MIFF2010 Day 1: Let's Start at the Bottom Shall We

 
 
And we're off on a 17 day journey through sleep deprivation and malnutrition. I'm expecting the gamut of emotions to strike me at this festival. Love, hate, indifference, boredom, offence, it's all gonna be packaged amongst the wintry front of Melbourne city. Lets get straight into it shall we.
 
 
 
 
CITIES ON SPEED PROGRAM 1
SHANGHAI SPACE
 
Maybe my expectations misled me, maybe it was my fault or maybe it just wasn't a very good film. Either way I was bored and disappointed throughout this first Cities on Speed film. The broad outline of the film (and series as a whole) led me to believe that this was going to be an examination of a city that is struggling to house its speedily growing population. I was wrong. This was a mediocre slice of life piece mainly following an old couple as they move out from the apartment they have been living in for 35 years. The government is taking over their block to build higher density accommodation so the film follows this old couple as they move, look for a new place to live and take photos.
 
This is intercut with the ramblings of an apparently government sanctioned urban planner who has ambitions to build underground villages. This alternate story is initially interesting but all it is seems to be is a single round table conversation where he and others spout on about how these places would be habitable. Of course we don't even spend that much time talking about that as the film seems to spend most of its running time showing us how to take photos of old trees and inspecting apartments in Shanghai's outskirts.
 
A missed opportunity and a mediocre slice of life.
 
MUMBAI DISCONNECTED
 
The second film in the Cities on Speed program was a little better than the first. Again it covers a city that is growing at a pace which is resulting in the transport system reaching a breaking point. We see three slightly interconnected stories here. A middle class man who struggles with the train system and decides to buy his family their first car. An upper class old lady trying to stop a flyover expressway being built through her neighbourhood and the man in charge of construction of new roadways designed to ease the congestion in the city.
 
These three stories links together in much more interesting ways that the first film and do give some interesting insights into specifically the class divide occurring in Mumbai. The older woman fighting the expressway construction is a classic example of a bourgeois Indian woman (with a maid and personal driver no less) who is fighting development that will help the majority simply because it will take some trees away from the view of her rather large apartment.
 
Late in the film the middle class man seeking a new car rants about this class of rich people trying to stifle development and makes some fantastic points. Why should they be the only ones allowed to have cars and drive. Growth brings prosperity to more people yet the rich minority are rallying to stop growth.
 
The first Cities on Speed program sadly underwhelms and offers no great compulsion to me to see the second program. Overall it seemed like a great concept for a series of films but it doesn't cover the issues on any real significant level instead it offers small situational slice of life stories that aren't really that interesting.
 
AIR DOLL
 
Air Doll is the lightest existential drama I have ever seen. That is both a good thing and a bad thing. The simple fact that the story of a sex doll that comes to life with a sense of childlike wonder yet still engages in passive sex doll servitude manages to go from airy whimsy to existential drama to tragi-comedy, the fact this film even exists without being creepy is actually quite a miracle.
 
The film satisfyingly creeps up on you with much of the first half being amiably predictable. Slowly very interesting situations unreel and the film expands into a sweetly melancholic portrait of a city where disconnectedness and emptiness is rife. I think I really quite liked Air Doll. Its the type of film that could get eaten up and spat out into obscurity in the context of a film festival. It is light and elegant and quiet.
 
 
My only real initial negative reaction to it was it felt slightly long. While culminating its story in a very interesting way, it still came across as a little draggy and it does misstep with a couple of jarringly dark scenes near the very end. Its a small, interesting film nonetheless, that has a lot to say and uses very little to do it in rather elegant ways.
 
VILLALOBOS
Wow!
 
This was amazing!!
 
Possibly the single worst thing I have ever seen at a film festival. I felt honestly sorry for those watching this film who had no interest in the subject matter. They are the true heroes here. Having spent time in electronic music circles myself, I could at least deal with 30 or 40 minutes of this home movie.
 
Have you ever seen those Youtube videos of DJs playing and it's all shakey and shot by the DJs friend on a dodgy phone camera? Have you ever considered watching uncut 10 minutes segments of that on a big screen for two hours? You have? Then boy do I have the film for you! And on top of that, I'm gonna throw in some bonus extras. A 30 minute scene of one evening hanging out with Villalobos in his studio. He'll be stoned, you won't, that costs extra.
 
The couple behind me talked pretty much constantly throughout the film. For the first 30 or 40 minutes I built up the courage to turn around and hush them but when I finally had enough confidence I was so over watching the film that I actually sided with them and would've felt bad telling them to be quiet over it. In the end I think I even began talking with my girlfriend. Mainly discussing when it was going to end while having a Youtube video of a wasted DJ playing in the background.
 
There are only two things left to say about Villalobos.
 
One: Do not see it! Please! For the love of God let me do you a favour. Let me take this one for the team.
 
Two: If you saw this and really enjoyed it can you contact me immediately. I would truly love to hear someone who found some type of value in this film. Help me see something, because at this stage all I have is truly amateurish and indefensible. Any MIFF programmers out there? I'm crying out for help!

Comments

but it's Villalobos! He's the coolest!

on a serious note, maybe I'll give that "Cities on Speed" program a miss

can see something entertaining instead, like "The Oath" or maybe "The Red Chapel" tomorrow

will have to think about it

definitely give Cities on Speed a miss. I know what you are wanting from those films and trust me they dont deliver at all on that aspect. both the oath and red chapel are solid and recommended...