Sydney Film Festival: Experiments On A Budget

The final weekend of the 56th SFF offers plenty for film lovers -- if you can get past the red carpet, that is.

by | June 11, 2009 | Comments

The Girlfriend Experience

As it heads towards its untimely finale, the 56th Sydney Film Festival’s final week has served up some fine first-runs for these shores (Black Dynamite, In the Loop and Soul Power all being standouts) and a bizarre bag of ‘international guests’.

Case #1: Sasha Grey. A last-minute addition to the festival’s sparse ‘star’ power, Ms Grey will be familiar to many as an infamous flesh-baring face of porn. Having ‘gone serious’ (i.e. quit porn), the 21-year-old found a sympathetic (or exploitative?) ear in director Steven Soderbergh (he being the man who made sex, lies and videotape all those years ago). Soderbergh’s latest chin-stroking offering? The Girlfriend Experience (or ‘Experiment’ as one colleague dubbed it). Cue a series of rambling, sexless scenes involving our gal as an escort, with a wet, fitness-instructor boyfriend, and a clutch of fat cats offering pointless drivel about the Global Financial Crisis. Read: This film is relevant. Only it’s not. Being a fan of Soderbergh, I was dismayed to find the film smacking of opportunism, pretension and a shallow, soul-less narrative. But the film will no doubt fair reasonably well in arthouse locales on Oxford Street.

Teri Hatcher (left) in Coraline

Case #2: Teri Hatcher. I was dubious, to say the least, when we were told at the festival’s launch some weeks ago that a Desperate Housewife — with less than a stellar career in film — would be the ‘big name’ for this year’s event. The film she’s plugging — the animated Coraline — may be good, but does anyone even vaguely interested in movies give a toss about a TV star? I doubt it.

Case #3: James Nesbitt. Although not publicised for his presence here, the Cold Feet star has been spotted about town (a bit like Pink, who’s here on tour), supposedly soaking up what’s left of our beloved-but-threadbare main event that is the festival. I’m sure he’s a lovely chap, but can’t we do any better than a lukewarm body part, a forgotten Star Trek co-star, or a porn queen who’s disturbingly young to be suddenly craving credibility?


Red-carpet ranting aside, the final weekend has much to offer (hats off to the programmers for some very impressive selections this year). Soderbergh’s other festival highlight, Ché (yep, the Cuban revolutionary on t-shirts the world over) stretches across five hours, is split into two parts, and has its only screening on Sunday.

And to close the old dog? A sea of speeches, awards that have to handed out, and possibly a back-slap or two. The film that wraps up the whole thing: Denmark’s Lone Scherfig’s latest, An Education, filmed in England. Just imagine if we’d had Black Dynamite or In the Loop as the finale. They’d be breaking the doors down.

The Girlfriend Experience screens Friday June 12 at 7.15pm and Saturday June 13 at 10am at the State Theatre, Market Street.

Coraline screens Saturday June 13 at 12pm at Hoyts-Greater Union, George Street.

Ché parts 1 and 2 screens Sunday June 14 at 2.15pm at the State Theatre.

An Education screens Sunday June 14 at 7.30pm at the State Theatre.

For full program details, see the Sydney Film Festival’s website

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