Saturday, August 12, 2017

MIFF- Something Quite Peculiar, Westwind and Mountain

MIFF
On Wednesday night I attended two more MIFF documentaries. The first was Something Quite Peculiar: The Life and Times of Steve Kilbey. The film focuses on Steve's 40+ years in the music industry, mainly as the lead singer of The Church. While the film covers the history of the band, it focuses more on the present day and doesn't use much archival footage. It also uses their greatest known song "Under The Milky Way" as a character throughout the film. It's an interesting device which I don't think quite works. Steve Kilbey himself is quite honest about his past and present and needing to continue to tour in The Church for money. One of the funniest lines in the film is when he admits that in the 1980s he autographed a bunch of albums as Neil Finn. After the screening we had a Q&A with both Director Mike Brook and Steve Kilbey. A few members of the audience voiced their concern that Steve was a bit harsh on the Gold Afternoon Fix album (which I really like), but Steve feels it was The Church paint-by numbers. It's not your typical documentary, but was still interesting to watch.

MIFF
My second film on Wednesday night was the world premiere of the film Westwind: Djalu's Legacy. We had a Welcome to Country by Aunty Joy and short musical performance by some of the key people in the film before it started. Filmed over eight years it tells the story of Yolngu elder and master Yidaki (didgeridoo) player Djalu Gurruwiwi. As the keeper of his people's Songlines and culture, he is desperate to pass them on to his son Larry, who is not quite ready to take on the responsibility. As Djalu allows outsiders to come and learn about culture and the Yidaki from him, he develops an unlikely friendship with Wally De Backer (aka Gotye), who manages to help bridge the musical gap between Djalu and his son. The film culminates with their performance together at WOMADelaide. After the screening we got to hear from Producer Kate Pappas, Director Ben Strunin and Djalu and Larry Gurruwiwi in the Q&A session.

MIFF
Today I got to see the breathtaking film Mountain, which was a collaborative project between Director Jennifer Peedom, Artistic Director of the Australian Chamber Orchestra Richard Tognetti, and author Robert Macfarlane. Exploring the increasing human fascination with mountains, footage was primarily sourced from that shot by Jennifer Peedom and cinematographer Renan Ozturk, along with other Go-Pro and drone material from high adventure athletes. The score by Tognetti includes original pieces as well as ones from classical composers, and the film is narrated by actor Willem Dafoe. Being able to see this film on a massive screen was fantastic, and some of the shots of people climbing up sheer wall faces or skiing down from the tops of mountains is nerve wracking. There was a Q&A after the screening with Director Jennifer Peedom where she described the process of putting this film together and collaborating with the others.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

MIFF- The Song Keepers and Ingrid Goes West

MIFF
I began this evening of MIFF films with the documentary The Song Keepers about the Central Australian Aboriginal Women's Choir. These women (and two men) from remote towns in the Northern Territory come together to sing 14th-century Lutheran hymns that were brought over by German missionaries. The really special thing is that they sing them in language. The film focuses on their 2015 tour of Germany with their choirmaster Morris Stuart. It's a lovely film that tells the story of the choir members and how they have kept their culture alive. After the screening we were incredibly lucky to have the choir there to sing a few songs and then do a Q&A.

MIFF
My next film was the American dark comedy Ingrid Goes West. It stars Aubrey Plaza as Ingrid Thorburn, a troubled social media addict who becomes infatuated with Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), an Insta-star and social media influencer. Ingrid moves to Los Angeles and manages to insinuate herself into Taylor's life. This movie is like the Instagram version of Single White Female, and is a biting commentary on the truth behind those living a #blessed life on social media.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

MIFF- Faces Places and The Go-Betweens: Right Here

MIFF
Today's Melbourne International Film Festival films were both documentaries. I began my afternoon with the French film Faces Places, which featured the pairing of French New Wave artist Agnes Varda with the much younger street artist JR. The film follows them as they drive around rural France in a mobile photo lab van photographing people and doing large scale paste ups of images both past and present. They meet some interesting people along the way and hear about their personal stories and the history of the villages they visit. The pair also develops a sweet relationship and rapport with each other, and bring together their artistic talents to create some amazing large scale pieces. I absolutely loved this film and cannot recommended it highly enough.

MIFF
Next I saw The Go-Betweens: Right Here, a film that chronicles the life and times of the Brisbane band and the relationship between its founders Robert Forster and Grant McLennan. The film is organised chronologically from the mid-1970s to mid-2000s, and intersperses archival photos, audio and video footage with present day interviews with each band member as well as the people around them in the scene at the time. I really liked the device used by Director Kriv Stenders of having a rural Queensland property as the base where each band member came and went from the house to document their time in the band as they experienced it. There were many turbulent times, including line-up changes, their break-up in 1989 and Grant's untimely passing of a heart attack in 2006, which is where the film ends. We were fortunate to have both Kriv Stenders and Robert Forster do a Q&A after the screening, in which Robert joked that he felt he came across too serious and would be more funny in a future film. It's a very well done documentary done by someone who intimately knew the band and its importance to Australian musical history.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

MIFF- The House Of Z, Pecking Order and Patti Cake$

MIFF
It's that time of year again with the start of the Melbourne International Film Festival this week. On Friday night I went to see my first MIFF film, the documentary The House Of Z on the American fashion designer Zac Posen. It covered his childhood growing up in an artistic family in NYC, and the rise of his fashion label with his mother and sister working by his side. As his popularity grew he got funding support from Sean Combs ("the hip-hop years"), but his celebrity and the GFC ultimately led to the downfall of the label and his relationships with family members. Zac then started over from scratch, assembling a new team and going back to his atelier roots to re-energise his creativity. With interviews from all the key players in Zac's life and fashion label, it's an interesting insight into what can happen when you gain success at such an early age.

MIFF
Tonight I started my evening with the New Zealand documentary Pecking Order about the members of the Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon Club. It covered not only the internal (and generational) politics of the club, but also everyone's preparations for the annual National Show, which was like the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for chickens. There were some amazing characters in the film, and we were fortunate enough to have Director Slavko Martinov introduce the film and do a Q&A after the screening, where he spilled some of the secrets of the bird show circuit.

MIFF
My other film for the night was the drama/comedy Patti Cake$, which featured Aussie actress Danielle Macdonald as Patricia Dombrowski, an aspiring rapper from New Jersey. With her friend Hareesh by her side, they strive to make their dreams come true while facing down the doubters both within the community and her own family (her mother is brilliantly played by comedian Bridget Everett). Once Patti and Hareesh encounter the African-American anarchist Basterd they form an unlikely musical union under the name PBNJ and record a demo in the hopes of breaking into the music business. It's a great film about not giving up on your dreams and being resilient in the face of adversity.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Gertrude Street Projection Festival 2017

It's the tenth anniversary of the Gertrude Street Projection Festival, which has grown over the years to become a key cultural event in Melbourne each winter. Once again there were a wide variety of different projections displayed on the facades and alleyways along Gertrude Street.

Of the smaller wall projections I really liked Peter Waples-Crowe with Megan Evans piece Squatters & Savages which showed colonial occupation from both perspectives. Riza Manalo's Visitor III demonstrated the fluidity of physical movement, while Glynn Urquhart's Future Flesh Forms explored the interactions of technology and living tissue through 3D animation.

Gertrude Street Projection Festival

Gertrude Street Projection Festival

Gertrude Street Projection Festival

Once again this year the Atherton Gardens had different installations on display. Some of my favorites were Anne Truong and Dave Anderson's Light Cycles, Annie Edney's Moon Ball, Toggles Alternate Power Generator with its moving mobile and Prativa Thamang's Fall Into The Skies.

Gertrude Street Projection Festival

It took a week to get working, but there were also large scale projections on the Atherton Towers, this year on the Atherton Gardens side of the building. Susan Maco Forrester and Jody Haines' piece Future is Now! explored the voyages of ancestors and identity.

Gertrude Street Projection Festival

Other large scale building projections along Gertrude Street included Ash Coates' Mycolinguistics (Rubico-Sterolosis or Oneness) on the Gertrude Hotel and Amanda Morgan's If they build a wall, we can scale it on the Builders Arms.

Gertrude Street Projection Festival

Gertrude Street Projection Festival

Skunk Control had another amazing window display this year with Three / Four, which shows the now constantly lit warning sirens as we head to the end.

Gertrude Street Projection Festival

The Gertrude Street Projection Festival is on until Sunday, 30 July 2017.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Father John Misty- Melbourne Recital Centre

While out in Australia for Splendour In The Grass, Father John Misty scheduled a couple of intimate sideshows in support of his latest album Pure Comedy. Tonight's sold out show was at the Melbourne Recital Centre. Opening the evening was singer-songwriter Angie McMahon, who played a solo set on electric guitar and sounded fantastic with her deep voice and atmospheric songs.

Father John Misty's band emerged on the stage first and then Josh Tillman came out to join them as they launched into the opening song "Pure Comedy." The first four songs of the set were in order off the new album with "Total Entertainment Forever," "Things It Would Have Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution" and "Ballad Of The Dying Man." Josh danced and gyrated around the stage throughout the night and delivered those wonderful lyrics in his typical self-deprecating and deadpan manner. It was great to hear "When You're Smiling And Astride Me," "Fun Times In Babylon," "Nancy From Now On" and "True Affection."

Josh wasn't as chatty as the other times I've seen him live, but he did have a few funny interactions with the crowd. In response to a guy shouting out his love he spoke of reaching his aim of being "knee deep in random dudes." He also joked about facial hair and the controversy around his moustache when the album came out (and its association with paedophiles) so he has grown back his beard (which he noted is associated with murderers). Towards the end of the set a few people were brave enough to jump up out of their seats at the start of "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" and he then invited the rest of the crowd to get up for "I Love You, Honeybear," which closed out the main set.

For the encore as we were all still standing, Josh joked that they were going to scrap their sophisticated encore and just play bangers. We were treated to "Read Love Baby," "Holy Shit" and "The Ideal Husband." It was great to get the opportunity to see Father John Misty play in a more intimate and relaxed setting, but I'm sure he'll be hitting bigger venues when he comes back to Australia to tour the album.

Here's the video for "Pure Comedy"

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Slow Dancer- In A Mood Tour

Slow Dancer celebrated the release of his second album In A Mood tonight with an album launch at The Gasometer Hotel. Opening the evening was Tim Harvey's latest project Real Feelings. The four piece band, which also contained Liam Halliwell from The Ocean Party, had some lengthy jams and a bit of a groove to their songs. Next up was POPPONGENE (aka Sophie Treloar) and her band, which had a very guitar-based sound with a bit of shoegaze at some points. We thought they sounded really good.

Slow Dancer (aka Simon Okley) was in his usual white jeans and jacket as he took to the stage with his band and started with "In The Water," the opening track off In A Mood. The crowd was very attentive and polite throughout his set, with highlights being "Don't Believe," "Bitter," "It Goes On" (which may be my favorite song released this year), and beautiful versions on acoustic guitar of "Please" and "I Would" that had everyone captivated. Simon joked that we were missing the start of the Tour de France coverage (which was amusing as I had a conversation with Ebony before he started playing about Peter Sagon's disqualification) and also acknowledged it was NAIDOC week. The evening finished with "Cornerstone" and the funniest moment of the night when Simon realised he forgot to take the capo off his guitar as he hit the first chorus. Unfortunately there wasn't an encore, but it's always an enjoyable experience to get to see Slow Dancer perform live.

Here's the video for "It Goes On":

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