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Entries in Perth (2)

Friday
Jul032015

THE CRITIC'S CAPSULE: REVELATION 2015, VOLUME 2.

Revelations has always fearlessly programmed works that emerge from the outer fringes of international cinema. Some label it ‘underground’ or ‘niche’, but fact is many of the highlights at this (or any) Revelations exist in a realm of their own creation, set apart by unclassifiable visions by one-off filmmaking talents. In Volume 2 of our Critic's Capsule look at Revelation 2015, we consider five films that will loudly and proudly divide audiences and ensure the Perth festival remains high on the list of events for moviegoers seeking boldly challenging cinema… (also, check out Volume 1 of our Revelations review coverage here)

H. (Dirs: Rania Attieh, Daniel Garcia / USA, Argentina, 95 mins)
The Argentinian directing duo of Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia adapt the classic Helen of Troy story to the contemporary township of Troy, New York and construct a bewildering narrative that reworks B-movie ‘meteor shower madness’ tropes into a mind-boggling sci-fi study in fear, madness and detachment. The story encompasses the experiences of two Helens; one, an elderly married woman (Robin Bartlett, terrific) with an obsession for life-like dolls and desperation to find her husband (Julian Gamble) after he, along with many of the townsfolk, disappear in the wake of a meteor’s flyover; the other, an artist (Rebecca Dayan; pictured, above), expecting a child with her husband (Will Janowitz), but who is experiencing ‘glitches’ in her daily reality. One can view H. as a wildly inventive take on the alien abduction phenomenon, but there always seems to be a lot more going on beneath the surface of Attieh and Garcia’s moody, captivating (occasionally, abstract and frustrating) filmic mystery. The determined, often artsy ambiguity may drive some to distraction (reactions from Sundance and Berlin ran the gamut), yet there are moments of undeniably engrossing psychological drama.
You’ll be talking about…
: Young Helen’s nightmarish encounter with The Black Horse.
RATING: 4/5 

YAKONA (Dirs: Paul Collins, Anlo Sepulveda / USA, 85 mins)
Providing a wordless voice for the majestic San Marcos River to impart a memory forged over 10,000 years, Yakona is a rousing natural history installation/videographic essay that chronicles the great waterway’s interaction with those with whom it shares the Earth. Co-director Collins crisp, immersive cinematography cuts seamlessly between images of plant and animal life sharing the mineral-rich, crystal waters with mankind through the ages (first the rightful owners of the land, the Clovis and Coahuiltecan tribes, then the invasive and violent first wave of white settlers). It lacks the soaring bravado and epic scale of Godfrey Reggio’s Powaqqatsi (1988) and Koyaanisqatsi (1982) and Ron Fricke’s Baraka (1992), still the standard bearers for this type of awe-inspiring study of our planet’s many faces. Nevertheless, co-helmers Collins and Anlo Sepulveda capture the wonder and delicacy of a life-giving tributary in all its complex and captivating glory.
You’ll be talking about…
: The snapping turtle versus the duck (a tip – stay through the end credits; pictured, right).
RATING: 3.5/5


WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CONCRETE (Dirs: Alanna Stewart, Katherine Dohan / USA, 87 mins)
For all the love afforded our teen movie ‘classics’ (The John Hughes trilogy, Heathers, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, to name a few), all are still bound by an adherence to form and structure that feels very…well, ‘adult’. None have ever fully captured the invented languages, insanely free-form humour, outsider angst and wildly romantic abandon that spews forth wondrously unfettered from the highschooler’s psyche. One of the most impressive achievements of Memphis-based filmmakers Alanna Stewart and Katherine Dohan’s adorable fantasy What I Love About Concrete is that it feels entirely borne of a teenager’s diary doodles, writ larger than life with the fanciful but meaningful eccentricities that exist within an average 11th grader’s headspace. As heroine Molly Whuppie, the Alice archetype who finds herself down a middle-class rabbit hole of her own creation, Morgan Stewart is warm and wonderful. Shot on next-to-no budget over several years with friend and family non-pro actors in key roles, Stewart and Dohan have conjured a high-school classic; a ‘Gilliam-esque’ teen-dream landscape filled with giddy humour, sweet innocence and touching emotion.
You’ll be talking about…
: Claire Faulhaber as nutty bff Georgie, whose stream-of-consciousness hallway monologuing is hilarious. And the superb soundtrack (which should be bought here)
RATING: 4.5/5

ASPHALT WATCHES (Dirs: Shayne Ehman, Seth Scriver / Canada, 94 mins)
Picture, if you will, an animated odyssey that follows two best buds, Bucktooth Cloud and Skeleton Hat (pictured, right), as they traverse the Canadian heartland, encountering all manner of weird, violent, crude and unwholesome Canuck natives. This is the basis for Asphalt Watches, a truly hallucinogenic cinematic trip dreamed from deep within the creative subconscious of writer/directors Shayne Ehman and Seth Scriver (who also voice the protagonists). Stylistically resembling an early 90s ‘side-scrolling’ video game and interspersed with groaning, industrial audio cues and repetitive musical interludes, this garish, grotesque work of flash-animated surrealism might best be described as the lovechild of psychedelic cartoonist Robert Crumb and Pendleton Ward, creator of the TV series Adventure Time. Several reviews suggest watching under the influence of whatever drugs you can get your hands on, but there is a good chance that the occasionally nightmarish images and relentlessly downbeat heroes will lead users to a very bad trip.
You’ll be talking about…
: Well, take your pick. The hideous car crash sequence; Santa Claus and his addiction to fast food between Decembers; the talking hand. Maybe just the anti-heroes themselves. Good luck…
RATING: 3.5/5 

THE CREEPING GARDEN (Dirs: Tim Grabham, Jasper Sharp / UK, 81 mins)
Finding universal relevance and existence-defining properties in the nutrient rich slime moulds found in the dense forest undergrowth was the profound aim of documentarians Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp with their passion project, The Creeping Garden. And, as unlikely as it may seem, their mission has been accomplished with resounding and wonderfully entertaining aplomb. From the pulsating electrical current that courses through its living tissue to the offbeat and wonderful aficionados who exist to explore its ever-expanding durability as a life form, slime mould makes for one of the most fascinating and complex central figures in any film this year. The Creeping Garden at first appears to be a rather stuffy British naturalist pic but, if Grabham and Sharp’s utterly engaging and refreshingly intelligent doco teaches you anything, it is that the best of what’s on offer is often found beneath the thin veneer of preconception.
You’ll be talking about…: The android head, wired to the electrical bio-rhythms of the slime mould, giving a face and voice to the acellular, jelly-like protoplasm.
RATING: 4/5

All ticketing and venue information for 2015 Revelation Perth International Film Festival are available at the event's official website.

Saturday
Jun272015

THE CRITIC'S CAPSULE: REVELATION 2015, VOLUME 1.

The 2015 slate of films screening at Revelation Perth International Film Festival is as compelling and eclectic as any in it’s history. We’ve come to expect that from the programming team, who seek the truly unique and challenging in world cinema. SCREEN-SPACE will offer extensive review coverage with our new ‘Capsule Critic’ format, kicking off with five of the most anticipated films on the RevFest schedule… 

THE TRIBE (Dir: Miroslav Slaboshpitsky / Ukraine, Netherland; 132 mins / pictured, above)
The toast of the international film festival circuit for much of 2015 (it has 24 trophies to date, from Cannes to Sitges to Thessaloniki), Miroslav Slaboshpitsky’s study of teenage tribalism and the brutal adherence to a gangland-style hierarchy is a grimy, gripping, unrelenting vision. Setting the narrative in a steely grey boarding school for the deaf and employing Ukrainian sign language in place of a single word of dialogue or subtitles serves to draw in the audience with a vice-like grip. Brutal violence, graphic sexuality and a central figure shaded in his own dark immorality make The Tribe a tough film to connect with (despite all the festival acclaim, it has struggled to find distribution in many territories) but it is nevertheless an extraordinary study in isolation and exploitation and an exciting, technically accomplished first feature from the Ukrainian auteur.
You’ll be talking about…: The single-take, fixed-camera matter-of-factness Slaboshpitsky utilises, put to no more brilliantly disturbing use than during the abortion sequence. And that ending… 
RATING: 4/5 

THE FORBIDDEN ROOM (Dir: Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson / Canada; 130 mins / pictured, right)
Working creatively unfettered in a bold, bewildering genre all of his own creation, Canadian maverick Guy Maddin (My Winnipeg, 2007; The Saddest Music in The World, 2003) kicks of his latest celebration of the confoundingly recherché advocating the joys of a hot bath before plunging the ocean depths and joining the crew of a doomed submarine. Maddin’s vision (shared with longtime collaborator Evan Johnson, earning a first-time director’s credit alongside his mentor) encompasses florid, screeching detours into worlds far beyond the confines of the sub, employing such influences as Kafka, Burroughs and German expressionist cinema in his exploration of the very nature of storytelling. Scratched and crumpled film stock, soaring melodrama, silent era title cards, multi-layered narratives and a garish palette barely skim the surface when trying to describe the outsider auteur’s latest, daring, giddily abstract work. Actors love him; on hand are Udo Kier, Matthieu Almaric; Maria Medeiros, Charlotte Rampling, Elina Lowensohn and Geraldine Chaplin. Audiences unfamiliar with Maddin’s methods can be less forgiving (there were walkouts during the recent Sydney Film Festival sessions). Stick with it…
You’ll be talking about…:  The Aswang.
RATING: 3.5/5 

THE HUNTING GROUND (Dir: Kirby Dick / USA; 103 mins)
College campus sexual assault is exposed for the American epidemic it truly represents in Kirby Dicks’ deeply disturbing call-to-action documentary. Just as the statistics hit home regarding the regularity with which women (and men) are raped in the hallowed halls of our revered tertiary education institutions, the filmmakers double-down with revelations that connect the amount of crimes reported and convictions sought with the silencing role played by administrators in charge of admissions levels and fund-raising. A determined investigative journo with serious filmmaker cred (the Oscar nominated The Invisible War, 2012; This Film is Not Yet Rated, 2006), Dick’s latest documentary sometimes appears unwieldy, his desire to fully convey the scope of the issue dictating an occasionally rat-a-tat presentation of facts, figures and faces. But there is no denying the director achieves his primary goal; the stark presentation of horrifying numbers, backed by heartbreaking first-hand accounts of those dealing with shattered dreams, blunt-force betrayal and broken innocence.
You’ll be talking about…: The ingrained misogyny of American frathouse culture, fuelled by a grotesque sense of self-entitlement that leads to campus rallies in which our future leaders chant, “No Means Yes! Yes Means Anal!”
RATING: 4/5 

STATION TO STATION (Dir: Doug Aitken / USA; 71 mins)
In just under a month, the ‘Station to Station Express’ travelled 4000 miles of America’s finest railroad tracks (pictured, right). Along the way, artists of every creative bent would hop on and off as they pleased, sharing their creations with the land and its people. Doug Aitken wields all manner of filming techniques in compiling the 62 short films that chronicle what organisers call “a living project exploring modern creativity,” (a London leg launched on June 27). As with all anthology films, some instalments connect better than others; even at a scant 71 minutes, the length of Aitken’s film feels about right. If it never manages to gel as a cohesive cinematic whole, it certainly captures the spirit of unity and joy of creating art that is immediately embraced by a new, wider audience.
You’ll be talking about…: ...whichever of the 62 featured artists most impresses. We favoured the electronic art of Icelandic ‘elemental sculpture’ Olafur Eliasson, in which he records the speed and movement of the train and creates strobe-light ‘pulse-images’
RATING: 3/5 

SPRING (Dirs: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead / USA; 109 mins)
Director team Benson and Moorhead impressed the underground festival crowd with their weird, wonderful cabin-in-the-woods variant, Resolution (2012), then backed it up with the best of an ok bunch in V/H/S Viral (2014). With Spring, they deliver on the promise they’ve shown, exhibiting considerable growth and ambition as storytellers as well as crafting a fine example of that toughest of genres, the horror/romance. As Evan, the wayward American dodging cops and responsibility amongst some of Italy’s most picturesque seaside locales, genre fave Lou Taylor Pucci (Southland Tales, 2006; Carriers, 2009; Evil Dead, 2013) finds the alluring Louise (German ingénue Nadia Hilker; pictured, right) irresistible, romancing her despite some hard-to-read signals she is giving off. Love can be rocky road, but Evan can’t have seen what he must deal with if he is to keep his Euro-fantasy dreamgirl. Think Before Sunrise as written by HP Lovecraft; or, a Richard Linklater version of Species.
You’ll be talking about…: Some convincing practical effects (the fate of a sleazey alley way pick-up is especially unpleasant), but also some tender moments Pucci shares with an elderly orchard farmer (the wonderful Francesco Carnelutti), discussing the nature of fate and love.
RATING: 3.5/5

All ticketing and venue information for 2015 Revelation Perth International Film Festival are available at the event's official website.