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Sep 28, 2007

Wednesday at MUFF

Wednesday night I did the annual pilgrimmage to MUFF - the Melbourne Underground Film Festival. The usual group of MUFFers was attenuated because my wife Sally was ill as was Matt, the other regular. (Matt chose the MUFF movie we saw last year and it was a piece of shit, DOGME 95, John Cassevetes wannabe turd in the punch bowl piece of urban realism which was about as realistic as an episode of Neighbours. Matt doesn't get to choose the movie again until Lindsay Lohan dies of old age.)

So it was down to Alicia and I. We dined on the $10 steak night fare at the British Crown pub in Smith Street, Collingwood, where I lost a screw from my spectacles and was unable to find it on the floor, which while it wasn't as bad as the sticky carpet of the Espy, needed a touch of the mop. Wearing my prescription shades I managed to make it to a 7-11 for a MacGyver moment. I tied the lens into the frame using dental floss in place of the missing screw and Alicia and I headed down to The Toff In Town on Swanston Street for the session of MUFFage. The two movies we saw were Jason Turley's Welcome Stranger and Stuart Simpson's Demonsamongus with two of Stuart's short films Sickie and Greedy Guts.

MUFF can be a bit hit or miss. It's a festival of guerilla film making. Micro-budget films usually shot on high-def video with casts and crew who are the fringe-dwellers of the local film industry. Not that these are bad things, but we aren't talking about the kind of festival where David and Margaret are going to chat about Cate Blanchett giving a golden pot-plant award to Baz Luhrmann. But it is a lot of fun, the venues are non-traditional (last year the Spanish Club in Fitzroy, this year an art-deco-ey bar with a view over twenty five Thai Restaurants and Pho cafes on the uphill bit of Swanston Street) and the film makers talk about their work afterwards.

Welcome Stranger was good. A feature film about an 18 year old guy's potentially life changing weekend in the Western Suburbs of Melbourne, it was filmed on a $500 budget. It may sound dull but it isn't. Jason Turley's script is well-observed and the characterisations crisp in spite of the mostly non-professional cast. A few seasoned professional character actors like John Brumpton and John Flaus (who gets a Ben Johnson in The Last Picture Show moment of zen)work well with their less experience colleagues. Among the non-pros, Suzanne Barr was great as Sandra, the mother of the old school friend that Christian Poppi's Adam visits.

The two shorts were hilarious. Sickie being about a woman who calls in sick for work and quickly deteriorates from there. The punchline is silly but amusing. Greedy Guts shows the downside of trendy tattoos, especially when the tattooist and his female assistant look like they've been dead for a week. Again, the budgets were tiny but the effect and effects made them worthy of better exposure than they'll probably get.

Demonsamongus was an Australian zombie movie that owed a fair bit to the works of George Romero, Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson and the Wodonga Abbatoir. It does overdose a little on the kooky camera effects and annoys when it tries to induce a feeling of disorientation, but I've seen many worse horror movies in the uptown cinemas and it didn't decide to go the route of modern American fare (and Wolf Creek) into the realms of Torture Porn. But it too was fun. Alicia and I skipped the Q & A session in the bar because the clock was heading toward midnight midweek, but both of us were satisfied with the quality of all four films and spending only $20 to see them.

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