As the Perth International Revelation Film Festival has officially come to a close, it’s time to present my final report card for the second week of the fest. So without further ado, here are the results:
Skate Kitchen (dir. Crystal Moselle)
Watching Skate Kitchen is like reconnecting with a group of friends you haven’t seen for ages but upon meeting up its like not even a day has passed. It’s a breezy, relentlessly entertaining coming of age story that’s a delight to watch.
Set amongst the New York subculture, the story focuses on Camille (newcomer Rachelle Vinberg), an 18 year-old Long Island teen who runs away from home to join a female skateboarding posse called Skate Kitchen. Connecting with the group as a kindred spirit, Camille struggles to reconcile her strained relationship with her mother with her newfound sense of belonging. Much like this year’s best picture nominee Lady Bird, Skate Kitchen will prove instantly relatable to anyone who struggled to fit in during their formative years.
Summary: The skatepark version of Lady Bird and just as good, Skate Kitchen is a delight.
Madeleine’s Madeleine (dir. Josephine Decker)
Arthouse films are often labelled with different adjectives that can split audiences. What some might label as pretentious, others might consider as a masterpiece. Madeleine’s Madeleine oscillates between both sentiments but through its sheer force of its own conviction proves to be a startling achievement.
The story follows Madeleine (an excellent debut from Helena Howard), a young performer recovering from a recent mental breakdown. As her personal life starts taking on a central role in a play she is rehearsing, Madeleine’s grip on reality becomes increasingly tenuous. The lingering question is: is it art imitating reality or the other way around? Madeleine’s Madeleine is an unconventional take on mental illness, but what part of mental illness is conventional?
Summary: Madeleine’s Madeleine is artsy filmmaking at its most perplexing and rewarding.
Leave No Trace (dir. Debra Granik)
If you’ve ever gone camping you’ll know the feeling of tranquillity and stillness that comes with sitting nestled amongst the trees away from the noise. For war veteran Will (Ben Forster), who suffers from PTSD, leaving the noise behind is a necessity not a respite. Living with his daughter, Tom (Thomasin McKenzie), in an urban park in Portland, Oregon, their lives are uprooted when social services mandate their return to society.
The most surprising thing about Leave No Trace is how it reveals itself to be an unlikely coming of age story. While Will believes living off the grid is in the best interest of his daughter, the change in circumstances complicates Tom’s feelings. Her transformation from being her father’s daughter to someone able to make her own decisions leads to some heart-wrenching scenes where she stands up to Will as an equal. Like Jennifer Lawrence before her, Granik has made another find in Thomasin McKenzie, who is certainly one to watch.
Summary: Leave No Trace definitely leaves a mark.
Holiday (dir. Isabella Eklöf)
If the six people that walked out during the screening are any indication, Holiday is going to provoke some polarising opinions. It’s a tough watch, a film designed to get under your skin and features one of the most graphic rape sequences ever committed to screen. However, what’s most shocking about the film is the realism in which everything is portrayed.
The story, in short, is about the terrible things men do to women and that women allow men to do to them. While the plot meanders and never provides any definitive answers, the frustration it elicits is part of the film’s effect. It’s not for the faint hearted and in the “me too” era, Holiday is definitely going to provoke some fierce conversation. I didn’t like the film but it got the exact reaction that it wanted out of me and it’s been crawling under my skin for days.
Summary: A tough watch designed to provoke audiences; Holiday has been crawling under my skin for days.
Bugs (dir. Jack Moxey)
The best way to describe Bugs would be Stand by Me by way of Harmony Korine. Shot like a 90’s music video from an obscure heavy metal band, Bugs is a black and white ode to fleeting youth and the monotony of teenage years after the discovery of a dead schoolgirl barely rattles a suburban town.
While it doesn’t posses Korine’s madcap boundary-pushing energy, Bugs does manage to capture something universal and deeply troubling about the apathetic generation. Where it struggles is filling its almost 90 minute run time and as the story becomes less structured it gives the impression that the film might have worked better as a short. Still, shot for a reported $20 000, Bugs is an impressive micro-budget debut feature from writer/director Jack Moxey.
Summary: Stand by Me by way of Harmony Korine, Bugs is a solid debut feature that may have worked better as a short film.
Ghost Stories (dir. Andy Nyman, Jeremy Dyson)
Like recent anthology horror films VHS and ABC’s of Death, Ghost Stories is hit and miss with its collection of horror shorts. Its tone veers widely between dark comedy and serious horror territory, and neither work too effectively. To boot, none of the shorts are particularly interesting and each of them end abruptly without offering much closure.
It’s only by the end of the wrap-around narrative about a paranormal debunker investigating the happenings that the film offers some cohesion, but it comes as too little, too late. With only three average shorts to go around a solid wrap-around narrative, Ghost Stories’ low batting average makes it more of a miss.
Summary: Not scary enough to work as a horror film, not funny enough to work as a dark comedy, Ghost Stories sits flatly in-between.
Rockabul (dir. Travis Beard): 8/10
Kusama: Infinity (dir. Heather Lenz): 5/10
Salyut-7 (dir. Klim Shipenko): 7/10
Mirai (dir. Mamoru Hosoda): 7.5/10
The Breaker Upperers (dir. Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek): 6.5/10
And that’s it for another year! Overall it has been another strong outing for the Perth International Revelation Film Festival, with a high number of quality films proving that cinema is alive and well. But don’t take my word for it, seek out the films and keep the discussion going!