Interview with Festival Director Rob Lobosco (MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL CINEMA EXTRAVAGANZA)

The Melbourne International Cinema Extravaganza M.I.C.E. aims to be one of Melbourne’s leading cinema extravaganza, raising awareness and celebrating these wonderful totem animals- Mice.

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Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Rob Lobosco: As a new film festival it is a great opportunity for filmmakers to submit and be part of something evolving, bringing together a collection of great films and celebrate their efforts.

2) What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival 2019?

A collection of great work in honour of the millions of mice that are used in research to save lives.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Films will be judged and the best will be selected. Of course All film creations are the best in which case all films will get a mention.
We are most excited about looking for an amazing script.

4) Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

I think all festivals do their best In judging and sharing their viewpoint about the films. It is a collective decision amongst the judges and sometimes it may be disappointing to filmmakers not to be selected. But there is a huge celebration for filmmakers to complete a title and that’s the main focus for filmmakers to embrace. We all see the amazing creation in your film and are honoured to watch it and ‘not selected’ should not dishearten you, it should propel you to keep going.

5) What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Creation, stories, characters, situations and how they all blend together to become a film. Film fascinates me in that there are limitless ways to tell a story and the filmmaker chose this particular way. It’s amazing to judge film with this in mind.
The motivation also is for the life saving totem animal of our festival – mice.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

Film freeway is a great platform and fantastic place to submit films all around the globe.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

We see it as a hub for emerging new talent and with its creators actively writing, producing and judges for other film festivals, it will become something quite special for filmmakers. A festival to bring together film makers with their new creations, network, collaborate and ultimately create!

8) What film have you seen the most times in your life?

A few- Beaches, Titanic and Muriel’s Wedding!

9) In one sentence, what makes a great film?

Investigating a situation/story and truthfully following the character’s physical, emotional, esoteric and spiritual journey, makes an Oscar winning film.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

Melbourne is a multicultural hub for amazing artistic talent and wonderful films. It’s a great place to be to create.

Even though we are so far away ‘downunder,’ we are very well connected to filmmakers all over the globe because of the need to collaborate and connect and create!

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Film Reviews: TIFF Cinematheque Present – The films of INGMAR BERGMAN

A must for all those serious about cinema, Ingmar Bergman films demonstrate the art of cinema and the influence of a director’s life and religion on his craft.

Bergman has also been an influence on many a filmmaker, most notably Woody Allen, Margarethe von Trotta, Olivier Assayas, Mia Hansen-Love, Ruben Ostlund among others.  Allen has made films like STARDUST MEMORIES which is definitely Bergman in tone while von Trotta has made SEARCHING FOR INGMAR BERGMAN, a documentary on the Master’s work.    It is a pity the doc is not screened as part of this retrospective as it would serve as the perfect companionship.  The doc was screened at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival and hopefully will get a theatrical run soon.

This exhaustive series screens almost every Bergman film, which needless to say should be seen on the big screen.  The cinematography by Sven Nyquist,who has worked on most of the Bergman’s films is nothing short of astonishing.

Bergman’s films range from the playful like the most entertaining FANNY AND ALEXANDER to his most serious (about death WILD STRAWBERRIES, CRIES AND WHISPERS and of course, THE SEVENTH SEAL with the grim reaper or relationships PERSONA) to his kind of action/revenge flick, the excellent THE VIRGIN SPRING).  A warning is that the films are not an easy watch – many are ultra-grim, except maybe for FANNY AND ALEXANDER which runs more than 3 hours in length.

Religion plays part in Bergman’s films.  His childhood is best exemplified in FANNY AND ALEXANDER.  

For the complete program schedule, ticket pricing, venue and showtimes, please check th Cinematheque website at:

tiff.net

Capsule Review of Selected Films:

CRIES AND WHISPERS (Sweden 1972) ***

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

Though the only foreign film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, CRIES AND WHISPERS is one of my least favourite Bergman films.  Though the cinematography here by Bergman regular Sven Nykvist is one of his best works, the film is too artsy for my taste.  The story follows  three sisters, played excellently by Liv Ullmann, Ingrid Thulin and Harriet Anderson, one of which is dying from an unnamed ailment.  She is closer to her maid that the oner two sisters though she (Agnes) tries to reconcile the problem after her death.  There are lots of heavy breathing, moaning and groaning and of course, crying and whispering, which I think could be quite laughable at times.  Religion is always at the forefront again.  There are hints of lesbian love and incest though thankfully Bergman spares the audience any sex scenes.  All a very sordid and gloomy affair.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Pw7FYex5pQ

FANNY AND ALEXANDER (Sweden 1982) *****Top 10

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

FANNY AND ALEXANDER is the film that has been on many a critics Best Film list.  Personally, its stands as my best Bergman film, even to say that it is one of my 10 best films of ALL TIME.  The film is pure delight from start to finish despite its over 3 hour running time (The film was originally made for television).  The first hour is light and cheerful (rare in a Bergman movie) as the wealthy Swede family celebrate Christmas among the family and servants.  This is Christmas in Sweden with all the food, decorations, dancing and celebration.  At the hour mark, the father, Oscar dies and the mother marries a wicked over-religious bishop who moves the mother and children into his own house, demanding that every personal possession be left behind.  “I worry for the children'” says the grandmother, prompting the worse to come.  Alexander, particularly suffers the wrath of the bishop.  The bishop’s household is also the epitome of evil.  I have seen this 3-hour film three times, and it is pure ecstasy each viewing.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkszXVEUHco

HOUR OF THE WOLF (Sweden 1968) ****

Directed by Imgmar Bergman

The HOUR OF THE WOLF is a bewitching hour.  As described by the Master, Bergman himself: “The hour of the wolf is the time between night and dawn.  It is the hour when most people die, when sleep is deepest, when nightmares are most palpable.  It is the hour when the sleepless are pursued by their sharpest anxieties, when ghosts and demons hold sway. It is also the hour when most children are born.”  His film captures this hour vividly through the life of painter on the verge of madness played by Max von Sydow.  It all happens when the painter mysteriously disappears and his pregnant wife (Liv Ulmann) discovers his diary and hence his thoughts of his affair with another woman.  HOUR OF THW WOLF traces the painter’s decent into madness (one of the film’s best segments involve him and his wife attending a dinner party where everything drives him crazy).  Bergman does what he does best here – shows the demons in an individual.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6aNUjm7Y2I

PERSONA (Sweden 1966) **

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

PERSONA, quite similar in tone to CRIES AND WHISPERS is again, one of the least favourite of my Bergman films.  The film follows an actress played by Liv Ullmann who is recovering in a hospital before being cared fro by a single nurse, played by Bibi Anderson.  The two move into the doctor’s beach house where the two continue the actress’s convalescence.  The actress initially never talks but slowly opens up, which gives the chance for the nurse to go on and on about her youth and adventures including an abortion and a sexual fling with a young stranger that gave her the best sex in her life.  Needless to say, the two torture each other.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rtSjV_gFkw

SUMMER WITH MONIKA (Sweden 1953) ***1/2

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

The lesser known work, SUMMER WITH MONIKA is Bergman’s teenage romance.  The film begins with flirty Monika (Harriet Anderson) asking for a match from Harry (Lars Ekborg) in a coffee shop.  This leads to an evening at the movies and love that soon blossoms.  In the coffee shop, an elderly mane warns of the turmoil of spring just as the teens laugh and prepare for good times.  The contrast of life’s outlook is so different from the old and the young.  But the you g eventually grow older and Bergman sows that misery is part of life, as Harry’s anther blurts out int one scene; “Suffering is part of life”.  The two lovers eventually escape on a stolen boat to spend a summer idyll in the archipelago.  Then life takes a turn as Monika finds herself pregnant.  The two marry, and matrimony rears its ugly head.  Bergman over emphasizes the emotions of his teen characters – Monika not only sobs during the teary moments in the movie but uses a hanky to wipe away tears followed by her blowing her nose.  Harry’s yawns by contrast are big ones.  Despite the lack of nudity, Bergman’s film is very sex and erotic.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S00-c-Rd-K4

THE VIRGIN SPRING (Jungfrukällan) (Sweden 1960) Top 10 *****

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

THE VIRGIN SPRING in retrospect plays like a classic art-house version of TAKEN where the father goes on an all-out revenge against the perpetuators of the crime committed on his daughter.  Bergman knows how to draw his audience into his story and by the time the father lifts up his weapon (a butcher knife) against the villains, the audience is right on the point of cheering him on and violently.  THE VIRGIN SPRING is the harshly beautiful rendering of a 14th-century legend.  While taking candles to her church, the virginal young Karin (Birgitta Pettersson) is brutally raped and murdered by three goatherds.  The assailants later unknowingly take shelter at the farm of her father (Max von Sydow), who realizes their identity when they try to sell his daughter’s clothes.   Bergman’s attention to detail is another reason this film is so perfect – from the eating utensils to the furniture of the 14th Century farmhouse.   The film won both the Academy Award and the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, and is Bergman’s most commercially accessible film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ea

 

WILD STRAWBERRIES (Smultronstället)(Sweden1957) *****Top 10

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

Arguably Bergman’s best film, WILD STRAWBERRIES opens with Professor Borg’s voiceover describing his life, he a 79-year old widowed doctor with a son with no children.  He is looked after by a good housekeeper of 40 years service.  Bergman demonstrates his prowess at drawing the audience into his characters.  When the film begins, Borg has a nightmare – one that is classic Bergman.  Borg is walking down an empty street of deserted building when he looks up at a click with no hands.  He looks at his pocket watch, which turns out has no hands either.  A horse bearing  coffin comes around the corner with the coffin falling off right i front of Borg.  A hand reaches out from the coffin t grab his hand.  Borg opens the coffin to see the face of the corpse as his own.  This opening sequence is nothing short of genius.  The film then follows  Borg en route to receiving his honours in Lund as he is accompanied by his pregnant daughter-in-law Marianne who does not much like him and is planning to separate from her husband, Evald, his only son, who does not want her to have the baby, their first.  One of the best films eve made about old people facing death.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs_j7y_QyM8

Film Review: SUSPIRIA (USA/Italy 2018)

Suspiria Poster
Trailer

A darkness swirls at the center of a world-renowned dance company, one that will engulf the artistic director, an ambitious young dancer, and a grieving psychotherapist. Some will succumb to the nightmare. Others will finally wake up.

Director:

Luca Guadagnino

Writers:

Dario Argento (characters), Daria Nicolodi (characters) | 1 more credit »

What happened to good old fashioned subtlety?   And what happened to the maggots dropping from the ceiling of the boarding school?

SUSPIRIA 2018 is the curious remake of the 1977 Gallo horror classic by Dario Argento about a young girl entering a new ballet school, discovering it to be run by a coven of witches.  The director here is Luca Gaurdagnino who helmed the overrated CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, whose talent (or lack of) is more evidently displayed here.  

Jessica Harper who starred as the innocent girl in the original has a cameo in this updated version as the doctor’s wife who went missing during the war.  Dakota Johnson plays the lead role here with Tilda Swinton playing Madame Blanc and an elderly male doctor using heavy prosthetics.  

SUSPIRIA opens with words implying a long film (2 and a half hours) with 6 Acts and an epilogue.  The film is and feels lengthy.  It looks great, courtesy of cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom with haunting music by Thom Yorke who won an Award for it at the Venice International Film Festival.

SUSPIRIA is all looks but it is unfair to say all looks and no substance.  There is more plot than the original though the script is based on Argento’s screenplay.  The story is still set in a German dance school.  But the problem is that Guadagnino’ s storytelling technique appears not to be in use.  It was ok for his last film CALL ME BY YOUR NAME that worked on a weaker narrative, the beauty of the Italian countryside and first love.  In SUSPIRIA many scenes appear unconnected and after reading the story from the press notes, a lot of what transpires is not communicated to the audience.  The plot is made more complicated by its setting in 1977 with the politics of the Berlin Wall.

SUSPIRIA is a complete mess.  Take this scene near the end as a classic example.  The old doctor, Dr. Klemperer (played by Swinton herself)  and his lost wife (now re-untied and played by Jessica Harper) are out walking out in the snow before she disappears for no reason.  The doctor is then dragged into a building by two elderly women, screaming at the top of their lungs.  The doctor is supposed to be lured to the building by a witch disguising herself as the wife.  A huge witch ritual begins with no shortage of nudity (the sort with lots old old withering bodies, sagging breasts and drooping buttocks) but the type one does not want to witness.  Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) is killed in this ritual or isn’t she?  – All too confusing.

Director Guadagnino has put too much effort and has obviously become too serious with the project.  The original SUSPIRIA was a slasher film, scary but fantastic cheesy entertainment that is on every horror fan’s list as a must-see.  Gaudagnino has definitely taken all the fun out of the horror classic.  This one is elaborate, creepy and disgusting for no reason it was meant to be this disgusting.  SUSPIRIA has so far got mixed reviews from critics, as most probably are unsure what to make out of this mess of a horror movie.  Argento’s SUSPIRIA was funny, clever and short.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BY6QKRl56Ok

Film Review: ROOM FOR RENT (Canada 2017) ***

Room for Rent Poster
Trailer

When a broke thirty-two year old ex-lottery winner convinces his parents to rent their spare room to save from downsizing, a creepy stranger with a hidden agenda moves in.

Director:

Matthew Atkinson

Direct from Manitoba!  I seriously cannot recall any Canadian film from Manitoba (excepting Guy Madden films) but this one is not half bad.  It is in fact, quite good.

Mitch Baldwin (Mark Little) is a classic case of a loser.  As an adult, he is still living with his parents and too unmotivated to work.  Worst still, Mitch had won $3 million in senior year. Three years later, he is flat broke and a laughing stock after becoming famous on TV upon winning the lottery.  The status quo is challenged when his father, Warren (Mark McKinney) loses his job.  Short of money, Mitch convinces his parents to take in a lodger.  The stranger, Carl Lemay (Brett Gelman) turns out more than Mitch anticipated.

Written and directed by Matthew Atkinson, this simple premise proves ample opportunity for twists and turns in the plot.  The stranger Carl is the biggest wild card and Atkinson keeps the secret of who he actually is right to the very climax of the film.

“My parents are hounding me all the time”, says Mitch at one point in the film.  Of course, Mitch does nothing but sit around all day, never looking for work as he is supposed to, expecting his parents to bring snacks and food for him all the time.

Carl does everything that director Atkinson can imagine to annoy Mitch.  And these are really annoying.  

Among them: 

bringing Mitch’s old girlfriend, Lindsay (Carla Gallo) back into the house

bonding with Mitch’s parents – something that Mitch was never able to do

showing up talk to Mitch all the time and lastly

annoying Mitch just because he can

The reason all this works is that Mitch deserves what he is getting from Carl.  Mitch is plain lazy, unmotivated and takes advantage of his parents.

All the above take place during the first half of the film.  Then Mitch starts taking action.  He begins taking a stand and protecting himself against his enemy.  Mitch even starts to gain respect from his ex-girlfriend who begins helping gather evidence against Carl.  All this is made more interesting for the fact that Carl turns out to have a few skeletons in the closet.  The two eventually end up in a face off when Carl confronts Mitch in his bedroom and punctures his waterbed as revenge.

Director Atkinson has a keen eye for comedy.  His comedic setups are meticulous and the humour comes across well.  It helps too that his 4 main actors playing Mitch, Carl and the parents are very good.

A little comedy, a little romance, a little message movie – all surprisingly twisted and unexpectedly inventive for a small budget Canadian feature.  Definitely worth a look.

And the climax where everything about Carl is finally revealed is a real hoot! If the climax does not get one laughing aloud, nothing will!

Trailer: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5796156/videoplayer/vi2493626905?ref_=tt_pv_vi_aiv_1

Film Review: JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN (UK 2018)

Johnny English Strikes Again Poster
Trailer

After a cyber-attack reveals the identity of all of the active undercover agents in Britain, Johnny English is forced to come out of retirement to find the mastermind hacker.

Director:

David Kerr

Writer:

William Davies (screenplay by)

The third instalment after JOHNNY ENGLISH and JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN, JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN sees one again bumbling secret agent (Mr. Bean who can speak) Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) saving the world, in this case from internet hacking by super villain Jason Volta (Jake Lacy).

When the film opens, English is a retired M17 agent now teaching geography at some boarding school.  When M17 is on the receiving end of a massive cyber attack from an unknown entity, that exposes the identities of all its current field agents, the Prime Minister (Emma Thompson looking more puzzled than anything else probably wondering what she is doing in this dud) instructs M17 to reinstate older, inactive agents like Johnny English to be employed to solve the case.  As a result of accidentally killing off three other older retired agents (cameos by Edward Fox, Michael Gambon and Charles Dance), he is given the job, which he undertakes with the help of his faithful and unfunny assistant, Angus Bough (Ben Miller).

British TV series expanded into feature films often take their characters on holidays (KEVIN AND PERRY GO LARGE, ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, ON THE BUSES etc. etc) to some foreign country.  This sequel takes the agents to the south of France for their investigation.  Nothing much in terms of comedy improves.

The oddest thing about the film is that the script by William Davies contains no shortage of elaborate comedic set-pieces.  These includes among others these two:

English and Bough dressed up as French waiters devising ways to get close to a suspect dining   in a French posh restaurant with his girlfriend.  This involves a fire resulting from flambé prawns in order to nab a cellphone while eventually setting the entire restaurant ablaze

a Virtual Reality simulation with English taking down a number of innocent strangers in public while imagining he is fighting Volta’s men in his mansion home.  This involves hitting a bakery eatery employee with two baguettes, toppling a tour guide on a double decker bus and pushing an old lady in a wheelchair out of a store.

Yet none of these generate any laughs – I did look around the theatre many times to see if anyone even remotely smiled

A smart idea of self parodying involves a glamorous Russian agent Ophelia Bulletova, played by former 007 James Bong girl, Olga Kurylenko who investigates Volta.  Any segment involving her and English also fail to incite any humour.

On the positive side, the film contains no toilet or barf jokes, though there is a harmless (and again unfunny one) involving the agent caught with his trousers down.

The film has so far grossed, at the time of writing almost $100 million while garnishing generally unfavourable reviews by critics.  The first two made around $160 million each which explains this third outing from Universal Pictures.  At best, what can be said is that younger kids might find this whole espionage exercise entertaining.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Qv6p6pTz5I

Film Review: BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (USA/UK 2018) ***

Bohemian Rhapsody Poster
Trailer

A chronicle of the years leading up to Queen‘s legendary appearance at the Live Aid (1985) concert.

Director:

Bryan Singer

Writers:

Anthony McCarten (screenplay by), Anthony McCarten (story by) | 1 more credit »

 

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY is a biography of the British rock band Queen concentrating on lead signer Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek from I, ROBOT and PAPILLON) set from the band’s formation to the band’s performance at the 1985 Live Aid concert in 1985.  Director credit goes to Bryan Singer though he was replaced before shooting was compete by Dexter Fletcher.  (America’s director’s guild, the DGA only allows one director credit).

The story centres on Freddie Mercury.  He is shown at the start of the film at odds with his Pakistani family, particularly his strict father in his small London home.  After a visit to a small club, he replaces the band’s lead singer and before long, he leads the band now called Queen to fame.  The script by Anthony McCarten gives Mercury a lot of credit (perhaps too much) for the band’s success.  The other band members (with Gwilym Lee as Brian May, Queen lead guitarist, Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor, Queen drummer and Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon, Queen bass guitarist) are given brief mention.

Besides this flaw giving Mercury too much credit – the film even bookmarks the film with his entrance onto the Live Aid Concert- the film is overlong, stretching past the 2 hour length.  The climax of the film – Queen’s performance of their hits could have been shortened for  better effect.  The desire to please audiences results in the film falling into clichéd territory.  Father of the family finally approves his son’s success, including the father’s advice of good thoughts, good words, good deeds being repeated at the film’s conclusion.  The blowing of a kiss by Mercury to his mother, as promised is yet another example.  Mercury’s story also falls into the standard mould of rock band/singer’s biographies – of rise to stardom, fall from grace and recovery back to existence with life lessons learnt, with hit songs dispersed in the process.

What the film benefits from is lead actor’s Rami Malek’s diversified performance, especially his showmanship during the Live Aid Convert.  Malek has demonstrated his acting chops already this year with an unforgettable performance in PAPILLON.

Mercury’s relationships are also given full display including his bi-sexualilty.  Mercury’s first girlfriend Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) is demoted from first-class lover to best friend as Freddie finally takes on a male partner, Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker).

As in most biographies on subjects with AIDs, the audience is informed that Mercury has contacted the decease with credits informing that his death later followed from complications due to the disease, with no details of his suffering or maybe regret.

Queen fans should be pleased with the rendering of most of the band’s hits including the title song, “Another One Bites the Dust and “We are the Champions.”

One of the film’s producers is Queen’s third manager, Jim Beach, played by veteran Brit actor Tom Hollander.  Mike Myers has a small role as n EMI executive.

What BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY has going for it are the performances of the band’s songs and Malek’s acting.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ5uRRIZrBI

Reel Asian Film Festival 2018 Review: RAMEN SHOP (Singapore/Japan/France 2018) ***1/2

Ramen Shop Poster
A young man who is curious about his deceased parents’ past takes a food journey to Singapore where he uncovers more than just delicious meals.

Director:

Eric Khoo

The third film of Singaporean director Eric Khoo named after noodles (after MEE POK MAN and WANTON SOUP) RAMEN SHOP shows Khoo at his sappiest and most melodramatic.  Despite this flaw, RAMEN SHOP still shows the director’s brilliance especially when he meticulously examines both sides of the Singapore-Japan relationship.  

Not many westerners are aware that the Japanese did far worse than the Nazis in torturing their enemies especially during the Japanese Occupation in Singapore during WWII.  The film sees a young Japanese, Masato (Takumi Saito) travelling to Singapore to discover his roots and to make peace with his grandmother (Beatrice Chien).  This is achieved with the help of his comical uncle (Mark Lee) through the fine-tuning of a gourmet dish – bak-kut-teh.  

This is Singapore as it really is, as depicted by Khoo in all his movies where the Chinese speak ‘Singlish’ and not perfect English with a western accent as in CRAZY RICH ASIANS and where the citizens live in cramped single or double roomed flats and not in mansions holding extensive parties.  

Khoo is Singapore’s film pioneer and his films have won awards the world over including at Cannes.  This is the chance for Reel Asian fans to watch a quality film made by a top-notch Singapore director.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joHJKFC77ic