The full line-up for the Melbourne International Film Festival's 71st year was released on Tuesday night, and to say this year's festival is going bigger and better is an understatement. Coining itself as "a culinary experience for cinemagoers of all tastes," this year's line-up spans 267 films in total, including international festival gems, home-grown documentaries, extended reality (XR) experiences and 4K restorations of cult classics. Once again, festivalgoers will have the option to experience the festival in person with metropolitan screenings from the 3rd to 20th of August and regional screenings from 11th to 13th and 18th to 20th of August, or at home with the online MIFF Play service from the 18th to 27th of August.
If you're like me and hopped on the MIFF site as soon as the line-up dropped – and was promptly met with an online queue – you'll be well aware that this year's festival is in high demand. Having a game plan for booking this year's most unmissable films during the general sale has never been more important, so allow me to assist you! Having meticulously scanned the (gloriously reinstated) physical program for this year's line-up, highlighter in hand, I am proud to present you with my top 5 picks for MIFF 2023...
It's no secret that I am the resident 'Souvenir' fan in the SWITCH. team, and while it's not explicitly a new entry in the series, Joanna Hogg's latest film is a ghost story that follows the later years of protagonist Julie (Tilda Swinton, taking over from her daughter Honor Swinton Byrne) and her mother Rosalind (also played by Swinton). A much more slender, moodier and less autobiographical film than 'The Souvenir' duology, 'The Eternal Daughter' is yet another haunting mediation on memory, and it boasts a killer double performance from Swinton. What more could you want?
The Australian music industry owes much of its strength and success to the late Michael Gudinski, and MIFF has been lucky enough to secure the world premiere for the documentary centred on his life and career. Featuring both archival footage and interviews with some of the most famous musicians in the world – the appearances in just the trailer alone are mind-boggling – the documentary promises to track Gudinski's ascension into the music industry and the indelible impact he left upon it. 'Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story' is also the centrepiece of MIFF's Music on Film Gala, which will no doubt be one of the festival's highlight events.
Any cinephile with their finger on the pulse of 2023's releases will be eagerly anticipating 'Past Lives', myself included. The decades-spanning, continents-spanning, almost-love story between Nora (Greta Lee, 'Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse') and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo, 'Decision to Leave') has received glowing critical acclaim since its premiere at Sundance Film Festival, garnering comparisons to Richard Linklater's classic 'Before' Trilogy – a compliment of the highest order for any romance film. First-time director Celine Song will also be in attendance at the festival to discuss the film at a number of screenings, making this an experience not to be missed.
After 'Stars at Noon' became one of the buzziest films of the 2022 line-up, MIFF has decided to honour the great Claire Denis this year with a retrospective screening of her grimy, grisly 2001 erotic thriller about a French woman whose thirst for blood threatens the safety of all in her orbit. A far cry from Denis' previous film, the military masterpiece 'Beau Travail', 'Trouble Every Day' was initially met with polarising reactions from audiences and never actually granted a proper Australian theatrical release, but has since gained a cult following. It disgusts and delights in equal measure with a story that is as violent and erotic as it is tender and contemplative.
Hirokazu Kore-eda is back for a second consecutive MIFF after his lovely family drama 'Broker' was a festival favourite in 2022. The film centres on the erratic behaviour of the young Minato (Sōya Kurokawa) after his father's passing, leading to a butting of heads – and a conflict of perception – between Minato, his mother Saori (Sakura Ando, 'Shoplifters') and his teacher Hori (Eita Nagayama, 'Mixed Doubles'). No doubt 'Monster' will follow in Kore-eda's well-established path of delicately nuanced portraits of broken and found families – and be sure to check back for my review of the film later in the festival!
Despite the bitter chill of the Melbournian winter, this year's MIFF line-up is one to don the puffer jacket and head out for. It's an opportunity to dive deeper into the culture of our beautiful city, discover new bars for a pre-film drink (or hang out at MIFF's Campari bar, located in ACMI), and celebrate the stunning cinemas Melbourne has to offer. In the words of the great Tom Cruise, "see you at the movies"!
Check back closer to the festival of SWITCH's coverage and reviews!