I didn't have the time or impetus to really devote myself to this ten day event, but I did see four good quality films. Quick thoughts follow.
Sita Sings the Blues. A film that's almost worth seeing just to be impressed that it was almost entirely the work of one person. It's an animated retelling of the romance of Rama and Sita in Hindu mythology reflecting upon a (one assumes) autobiographical modern love story. The animation is inspired by Indian art and includes about five major styles in an eclectic, interlocked mix, each of which renders a different aspect of the story. One of the five styles resembles old Betty Boop cartoons and consists of short blues numbers from 1927, from a compilation sung by a woman called Annette Henshaw. Funny, quite touching, sometimes involving, and the eclecticism of the art, the stories, and the musical themes draws out the universality of the subject matter.
The Possibility of an Island. I thought this film, from French SF writer Michel Houellebecq, was really enjoyable. A French immortality cult similar to the Raelians grows large and successful enough to fund bioengineering research aimed at developing a human-plant hybrid. The cult's leader dies and his cynical, disaffected son is left to deal with the consequences of the project. The film features weary people blasted by decay and excess, crisp images of unpopulated landscapes reminiscent of classic SF films of the 60s and 70s, a very disjointed, almost amateurish story that still offers plenty of light humour, and a really beautiful, luminous final third in which the possibility of an "island" (i.e. an isolated mind and/or a utopia) is explored until the story reaches what I interpreted to be a shudderingly bleak conclusion. I don't know much at all about Houellebecq - but I now intend to check out at least one of his novels. Apparently the book version of La possibilité d'une île was gutted in the screenplay of this film, and the one IMDB reviewer isn't happy about it. In fact, searching internet briefly for other reviews, everyone but me seems to have hated this film. In fact, at Nick's Flick Picks (warning: a few more spoilers), I read:
"Somewhere, this film will probably accrue the kind of bowled-over enthusiast who will write to chide me for my incomprehension as well as my frank disdain, and if you're that enthusiast, then good on you, really. The Possibility of an Island is so unlike other movies that the very pre-condition for its existence is that some rogue minority in the world wishes that movies were entirely different from what they are, and different (here's the kicker) in this ungainly way."
Hey! I resemble that bowled-over enthusiast! Well, with various reservations. Perhaps Nick, despite his evident cinematic erudition, would learn more from a film entitled The Possibility of Being Wrong.
Fugue. This "short" (actually I think it must be nearly an hour long) screened with Houellebecq's film, and was made by a Perth local whose name I can't recall (ed: Mick Broderick). It's the story of a man whose wife dies in a car accident, and of a series of killings with which the man becomes obsessed. It was an unexpectedly fascinating meditation on the nature of an amputated life, which also included plenty of tension and mystery, and a rippling undercurrent of violence. The director found some brutal and graceful locations around the city in which to film, and so there are many overpasses, underbridges, roadsides, railings and street corners in shot: as is apparently normal at the moment, the word "Ballardian" crosses one's mind, but it wasn't exactly that. It made me want to see more films shot in Perth: there's something liberating about the imposition of a story somewhat apart from the clichés of media and daily life on such recognisable surroundings. Hmm, that sounds a little odd given that it's a story about a serial killer - never mind!
The Fall. A film that is inevitably, and accurately. described as a visual masterpiece. Directed by Tarsem Singh who you might recall made The Cell quite a while ago. This film has loads of gorgeous shots, in particular a heap of what I assume were seamless digital collages of amazing real buildings and landscapes, and a lot of very bright colour. But perhaps more interestingly, The Fall is an example of fiction structured as a principal story alongside the story of the telling of the principal story, but as the film unfolds, the framing narrative takes on greater and greater importance and also a fairly clever interaction develops between the two. It's quite well done, although the emotional pitch felt generic. This film also features a very ahistorical Charles Darwin as a character, and contains an almost impossibly cute girl actor, who puts in a great performance as the person to whom the story is told. By contrast to The Possibility of an Island, nearly everyone in existence seems to absolutely love this film.
I saw four very decent films which I don't expect will get, or have gotten any sort of wide release. That made it really lovely to have them screened at a cinema that's more or less just down the road over the past fortnight or so, and I'm looking forward to future iterations of this festival.