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SFF: Part II

Well after a long weekend, the Sydney Film Festival is now competing with work hours and University examinations for the next two weeks. One would of thought that perhaps the festival would match education holiday period to draw more young people in and get them interested in independent cinema, especially Australian independent cinema as it desperately needs more of an audience.

Not only that is the disappointing response filmmakers have given to their film being selected for screening in the festival. Very few filmmakers make the trip to Australia to accompany their films, after enjoying Q & A’s for every film at Sundance this is somewhat disappointing. But oh well, the festival continues through its first week with some real treats.

Mysterious Skin

Mysterious Skin certainly deals with some disturbing material but nothing that will hit you in the way that something like Todd Solondz’s Happiness achieved. It tells of how child abuse has affected two boys in very different manners in their early adult life. As a result it is of course, not a film for everyone but admirably director Gregg Araki handles such material in a very mature manner.

The characters of the film are victims but the audience is never really asked to define them only by this status. Consequently the film not only feels like an exploration of the effects of abuse but also of contemporary relations and standing of sex in society as general. With this film Joseph Gordon-Levitt proved himself as a lead actor with weightier material that you feel he was just waiting for. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here.

New Police Story

It is always nice seeing Jackie Chan doing films in Hong Kong amongst his often-mediocre American efforts. New Police Story tells of a police officer battling his own personal demons in order to take revenge on those who harmed him and his friends. Obviously the story doesn’t sound all that new, and while this isn’t a great film in terms of drama, the action is a lot of fun as it so often is in Hong Kong cinema.

Whether someone will enjoy this film or not is dependent on how they’ve taken to Hong Kong cinema in general. There is no doubt that Jackie Chan can get increasingly become annoying and the lack of believable depth will leave some audiences with a bitter taste. For others though, who take it for what it is adding a few expectations, it should make for an enjoyable experience.

Double Bill: Unknown White Male / Missing

Screening before Unknown White Male was the Australian short Missing, concerning the disappearance of a student. It serves mainly as a tribute to the student, and while being sad the film indulges itself in paranoid theories with no concrete evidence. The director commented upon the problem of how identity is defined in today’s society, and this concern connects her short with the feature.

Unknown White Male was more attractive documentary as it explored the life of a man after he awoke on a train, remembering nothing of his life. Undoubtedly the film showed so much potential that I feel it never quite lived up to. Questions of identity were raised and explored, but it felt as if director, Rupert Murray, was repeating similar ideas rather then going further in depth. The amnesic, Doug Bruce, is instantly sympathetic, at least this figure draws the audience into the mystery that is his life.

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