Wednesday, August 08, 2007

MIFF report 7 - More than MIFF

What's all this malarkey about text shrinking in my posts? I have no idea. It doesn't happen on any of the computers I'm using. Maybe it's a Firefox thing or a Mac issue or whatever. I don't get this stuff.


About a year ago I was in England and on my last day overseas before flying home I decided to visit Stonehenge, because I hadn’t been there and apparently the Big Rock craze which swept the country some time ago left some mighty monoliths worth a look-see. Enlisting the two friends I had remaining in the country, we hired a car and drove through the countryside to see the chunky fellas. After our sight-seeing was done, we decided to visit nearby Avesbury, but got lost due to a strange number of army tanks and armoured personnel carriers which were buzzing all over the area and realised we had no idea where Avesbury was (or why there was a full scale military operation seemingly going on around us). On a whim, we decided to drive to the lovely seaside town of Brighton instead.

The problem with this brilliant plan was that we had no maps, no money and none of us had ever been to Brighton, which was clearly a long way away. On the bright side, we had a small compass embedded in the wristband of our driver and the worldly knowledge that Brighton is along the southern coast of England. So we figured if we just drove south and then followed the coastline, we’d be there in a jiffy.

Five or six hours later we arrived in what might be charitably termed a state of blubbering droolitude. A nice meal and some cavorting along the rocky beach next to the famous Brighton Pier helped soothed the nerves, and when the sun had set we drove back from Brighton to London, and collapsed in preparation for the flight the next day (the hire car was towed while we slept – true story).

And so I have to admit that the only reason I went along to the UK film London to Brighton was to relive that exhausted but somehow jubilant commute in reverse. It was the end of my journey, after all, and that always carries some kind of melancholy charge.

I didn’t realise that the reverse trip, in this film, would turn out to be a one-way ride with terror the final destination! I know, I know, I’ve always secretly hoped to be the copywriter for shitty B-grade flicks.

London to Brighton is a puerile, tawdry monster of a piece crafted with impeccable skill. A prostitute is ordered by her pimp to secure the services of an 11-year-old to satisfy the sick desires of a wealthy businessman, and after finding a sassy pre-teen the deal gets bloody and she soon finds herself on the run with the kid, hotfooting it to Brighton. Meanwhile, the shotgun-toting pimp along with the businessman’s psycho son are hunting the two down to exact bloody vengeance. It’s all much more tasteful than it sounds.

No, wait.

It’s jaw-clenching, squirm-in-your-seat fare, and it’s certainly well-executed, but the whole paedophilia angle had me horrified from at least the first ten minutes onwards. My point here follows on from my last review: at what point does playing on the real terrors which exist in society become just another excuse for entertainment, giving us a thrill of abjection that is finally satisfied by the demands of your typical filmic narrative? Films demand resolution, after all, and while I exited London to Brighton aware that equally monstrous stuff is going on all the time, the distance I felt from the fictional characters I was offered, as well as the seedy settings they inhabited, meant that I didn’t feel I’d witnessed something that would change my world. And given the subject matter, it should have.


Tonight I headed along to the opening of Malthouse Theatre’s Criminology. Like London to Brighton, it deals with some scary stuff, but unlike that film it doesn’t just explore the things we normally ignore, but actually engages with a true case of horror. In 1997, a Canberra law student drugged her boyfriend and injected him with enough heroin to kill him, intending to end her own life afterwards. All of this occurred after a party at which most of the guests knew her mission.

Criminology doesn’t re-enact the case but instead re-imagines it, drawing on the talents of playwrights Tom Wright and Lally Katz to get into the minds not of the woman in question but of anyone who could commit such an act. It’s a bizarre mixture of social realism and warped fabulism. I’m still thinking about it and so I won’t write a proper review here – I’ll be writing plenty about it elsewhere. It’s definitely something worth checking out, however, especially if you had any kind of interaction with culture in the late 90s, since the soundtrack, cultural references, clothing and even set design are eerily evocative of that period which, even though it’s only a decade gone, sometimes seem a lifetime past.

And of course if frequent explicit sex, nudity, heavy drug use and strobe lighting is your thing, they’ll be throwing you a bone as well.


I saw a preview of this film early this week. 10am on a Tuesday. I haven’t looked at Melbourne the same way since.

It’s having a short release from August 16 at Cinema Nova, though I think it should be receiving a much bigger release.

The big distributors didn’t want to touch it. It didn’t make it into MIFF, though it sold out at the Sydney Film Festival.

It’s a drama about the slave trafficking industry in Melbourne.

It’s based on real testimonials and court transcripts. It’s also an exquisitely crafted thriller.

There are flaws, sure, but compared to the usual Aussie output – from gangland dramas to giant-croc horrors to outback romances – it’s in a league of its own. It’s been years, easily, since an Australian film has moved me to such teary-eyed anger.

I think you should see it.

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