A rich variety of fabulous titles were chosen by Melbourne festival attendees as stand out films this year…
My Life as a Courgette
Director Claude Barras [France, Switzerland]
Scripted by Celine Sciamma, adapted from Gilles Paris’ novel.
The favourite of the Melbourne audiences was the dark tale of childhood struggles, loneliness and yearnings presented through the stop-motion animation of Swiss illustrator Claude Barras and his lovable character Courgette.
The nine-year-old boy’s story is full of hardships, with an absent father and an alcoholic mother who dies tragically leaving Courgette alone in the world.
In his new life at a children’s home he gradually befriends other orphans and the sweet but melancholy friendships of the group provide a rich tale of complex feelings and generous gestures.
Park Chan-wook [South Korea]
Adapted from Sarah Walter’s Fingersmith
Set in a lush 1930’s Korea, a master conman ‘The Count’ recruits a beautiful pickpocket ‘Sooki’ to help facilitate his seduction of a naïve Japanese heiress ‘Hideko.’
It’s a dastardly plan in which Sooki is to become Hideko’s handmaiden and help The Count marry the innocent girl, lock her in a mental institution and take control of her large fortune.
Hideko and Sooki turn this around on The Count when they fall in love and work to double cross him. Sex and danger in lavish surroundings, this film certainly seduced the Melbourne crowd.
EMO The Musical
Neil Triffet [Australia]
Moody Emo ‘Ethan’ is moping around with his grungy band ‘Worst Day Ever’ and never for a moment expects to fall in love with perky, Christian singer ‘Trinity.’
But when her band ‘Hope Group’ compete with ‘Worst Day Ever’ in the local band competition Ethan finds himself drawn to her despite his disdain for her sunshine and positivity attitude to life.
Hilarity ensues as both kids learn about each other and how to overcome their differences as they fall head over heels in love.
Audiences fell in love with this acute and irreverent film and it’s sweet and sour characters.
Lee Tamahori [New Zealand]
Adapted from a novel by Witi Ihimaera
Tamihana is sheep shearing clan the Mahanas’ gruff old patriarch, and he doesn’t take kindly to his upstart teenage grandson Simeon challenging his authority.
It’s 1960’s New Zealand, and Simeon has been inspired to speak his mind and disrupt the status quo after discovering George Bernard Shaw at school.
Of all his grandfather’s tyrannical edicts the one which puzzles Simeon the most is just why Tamihana and his family are so locked in rivalry with neighbouring sheep shearers the Poatas.
As Simeon finds his confidence the true cause of this emnity start to come to light. Proud Maori culture is beautifully and fondly laid bare once again by the director of ‘Once Were Warriors’ in this tale of empowerment.
Asghar Farhadi [France, Iran]
Winner of Best Screenplay at Cannes
Iranian masculinity is explored in this dramatic story of a couple, Emad and Rana, whose home is invaded by an intruder. Rana is violently injured.
Her attempt to recover amidst complex feelings of fear and defensiveness is not best served by Emad’s obsession with wreaking revenge on her attacker.
The couple gain parts in a local production of Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’ as Willy and Linda loman, and as the distance between them grows in real life, their characters in the play seem more and more true to the way their relationship is going.
Will they fall apart or find a way back to each other?
6. A War
Tobias Lindholm [Denmark]
Academy Award Winner
What does it mean to be a good soldier? Amidst the mess of ongoing wars in the Middle East NATO Commander Claus Pedersen is a attempting to balance pragmatism and compassion leading his unit in Afghanistan.
He shepherds his men while his wife back in Denmark does her best to nurture their family on her own. When the shock and horror of war follows Claus back home the ethical questions of war haunt him and his family.
Maren Ade [Germany, Austraia]
Cannes FIPRESCI winner
How dysfunctional can a father/daughter relationship get?
When you throw middle aged Winfried’s penchant for practical jokes and his alter ego ‘Toni Erdmann’ into his stuffy corporate daughter’s professional and private life the level of friction, and comedy, goes sky high.
Hilarious, touching and heartbreaking, this film left audiences delighted.
Train to Busan
Yeon Sang-ho [South Korea}
A high speed train full of of zombies puts the passengers who have not yet become walking dead under pressure.
With adrenaline flowing this horror flick critiques the effects of a class system that emerges as survival becomes the highest priority for a small group of passengers from very different backgrounds.
It’s a zombie classic.
Ryuske Hamaguchi [Japan]
Husbands, careers, revelations… This film of the daily lives of 30-something friends Jun, Akari, Sakurako and Fumi explores women’s friendships and lives with warmth and depth.
Interaction is intense and identities are challenged.
A charming, intelligent film with plenty of pace.
Matt Ross [USA]
Deep in the forest and steeped in counterculture, idealist father Ben Cash lives with his six children in ramshackle treehouses and yurts. He teaches them Marxism and hunting while fiercely shielding them from Western capitalist culture.
Tragedy forces the family to pack up ‘Steve the VW’ and venture out of their bubble on a five day road trip to New Mexico.
The challenges of fatherhood, family values, and making sense of US mainstream culture ensue.
The heartedness of this family and this film inspired and uplifted audiences.