Culture / Film

These are the films to watch if you’re heading to Melbourne International Film Festival 2021

After last season’s completely online affair, cinephiles will be pleased to hear that the beloved Melbourne International Film Festival 2021 is set to resume in a new format with a mix of both in-theatre and online viewings. Theatre sessions are spread throughout the CBD, greater Melbourne and rural Victoria. Which means we can finally reacquaint ourselves with our favourite cinemas and give our couches some well-deserved time apart. 

The films we have our eyes on

This year’s lineup at Melbourne International Film Festival 2021 offers a discerning mix we’ve come to expect from one of the oldest of its kind. With Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful rising to the top of our must-watch list. Directed by Gero von Boehm, the documentary is an incisive look into the provocative photographer we remember as the ‘King of Kink’. A true master of the medium, as affirmed in cameos from Anna Wintour, Claudia Schiffer, Grace Jones and others who knew him well. Von Boehm does not shy away from the more jagged edges of Newton's work either, plummeting into claims of misogyny and allowing his subjects the models, to have the final word. 

“His photography wouldn’t be possible at all today," von Boehm says. "It was a revolution at the time; a revolution really needed because there was Richard Avedon and Irving Penn but it was just loveliness. As Anna Wintour puts it... something new was needed. Fashion photography in the 60s and 70s had become a little boring and he refreshed everything."

The film trails Newtons extraordinary life; from fleeing Nazi Germany, to living in London where he landed a contract with Vogue UK and continued his iconic work for Condé Nast in New York. 

For further watching, the antithesis to all navel-gazing rock and roll documentaries is here with Anonymous Club. The film slips into the life of painfully shy musician Courtney Barnett in what is a gentle and vulnerable portrayal of life on the road.


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And if you’re wondering what the future of Australian film looks like? Be sure to book tickets to MIFF Short, Beautiful They, directed by Cloudy Rhodes. It’s a queer surf romance serving honeyed intimacy and the dreamiest of soundscapes. Taylor Ferguson tackles family violence in her film Tough, a sobering portrait of a complicated child-parent relationship, set amongst rural NSW. Our last recommendation would see you watching, Sunburn, brought to screens this year by creative powerhouse Jaslyn Mairs, Claudia Bailey, Zoe Terakes and Brenna Harding. From where we're standing, Australian film is in the most capable hands.


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Tickets are available individually or as passes and are on sale now.

And for those worried about current and impending lockdown, know that last year MIFF went digital. There's always a way for the event to go ahead.

Images: Cloudy Rhodes, Instagram

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