The 1999 Sydney Film Festival

The SFF is our gateway to world cinema and the latest developments in the industry. SFF99 is also the best chance to preview next year's films and catch up on cinema history with its excellent program of retrospectives and special screenings. Come join us in the front row as we pull out the light pens and scribble in our notebooks. Meet the filmmakers, read our nightly reviews, tune in as toto records all the hoopla. At five features, three reviews, four hours sleep a night - we bring it all back home for you.

Special Features

the John Cassavetes Retrospective
As Ray Carney reviews Cassavetes to death, we review Ray Carney.

Discussion:The Cinema, Yesterday and Tomorrow
Listen to streaming RealAudio G2 clips of this discussion, held in Sydney Town Hall on Thursday 17th June. Speakers included Brian Barnes, the General Manager of the State Theatre; Ross Thorne, a cinema-historian; and Ross Harley, Lecturer in New Media and Cinema Studies at the University of New South Wales. The forum took a retrospective look at how we used to watch films and speculated about how we will in the future.

Listen to discussion on the subjects of:
Cinema in the 1930s
Cinema in the 1990s
The trend towards cinema multiplexes

Films in order of toto's preference.

The Shoe
Latvia/Germany, 1998, 83 min., color, Latvian w/ English subtitles
A technical masterpiece of the cinema of inactivity - this film revels in its provincial beauty and simplicity, creating many points of entry without being too obscure. Highly recommended.

Bread Day
Russia, 1998, 55mins, colour, Russian w/ English subtitles, Orig. title: Hlebni Den
A patient documentary with a wicked sense of the absurd and scatalogical. See our review of The Shoe where we've already discussed why we love this new Russian cinema.

The Hole
Taiwan, 1998, 95mins, Mandarin with English subtitles, Chinese title: Dong
The latest film from Tsai Ming Liang, another of toto's patron saints.
Gesture, noodles, depression. Life doesn't get much smaller than this.

USA, 1996, 99mins, written/directed/shot by Steven Soderbergh
The most honestly funny director's project Reens has seen since Godard directed cars

The Adopted Son
Kyrgysztan/France, 1998, 81 mins
So many coming-of-age films lack subtlety, but this is a much gentler and beautiful example.

Children of Heaven
Iran, 1997, 88 min., color, Farsi w/ English subtitles
Innocence and simplicity makes this film a touching, moving experience.

Genghis Blues
USA, 1999, 88 mins, English and Tuvan w/ English subtitles
A triumph of subject, and one reviewer's struggle to relate why it touched him so deeply.(alternative review available)

West Beirut
France/Lebanon, 105mins, 1998, Orig. title: West Beyrouth
An unusual coming of age tale with a different perspective of war, told with humour and youthful spirit.

Forever Fever
Singapore, 1998, 94 mins, English and Hokkien without English subtitles
Haiya, so shock, lah!

Run Lola Run
Germany 1998 80 min
Highly involving video-game structure stirs many a jaded filmbuff to guilt for being so easily seduced by a red head running around in a blue singlet. But whether you spectate or play is up to you. (alternative review available)

Genghis Blues
USA, 1999, 88 mins, English and Tuvan w/ English subtitles
Unpolished and modest, this documentary is a touching experience, made with lots of dedication and no high expectations, beautifully shot with so much appreciation to culture and music and tradition without exploitating its exoticism.(alternative review available)

Fucking Amal
Sweden/Denmark, 1998, 89mins, English title: Show Me Love
A polished and very real high school flick about nothing. But for the protagonists and, thankfully, the audience it seems like everything. (alternative review available)

Russia, 1998, 95 mins, Russian title: Okraina
The film kicked off, and the State Theatre instantly resembled the desolate steppes of Russia. Three tiered class division and all.

Russia, 1998, 85mins, Russian title: Blockpost
An unconventional portrayal of war as endless waiting - perhaps this is what Sam Fuller meant when he said cinema is like warfare. An antiwar statement that depicts the Chechnyan conflict with humour and humanity.

Gods and Monsters
USA, 1997, 106 mins, colour, English
Toto was there to transcribe the Q&A session of the Australian premiere, as well as review this film about Frankenstein director, James Whale.

Bajo California. El Limite del Tiempo
(Under California: The Limits of Time)
Mexico, 1998, 96 min., color, Spanish w/ English subtitles
Some might say this film recalls Antonioni or Bunuel's works. To me, it also resonates with Peter Greenaway's A Walk Through H, where we trace Damian's path along the map with the Glassian minimalist soundtrack...

Japan 1998, 101 mins
Doesn't rouse enough emotional interest to support the laconic direction. Long shots and long pauses are great, but in a shallow comedy they seem forced.

After Life
Japan, 1998, 118 mins
An uneasy mixture of inspiration and gimmick.

Japan 90 mins 1998 animation
Although Spriggan has been worked on by key personnel from Akira, Memories and Ghost in the Shell, it is probably the worst out of the lot.

Hitchcock, Selznick and the End of Hollywood
USA, 1998, Documentary Video, 84mins
An engaging tale about a great producer and the man who helped destroy him, Alfred Hitchcock.

Set Me Free
Canada/France/Switzerland, 1998, 95mins, French title: Emporte-Moi
See you at the video store folks.

Another Day in Paradise (1)
USA 102 mins 1998
Larry Clark desensitises with more violence and drug use.

Another Day in Paradise (2)
USA 102 mins 1998
The film began and within minutes I was dreaming of a stealthy escape from the cinema.

In Dreams
USA 100 mins 1998
Neil Jordan's latest could have been so much more. It could have been somebody... It could have been a contender...

Fucking Amal
Sweden/Denmark, 1998, 89mins, English title: Show Me Love
A Swedish feelgood lesbian teen flick? It sucks.
(alternative review available)

Run Lola Run
Germany 1998 80 min
Boring, desperately "hip" and almost completely devoid of content or point. It's just one big video clip... (alternative review available)

I Stand Alone
France 1998 93 mins French with English subtitles
An arrogant filmmaker tossing moral biscuits at his audience as if we were Pavlov's dogs - grateful and salivating.

goto toto's coverage of the 1998 Sydney Film Festival

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