It’s certainly been too long in between yum-chas since the last Heroic Cinema MIFF reports! I hope those of you in Melbourne are braving the wintry conditions to sample some of the goodies on offer – it will warm your head, heart and get your pulse pumping!
I kicked off MIFF 2009 with the sublime All Around Us by Ryosuke Hashiguchi. Seemingly just an exploration of a couple’s evolving relationship over time, (like all good films) it is actually much more than it first suggests. We meet Shoko, who works at a publisher and Kanao a shoe repairman and soon-to-be courtroom artist. She’s a control freak and his easy-going nature frustrates her but they get along fine enough to tie the knot. However, an unfortunate turn of event puts their relationship to the test. So far so mundane you think but this is one deceptive film. As it progresses, Hashiguchi unravels the story gracefully, speaking volumes about its protagonists, life and humanity in its varying shades of good and evil. Imbued with playful humour and witty dialogue, I thoroughly recommend this little gem.
With such a blinding start, it would be hard for the remainder of my MIFF selection to live up to such a good beginning I thought but I’ve been happily proven wrong! Next up was Still Walking a more austere offering but no less exceptional. Hirakazu Kore-eda’s film is a beautiful and lyrical depiction of a family’s reunion, played out under the slow burn of a hot summer’s weekend. The Yokoyama family gathers at the grandparents house for the reunion of the eldest son’s death some 15 years ago. Clearly channeling the spirit of Ozu, it evokes the familiar nuances of family reunions, highlighting the petty squabbles, family secrets, frustrations and disappointments without making them seem contrite. It’s an extremely rewarding cinematic experience, its quiet powerful moments and well-executed scenes will linger on long after you leave the cinema.
Now what film festival would it be without its regular favourite, Hong Sang Soo? An auteur who has near-perfected making wry observational (and generally uncomfortable) films about the male/female relationships, he returns with a droll effort in Like You Know It All. Several things remain the same – his typically eccentric and flaky characters, amusing hijinks from the endless soju binges and of course, the slight derisive humour in the situations his characters find themselves in. What is different is setting his film in the rather twisted world of film festivals and populating it with a myriad of characters – critics, painters, directors, film students, actors and their accompanying egos, deficiencies and neuroses. The resulting volatility makes for an engrossing experience if a lot less explosive than what I expected.