The 2014 app is on the way, but you can view the printed program at the bottom of this post and purchase your tickets at the website, but having scoured this year’s suitably weird and wonderful programme, here are the ten films (including Opening and Closing nights galas) I would be using my Festival Pass (http://www.factorytheatre.com.au/events/2014/09/04/8th-annual-sydney-underground-film-festival) on were I attending. Last year was great. I attended all four days and covered the festival for GWP. This year I will not be in Sydney.
The synopses that follow are drawn from the Official Sydney Underground Film Festival website.
Breadcrumb Trail(Lance Bangs) - With a filmmaker’s eye and a fan’s passion, music video director Lance Bangs unleashes his enthusiasm for seminal Louisville band Slint. If you’re not aware of the group or their famed second album Spiderland, you will be familiar with the many echoes its members and their music have had since – featuring on the Kids soundtrack, playing with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol, Zwan and The Breeders, and sparking the style that would become known as post-rock. Bangs’ documentary brings together archival footage and ample interviews to trace Slint’s lineage and legacy, but it also looks lovingly upon the location that made it all happen. As Hunter S. Thompson said of their Kentucky home city, “this is a weird place.” As Breadcrumb Trail shows, from the strangeness came the sounds of history.
This is the only film at this festival that I have seen already. What I learned? Britt Walford is a weird guy. As a big fan of the incomparable 'Spiderland' I found this a fascinating insight into Slint's Louisville roots, and their post-recording, pre-release break-up. They were so young at the time. 20. Incredible that such an iconic work came together the way it did, and yet would be their last album. Recommended viewing for anyone who has ever experienced ‘Spiderland’.
For No Good Reason(Charlie Paul) – Without Ralph Steadman, there would be no Hunter S. Thompson, his anarchic cartoons and drawings complementing the gonzo journalist’s electric prose. Their careers rose in tandem, but Steadman saw less of the limelight; though his star may not have shined as bright, his tenacity continuously matched his creative counterpart. Four decades of provocative paintings and politically minded sketches spring to life in an exploration of an acclaimed illustrator with the imagination to match his eccentricity. Johnny Depp guides director Charlie Paul’s chronicle of Steadman’s enthralling artistic genius, complete with archival footage of Thompson and William Burroughs, and interviews with Terry Gilliam and Richard E. Grant.
Housebound(Gerard Johnstone) - It’s the next horror-comedy hit waiting to happen, with bumps, jumps, and a whole house full of frightening fun. Filmmaker Gerard Johnstone threatens Peter Jackson as New Zealand’s premier purveyor of scares and laughs in his creepy, kooky, and spooky first feature about a completely offbeat family. Living with a mother, Miriam (Rima Te Wiata), convinced their home is haunted is trying enough for Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly), but not being able to leave tests her patience more than she could have ever expected. Her trapped status is her own doing, after she tries to smash and grab an ATM but ends up slapped with an ankle monitor. Kylie thinks being placed under house arrest is an unfair punishment, complete with an overdose of maternal superstition; however then the unsettling whispers and strange thumps begin. Soon, she realises that the scary sounds may not be a result of inheriting Miriam’s over-active imagination – their house might just be possessed by a hostile spirit who’s less than happy about the new living arrangement.
Mr Leos Carax(Tessa Louise-Salome) - He’s the man who enraptured film fans with Holy Motors, who made Denis Lavant the icon he was always meant to be in Boy Meets Girl and Mauvais Sang, and who never shied away from the darkness and devastating beauty of wholly unconventional love stories in The Lovers on the Bridge and Pola X. He was once known as a cinematic poet, and then a temperamental genius, taking years to get a film made. He is Leos Carax, also the subject of Tessa Louise-Salomé’s illuminating documentary look at his output, his influence, and his enduring enigma. Featuring interviews with his former cast members and crew, reflections from critics, time spent with his favourite leading man, and audio of the elusive figure himself, Mr Leos caraX is the insight into his oeuvre befitting his awe-inspiring impact.
Nova Express(Andre Perkowski) - To celebrate 100 years since the birth of William S Burroughs (author of classics including Naked Lunch, Junky and Cities of the Red Night amongst others) SUFF and underground scholar Jack Sargeant present the Australian premiere of Andre Perkowski’s epic adaptation of Burroughs’ Nova Express. Like the radical science fiction novel on which it is based, the film cuts-up, remixes, incorporates and detours through social satire, science fiction, film noir, and the image archive of the twentieth-century to create a visual counterpart to the soundtrack voices of William Burroughs and others. Combining found footage, original film, animation and collages the film is a mammoth, visionary work that has screened in various forms (some versions lasting three-hours) offering a truly cinematic realisation of Burroughs’ world. This screening is essential for anyone interested in Burroughs, radical cinema, and storming the reality studio.
Proxy(Zack Parker) - Brace yourselves for Proxy, a film so unnerving that the Toronto International Film Festival included a warning about its disturbing content in its program notes. Peering into the sinister side of motherhood and following the path set by Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, Zack Parker turns a tragic twist of fate into a brutal thriller where confusion and confrontation reign. Close to giving birth, Esther Woodhouse (Alexia Rasmussen) is attacked by a hooded assailant, finding consolation in another mother (Alexa Havins) scarred by horrific circumstances. What starts as a form of solace spirals into a circle of shocking revelations as perceptions shift, stories change, and even what is seen can’t necessarily be trusted. A standout performance by mumblecore hero Joe Swanberg and a Bernard Herrmann-esque score help complete the darkly offbeat package.
Suburban Gothic(Richard Bates Jr) - Richard Bates Jr. follows up his devilishly delicious Excision with Suburban Gothic, a slice of Middle America life that finds the mysterious in the mundane – and the humour in horror. When Raymond (Matthew Gray Gubler) attempts to kick his post-college malaise by staying with his parents, he befriends local bartender, Becca (Kat Dennings), and embarks upon an investigation into a centuries-old murder, his ability to channel the paranormal complicating matters. The kitsch of the Hardy Boys and Scooby Doo combines with Bates Jr.’s quirky, creepy charm, in a spirited package of the sweet and the supernatural. And then there are the cameos from familiar faces and genre icons, spanning Ray Wise, Jeffrey Combs, Muse Watson, John Waters, Jennifer Lynch and Jen and Sylvia Soska.
The Green Inferno(Eli Roth) - Mix horror wunderkind Eli Roth with controversial Italian effort Cannibal Holocaust, and The Green Inferno is the end result. The director of Cabin Fever and Hostel gets a hilarious hunger for humans in his clever and comedic homage to the movie that was deemed so violent it was thought to be an actual snuff film, and was banned in Australia for more than two decades. In his subversive spin on the tourists in trouble trope, he sets a group of activists into the wilds of the Amazon, wandering through the jungle looking to help but faced with becoming food for ravenous locals. Roth’s love for late 1970s and early 1980s genre films is obvious as he tests the limits of taste – for flesh, for fun, and for blood-curdling frights.
Wetlands(David Wendt) - A letter of protest pleaded for Wetlands, the cult German-language novel by author Charlotte Roche, to never be made into a film – and it is this letter that opens director David Wnendt’s movie adaptation. Defiant in its spirit and performance as well as its mere existence, the feature tells of Helen, an average teenage girl empowered by a strikingly honest rendering. As punchily played by Carla Juri, Helen chases boys, explores sex and drugs, and attempts to cope with her parents’ divorce, mostly while hospitalised after an intimate shaving accident sparks an anal fissure. Bodily functions, unconventional uses of food, and skateboarding semi-naked down hallways – in perhaps the most frank and funny depiction of burgeoning female sexuality seen on screen, absolutely nothing is off limits.
Why Don’t You Play In Hell(Sion Sono) - If you thought Holy Motors peered into the psyche of cinema with a strange and surreal mindset, then watch Sion Sono’s Why Don’t You Play in Hell? blow it out of the theatre. A partner piece in theme but a unique work in its rebellious energy, it starts with a toothpaste jingle and ends with a bloodbath as it follows pop-punk film collective The Fuck Bombers. Gang warfare threatens their movie making but not their mania, as Sono uses the conflict to dance through every genre imaginable. An ode to the medium as much as an unashamed experiment, they don’t usually make films as fun, frenetic, anarchic or insane as this; in fact, they don’t usually make films like this at all.
Sydney Underground Film Festival - Printed Program Flipbook (http://suff.com.au/printedprogram/)
Andrew Buckle - follow Andy on Twitter here: @buckle22
Andy Buckle is a passionate Sydney-based film enthusiast and reviewer who has built a respected online voice at his personal blog, The Film Emporium. Andy will contribute reviews, features and be our resident film festival, and awards expert.