Sydney Film Festival 2012: Day 1

Did you know that you can get a plane ticket Sms’d to you nowadays? You did… Oh… Well it impressed me so go to hell!
First day for me at SFF can be best described as ‘wet’. Man, Sydney can rain with the best of them. An umbrella was purchased pretty swiftly after a morning of running from awning to awning. Early morning flights usually result in an awkward morning of floating around waiting for check in time at the hotel and this was no exception. Muddy coffee consumed (with a chaser of pseudo-ephedrine, a combo I do not recommend to anyone with heart problems) and it was off to the wonderful state theatre, still laden with bags, for my first film, TABU.
TABU was a solid start to the festival in many ways. Miguel Gomes’ film is strikingly iconoclastic, doling out an uncomfortably bifurcated narrative that isn’t always successful – although when it works, hot damn is it sublime. After a truly glorious prologue the first part of the film begins in modern day Lisbon. Pilar is a lonely retiree who has a strange relationship with the woman who lives in the apartment across from her, Aurora and her African maid, Santa. Aurora is slowly going senile and the first half of TABU is infused with such a powerful sense of malaise that you sometimes feel the celluloid itself it about to burst into tears.
The second half is ostensibly a flashback to Aurora’s days in 1960s Mozambique during the last moments of colonial occupation. It’s here in the second half that Gomes’ aesthetic trick comes to the fore as the film virtually becomes a quasi silent picture. He utilises a genuinely clever sound design that artificially highlights certain sound effects and while we never hear human voices this form of artifice results in a wonderfully elegant combination of retro styling that evokes a sense of nostalgia and distant memory. There is a hazy, intangible quality to this second half that offers up an authentically original experience but unfortunately a jarring of tone and certain distancing of the viewer leaves one in an oddly cold, disengaged position. TABU is an easy film to appreciate but a hard one to enjoy. Hardcore cinephiles must make it vital viewing but general audiences should be wary.
After a hotel check, nap and more coffee the evening sessions began. LIBERAL ARTS, from ‘that guy in How I Met Your Mother’ turned out to be an amiable rom-com,
“What holds Liberal Arts back from greatness is the frustrating way it resorts to conventional, bland conclusions. Radnor’s screenplay is neat in ways that were a little too clever for me with every peripheral character ultimately acting as a conduit for Jesse’s own personal growth rather than appearing a rounded person in their own right”
My full review will be up on Quickflix at some point in the future. I’ll link to it when I can.
Then came the much anticipated, Japanese oddity, THE WARPED FOREST. While not as bizarre as I expected (it is pretty weird don’t get me wrong) it turned out to be a pretty cohesive, surreal vision that came together in ways that were completely unexpected. Much better than the terminally boring, SYMBOL from a few years ago, I really loved THE WARPED FOREST,
“Shunichiro Miki has a unique cinematic voice echoing elements of Cronenberg body-horror and Gondry whimsy with a Japanese sensibility that is all his own. The Warped Forest doesn’t reach the transcendent heights of Funky Forest but it does manage to create its own wholly realized world.”
The day ended with these guys and Jagermeister being drunk under the pretense that it was medicinal. It’s got herbs in it doesn’t it?