So two and a half weeks of craziness come to an end yet again! With work and study commitments, I was only able to attend a dismal 34 films this year. Of those 34, I now present you my Top 10 movies from the 2017 Melbourne International Film Festival.
I will preface this by saying that while I am not 100% smitten by Armie Hammer, his charisma throughout this film and the intense chemistry between himself and Timothée Chalamet made watching Call Me By Your Name an incredibly emotive experience. James Ivory's screenplay of André Aciman's novel poignantly captures the intimacy and the heartbreak of these two lovers during the summer in Italy 1983.
Luca Guandagnino's direction creates some amazing aesthetics, although it's probably not hard to do that with the location but credit given where credit due. My only criticism would be the decision to have the final scene with the credits rolling by, as it really took away the powerfulness of that moment.
Two deaf children go in search of connection in Todd Hayne's Wonderstruck. While the stories are set fifty tears apart, the one in 1927 being performed as an homage to silent movies and the other one taking place in 1977, Brian Selznick's intelligent and thoughtful screenplay (based on his novel) never has you feeling like you're watching two completely different movies and the way everything comes together in the end doesn't feel forced at all.
The performances from its two main child actors - Millicent Simmonds (Rose) and Oakes Fegley (Ben) - are astounding, as is Jaden Michael as Ben's friend Jamie. Also, Julianne Moore is in it. Need I say more?
3. Tehran Taboo
I'm not a fan of animation so I went to this film partly because I had an empty slot and partly because the response for it seemed to be very positive. I guess I keep seeing animation as not being as authentic as a non-animated film but Tehran Taboo finally proved me wrong. The drama follows four people who living in Tehran whose actions have them facing some taboo issues in Iran, including sex outside marriage, being a sex worker and abortion.
The film's depiction of the repression these people are suffering from their government and religion is hard to take at times but it's extremely necessary to watch and understand. The characters are highly developed complex beings and their intersecting stories are so well written that you begin to see Tehran Taboo as a frightening reality it is to many around the world.
(sadly, I can't find an English subtitled trailer for this film so will have to make do with this short scene)
4. The Ornithologist
I went to this one without having a firm idea what it was about and kind of walked out of it without having a firm idea what it was about. But the Portuguese director and writer of The Ornithologist, João Pedro Rodrigues, had me captivated from the beginning and despite the absurdity of it all, it still seemed strangely realistic.
The story follows an ornithologist whose kayak capsizes and is rescued by two Chinese hikers. From there, a series of events occur that parallel the life of Saint Anthony of Padua. While much of the religious meanings were lost on me, I still felt a strong connection to the story and the character and a sense of his own self-discovery.
5. The Killing Of A Sacred Deer
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos return to MIFF after 2015's The Lobster is just as bizarre and just as entertaining to watch. Nicole Kidman absolutely nails this role and Colin Farrell put in one of his best performances that I have seen. The film centres around a surgeon's (Farrell) unusual relationship with a 16 year-old boy played by Barry Keoghan (whose mother is played by Alicia Silvertone!).
With the deadpan delivery of dialogue and the awkward interactions between the characters, Lanthimos does a marvellous job of creating this world that Kidman and Farrell live in, and somehow having us accept the events that occur as plausible.
6. Ali's Wedding
Sadly, my only Australian film to make my top ten this year but this film by Jeffrey Walker absolutely deserves its place here. Set in Melbourne, it is the story of a young Iranian Ali (Osamah Sami) attempting to get into medicine at the University of Melbourne while trying to win the heart of a local Lebanese girl, Dianne (Helana Sawires).
It's a fairly predictable rom-com but the fact that this film is based on actual events that Sami experienced raises the stakes and there are still quite a few surprises along the way. Sami and Sawires display genuine warmth and affection for each other and their budding romance is hugely entertaining to watch.
However, the constant references to baklava started to make me crave one, so as soon as the movie was over, I went to a nearby sweet shop and bought myself a delicious baklava. You have been warned.
Also known as 120 Beats Per Minute, the average heart rate, this French film about homosexuality and AIDS in 90s France certainly has a lot of heart. The film centres on member of ACT UP and their battle to have AIDS treatments distributed to those who desperately need it. While these people are fighting for the same purpose, seeing how each person's personal agenda interferes with and often contradicts the aims of ACT UP are interesting to see play out.
At just under two and a half hours long, some editing would not have gone astray but this is a film about visibility and it certainly leaves an impression on its captive audience.
My favourite documentary of the film festival had me in tears a number of times. Unrest tells the story of Jennifer Brea and her battle with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Throughout the documentary, Brea speaks with fellow sufferers through Skype conversations and hearing and seeing how this diseased has impacted their lives is heartbreaking, yet they all have a resilience and determination to them to continue living their lives.
The post-screening Q&A with Brea and her husband Omar Wasow was also enlightening and I could have easily spent the evening hearing more stories from Brea about her life and the research that is being made on CFS.
This was a film I did not expect much from either but this taut drama about a mother's attempt to keep her family and neighbours safe in war ravaged Syria gives a deeply human face to the impact of war. The film takes place over a day and set solely within the apartment owned by Oum Yazan (Hiam Abbass). We witness her attempts at keeping everyone safe while outside forces gradually make their way into their safe haven.
Interestingly, apart from the three lead female actors, the rest of the casting was done using Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
10. Death In The Terminal
My second documentary in my top ten looks at the 2015 shooting of a soldier by a terrorist at a bus station in Beersheba, Israel. While security footage shows the terror unfolding, there are a number of interviews with people who were present at the bus terminal when the events occurred that add further details to what actually took place.
The documentary explores the actions of these people and as the true details of the shooting come to light, we begin to recoil in horror at what actually occurred and left to ponder what happens when fear and panic take control of reason and understanding.
And the rest:
God's Own Country
Ask The Sexpert
My Beautiful Island
My Happy Family
A Fantastic Woman
Japanese Girls Never Die
The Butterfly Tree
On The Beach At Night Alone