Saturday, August 4, 2018

Time to MIFF the ground running

My fifth Melbourne International Film Festival is underway.

That also means it's almost my five-year anniversary in Australia. I arrived just days after the end of the 2013 MIFF, and have attended each one since, with ever greater vigor.

And there may be no better example of that vigor than 2018, when I am seeing four movies within a space of 26 hours to start things off.

In past years I would usually start with the cinematic equivalent of an amuse bouche, either a foreign film that piqued my interest (White God, 2014), a new film from an acclaimed director (The Lobster, 2015 and The Salesman, 2016) or an independent comedy (Ingrid Goes West, 2017). At the very least, just a single film to start me off -- a soft open, if you will.

Not this year.

In 2018 I went straight for a cult movie, and then topped that off with a second genre movie playing as a midnight movie. (Well, 11:30 p.m.) So, a double feature straight off the bat -- a double feature starting at 9 p.m. with a two-hour movie, at that. Traditionally, that's strictly mid-festival stuff. 

Those two movies were the highly anticipated Nicolas Cage film Mandy, and the French zombie movie The Night Eats the World.

Having watched them, it would have made a lot more sense to stick the hallucinatory Mandy in the midnight spot and program the more conventional zombie movie at 9 p.m. But because Mandy was so anticipated -- if not only for Cage, than as the follow-up to Beyond the Black Rainbow by Panos Cosmatos -- they couldn't throw away a screening on a sparsely attended 11:30 showing. (In fact, the film is kicking off a seven-movie Cage marathon next Friday night at The Astor in St. Kilda, which also includes Raising Arizona, Red Rock West, Vampire's Kiss, The Wicker Man, Drive Angry and Con Air.) Of course, it wasn't an either-or, as these were just two of many films that screened Friday night and their programming had nothing to do with each other.

It was a good genre double feature, though, and a great way to kick off the festival. I was especially worried about seeing a film at 11:30 because I'd inadvertently stayed up too late Thursday night while trying to finish a movie that was too long. But I stocked up on chocolate and caffeine and I made it with much less difficulty than the only other time I've seen an 11:30 movie at MIFF, which was when I saw the grisly horror Baskin two years ago. Interestingly, Mandy was kind of the movie I hoped Baskin would be.

I've got a review of Mandy posting in a few days, and I'll link to it, so I won't go into any detail on that here. I'll just say ... wow. Bonkers.

As for The Night Eats the World, it starts off seeming like it will be a French version of 28 Days Later, and therefore, not very inspired by comparison. It becomes more interesting as it goes along as it tends to be more interior and less about zombie set pieces ... which is all the more reason it didn't seem quite the right fit for a midnight movie. All in all well worth it, though.

Okay, on to my second MIFF double feature tonight, which I will tell you about tomorrow.

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