Welcome to the GWP Roundtable. Each week the GWP team will be thrown a question and their magnificent film brains will be milked for opinions. With the announcement of the lineup of the Sydney Film Festival (SFF), this week’s question is: What are your must see films for the SFF 2013?
The Sydney Film Festival this year has one of the strongest line-ups I have seen from it so far, proof-positive of Festival Director, Nashen Moodley’s impressive efforts as he refines himself in this sophomore year. Here is my top five must-see and top three already-seen but don't miss it everyone else picks!
Rounding up my top three already-seen is the slow burning, utterly entrancing Beyond the Hills; this slice of Romanian new-wave is a religious and social allegory that will stay with you for days. Next up is Kitano's first ever sequel effort. The master-class of crime fiction that is Outrage Beyond; a film Outrage existed for to set-up the utter brilliance by stark comparison. Finally, another Asian auteur's brilliant mind goes to work with Kim Ki-duk's Pieta. A brutal mother and son ala dysfunction extreme that is not for the faint-hearted.
Onto the films most tempting me to go to SFF. Here are the obvious ones; Only God Forgives, Stoker, Upstream Color and You're Next. The less obvious - Penance; Kiyoshi Kurosawa, the master of the fractured Japanese psyche explores just that in a six hour series of murder and redemption that SFF is bold enough to play. The Rambler, a road-movie meets the kitchen sink that is as Lynchian as films can possibly be judging from the trailer. Pluto, the darling of the Busan film festival, a disturbing school drama from South Korea, adding to the new wave of youth stories and talent stemming from there. Longing For The Rain, an erotic ghost story set in Beijing (but a Hong Kong film so there'll be risque flesh aplenty) and I'm just a sucker for Asian urban malaise. Speaking of the exact opposite, here's North Korea with their utterly communist sensibilities in Comrade Kim Goes Flying. Given the recent interest in this part of the world, and my personal interest in it a North Korean production; it will be an interesting festival addition indeed. Finally, Cheap Thrills which has received nothing but buzz, although I know little about it other than it delighted audiences at SXSW and esteemed colleagues raved about it.
My picks are Before Midnight, The Iceman, Only God Forgives, Upstream Colour and Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer.
As much as I am looking forward to seeing the finale to the Sunrise trilogy - that rare thing that promises to match all expectations - I am most anticipating The Iceman. If you've read the book The Ice Man by Philip Carlo you'll know just how evil Richard Kuklinski is and with the cold Michael Shannon stepping up to play the role, even if the script possibly doesn't deliver the performance should be something to haunt your dreams.
The SFF program can seem daunting at first, with a couple of hundred films to choose from. There are so many that stand out to me, but I've narrowed it down to five in particular that I'm really looking forward to (only one of which I've seen before).
This is the third part in Richard Linklater's trilogy that began with Before Sunrise eighteen years ago. I’m looking forward to seeing Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy's characters develop, as they approach middle age. You can actually catch the whole trilogy at SFF.
This comedy set in the 80s about a group of super-nerds at a chess-software programmers tournament sounds hilarious. The guy on the publicity shot on the SFF site even looks like a very young Bill Gates.
It Always Rains on Sunday
This classic postwar British crime drama from 1947 stars young John McCallum and Googie Withers, in the year before they were married. [I had the pleasure of working with the wonderful couple for a few months when they were both in their late 70s. They were the most amazing people, with so many fantastic film and theatre history stories to tell]. This film is screening at the AGNSW, so there's also the opportunity to check out the gallery's exhibitions while you're there.
I can't wait to see Asghar Farhadi's follow up to his wonderful (and emotionally powerful) film The Separation, which many Australians were introduced to at the SFF two years ago. Looking forward to seeing Bérénice Béjo in as speaking role, after her delightful performance in The Artists.
If you haven't seen this Alfred Hitchcock classic before, here is a fabulous opportunity to see it on the big screen. Of the two available screenings, try to get to the historic Hayden Orpheum at Cremorne if you can. Also not to be missed is the companion piece at the SFF Hub: The 20-minute Rear Window loop, which reconstructs the view out of leading man Jimmy Stewart's apartment in the film.
And one more thing…
The SFF Hub: this is DEFINITELY a place you shouldn't miss! After i's highly successful first year in 2012, it's back again at the Lower Town Hall, even bigger than last year, and open until midnight. There's lots of free stuff: screenings, talks, exhibitions, DJs, performances, a Film Club, a trivia night, phone charging stations and Wi-Fi. There's also food and drink available, as well as a film-themed bookstore.
Only God Forgives
Director Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling follow up Drive with a film about a kickboxing grudge match inspired by Bloodsport. Heel-kick this film into your SFF schedule now.
A film so good that filmmaker Gareth Evans (The Raid) personally bought the rights to distribute it in Indonesia (his place of residence). Being pitched as 2013s Cabin in the Woods with parallels already being drawn by critics to Wes Craven’s slasher revival Scream.
The new film by director Michel Gondry, have you seen his body of work? Book your tickets now.
For Those In Peril
Selected for the Cannes Critics' Week competition, For Those in Peril is the feature debut of short filmmaker Paul Wright. Set in a remote Scottish fishing community this film tells a story of grief, seagoing folklore and redemption.
Stories We Tell
A documentary by Sarah Polley examining her family tree. Polley is putting a lot of personal information out in the open and you can’t help but feel this is going to be an emotionally engaging film.
Shane “I broke people’s brains with Primer” Carruth is back. His new film has been described as an “experimental science fiction film”. I am more than willing to be a test subject.
The story of the free peer-to-peer file sharing internet service, Napster, is told in this documentary directed by Alex Winter (yes, Bill from the Bill and Ted movies). Napster brought the music industry to its knees while starting an internet revolution in the domain of file sharing and it will be interesting to see the tale of Napster’s pioneers who were perceived as pirates at the height of its success.
The 2013 SFF lineup is a field of riches. On first glance it revealed only about a dozen names I recognized, but by digging deeper a huge diversity of films provoked interest and cutting my scheduled line-up down to 30 was a difficult process. But, it has been done. Here are some of the films in my schedule that I feel are must-sees:
The Laos-set Australian production, The Rocket, the lone film from the lineup that I have already seen, is wonderful and comes highly recommended. I am looking forward to the audience response, which has sent a towering precedent for the official competition to match.
Only God Forgives is the latest Nicolas Winding Refn-Ryan Gosling collaboration and looks to have all of the Drive-awesome we are expecting, but on a whole new playing field. Bangkok. From the trailers it looks absolutely stunning, Kristen Scott Thomas, the head of a powerful crime organization I believe, is unrecognisable, and it will undoubtedly be extremely violent. With Refn already a winner of the SFF Award (Bronson, 2009), this will surely be an unforgettable big-screen, packed-crowd experience.
Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell received enormous praise at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, and Polley is fast becoming a promising young filmmaker. Away From Her and Take This Waltz serve as proof. I have the word of Festival Director, Nashen Moodley, that this film, a moving portrait of Polley's family - her many siblings, actor-writer father, and actress mother - and a legacy of secrets and lies, is going to rattle audiences.
The Act of Killing, winner of the Audience Award (doco) at 2013 Berlinale, sounds incredibly powerful. Documentary filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer captures Anwar Congo and other 1965-66 Sumatran Death Squad members recreating their crimes. Maverick directors Errol Morris and Werner Herzog got on board as producers after seeing an early cut of the film, which suggests it’s going to be something pretty special.
Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are perfect films. They introduce us to and reunite us with the fascinating lives of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), in what are two of the most charming films ever made about romantic longing and existential discussion. I can’t imagine any fans of these two films missing out on Before Midnight, which, like Sunset before it, is set nine years after the preceding film.
Beyond the Hills screened at the Cannes Film Festival last year, winning Best Screenplay and Best Actress, and though I have been trying to catch it during the festival rounds it seems a release date has still not been confirmed. The last film from Romanian auteur Christian Mungiu, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, won the Palme d’Or in 2007 and this has been receiving similar acclaim.
Asghar Farhadi, director of A Separation, which won the 2011 SFF Award, is back with a highly anticipated new film called The Past, which screens at the festival fresh from Cannes. A must-see purely because of Farhadi.
Others that fascinate me include Monsoon Shootout, Grisgris, Prince Avalanche, Upstream Colour, We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks and Computer Chess.
After being blind-sided by the raw emotional resonance of Asgar Farhadi's Oscar winning dramatic masterpiece A Separation, there's no way I could possibly miss anything he's involved with from now on.
Only God Forgives
It's not since the Scorsese/De Niro collaborations of the 1970s that there's been a more exciting director/Actor pairing. This time it's a cop exacting personal and violent vengeance against a Thai criminal - at the end of the strings of a glacial matriarch (Kristen Scott Thomas). Nicholas Windig Refn + Ryan Gosling + lyrical cinematic violence = tickets bought. Before Midnight
The finale to Richard Linklater's beautifully authentic and intimate love story revisits Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, married with children and trying to nourish the dying flames of their iconic romance. With fluid direction and the collaborative scripting I hope they do justice to the series.
An all-star Aussie stacked cast including Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasichowska, Jackie Weaver and Brit Matthew Goode, form the cast for the master Korean auteur Chan-wook (Old Boy). It’s Park's first venture into english language cinema. And if those ingredients weren't tantalising enough there's the 'WTF Factor' that Prison Break star Wentworth Miller penned the script.
Most picked films from the GWP team:
- Only God Forgives
- Upstream Colour
- Before Midnight
- Beyond the Hills
- You’re Next
- Computer Chess
- The Past
- Stories We Tell