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BRISBANE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2000: PREVIEW

The Beat Generation,Shirley Barrett's new film, Bryan Brown and an overall boffo program in Brisbane, reports DAVID EDWARDS.

Brisbane in late July. It’s a time when brilliant winter sunshine bathes the Queenslander houses from clear, impossibly blue skies. When chilly south-westerly winds whip at the necks of its residents. And when the Brisbane International Film Festival brings the best in local and international cinema to the city. But it's no chill wind that sees two Queensland made films share the spotlight on opening night.

The ninth BIFF opens with the world premiere of Shirley Barrett’s Walk the Talk. Filmed in Queensland, it’s Barrett’s first film since Love Serenade; which won her the Camera d’Or (and a handy $70,000) at Cannes. Walk the Talk is a black comedy about obsession, money, music and evangelism. It stars double AFI Award winner Sacha Horler, Nikki Bennett and Salvatore Coco.

The Queensland made short film Stop, the only Australian film in official competition at Cannes this year, will support Walk the Talk on opening night.

"a strong line up of promising Australian films"

After a relatively lean year in 1999, BIFF 2000 boasts a strong line up of promising Australian films. Among those slated to screen are Paul Cox’s Innocence (already given a big wrap by none other than Roger Ebert); the documentary Orientations: Chris Doyle - Stirred Not Shaken; Angst with Jessica Napier and Sam Lewis; Chopper, the story of infamous crim Chopper Read; Better than Sex featuring David Wenham and Susie Porter; and My Mother Frank starring Sinead Cusack and hot young talents Matt Newton and Rose Byrne.

The distinctly Australian flavour is continued with this year’s Chauvel Award being presented to Bryan Brown. Named after film pioneers Charles and Elsa Chauvel, the award recognises distinguished contribution to Australian feature filmmaking.

From The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith to Two Hands, Brown has come to epitomise the Aussie character on film. With his easygoing charm and laconic style, he has become an icon - instantly recognisable and the very definition of the Australian male. He’s appeared in more than 50 films - and isn’t afraid to speak his mind.

It’s a testament to his skill and versatility that he’s appeared in not only what’s regarded as one of the most important films about Australia - Breaker Morant - but also in Hollywood blockbusters like Cocktail, F/X and Gorillas in the Mist.

"major retrospective ... spotlights the Beat Generation"

The major retrospective at the festival spotlights the Beat Generation. Led by a small yet incredibly influential group of artists like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Neal Cassady, the Beats defined what it was to be young and rebellious in the conservative America of the 1950s.

The season will combine seminal films such as Rebel Without a Cause and John Cassavetes’ Shadows with lesser known features like Beat Girl and Chappaqua (in which Ginsberg and Burroughs both act), and documentaries on influential Beat figures.

Kerouac once wrote - "The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say an uncommon-place thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles..." And that’s a pretty good summary of what this retro is about.

After last year’s highly praised Surrealism season, this is one of the more ambitious sidebars programmed by an Australian festival.

But then BIFF artistic director Anne Demy-Geroe is not known to shy away from ambitious program choices. Indeed, she sees film festivals as providing a "safeguard for films that push the envelope" when some distributors are taking fewer risks.

"a strong international line up"

She’s scheduled a strong international line up, headlined by Kevin Spacey’s new film Ordinary Decent Criminal on closing night. Also starring Linda Fiorentino, the film is a crime caper based on the life of Martin Cahill (whose exploits were previously examined in The General).

Demy-Geroe says the Asian, French and German films in this year’s line-up are some of the strongest. "We had trouble whittling the Asian selection down to the 18 films that will be shown," she said.

Festival circuit favourites to screen include Mary Harron’s controversial American Psycho; the multi-award winning Chinese hit, Shower, by Zhang Yang; Oriundi, a Brazilian film starring Anthony Quinn; Water Drops on Burning Rocks from French young gun director François Ozon; Monday by Japanese young gun director Sabu; and Sofia Coppola’s acclaimed The Virgin Suicides.

Alison McLean, whose previous film Crush also showed at BIFF, will be a guest of the festival and will present her new feature, Jesus’ Son, starring Billy Crudup and Holly Hunter.

Jesus’ Son is a road movie of sorts, focusing on FH, played by Crudup, a drug addict and drifter who has a sometime relationship with Michelle (Samantha Morton). The film is described by Premiere magazine as "stunning, often surreal" and "full of wicked surprises, some shocking, some moving".

One film to seek out is George Washington; a micro-budget indie from the US. The film was financed entirely from private sources by director David Gordon Green, who cites Malick’s Days of Heaven as the film that changed his life. At the Berlin Film Festival, George Washington generated what respected writer Nick Roddick (and a contributor to these pages) called "real out-of-left-field buzz".

At the other end of the scale financially is Volker Schlöndorff’s sublime Silver Bear winner The Legends of Rita. The director of The Tin Drum, takes another piercing look at German history in this tale of a woman who leaves a thrilling but dangerous life as a political terrorist to settle into a life invented for her (by the Stasi) in East Germany during the Cold War. The Legends of Rita features an award-winning central performance by Bibiana Beglau.

"must-see"

Asked about her "must-see" films, Demy-Geroe nominated "in no particular order" Cannes award-winner L’humanité (France), Moloch (Germany), Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors (Korea), Human Resources (France), Wildside (UK), George Washington (US) and Walk the Talk.

If all of this isn’t enough, there are documentaries, horror flicks, the popular Films on Filmmaking sidebar and a truckload of shorts.

While other festivals are just catching up with the single-session ticket, Brisbane has had this option for some time. But for best value, one of the multiple entry tickets is recommended. These range from the whole-shebang Gold Pass, to ten and five session alternatives, and the Daylight Pass allowing entry to any unreserved film during daylight hours.

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For full details etc, visit the WEBSITE
or call the Festival on (07) 3220 0444.

BIFF dates:
July 27 to August 6, 2000


Walk the Talk


Bryan Brown


Angst


Chopper


Rebel Without a Cause


Jesus' Son


Shower


Ordinary Decent Criminal






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