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Sydney Film Festival Diary Part II
by Michael Collins

The second installment of our foray into the Sydney Film Festival. In this part we witness abuse on screen, and watch shocked as we see abuse unleashed by the festival audience themselves.

Jackie Chan's foray into Hollywood has been a mixed blessing. The buzz from his early films weren't there for his Hollywood outings. So it's nice to see him back in Hong Kong for New Police Story. Around twenty years since the original we now are greeted with another instalment of the Hong Kong action series.

This time it's some bored rick kids who are on a Police killing spree power trip using a points system to see who gets the most money from their robberies. With the kids wreaking havoc across the city it's up to Jackie Chan to save the day.

Glossy and colourful there is some fancy photography going on in this film. The visuals aren't over the top gorgeous ŕ la House of Flying Daggers, but nevertheless it's nicely done.

The film is quite suspenseful with a fair dose of action. At times it's quite over-melodramatic to the point of being operatic. You begin to wonder if you are laughing with it or at it.

Chan's acting is as usual is over the top while the rest of the cast have pop star looks and attitude.

The short, Useless Dog, is a story close to the heart of any dog owner. Essentially an interview with it's owner, we see the life of an English farm dog who doesn't seem to do much useful around the farm except make a fool of itself. Much to the chagrin and amusement of the owner. Heart warming and funny.

This short opened for Bombon (El Perro) an Argentinian feature mainly set in the spectacular Patagonian region.

Juan Villegas, a man who recently lost his job at a service station, tries his hand at knife selling when he's given a dog which changes his life.

It turns out the dog is a prized specimen of it's breed and Villegas teams up with Walter to start up in the dog show circuit.

Villegas (his character's and real name) has probably the most welcoming and warm face I have ever seen on screen. He's the sort of guy you would want as a favourite uncle. His performance is half of the charm of this film. The other half is of course the dog. Strong and healthy looking – though not necessarily good looking – he makes you laugh simply by just sitting there.

The film has a gentle charm and warmth and you can't help feeling good after seeing this film. The look of their faces shielding their silent thoughts of Villegas and the dog are quite beguiling

Some of the plot points were lost on me, but I think that might be my problem rather the film's.

This film will be one of my votes for getting a commercial release. It is definitely one to look out for.

We've been getting a lot of pop politics films lately. From Michael Moore's efforts to the excellent The Corporation. Another example of this genre is the excellent Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room.

It's getting quite disheartening to see all of these films of corporate and political pursuit of self-interest. Through some creative accounting and a touch of insanity we see the rise a fall of Enron.

This film decides to concentrate on the people behind the scandal and it's just more than a little disturbing that the Bush family name gets a few mentions with connections to the men behind Enron.

Before the screening of Paradise Now a film on the subject of terrorism we were treated to the Indonesian short film Klayaban.

An old restaurant owner and survivor of a military backed massacre is horrified to see who he suspects is the commanding officer of the massacre from his home village. They strike up an uneasy friendship involving chess playing as the restaurant owner makes sure he has the right guy.

Before he makes up his mind though two patrons who are ethnic enemies recognise the restaurant owner and taunt him. It's up to the former military officer to save the owner.

The power of forgiveness is the clear theme here. An interesting theme considering the next film was to be about terrorism.

I said was.

Unfortunately, the Arabic film was without subtitles. The festival got the wrong print, it seems.

That's ok. Things happen – I'm surprised I haven't seen it happen more often.

Forgetting the forgiveness theme of Klayaban in a matter of minutes, it was rather disgusting to see a couple of patrons abuse the door attendants (I mean what are they going to do?) and rudely hiss and slow clap in the theatre. Some of the crowd's reaction was ignorant and childish.

The patrons should be more understanding in that getting a festival to run with out a hitch would be a miracle. Which brings us to Emir Kusturica's latest foray into insanity and absurdity.

Again we are set in the middle of the Yugoslav war. It's wild frantic, symbolic and my goodness these films are bizarre. Manic, full of over the top performances and set ups, if there wasn't an underlying sense of tragedy in this film we'd be laughing all the way through them.

Kusturica is a master. He's an intense, relentless film maker. This film drags you along for three hours and Kusturica fans will not be disappointed with this one.

It's difficult to describe what it's about. Ostensibly a romantic comedy between a man and woman from either side of the war fall in love. But the film has much more going for it than just that. If you can stand the three hour onslaught you should check out this one.

36 Quai Des Orfevres was to be my first disappointment for the festival. This intense crime drama had the look and feel of a David Fincher film, but the drama and characters were so thoroughly unlikeable that the viewer was felt quite disenfranchised from the film.

In a police force full of systemic corruption the solving of a crime was secondary to personal vendettas and revenge. Sounds good, but the alienation of this audience member, I lost interest in this one. Sombre and grim it was just too much for me.

link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=1521
originally posted: 06/17/05 22:10:56
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