Melbourne International Film Festival – Day Seventeen. By Simon Miraudo.
It is finished! Over the past 17 days, I have caught no less than 60 movies at the Melbourne International Film Festival (61 if you count the Captain America screening I finagled my way into). After two-and-a-half weeks of brilliant movies, not-so-brilliant movies, and staying up past 4am writing about them, it was nice to farewell the festival in style at Saturday’s official closing night party at Federation Square. The shindig was preceded by a screening of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, ahead of which I noticed esteemed Aussie critic David Stratton chatting up a storm with fellow Blog-A-Thoners Jess Lomas, Glenn Dunks, and visiting Sydney critic Alice Tynan. I promptly walked over and shook Stratt’s hand, and although Alice was nice enough to introduce me as ‘Simon from Quickflix!’ it was probably as meaningless as when someone asks him “What’s the name of that film with that guy?” Ah well; hopefully I was able to steal some of his reviewerly powers when our palms met (a’la Rogue from X-Men). So, thank you Melbourne, and the MIFF team, for the memories. It’s been real. Let’s wrap it up with films 59 and 60 of the 60 Films in 17 Days challenge.
The best word to describe Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive – based on James Sallis’ book of the same name - is ‘cool’. Perhaps it’s the only word necessary. But, I probably can’t get away with a one-word review, so allow me to expand on my feelings. Ryan Gosling, starring as an LA stunt-man and freelance getaway driver, is really, really cool. When he falls in love with an ex-con’s wife (Carey Mulligan), he lowers his normally very-high standards, and agrees to assist her hubby (Oscar Isaac) in a heist that will help pay off the thugs who are threatening their family. But the heist goes wrong (as they oft do), and everyone’s life – including that of the driver’s mechanic (Bryan Cranston) and his mob-connected bosses (Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman) – ends up on the line. Refn’s direction is so stylish and slick and Hollywood chic, but never vapid. The persistent, pulsating, synth-pop soundtrack is electrifying. The cinematography is gorgeous, and so uniquely and strangely composed. For a film that pays tributes to film noirs of the 40s, gritty crime dramas of the 70s, and neon-lit action films of the 80s, Drive is surprisingly novel, featuring moments that are so unexpected, and in some cases, never before attempted. Drive is an issue of Teen Beat magazine come to life, with hot pink lipstick smeared over the top, and with smatterings of some of the most extreme violence you’ve ever seen thrown in for good measure. Precisely paced, but with plenty of fantastic action set-pieces, Drive is too much fun. Seriously, it’s COOL.
60) Another Earth
Brit Marling is the indie ‘it’ girl of the moment, which is such a clichéd title, but at least she’s worthy. She co-wrote and stars in Another Earth (the other writer is director Mike Cahill), which supposes that there is, ahem, another Earth out there in the cosmos; an exact replica, down to each human living, or who has lived, on it. How this fantastic astrological miracle happened is never explained – it is only discovered. Marling’s Rhoda has just gotten out of prison for a drink-driving accident that claimed the life of composer John Burroughs ‘(William Mapother) wife and son. Working as a janitor at the local high school, and unable to move on from her past mistakes, she poses as a cleaning woman to get close to John, and potentially apologise. Meanwhile, she dreams of visiting Earth 2 to see if there’s a second version of her up there; one who hasn’t made the same terrible decisions. Not exactly plodding, but Another Earth is very deliberately paced. Still, the sci-fi premise is genuinely intriguing, and Marling’s performance is quite moving. Although it doesn’t reach the heights of its spiritual predecessor Solaris, it’s good enough to at least put Marling on the map.