Women @ 71st Melbourne International Film Fest – Alexandra Heller-Nicholas reports

In 2023, MIFF, well, felt like MIFF again. Mask sightings were rare, the festival’s long queues wound snake-like around city blocks once again, and if not for the unseasonably warm weather it felt like business as usual. With in-cinema programming running from 3 to 20 August and MIFF Play streaming from 18 to 27 August, MIFF is not just a lengthy festival when compared with other international fests, but also one of the longest running; founded in 1952, its first edition was a year after the first Berlin Film Fest, and it predates both TIFF and Sundance by decades. TIFF is perhaps the most useful point of reference when it comes to trying to capture the tone of MIFF for those in the Northern Hemisphere; while both have a significant industry portion (amongst other things, MIFF hosts the annual 37ºSouth Market), both festivals are marked by a kind of proud, public facing euphoria and share a similar spirit of accessibility when it comes to welcoming audiences from all walks of life, not just industry players going through the motions.

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CLUB ZERO (Melbourne IFF 2023) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Jessica Hausner’s brazenly idiosyncratic films present her as a kind of unapologetic odd duck, and there is a consistent delight as each new film unfurls as we wonder where the hell she will take us next. Bring on, then, her most recent film Club Zero, staring a bewilderingly accented Mia Wasikowska as the enigmatic Miss Novak, a nutrition teacher in an elite high school whose seemingly wholesome introduction of “conscious eating” to her small class of young men and women takes a distinctly ominous turn towards cult-minded disordered eating as she convinces them that food is simply not necessary for survival.

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AWFJ Presents: AMOUR FOU – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

Austrian director/screenwriter Jessica Hausner is one of the most unique voices in European cinema today. Her particular concern with the intertwining dance of love and illness made her film Lourdes arguably the best film of 2009. Amour Fou (2014) forwards that concern and suggests by its title that Hausner will present a comedy about the folly of love. Indeed, Hausner’s film offers an amusing look at the petty passions of the haute bourgeoisie, but as she did with Lourdes, Hausner builds a sense of horror that mirrors the rising passions of a world in flux.

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AWFJ Presents: AMOUR FOU – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

The careful framing, gorgeous period settings, brilliantly orchestrated set-pieces, and vibrant colors of this film are a feast for the eyes, and I admired the subtle performances of this uniformly fine cast, especially Birte Schnoeink. She initially emerges as a shallow hausfrau without a thought in her head that her husband and acquaintances haven’t put there. As her situation grows more dire and her choices narrow, our laughter gives way to concern and a contemplation of what we owe to society and what we owe to ourselves. There is a shocking ambiguity to her actions and a genuine poignancy to her growing attraction to the eternal, but is she the victim of yet another man dumping his desires into her empty cranium? Trapped between two equally distressing outcomes from the audience’s point of view, we wait anxiously for Henriette to make her choice.

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LITTLE JOE – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Recently playing at Austin’s Fantastic Fest after competing for the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival (and winning Emily Beecham Best Actress award), Jessica Hausner’s English-language debut feature Little Joe in many was recalls her 2004 feature Hotel with its particular utilization of genre as a way to explore the relationship between women, identity and labor

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