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« PREVIEW: 2018 SCIFI FILM FESTIVAL | Main | RUSSIAN WWII MASTERPIECE RESURRECTED FOR SYDNEY AUDIENCES »
Thursday
Aug092018

PREVIEW: 2018 SYDNEY UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL

The latest from New Zealand’s ‘New Wave of Comedy’, a German film student’s thesis being hailed as one of the most exciting debuts in years and a triptych of punkish retro classics are just some of the avenues that adventurous patrons can wander down at this year’s Sydney Underground Film Festival (SUFF). The 12th annual celebration of cinema that shocks, confounds and seduces kicks into gear September 13 at its spiritual home, the iconic Factory Theatre in Sydney’s inner-west.

The 4-day soiree leads with the Australian premiere of Mega Time Squad, a crowd-pleasing, off-kilter romp from across The Ditch. Having won hearts at the genre confab Fantasia (rogerebert.com called it a, “sci-fi mini-odyssey with lots of creativity and even more laugh-out-loud gags”), writer/director Tim van Dammen’s time-loop comedy features Anton Tenet as a wannabe gangster who stumbles upon mystical jewellery that allows for time-space shenanigans. Co-star Jonny Brugh, who stole all his scenes in What We Do in The Shadows, will attend Opening Night ahead of hosting the Screen Acting & Improv Workshop on Saturday, September 15.

The feature film roster runs to 27 idiosyncratic visions, including 11 Australian premieres. Most notable amongst the 2018 line-up is Tilman Singer’s Luz (pictured, top), a film-studies thesis project shot on 16mm that Variety lauded as, “equal measures demonic-possession thriller, experiment in formalist rigor, and flummoxing narrative puzzle-box.” Other sessions certain to rattle adventurous Sydney patrons include Reinert Kill’s Norwegian yuletide slasher epic Christmas Blood; director Ethan Hawke’s Blaze (pictured, right), a deconstructionist musical-biopic of redneck country music star Blaze Foley, starring Benjamin Dickey in the title role alongside Alia Shawkat and Sam Rockwell; Wang Jinsong’s How Far Tomorrow, one of the first Chinese films to address drug addiction and in doing so, defy the strict censorship laws governing the nation’s filmmakers; and, Lucio A. Rojas’ appropriately-titled Chilean home-invasion horror ordeal, Trauma (read our full review here).

Underground icons represented this year include Canadian badboy Bruce La Bruce with The Misandrists, a lesbian-anarchy patriarchal takedown that deconstructs feminist ideals; Sion Sono, whose buckets-of-blood mini-series opus Tokyo Vampire Hotel has been re-edited into a still-epic 144 minute theatrical cut; and Winnipeg’s favourite son Guy Maddin who, with collaborators, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson, presents his latest montage masterwork, the Vertigo-inspired The Green Fog.

SUFF will also recognize one of the lesser-known DIY giants of alternative art in the form of Stephen Groo, a micro-budget auteur whose output of over 180 films of next-to-no quality has earned him cult(ish) status and fans such as Napoleon Dynamite filmmaker Jared Hess, screenwriter Mike White and Jemaine Clements. Scott Christopherson’s profile-doc The Magic of Groo will screen ahead of the World Premiere of Groo’s latest effort, a remake of his own 2003 film The Unexpected Race, which this time around has ensnared Jack Black in a lead role (pictured, right).

The always-popular retrospective sessions include a 30th anniversary screening of William Lustig’s cult ‘video nasty’ Maniac Cop, set to screen after the Sydney premiere of the documentary King Cohen, a profile of the legendary Larry Cohen, the film’s writer (read our review of King Cohen here); a restored print of Slava Tsukerman’s 1982 post-punk/alien invasion oddity, Liquid Sky; and, with director Alex Proyas in attendance to front a post-screening Q&A, the 1989 dystopian desert-world freak-out Spirits of The Air, Gremlins of The Clouds. Also enjoying a resurrection of sorts will be Charles Band’s VHS-fuelled Puppet Master franchise, with the latest installment Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (written by Bone Tomahawk’s Craig Zahler) having its Australian Premiere at The Factory.

The 2018 factual film program once again honours a diverse range of free-thinkers, from vanguard artists (Oren Jacoby’s Shadowman, a profile of NYC street-artist Richard Hambleton; Philipp Jedicke’s study of enigmatic muso Chilly Gonzalez, Shut Up and Play the Piano; Chuck Smith’s Barbara Rubin & The Exploding New York Underground) to left-field theorists (Daniel J. Clarke’s insight into the Flat Earther’s movement, Behind the Curve; Werner Boote’s environmental industry expose, The Green Lie). Of the 13 feature-length docs programmed, six films bow on these shores for the first time, including Josh Polon’s MexMan and Jerry Tartaglia’s Escape From Rented Island: The Lost Paradise of Jack Smith.

The traditional five-tiered Short Film program returns, under the banners Love/Sick, LSD Factory, Ozploit!, Reality Bites and WTF! Most intriguing amongst the eclectic agenda is Allen Anders Live at The Comedy Castle Circa 1987 (pictured, right), a now legendary stand-up session meltdown that was thought to have been lost to time but which has resurfaced in all its grainy, white-knuckle glory thanks to director Laura Moss.

The 12th edition of SUFF will close out with one of the hottest genre titles on the 2018 festival circuit, Panos Cosmatos' bleak and brutal headscratcher, Mandy. Starring Nicholas Cage in one of the most critically-praised roles of his contemporary career, Cosmatos takes on 80s-style revenge-fantasy cinema with a pulsating urgency and nightmarish bent that Sight and Sound described as, "a mind-melting genre orgy of cosmic proportions that’s ridiculously fun."

The 2018 SYDNEY UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL will run September 13-16 at The Factory Theatre, Marrickville. Session and ticket information can be found at the events’ official website.

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