Melbourne cult film-figure Richard Wolstencroft returns with the 15th MELBOURNE UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL. What began all those years ago as a big FUCK YOU to the snobbier commercial festivals has proved itself to be an important and celebrated part of Australia's subversive film scene. Each year the festival showcases all of the weird, the confronting and the brash films that few other festivals would dare contemplate. It's to Richard's credit that MUFF lives on after all these years and appears to be healthier than ever. This year he has brought the festival to The Backlot Studios, which is one of Melbourne's newest and more impressive cinema venues.
This evening I attended the opening night and I was treated to an evening of outrageous hilarity and as much free booze as the body can endure. The main sponsor of this year's festival is Bacardi Rum and all guests were treated to a table full of rum, rum and more rum. Of course it was impossible to resist and I wasn't one to offend by refusing... hehe. As I sat with my girlfriend, sipping on my pina colada we watched the foyer fill up and before long there was a bustling atmosphere of filmmakers, actors and movie-goers. There were a lot of recognisable faces including the likes of Tottie Goldsmith, Jeremy Kewley, Kristen Condon and Tom McCathie.... McCathie was a fun character, looking to photobomb all of the selfies and professional snap shots that were flashing all over the joint. In hindsight I regret not telling him how much I loved him recently in DACE DECKLAN: PRIVATE EYE.
7PM clocked over and everyone filed into the cinema - have I mentioned how much I love this cinema? Once everyone was seated Richard welcomed his guests and introduced the festival's executive producer, filmmaker Frank Howson. Frank treated the audience to a brief and impassioned poem, which summed up the essence of MUFF, and inspired the audience with his words of encouragement and persistence. Following his words Richard introduced the two short films that preceeded the feature. A couple of sponsor trailers played while most of the audience talked amongst themselves and suddenly, and unexpectedly, our own FAKESHEMP.NET TRAILER came blearing onto the screen. To my shock, it caught everyone's attention and proved to be the most abrasive and effective pre-show ad. Haha. Go us!
The first short film off the rank was HUMAN INSIDE, which was a delightful little splatterfest about a totalitarian Aussie society where human flesh is the highest consumed food and all criminals (even the pettiest) are red-tagged and free for the killing to anyone with a bloodlust (apparently everyone). The audience responded well to the film and seemed to enjoy it. The gore was deliciously revolting and always amusing. It was definitely a great way to start the night's proceedings.
The next film up was PINT and was a clear winner with the audience. Its simple tale told of a poor bloke who consistently stuffs up at a friends wedding. I'm not even going to explain it to you and encourage you to watch it for yourself. The video is posted above and it is HILARIOUS! It's shot really well, written brilliantly and acted to perfection. Director Nic Barker has several films under his belt and his website is well worth visiting. Click here and read up on him.
And then came the feature film...
START OPTIONS EXIT opened up the MELBOURNE UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL with a wallop! This new Australian feature film sets out to assault our senses and offend as many people as possible... and it does so while smirking all the way. The film begins with an impressive and totally absorbing animated sequence, introducing the two lead characters via an old school Nintendo game. They are Neville and Yolis, two no-hopers who show zero regard for other people, social expectations or even themselves. Living a life of debauchery, loafing and video games we follow their exploits as they indulge in everything from degrading homeless people to raping ex-girlfriends... and in true subversive and exploitation style, we laugh at all of it (albeit uncomfortably for the most part). This is a film that achieves exactly what it sets out to do and makes no apologies. Some people may cringe at this comparison and I mean it as a compliment but Kevin Smith's CLERKS kept coming to mind all the way through START OPTIONS EXIT and I really hope that director's Yoav Lester and Christopher HF Mitchell enjoy the same level of attention that Smith has enjoyed. The film shares the same type of FUCK YOU attitude as CLERKS and also conjures thoughts of RULES OF ATTRACTION. I laughed till I hurt and dug all of the movie's depravity and innuendos. Yoav Lester and Ari Neville lead the film effortlessly and will easily appeal to a stoner demographic (again, a compliment). The support cast is great and there are some wonderful cameos from people like Tottie Goldsmith, Chopper Read and Ron Jeremy. Sadly it seems that Franco Cozzo's role was cut from the final cut, which is a shame because he has been part of the press release. Hopefully he will be seen on a dvd release. As if it wasn't already impressive enough, the film is technically excellent too. It looks sharp, avoids cheap tricks and maintains a strong and restrained cinematography. The party sequence is an excellent example of how controlled the film is and it easily rivals some of Hollywood's house-party movies. There is no doubt that people are going to be offended... some will be outraged.... and others will be bemused. This film ain't for them! For the rest of us who love our cinema cultish, provoking and explicit then START OPTIONS EXIT delivers in spades.
And so that was opening night. I had a fantastic time and enjoyed all three films. Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend the after party but I'm sure it was a belter. I'll be keen to see pics from it and hear stories. I will be doing my best to attend as many MUFF screenings as possible over the next week and will document everything that I can. If you haven't got tickets then grab some now. It is shaping up to be one of the strongest years yet.