2012 Melbourne International Film Festival reviews

                                                      Listed here are reviews by AFCA members specifically for this site.

                                                      Go here for links to AFCA members reviews on their own web sites


  Michael Haneke’s intense story-telling style, usually eschewing a
musical score, and using long fixed-camera takes to relate narratives where
external influences over-ride essential humanity, is again present in his
Cannes Best Film Award drama Amour. Established
French actors Jean-Louis Trintignant (Z,
The Conformist, My Night With Maud)
and Emmanuelle Riva (Hiroshima Mon Amour, 3 Colours Blue, Skylab) play
a couple in their 80s, both music teachers now in retirement, struggling with
her health problems and with their somewhat remote daughter Isabelle Huppert (The Piano Teacher). In a series of
progressively devastating tableaus leading to the ultimate scene (presaged by
the opening sequence) the love between the couple is portrayed as a life and
death struggle fighting the external forces of aging and deteriorating health.
Beautifully shot, with each scene carefully composed (or orchestrated without
music) the viewer is led into a highly personal story that can only lead to a
conclusion largely out of the control of the protagonists, with one twist.
Haneke’s previous films on obsession, external forces and doom-laden
resolutions are continued here, after the brilliance of such films as Funny Games, Hidden, The Piano Teacher,
Benny’s Video and The White Ribbon.
Together with Bela Tarr, Haneke must
rank as one of the most incisive and powerful filmmakers, uncompromising in
their visions about humanity under extreme external pressure. Not to be missed.

(Peter Krausz) 15/08/12



  All hail American independent cinema, for it is alive and kicking with
some excellent, witty and incisive films, full of superb writing and appealing
narratives. Such is the case with Colin Trevorrow’s highly amusing, yet
poignant comedy about a journalist and his interns investigating the author of
a newspaper advertisement seeking an assistant to travel through time, safety
not guaranteed. Derek Connolly’s highly inventive and smartly written script is
based on a true occurrence, and Trevorrow has fashioned an entertaining as well
as poignant film about human foibles and the notion of what normality really
means. Aubrey Plaza and Jake M. Johnson play the main
roles in a film replete with insightful observations, clever dialogue, and a
delightfully daffy denouement which satisfies the narrative structure. Not to
be missed.

(Peter Krausz) 15/08/12



  There is no denying that Jerry Lewis is a very talented comic actor,
director and stage performer, and at 85 shows remarkable resilience, as this TV
documentary, directed by Gregg Barson, exemplifies. The film presents us with
an insight into Jerry’s clever ad lib stage style, his excellent array of
films, his ten year partnership with Dean Martin, and his other achievements.
However, the problem is that Jerry is also executive producer of the
documentary, and that means that the film becomes more of a hagiography than a
balanced insight. The celebrity interviews ranging from Jerry Seinfeld, Alec
Baldwin, Carol Burnett, Billy Crystal, through to Steven Spielberg, are all very
adoring, and the collection of clips from Lewis’ films are well chosen and well
integrated into the film’s structure. There is though no mention of the split
between Martin and Lewis, the role Frank Tashlin played in directing many of
Jerry’s films, the obsessive nature of Jerry’s control over his image, etc.
There is no denying Jerry has contributed a great deal to comedy and comic
filmmaking, as well as the development of live video during film shoots, but it
would be more interesting I think to see a more balanced objective documentary
on the contribution and context Jerry has made to entertainment. Recommended.

(Peter Krausz) 15/08/12

The Impostor

  Bart Layton’s The Imposter is one of those documentaries that creeps up on you while you are watching it. Initially this seems like an interesting story about a young French man who poses as a missing American boy found in Spain.It is fascinating and impressive to see how the imposter can fool both Spanish and American authorities, not to mention the family of the missing boy. But as the film progresses, it becomes even more enthralling, with twists and turns as more information surfaces about both the young man and the American family that embrace him as their long lost son. This documentary is beautifully shot and the story masterfully told with intersecting storylines, using interviews with the people involved and re-enactments of their stories. Watching the story unfold is like watching a predator forensically circling its prey; with each interview and each re-enactment we are slowly getting to the truth of the matter, or at least different versions of the truth. The building of the drama and the layers of the story evoke a sense of a novel or screenplay. There is even comic relief, in the form of a private detective who is fixated on a person’s ears as a form of facial finger printing. It would be hard to make this stuff up. Compelling viewing.
(Cynthia Karena) 14/08/12

Beastie Boys in Awesome I Fuckin’ Shot That!    Fight for Your Right Revisited 
  In a 2004, the late great Adam Yauch from the Beastie Boys asked fifty ticket holders to film whatever they wanted at the sold out Madison Square Garden gig in New York City. Given digital cameras, fans shoot typical concert footage, with nothing insightful, funny or incredibly interesting to offer the audience. The vox pops at the end were mildly entertaining, and there is an interesting scene (and I’m grasping here) when the boys silently hop into an elevator, and stare around as people do, to bland elevator music, the antithesis of what we heard a few seconds before. Unless you are a fan who wants to see the concert, there is nothing compelling here. 

However, Yaunch’s short 30 minute film that screened before this, Fight for Your Right Revisited, is fantastic. Packed with loads of actors in cameo performances, such as Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, and Steve Buscemi, this film continues on from the scene of the party in the original music video (Fight for Your Right (To Party)). Starring Elijah Wood, Seth Rogen, and Danny McBride as caricatures of the Beasties, the film starts with the boys in a dry comedic confrontation with the parents of the original video (this time played by Tucci and Sarandon) as they leave the party, they go on to break into a bottle shop, then have a dance off with their future selves (Will Ferrell, Jack Black, and John C Reilly), before being arrested by the police (played by the Beastie Boys themselves). It’s crazy, innovative and wonderful. Yauch’s direction manages to reign in Ferrell’s and Black’s usual self-indulgence and gets some solid performances from them. Who would have thought musicians would have the reach to get so many top line actors, but as with Ricky Gervais’s Extras, Hollywood celebs seem to be lining up to do cameos in non-mainstream projects. 
(Cynthia Karena) 12/08/12

We are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists
  This film is riveting. Writer director Brian Knappenberger’s documentary explores activism on the internet. The internet has changed activism forever, and we get to hear about it from the people on the virtual front line. From defending Julian Assange to shutting down church of scientology websites, the film brings up questions of how the internet can mobilise people for good, or not – one person’s freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist; are hacktivists vandals or revolutionaries? When the church of scientology tried to stop anyone who uploaded a particularly embarrassing Tom Cruise video, hacktivist groups objected to being censored and shut down the site. What exactly is “online justice”? The answers are teased out with fascinating interviews with hacktivists of all opinions and extremes, including people who’ve been to prison, people facing trial, academics and lawyers. This documentary gives a history of hacktivist groups, but concentrates on interviews with members of ‘Anonymous’, the ones you may have seen wearing Guy Fawkes masks at Occupy movement protests. This is an outstanding insight into hacktivist culture.
(Cynthia Karena) 09 / 08 / 12


This film is not a lecture, but an insight into what happened at Australia’s last known massacre of Indigenous people. This is an important film, not only because the Coniston massacre is part of Australia’s great shame in its treatment of Indigenous people, but also because the survivors have lived to tell the tale. The massacre occurred in 1928, spurred by the killing of a white dingo trapper, played by David Field. Over 100 people were killed in retribution. Filmmaker David Batty captures the testimonies of descendants and survivors, including Jonny Nelson, who was carried away from the scene by his mother. His father was murdered. We hear the theories of how events unfolded, and Batty re-enacts some of the events. It’s a nice touch that Batty shows us the direction given to some of the young men in the re-enactments, and particularly funny when told how to act like they had never seen a whitefella. The gems of advice about food survival on the land are also interesting. The cinematography captured the quiet beauty of the land, without looking like a Qantas commercial.
(Cynthia Karena) 8/08/12

  Chris Kenneally’s astutely researched and smartly edited documentary on the debate between celluloid and digital film-making is a terrific insight into an on-going debate in the film community. Executive produced by Keanu Reeves who also interviews (cogently) the myriad of directors, cinematographers, editors, actors and producers featured in the film, this documentary serves as a primer for the history and development of digital cinema alongside the history of film celluloid and the art of filmmaking. Striking and occasionally witty observations are made by the likes of Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Vilmos Szigmond, David Fincher, Dion Beebe, Anne V. Coates, James Cameron, and many others, who both celebrate or decry the shift toward digital filmmaking. The film covers so much technical information in an easily digestible, but breathless, style including the history of the art of cinema, cinematography, film vs digital, the rapid development of fine digital cameras/systems, the future of storing film vs digital formats, and the whole production process. It is left to the audience to decide which format emerges as the victor, but as this is an argument based on a technical continuum, there will always be updates to opinions and to the invigorated technology. One filmmaker comments that film is dead, while others say that film can never disappear. The use of clips from a wide range of films, including unreleased films like The Hobbit, are cleverly sprinkled throughout this brilliantly crafted polemic. Not to be missed. (Peter Krausz) 7/08/12

  Seven directors, using a screenplay by Leonardo Padura, present a short film celebrating Cuba over a period of a week. Reminiscent of the portmanteau films like Paris Je T’Aime and New York I Love You, this 129 minute film covers love, romance, drama, joy and angst in contemporary Havana, without ever quite hitting its stride, or delving too deeply into culture, life or politics. The best sequence is directed by Elia Suleiman, who plays himself seeking an audience with the elusive Fidel Castro, and instead observes a few people staring wistfully into the sea. This is directed in a measured way, with carefully composed frames and a nicely ironic series of tableaus. Laurent Cantet attempts a community spirit, quasi religious, narrative that is based on finding a spiritual epiphany for an elderly woman but comes off as mainly twee. Gaspar Noe’s hard-edged segment on a ritual imposed on a woman with aberrant tendencies is well directed but has no real denoument. Benicio del Toro’s lively segment featuring Josh Hutcherson as a young actor about to embark on a film course in Havana, meeting a transsexual in a bar could have been more affecting or dramatically presented. Julio Medem’s film of a love triangle between a singer, her football playing lover, and a music producer played by Daniel Brühl seems underdeveloped as an erotic narrative. Pablo Trapero’s moderately affecting observation of Emir Kusturica arriving for a film award at the Havan Film festival lacks bite but has some pleasant music. Juan Carlos Tabio’s cultural comedy seems forced and also underwritten. In all, a minor disappointment as this could have been a much wittier and more incisive observation of Havana life, whereas instead, the directors and the film’s overall style, opt for a more commercial, superficial approach.

 (Peter Krausz)7/08/12

  Three years in the making, Luke Walker’s evocative and terrifically well researched documentary into the life of Lasseter and whether there was an actual reef of gold, hits the mark throughout due to its clever construction and amusing combination of animation, archival footage and interviews. Lasseter died in 1931, and his 85 year old son, takes Walker back to the exploration sites and the burial site, in order to ascertain whether his father was fair dinkum or a con artist. Indeed, Lasseter claimed to have predicted the invasion of Australia by Japan, as well as designing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and other feats, which many decried as the act of a conman, while some others were more accepting of his claims. The film acts as an intensive investigation into all the claims, as well as charting Lasseter’s history, mirrored by the history of Australian in the early 20th Century. The clever animations inserted into the visuals, archival footage and other contemporary scenes of the Australian outback, serve to highlight the amount of work that has been put into the creation of a definitive documentary on the whole topic. Walker is best known for the award winning revelation on the Kenja cult, and its prominent and implosive leader, Beyond Our Ken, which still exists as a cult in Sydney and Melbourne despite the impact of that documentary.  Talking to Walker, UK born and a VCA graduate, his incisive style of investigative documentary filmmaking could next be seen when he tackles the story of the disappearance of the pilot Frederick Valentich and the reputed sighting of a UFO. Highly recommended. (Peter Krausz)