Our top picks for MIFF 2014

Here are our top picks for what to see at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) this year!

Nina Kenwood has a thing for American indies.

I love indie films from the USA so my initial reaction when I first saw the MIFF program was to circle all the films I already knew about and was dying to see: Richard Linklater’s extraordinary Boyhood, filmed once a year over the course of twelve years (the longest scheduled shoot in film history); Joe Swanberg’s Happy Christmas (I loved last year’s Drinking Buddies); the sort-of-rom-com Obvious Child; the delightfully weird-looking Listen Up Philip; the quirky post-break-up comedy Appropriate Behaviour and the sibling drama The Skeleton Twins.

But the standout of the festival for me, and my absolute must-see, are the paired films The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him. I love the concept – two films, telling the same story of a marriage break-up from different perspectives. I’ve read that the film’s post-festival general release will be just one film, a shortened combination of both Her and Him, and I really want to see it how the director intended, as two films. I’m also sold on the idea of seeing two interconnected films back-to-back in one day – that’s the kind of experience I go to film festivals for.

In regards to things outside the American indies: the trailer for Force Majeure makes it look hilarious, delightful and possibly heartbreaking, and I’ve heard wonderful things about Two Days, One Night. My stand-outs for documentaries include Web Junkie (about deprogramming internet-addicted teens in China), Life Itself (a wonderful celebration of the life of film critic Roger Ebert), 112 Weddings (a wedding videographer talks to all married couples he filmed, years on from their weddings) and At Berkeley (a four hour epic about the college).

One final recommendation: What We Do In The Shadows, a New Zealand comedy/horror. It looks so great. I haven’t yet seen anyone watch the trailer without laughing.

Emily Harms' hot tip is Pulp: a Film about Life, Death and Supermarkets.

I’m busting to see Pulp: a Film about Life, Death and Supermarkets, a cinematic love letter to Sheffield and it’s best-known 90’s export Pulp from New Zealander director Florian Habicht.

Pulp reunited in 2012 for a two-year worldwide reunion tour around London, New York and Sheffield after a ten year break. This gritty doco is an absurd portrait on the most unlikeliest stars, with Jarvis Cocker as the frontman, and in the process paints an intimate picture of the city of Sheffield and its people, revealing how each form and inform the other.

With so much on offer, Belle Place has decided to invest in an e-mini pass.

This is the first year I’m purchasing a 10-session pass to MIFF. My colleague, Nina, has committed to this for the last two film festivals, and this year has convincingly pitched to me that this is the best way to ensure you actually see all the films you talk about watching. My parents used to take two weeks leave from work to attend MIFF together, essentially camping out at the cinema. While I’m not that diehard, I am finding it tricky to whittle my list down to just ten films, so can see how the idea has legs.

This year, as always, I’m most excited about the documentary program, particularly these two films: Dior and I, which chronicles the lead-up to Raf Simons first collection with Dior and is directed by Frederic Tcheng (who is also behind Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel and Valentino: The Last Emperor); and The 50 Year Argument, which sees Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi look to the titans of American public thought – including Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, Joan Didion and Susan Sontag – through interviews and archival footage, revealing the influence and inner workings of the publication these writers congregated around, the New York Review of Books.

There is also a wonderful program of subversive comedies from Italy, Commedia all’italiana, and I’m looking forward to Divorce, Italian Style, a black satire on the absurdities of love and fidelity, about which the New York Times writes: ‘Not since Charlie Chaplin’s beguiling Verdoux have we seen a deliberate wife killer so elegant and suave.’

Tate Jerrems' must-see pick is Jodorowsky’s Dune.

Childhood memories of brotherhood warfare in the midst of a desert gaming landscape and a tripped-out David Lynch experience that stunned and confused my younger self; two perfect adaptations of Frank Herbert’s Dune that sit warmly within my inner landscape. Add to this mix a shared obsession with the Alien saga, intricately designed by recently deceased H.R. Giger, and an amazing early introduction to all things sci-fi and surrealism was created.

Step forward to my late-twenties as another epiphany comes my way via the expansive journey of Chilean-French director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain. My passion for esoteric, symbol-rich, visual tapestries was mimicked so perfectly on the screen that my obsessive personality jumped into full-gear consuming every film imaginable by this wondrous director. When I later read The Greatest Movies You’ll Never See, I was shocked and thoroughly disappointed to realise that the filmmaker’s adaptation of Dune was never to see the light of day. With the likes of Pink Floyd and Magma for the music, artists H.R. Giger, Chris Foss and Jean Giraud for set and character design, Dan O'Bannon for special effects and Salvador Dalí, Orson Welles, Gloria Swanson, David Carradine, Mick Jagger and others for the cast, this film was to be, in my mind, fundamentally perfect.

And now my heart skips a beat, with the MIFF release of Frank Pavich’s documentary pulling together the story of this ambitious project from conception to ultimate demise. Finally, the moment I come as close in this lifetime as humanly possible, to the hugely anticipated experience of Jodorowsky’s Dune.

Bronte Coates is wondering what food to pack for a four-hour screening.

As with Belle, my MIFF list tends to be doco-heavy and this year is no different. My shortlist features 112 Weddings (I picked this based on the trailer which reminded me of the opening of Nora Ephron’s When Harry Met Sally), Dinosaur 13 (which reminded me of Blackfish), German Concentration Camps Factual Survey (a newly completed version of a project that began in 1945) and I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story (I’ve heard good things about this one).

I’m also wondering whether I’ll be able to commit to one (or both) of two different epic (each around the four hour mark) releases that have been described as being almost like time capsules, in their observational tone and plainly presented footage. The first, Frederick Wiseman’s At Berkeley, is a cinematic portrait of ‘the great malaise eroding America’s education system’ while the second, Wang Bing’s Til Madness Do Us Part, is set in a psychiatric hospital, somewhere in south-west China and looks harrowing. Footage shows the interactions between inmates with little interference from either doctors or staff.

In terms of films, my must-sees are Boyhood from Richard Linklater and Tom at the Farm from the 25-year-old Canadian cinema prodigy Xavier Dolan.

Browse the full program and book tickets on the MIFF website. Readings is a proud sponsor of MIFF.

The Ghost Writer

The Ghost Writer

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