Revelation - Perth International Film Festival 2018 - reviews in brief


Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion and Disco

Monday 9 July, 3.15pm (Luna), Sunday 15 July, 5pm (Luna)

A sensational portrait of one of the key stylists of the heady, glam period of the late 60s and into the 70s, when disco began to emerge in the underground clubs, when cocaine was seducing the elite, and extravagant line drawings began to dictate what the magazine photo spreads were going to replicate. Bisexual Puerto Rican playboy Antonio Lopez was at the heart, body and soul of the glitterati storm of hedonism and creation, and James Crump’s colourful romp captures the celebratory essence of Lopez and his entourage, his muses, his vices, and his relationships with gusto and finesse.

Lopez was, without a doubt, the most influential fashion illustrator of Paris and New York during the ‘70s. He partnered with another ferocious talent, Juan Ramos, an art director, and together they ruled the lofts, studios, and dance floors they graced. They courted controversy and cultivated extraordinary chemistry. It’s amazing how furtive, yet loosely reigned the period was, with so many stories to spill. It’s a thrilling 90 minutes. 

Key models who wax lyrical include Lopez faves, Jane Forth (the brunette sans eyebrows) and Donna Jordan (the blonde with the toothy gap), also Patti D’Arbanville, Pat Cleveland, and the amazing Jerry Hall. Vogue’s Grace Coddington features, as does Jessica Lange, Bill Cunningham, and a young Karl Lagerfield. Everyone has wonderful anecdotes and memories. The soundtrack bounces along with awesome disco tunes. IN fact, the entire doco fizzes like a freshly popped bottle of Champagne, easily one of the best exhibits of a bygone era of the fashion industry, and essential viewing for fashionistas and cult celebrity pop culturalists.


Betty: They Say I’m Different

Friday 6 July, 3pm (Luna), Saturday 14 July, 1pm (Luna), Tuesday 17 July, 8.45pm (Luna)

This portrait has been a very long time coming, and while the end product - the result of intense searching (for the subject matter in the flesh) and extensive crowdsourcing (to help bring the documentary to the masses) - isn’t as wholly satisfying as one would hope, it rewards in a more intimate fashion, providing the hardcore funkateers with affirmation and the curious soul searchers with enlightenment. Betty Davis in her prime was a unique creature, but she’s been a recluse for the past thirty-five plus years. A UK/French team of filmmakers, lead by director Phil Cox, managed to find her, in Pittsburgh, and unearth kernels of truth from the mare’s mouth. But be warned, the Funk Queen does not reveal her full self; she prefers the version of herself from yesteryear to be the one burnt onto our retinas, and she prefers a scripted version of her story (seemingly spoken by a voice over artist). 

Betty Mabry wrote her first song at age 14, “Bake a Cake of Love”. At twenty-three, having already hung out with Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone, she married Miles Davis, and altered his career. She recorded four albums between ’73 and ’76 (the last album wasn’t released until 2009) and during the tail end of the decade, whilst working on new material she dropped out of sight. She’d had enough. Her muse, her mojo – The Crow – had abandoned her. 

Betty Davis is a fascinating, enigmatic figure, as is her career. “Madonna before Madonna, Prince before Prince,” as Miles used to say. This short, but sweet documentary gives us a glimpse of her influence, through interviews with a couple of old friends, and with her band (who try in vain to woo her back). But, as there is very little actual footage or stills of Davis, much of the doco is constructed like a collage, and uses Davis’ spoken word to provide a quasi-narration. It’s evident she’s a damaged soul, a casualty, and still carries the emotional and psychological (physical?) scars inflicted by Miles and the industry, but thankfully Cox managed to coax just enough nuggets from her to help us understand why she went underground, and remind us of her extraordinary legacy. 


Madeline’s Madeline

Wednesday 11 July, 8.30pm (SX), Thursday 12 July, 8.30pm (Luna), Saturday 14 July, 4.30pm (Luna), Monday 16 July, 4.15pm (Luna)

Filmmaker-cum-actress Josephine Decker has made a striking and compelling hybrid coming-of-age film that stirs theatrical and cinematical ingredients into a heady, surreal brew that spins and twirls like an elaborate pantomime dream. At the sensitive centre, the awkward heart of it, is young Madeline (played with extraordinary charisma and nuance in her debut by Helena Howard), a teenager dealing with an overwrought, highly strung, emotionally stunted mother (a terrific performance from Miranda July), and caught in the complicated, emancipative constraints of a theatre group, lead by the intense, elusive Evangeline (Molly Parker, another stellar performance). 

Can Madeline release the freedom she yearns for? Can Madeline jettison the baggage she’s been burdened with? Can Madeline separate the unreality of her existence from the reality of her life? Can Madeline’s Madeline find the right way home? 

Combining the intense dynamics of her central characters with a vibrant, expressionist mise-en-scene, and aided by beautiful cinematography (brilliant work from Ashley Connor), Decker has harnessed a truly unique piece of work. Credit must also go to the scripting team (a story consultant, a story editor, and a dramaturg) who helped Decker and her co-scriptwriter Donna di Novelli in sculpting this oneiric study of rehearsal (and I use that word loosely) and performance (I use that word broadly), of challenge and submission. It’s a bold and unpredictable journey of self-discovery fashioned with a vulnerable edge.



Saturday 7 July, 9.35pm (Luna), Sunday 8 July, 8.45pm (Luna), Friday 13 July, 8.45pm (Luna)

If Coppola’s Godfather collided with Refn’s Pusher the result might look and behave a little like the Eastern Bloc killdozer shout known as TOTEM, a shattering portrait of the collapse of a Polish mob, focusing on the tension between two brothers, the elder enforcer Igor (Michal Sobolewski) and the younger thug wannabe known as Savage (Karol Bernacki). Igor runs the drug business with an iron fist, whilst his good-for-nothing barely adult sibling cleans up the mess, usually washing the blood and dirt off the runners’ cars. An incident involving the Serbian mob occurs which sets off a trail of betrayal and destruction. Caught in the crossfire are a pregnant girlfriend, a young parent, and the brothers’ mute and haunted mother.

TOTEM is grey as concrete and just as hard. There are few, if any, smiles managed within this dog eat dog world, just each man and woman attempting to stay alive for that extra day longer, maybe long enough to get the hell out of Dodge, but there’s always something that pulls you back in. Climb the ladder, but watch the bottom, there’s always someone who will try and kick it out from under you. 

Solid performances from the entire cast - it’s a brutal undertaking. While it seems a budgetary decision prevents depicting any of the more extreme violence on camera, the atmosphere and tone still seethes with menace and reverberates with brutality, and the ending will shock even the most hardened gangsterphile. TOTEM is this year’s Suburra, but less pretty, more nihilistic. 


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