, I’m filing beauty found in heartache next to beauty in the Altai and Atlas Mountains: organically, haphazardly. Moments that speak of nature, moments ripped from the Divine Comedy, moments that I replay in my mind’s eye. Who knows what other fragments will come to the fore in the coming days as all this settles?

All I know is that it all ended with a firecracker in the hand (Tharlo). Boom! Come back soon. You were marvellous and you are already missed.

 

* 4,907 minutes, MIFF 2015, if you are curious.

Related MIFF 2016 notes: Patterns, Onward, Wildflowers glimpsed from a commuter train, and Interlaced

 

INNOCENCE OF MEMORIES (D Grant Gee)
BLOOD OF MY BLOOD (D/S Marco Bellocchio)
PATHS OF THE SOUL (D/P/S Zhang Yang)
SUNSET SONG (D/S Terence Davies)
RESET (D Thierry Demaizière, Alban Teurlai)
MUNE: GUARDIAN OF THE MOON (D Alexandre Heboyan, Benoît Philippon)
THE RED TURTLE (D Michael Dudok de Wit)
THOSE WHO JUMP (D Moritz Siebert)
MY LIFE AS A COURGETTE (D Claude Barras)
LONG WAY NORTH (D Rémi Chayé)
A GOOD WIFE (D/S Mirjana Karanović)
FAMILY FILM (D Olmo Omerzu)
NO REGRETS FOR OUR YOUTH (D Akira Kurosawa)
THE LAND OF THE ENLIGHTENED (D/S Pieter-Jan De Pue)
HARMONIUM (D/S Kôji Fukada)
THE SALESMAN (D/S Asghar Farhadi)
JULIETA (D/S Pedro Almódovar)
KEDI (D/S Ceyda Torun)SIERANEVADA (D/S Cristi Puiu)
COSMOS (D/S Andrzej Żuławski)
TONI ERDMAN (D/S Maren Ade)
LOST AND BEAUTIFUL (D Pietro Marcello)
THINGS TO COME (D/S Mia Hansen-Løve)
DON’T CALL ME SON (D/S Anna Muyleart)
THE HAPPIEST DAY IN THE LIFE OF OLLI MÄKI (D Juho Kuosmanen)
DON’T BLINK: ROBERT FRANK (D Laura Israel)
AFTER THE STORM (D/S Hirokazu Kore-eda)
SOUND OF THE MOUNTAIN (D Mikio Naruse)
THE EVENT (D/S Sergei Loznitsa)
STARLESS DREAMS (D/P/S Mehrdad Oskouei)
LITTLE FROM THE FISH SHOP (D Jan Balej)
THE MUSIC OF STRANGERS: YO-YO MA AND THE SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE (D Morgan Neville)
HEART OF A DOG (D/S Laurie Anderson)
ELLA (D Douglas Watkin)
SLACK BAY (D/S Bruno Dumont)
A DRAGON ARRIVES! (D/P/S Mani Haghighi)
LOVETRUE (D Alma Har’el)
MIMOSAS (D/S Oliver Laxe)
LO AND BEHOLD: REVERIES OF THE CONNECTED WORLD (D/S Werner Herzog)
IN THE LAST DAYS OF THE CITY (D Tamer El Said)
THE UNKNOWN GIRL (D/S Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
THE COMMUNE (D Thomas Vinterberg)
PATERSON (D/S Jim Jarmusch)
DEATH IN SARAJEVO (D/S Danis Tanović)
THE BAULKHAM HILLS AFRICAN LADIES TROUPE (D/P/S Ros Horin)
LIFE, ANIMATED (D Roger Ross Williams)
LIFE AFTER LIFE (D/S Zhang Hanyi)
BEHEMOTH (D Liang Zhao)
TA’ANG (D Wang Bing)
THE EAGLE HUNTRESS (D Otto Bell)
A BALL AT ANJO HOUSE (D Kimisaburo Yoshimura)
FRANCOFONIA (D/S Alexander Sokurov)
THARLO (D/S Pema Tseden)
HEDI (D/S Mohamed Ben Attia)
THE DEATH OF LOUIS XIV (D Albert Serra)
TASTE OF CHERRY (D Abbas Kiarostami)
ONE-EYED JACKS (D Marlon Brando)

 

Image credit: Still from Albert Serra’s film, The Death of Louis XIV (2015)