Brisbane International Film Festival: Day 6

Sarah Ward November 11, 2010 0

With opening night now a week in the past, and days 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 going along swimmingly, let’s dive in to day 6 of the 19th annual Brisbane International Film Festival. With all reports indicating that Freakonomics drew a healthy encore crowd alongside a host of other excellent day 6 offerings, we take a look at world war two drama The Wedding Song, indie creature feature Monsters and Abbas Kiarostami’s latest, Certified Copy.

Can a lifelong bond be shattered by differences in race and religion? Can war forge a rift in the strongest of relationships? Will the platonic love of two friends suffer under oppressive patriarchy and hostility? Will a childhood sisterhood be cast aside at the whim of external influences? Or does loyalty triumph over all? Set in Nazi-occupied Tunisia circa 1942, these questions form the foundation of The Wedding SongLe chant des mariées), a touching and tender exploration of faith and fellowship from Little Jerusalem writer / director Karin Albou. Following the struggles of Jewish teenager Myriam (Lizzie Brocheré, The Vintner’s Luck) and her Muslim best friend Nour (Olympe Borval, in her first film role) as the second world war rages on around them, the film charts the impact of the physical uncertainties upon emotional intimacies, with societal expectations and male demands attempting to dictate the terms and destroy the ties of a beautiful friendship.

We first meet Myriam and Nour as young girls, enamored with the concept of marriage as they both play bride and sing the melodic wedding song that gives the film its title. Years later, adolescence has failed to temper their close connection, despite each silently longing for the life of the other. For Myriam, constant religious persecution takes its toll as she witnesses Nour’s freedom from scrutiny, whilst Nour covets Myriam’s wardrobe and education. Wedlock also forces a divide between the pair, with Myriam’s forced marriage to a much older man (The Army Of Crime‘s Simon Abkarian) at odds with Nour’s bittersweet romance with her cousin (Rendition‘s Najib Oudghiri). As their parallel paths begin to diverge in the lead up to their respective weddings, each is forced to take stock of the role of the other in their future plans. Intelligent, intense and engrossing, The Wedding Song subverts their stories, championing the spirit of determination of women discovering the political and cultural limits of their gender.

The Wedding Song does not currently have an Australian theatrical or DVD release date.

Existing in the same general space as fellow monster fare The Host (an excellent example of its kind, courtesy of Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho) and Cloverfield (sadly, a not so successful effort from Let Me In helmer Matt Reeves), similar in substance to the highly lauded District 9, but perhaps bearing the most resemblance to John Hillcoat’s haunting film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Road, Monsters is a unique entry into the creature feature canon. Filmed on a shoe-string budget (less than half a million dollars, it has been reported) by British writer / director Gareth Edwards, the indie alien apocalypse movie injects humanity into the genre, putting people – photojournalist Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy, Cop Out) and publishing heiress Sam Wynden (Whitney Able, Mercy) – rather than the titular monsters front and centre in a winning combination of road movie, romance, and philosophical pondering of politics and mortality.

As the opening title cards inform, six years ago NASA discovered the possibility of alien life in our solar system. Although a probe sent to investigate promptly disappeared without a trace, enormous alien creatures started descending into Mexico. On the precipice of the infected zone we meet our protagonists, with Kaulder’s enthusiasm for his work muted when he is asked to accompany his boss’ daughter Sam to the safety of the coast. As they make their way across a landscape littered with wreckage and victims, a spark ignites that brings solace to the duo as they face an uncertain fate. Equally sweet and scary, suspenseful and sorrowful, first-time feature filmmaker (also taking on scripting, visual effects, production design and cinematography duties) Edwards crafts a mesmerising and marvellous travelogue-infused narrative around the tense plight of the central characters, capturing the atmospheric essence of otherness, the existential uncertainty of our place in the world, and the universal need for humans to connect.

Monsters opens for general release on November 25, 2010.

The second collaboration between acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami (Taste Of Cherry) and enigmatic French actress Juliette Binoche (an Academy Award winner for The English Patient and nominee for Chocolat) after a brief dalliance in the director’s previous feature Shirin, Certified Copy (Copie conforme) waxes lyrical on art and artifice, marriage and muses, and forgeries and fakes. A virtual two-hander between Binoche (in her Cannes best actress winning role) and British opera singer William Shimell (making his big screen debut), the film probes and posits upon the chasm between perceptions and realities in creative and emotional endeavours, as mother Elle and art historian James embark upon a day-long conversation amidst the picturesque splendours of a Tuscan village.

Commencing with a shot of the book that gives the feature its name (written by James, with a pithy alternative title “Forget The Original, Just Get A Good Copy” that gives the gist of his argument) , after introducing the key characters Certified Copy delves straight into the discussion that drives the film. Meeting at Elle’s antiques shop, the duo drive out of the city for a friendly chat, however as events unfold the discourse proves less amiable indeed. Over the two-hour period of the film, the pair deconstruct life and the meaning of marital harmony, with the relationship between them never fully revealed. Are they strangers, meeting for a professional dialogue, or does their bickering indicate a hidden side to the fiery exchange? Such playful uncertainty until the third act may illustrate Kiarostami’s point, however watching it unfold is laborious and contrived to say the least. Alas, although ambitious in scope and intermittently amusing, the resulting feature is merely a meandering, obvious and often trying diatribe on the value of choice in life and art.

Certified Copy screens again on November 14, 2010 at the Brisbane International Film Festival.

The Brisbane International Film Festival continues until November 14, 2010.

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