Sydney Film Festival – Day Six

Sydney Film Festival – Day Six. By Simon Miraudo.

“It goes so fast!” That’s what old people always say, isn’t it? “It goes so fast! How can it be over? It just began!” Of course, they’re referring to their entire lives, and I’m speaking of my less significant (yet equally epic) time here at the 2011 Sydney Film Festival. The fest itself will rage on for another six days, but I must return home in 24 hours, lest I morph back into a pumpkin, or something. Therefore, this will be the final time I conclude a day of movie-watching by sitting alone in my Sydney hotel room and writing into the early hours of the morn’ (although I suppose the only aspect of my routine that will change is the ‘Sydney hotel room’ part; the rest is pretty normal). Tomorrow, I will pen my final write-up whilst flying across Australia, before settling in for my newly purchased book – Star by Peter Biskind – and enjoying a portion controlled meal (I actually love those). THAT is tomorrow though, and this is today. And here’s how I spent it…

I awoke and transcribed interviews before trekking out into the Sydney streets once again. I didn’t spot any rogue private parts on the streets as I did yesterday, thank goodness. However, whilst in line for a film, I overheard a woman tell her partner that she caught sight of a man taking care of himself in an alley. A bold new performance piece, or just mental illness? You decide! Sydney truly is the cultural center of Australia!

I only had time for two films today; the first, Fernando León de Aranoa’s Amador, was a real crowd pleaser that, unfortunately, I didn’t find so pleasing. It did allow me the opportunity to return to the wonderful State Theatre one last time, and for that I was thankful. The film stars Magaly Solier as Marcela, a simple young woman whose unplanned pregnancy traps her in a loveless relationship. Desperate for cash, she takes up a job as carer for a bed-ridden old man named Amador (Celso Bugallo). Her four-week contract looks like it will come to an early end when Amador prematurely passes away. Marcela unwisely decides to keep his death a secret, so that she can continue collecting money – at least until the four weeks are up. Yes, comparisons to Weekend at Bernie’s are apt, but Aranoa deserves credit for not veering into such slapstick outrageousness. The film instead follows in the footsteps of similar “cute” ultra-trite Euro faux-fantasies; it thinks it’s so charming, and that only makes it less so. The crowd seemed to love it though; I won’t be surprised if this In Competition feature takes home the Audience Award.

On the opening night of SFF, I lamented being on the Press/Pleb side of the Red Carpet barrier. How wrong I was. Tonight, while heading in to see Kung Fu Panda 2 – to prepare for interviews with Lucy Liu and director Jennifer Yuh Nelson– I saw the true horror of walking The Red Mile first hand. It was rough. The cameras were flashing, and the children were screaming, and I just wanted to get into my seat where I knew everything would be ok and that my mother loved me. I got there in the end … but for a while it seemed like I had wandered into a parallel hell-dimension, in which you are forced to wait in line for eternity while a life-sized and vacant-eyed Po the Panda puppet stared into the very being of your soul.

As for the film, it was fine. At first I questioned its inclusion here at SFF (aside from the high profile guests, which also included Jack Black and DreamWorks head Jeffrey Katzenberg). I was surprised to find the film rather bleak and darkly oppressive. Maybe it was a good fit! Perhaps they should have renamed it The Turin Panda (an inside joke for fellow SFFers; sorry). The animation was astoundingly beautiful, and the Kung Fu Panda series remains the jewel in the DreamWorks Animation crown, but this action-packed instalment was just less fun and pleasant than the first one, and rather weirdly paced. (It also features two voice performances from Seth Rogen, which is odd, because he’s not exactly a chameleonic voice actor. In fact, he may have one of the most recognisable voices of the moment. Anyway…) UPDATE: Some IMDB research has revealed that the other voice was actually Danny McBride. Close, but no cigar.

And that marks the final film I’ll see at the 2011 Sydney Film Festival. Tomorrow I will spend my morning packing, my afternoon interviewing, and my evening waiting at an airport. There is still one more wrap-up to go however – in which I will reveal my picks for ‘Best of the Fest (So Far)’ – and we have plenty of SFF reviews to last the remainder of the week.

Until then, good night you princes of movies; you kings of New South Wales.


Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five

Discuss: So, what did you catch today? At the movies, I mean (although a festival flu seems to be going around).

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