Thursday, August 9, 2018

MIFF: The euthanasia that almost wasn't

My first solo feature at MIFF 2018 was a Finnish film called Euthanizer, but it almost wasn't, or mightn't have been. By "solo" I mean it wasn't paired with another movie in a double feature, and by "almost wasn't" I mean I realized only about 30 hours before showtime that I wasn't in possession of a valid ticket.

See, this is one of two movies this year that both my wife and I are seeing, the other being the previously discussed disappointment Wildlife. Because we are too cheap for the going rates of babysitters, and because it's our Melbourne International Film Festival tradition, we were seeing the film separately. (We both saw The Witch separately in 2015, and I'm sure there have been other examples.)

But when she printed out her little MIFF calendar from the website, which plugs in all the sessions you've purchased on that account, only her instance of Euthanizer (which MIFF calls "The Euthanizer") appeared.

We both thought this was because of shenanigans.

See, she's got two MIFF minipasses attached in some way to her account -- one that she purchased, and the other that I got as my credentials through ReelGood. The reason they were both on her account is that when I went to buy my tickets at work, my computer remembered my wife's login, so I just logged in that way and ordered the tickets.

Which is actually fine to do. The site lets you choose either a minipass you have registered on the account, or to plug in a minipass # a la carte. I can imagine numerous instances where a thing like that might be necessary, like an executive assistant at some distributor managing multiple minipasses through one login.

Nonetheless my wife was not pleased. She thought this would somehow run afoul of MIFF and that some of the passes we had reserved and were rightly entitled to might be invalidated. I didn't know if I believed that logic, but anything that carries the threat of invalidating something you are counting on triggers that little superstitious part of you. What if it was against the rules to use two separate minipasses on one account?

The potential evidence of this appeared to be in that calendar, which showed only her Monday, August 13th session of Euthanizer, and not my Wednesday, August 8th one. Was it possible some kind of internal audit had occurred, and the system choked on the idea that there could be two Euthanizers booked on this account when only one was kosher according to the rules?

Yet we had two different tickets for Euthanizer, I was sure of it. They had been forwarded to me as two separate PDFs. But wait ... they both said Monday, August 13th. Only with different reference numbers.

So in the end the explanation was a simple one: I'd booked the wrong session.

Fortunately, one thing the MIFF website does really well is allow you to exchange tickets, as I've written about in the past. If you can't go to a session for some reason, or decide you'd prefer one over another as the use of your finite number of tickets, or any other reason you can think of, you can return the ticket you've purchased into the pool of available seats and exchange it for a different one. And it costs you only a $1 processing fee.

I realized my mistake midway through the day on Tuesday, and three minutes later I had a ticket for the correct session.

All that trouble and mystery were worth it, as this is a very enjoyable film. I'll give you the quick premise: A man who has a side business euthanizing pets tangles with a bunch of Neo Nazis. Let the good times roll.

It was actually not quite what I was expecting, which was probably more like a Finnish Green Room. In fact, the tangling with the Neo Nazis comes only near the end, as it's preceded by the title character (played by Matti Onnismaa) teaching neglectful pet owners lessons about their poor treatment of animals, and his spontaneous affair with a much younger woman who likes to be choked while they're having sex -- she's one of the nurses in the hospital where his father is approaching the end of his life. I guess I imagined a lot of set pieces where Veijo (that's his name) repurposes various implements used in euthanasia for dispatching the white supremacists. That's not really what it is.

Still, there's a lot to enjoy and a lot of black humor in both the premise and its execution, though ultimately it's more contemplative than funny. Not currently scheduled for release in any English-speaking countries as far as I can see, but keep an eye open for it.

One thing that was nice about the experience of watching Euthanizer was that it was preceded by a short film, which is something they used to do all the time at MIFF but which I hadn't seen personally since 2015. And as they did in 2015, when they matched a short and a feature that both involved people witnessing heinous crimes via eavesdropping in apartment buildings with thin walls, the programmers got a good match for Euthanizer as well. That was a short called Tungrus, which was about an Indian family and their adopted pet rooster, and about how having a pet rooster in a small apartment is an incredible hassle. I probably could have done with seven minutes of Tungrus rather than a full 14, but it had a lot of heart and laughs, and where it goes at the end ... well, I won't spoil anything, but let's just say it's a good match for Euthanizer.

Okay, back to work on Friday with my third and final double feature of this year's festival.

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