10 Must See Flicks at MIFF

About a month ago we put together a list of what to see at SFF. Now it’s time to trawl through the MIFF guide and select a new list of must-see flicks. If you didn’t make it to Sydney, then you can catch some of those titles in Melbourne; Palo Alto, Dior and I, Fish and Cat, In Order of Disappearance, Ukraine is not a Brothel and Boyhood are all still recommended viewing. But for the film aficionado who wants a new list, here are the ten most important titles from the largely art house selection that MIFF has on offer:

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Wetlands - Germany


It sounds like hyperbole but in this instance it’s true: you’ve never seen anything quite like this before. Yes, its pace, humour and gross-out moments might remind you of Trainspotting (1996), and sure, the characters do in some ways belong to a history of German comedy, BUT, it’s unlikely that you’ve ever seen a story about a woman and her relationship with sex, family and her anus in quite this way. Imaginative, bold, funny, forthright and wild, we’ll be talking about this one for years – and we’ll never eat spinach pizza again.

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Ruin - Australia


Co-written, directed and produced by Michael Cody and Amiel Courtin-Wilson (Hail, 2011), Ruin was filmed in Cambodia and received a special jury prize when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year. The humanist story follows factory worker Phirun and sex worker Sovanna on journey through lives marked by trauma and war. Anticipating the visual and aural excellence that gave Hail so much atmosphere, this one is high on the list of local titles to look forward to.

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Abuse of Weakness - Belgium, France


French filmmaker Catherine Breillat is coming to town and she’s bringing her latest work of depravity with her. Based on the true story of how she gave over a million dollars to a convicted conman after suffering a stroke, it promises yet another winning performance from Isabelle Huppert, and ticks off at least one staple requirement for attending a film festival: New French Extremism.

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A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness - Estonia, France


Musician Robert AA Lowe (Lichens) starts in a film that defies category and genre. Somewhere between fiction and non-fiction we see three disparate sequences; on an Estonian island amid a fifteen person collective, alone in Northern Finland and performing in a black metal band in Norway. Made by Ben Rivers and Ben Russell, known simply as “the two Bens” in avant-garde circles, this promises to be a visual odyssey like no other.

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The Tale of Princess Kaguya - Japan


Only crazy people don’t love Studio Ghibli and just because Hayao Miyazaki retired doesn’t mean that we’re done seeing the beautiful intersection of modern animation and hand-drawn style on the big screen. Most famous for Grave of the Fireflies (1988) – who knew animation could reduce a grown woman to tears? – Isao Takahata uses the medium to tell a 10th century Japanese legend about a bamboo cutter who discovers a tiny girl inside a bamboo stalk. Too cute!

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Two Days, One Night - Belgium


Those Dardenne brothers are back with another new film, starring Marion Cotillard. That’s probably enough said to get bums on seats but if you need more fuel to convince you to see a working class humanist drama by master filmmakers then you can also turn to the hoard of critical acclaim it’s received so far; after premiering In Competition at Cannes it went on to receive the Best Film Award at the Sydney Film Festival just a few weeks ago. Plus, Marion Cotillard, okay?

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The House That Eye Live In - Australia


Dirk de Bruyn is one of Australia’s most well known and loved experimental filmmakers, who questions the fabric of Australian society with his interrogative home movie-making style. Spanning the avant-garde, the underground, biography and documentary, de Bruyn’s films show the trauma of migration. In this feature film – that includes footage from de Bruyn’s expanded cinema performances, Steven McIntyre makes a documentary of the documentarian. Sounds meta, but also cerebral.

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Jodorowsky's Dune - USA


After El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973), midnight moviemaker and cult legend Alejandro Jodorowsky embarked upon a page to screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel Dune. The project was never completed and now we get to find out why. It’s important to break up the serious Asian and European art house fare with some decent docos and this one has been taking the world by storm.

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Mommy / Tom at the Farm - Canada


Okay, I’m cheating here by including two films in the one spot but it’s unfair to leave Tom at the Farm (2013) out of this listing just because it took so long to come to Australia that the director has since made another highly acclaimed and much talked about feature film. Basically, Xavier Dolan is hot property. I Killed My Mother (2009), Heartbeats (2010) and Laurence Anyways (2012) gave him a firm push into the limelight and after Mommy took out the Jury Prize at Cannes this year, it’s safe to say that he’s not leaving it any time soon.

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Goodbye to Language - France


Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to be a hardcore cinephile to sit through the films of Jean-Luc Godard - even I’ll admit that the festival’s write up sounds pretty off-putting, “[T]he 83-year-old auteur is as keen to push boundaries as ever, with his use of clips from cinema's history, 3D split screen, poetry and avant-garde sound design ensuring a perplexing and radical cinema experience.” The way I see it is that not seeing it, or even trying and failing (walking out) is what the enfant terrible wants us to do, so let’s defy him! Go see it and no matter how annoyed you get, stick with it. Then wander across the street to the festival bar, find me, complain and we can talk it through over several glasses of wine. Surely that’s the true essence of MIFF, no?

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Tara Judah (@midnightmovies)

  • By Tara Judah