Category: Sydney Film Festival

I Killed My Mother

Xavier Dolan. 19 years old when he wrote and directed I Killed My Mother! Instiller of fear and jealousy into the hearts of men and women alike!

Dolan is a boy of honesty, a boy of spite. A boy who loves pieces to camera, but only if he’s allowed to do them naked and black and white in his bathroom.

I Killed My Mother is a pretty good movie, but it’s rough around the edges and its protagonist is misplaced. There’s one great character here, but her whiney idiot foil has been mistakenly made the lead in her place.

The Refuge

The Refuge gets the heavy stuff out of the way first: two drug addicts. One overdoses. The other one wakes up pregnant. No more drugs. Five minutes down, on with the movie!

The Refuge is an imperfect wisp of a movie, with charming atmosphere and pleasant characters but a few key misfires that stopped it from being more than a passably good film.


Heartbeats was my first film of the 2010 Sydney Film Festival. If this is how it starts, I’m expecting good things. It’s also a competition film. I only saw one of those last year: Louis-Michel (hardly a competitor). This year, I’m seeing every competition entry.

Heartbeats is not for everyone, dividing along two primary gaps: sexuality (preferred by gays) and age (preferred by hip twenty somethings). That said, Roger Ebert himself is keen to see it, and I can’t say I blame him. Much is made of the fact that director Xavier Dolan is only 21, but everyone gets their start sometime.

Sydney Film Festival 2008: Sukiyaki Western Django

Hey guys, remember the 11th Japanese Film Festival? Shut up! We’re in Sydney Film Festival 2008! And we start with Japanese movies … Yeah, I’ll get there.

My first movie for this year’s festival was Miike Takashi’s Sukiyaki Western Django, a Japanese Western starring Japanese people, speaking exclusively in English. In Toronto, they got subtitles but we weren’t given this luxury. It’s not too hard to understand, but it can be a struggle – but a struggle that you shouldn’t regret.

A gunman arrives in a town where two rival gangs search for a treasure of legend. Each tries to woo him over to their side, but the gunman is not to be swayed: he plays his own damned side.

This is a genre film. As much of a wank as it seems to say, a good man to appear in a genre film is Quentin Tarantino. He shows up in the first scene, and shoots a snake out of mid-air and cuts out the egg contained within. Then he shoots a bunch of guys … then he eats sukiyaki. When he returns to the movie much, much later, he has redefined steam punk, and his English has worsened. He’s a funny addition to the movie, but the movie is supposed to be funny and he totally fails to steal the limelight from any of the main cast – which includes a multiple personalitied sheriff, an old business lady with a mysterious sharpness about her, a leader who insists on being addressed as Henry, and gangs of what can be best described as walking anachronisms.
It also has a dance scene with accompaniment by a didgeridoo.

Yeah, this is a genre film all right.

Sukiyaki Western Django is weird, but not for weirdness’ sake. It’s the sort of movie that I love but also the sort that others love to dismiss as a bunch of wank. It is a sort of labour of love, dedicated to a mixture of samurai and Western ideals – which we have learned, over the last sixty odd years, are exactly the same thing. If you want to see a bizarre amalgam that really benefits from the inclusion of subtitles (even for Tarantino!), then this is exactly the right thing to go for. Some of the gun work is deliberately stupid, some people can take insane levels of beating and shooting, but it all ends with exactly the sort of song that should end this movie – and that makes it worth anyone’s while.

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