After successful first and second day programs at the 19th annual Brisbane International Film Festival, the third full day of films was eclectic to say the least. Whilst awards favourite Winter’s Bone drew a crowd, and Cannes winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives screened for the second time, a varied assortment of features from across the globe also made the schedule, including book-to-movie adaptation Freakonomics, charming French animation The Illusionist, the latest from Irreversible provocateur Gasper Noé, Enter The Void, and 2009 Venice Golden Lion winner Lebanon.
Hailed as a sensation upon its 2005 release, popular non-fiction book “Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores The Hidden Side Of Everything” by economist Steven D. Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner brought economics to the masses through a non-traditional, pop culture-inspired exploration of the exciting field of statistical analysis. Followed in 2010 by sequel “SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance”, the bestsellers have now jumped to the film realm, assembling five filmmakers – Super Size Me‘s Morgan Spurlock, Jesus Camp‘s Rachel Grady, Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room‘s Alex Gibney, Why We Fight‘s Eugene Jarecki and The King Of Kong‘s Seth Gordon – to delve into to four major, and five minor areas of general interest in the insightful and funny documentary Freakonomics.
If you have ever wondered which baby name will provide a child with the best start in life (surprisingly enough, Sarah rates quite highly on the list), if sumo wrestlers fix matches (and how!), why crime decreased in the U.S. in the 1990s (hint: Romania has something to do with it), or whether high school students can be bribed to perform (aka can money buy good grades), then Freakonomics is for you. Even if you haven’t pondered the above questions, the unique blend of economics and humour is guaranteed to appeal to a wide audience, with anything and everything given the trademark Levitt and Dubner treatment. Split into short segments, and featuring interviews, graphs, re-enactments and more, the end result is not only informative and accessible, but entertaining and enjoyable as well, in a spirited documentary with educational content, an amusing context, and plenty of useful (and useless) facts.
Freakonomics screens again on November 10, 2010 at the Brisbane International Film Festival.
In 2003, artist and animator Sylvain Chomet became the recipient of significant acclaim courtesy of his debut feature The Triplets Of Belleville (Les Triplettes de Belleville, or Belleville Rendez-vous in the U.K.). A charming journey into the French underbelly as seen through the eyes of an elderly grandmother, the film screened out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival, and earned an Academy Award nomination for best animated feature (losing to Finding Nemo). Although eagerly anticipated, Chomet’s sophomore effort – the intriguingly titled magician movie The Illusionist (L’Illusionniste) – has been years in the making. Retaining the quaint animation style (deemed “retro” by many critics), as well as the director’s knack with the intricate, charming and bittersweet, The Illusionist appropriates an unpublished Jacques Tati play, originally intended as a live action piece featuring the noted performer and his daughter.
From the opening scenes depicted by the immaculately crafted images of The Illusionist (you’ll be hard pressed to find a better looking film this year, animated or live-action), it is apparent that business is far from booming for the titular magician. Taking any work he can find across Britain – with his shows poorly attended and often ignored all together (courtesy of brash boy bands, swooning opera singers and even the humble jukebox) – the kindly illusionist struggles to make a living. When a better-than-expected trip to Scotland brings him in contact with a disenfranchised young lady, a bond quickly forms based on her innocent belief that his tricks are real. Alas, despite his spirits being lifted, the world proves far from magical for the melancholy protagonist, with the Tati homage-style events that follow unravelling a delicately designed, poetically poignant and often whimsically wondrous contemplation of wishes that do – and don’t – come true.
The Illusionist screens again on November 13, 2010 at the Brisbane International Film Festival.
Writing about the work of Argentinian-born French auteur Gasper Noé is often difficult, with his films often defying logic, propriety, and the general ability to be distilled into words. Having courted significant controversy with his 2002 effort – the almost banned, highly divisive Irréversible starring French couple Monica Bellucci (Shoot ‘Em Up) and Vincent Cassel (Public Enemy # 1) – his follow-up is no exception, as witnessed in the sprawling, circling opus of Enter The Void. With warnings of graphic sex and violence preceding almost every written description of the feature, viewers are advised to approach Noé’s latest with a modicum of caution. Running for more than two and a half hours, with a narrative more experiential than traditional, Enter The Void is equally beautiful and boring, mesmerising and monotonous, in a labyrinthine deconstruction of the causes and consequences of the two elements that unite all of humanity – life and death.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of the busy Tokyo nightlife, drug dealer Oscar (newcomer Nathaniel Brown, in his first film role) chases the chemical rush and contemplates the Tibetan Book of the Dead. When a routine delivery gone wrong causes his grip on mortality to slip, Oscar refuses to go gently, instead entering the void above to keep a promise made to his stripper sister (Paz de la Huerta, Choke). In an endlessly repetitive loop of events that comprised his life and followed his death, Oscar weaves in and out of the moments and memories that that encompassed his essence, with the quest for spiritual survival central to his philosophical journey. Melodramatic, psychedelic, experimental, visually astounding, and certainly overly-long, Enter The Void needs to be seen to be believed, suffice to say that Noé has again entered the realm of the bizarre and brilliant, despite the feature being nowhere near as shocking as it seems.
Enter The Void screens again on November 13, 2010 at the Brisbane International Film Festival.
One of two Venice Golden Lion winners on the BIFF program (the second being Sofia Coppola’s recent victor Somewhere, screening later in the week) – sitting in such esteemed company as Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler and Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain as recipients of the prized Leone d’Oro – Lebanon (or לבנון in Hebrew) offers a personal, powerful account of a brutal war often overlooked within the cinematic canon. Focusing on the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon (or the Lebanon War as it is more commonly known), director Samuel Maoz’s feature acts as a thematic companion piece to Academy Award nominee Waltz with Bashir, a kindred spirit to the cavalcade of intimate war genre pieces, and claustrophobic challenger to single-setting piece Buried, as it crafts a compelling account of events complete with a tragic and touching anti-war message, based on the filmmaker’s own experiences during the battle in question.
With the majority of Lebanon taking place within a single armoured tank on June 6, 1982, the film explores the human toll – both physical and psychological – of the horrific side of military combat. Charting mere hours in the lives of five soldiers – Herzl (Oshri Cohen, Beaufort), Yigal (Michael Moshonov, Private Rooms), Assi (Itay Tiran, Homeland), Shmulik (Yoav Donat in his film debut) and their commander Jamil (Zohar Shtrauss, Things Behind The Sun) – as they view the outside world through the lens of the gun-sight, the feature reflects upon the ability of faceless leaders to request their followers to blindly commit atrocious acts. Intense from start to finish, and book-ended by a picturesque field of sunflowers that provides a rare splash of colour amongst a palette of grime and dread, Lebanon is an emotional and political testament to its topic, both relentless and resonant on a universal scale.
Lebanon screens again on November 14, 2010 at the Brisbane International Film Festival, opening for general release on November 25, 2010.
The Brisbane International Film Festival continues until November 14, 2010.