Covid-19 has wreaked havoc across the world and across the the day-planners of film festival directors around the globe, who have found themselves scrambling to find a way to bring their slates to audiences stuck in varying degrees of lockdown.

Most have gone the digital route, to greater and lesser degrees of success, and that includes good ol’ Revelation Film Festival in Perth.Rev, under the aegis of ol’ mates Jack Sargeant and Richard Sowada, has navigated the necessary shift to online with more success than many, and for a couple of reasons.

One is that going online allows the Best Fest in the West to spill the banks of the People’s Republic* of Western Australia and reach, if not a global, then certainly a national audience for the first time in the festival’s near-quarter century of life (although their vibrant and well-curated RevOnDemand VOD platform is worth your attention no matter where you are). The simple fact is that part of the price of carving out a homestead in the Wild West is that the East Coast tends to forget you exist and, while that might not bother goof ol’ punk rock Rev, it does mean y’all sophisticated Sydney and Melbourne motherfuckers are missing out, because…

Two, Rev’s online slate this year, branded Couched for obvious reasons, is all killer no filler.

This is not unusual. The term “punching above their weight” is bit fucking patronising if you ask me, but Rev has consistently offered up challenging, transgressive, thought-provoking, and fun filmic fare for yonks now, to a point where, once you strip out the big awards winners (Can’t see anyone who scoops up the Palm D’Or bypassing Sydney Film Festival for Luna Leederville no matter how good the choctops are), I’d say pound for pound they’re a match for anyone else on the festival calendar, no worries.

Which brings us to the point, which is this year’s offerings. Rev 2020 kicks off tomorrow, July 8, and runs ’til July 19. There’s a full roster of panels, discussions, short films, and what-have-you, but the big draw is of course the features, both fictional and documentary. You can peruse the whole menu over on the Rev site, of course, but if you want some advice, here’s where I’d be directing my attention and money.

The Rise of the Synths (2019)

Do ya like John Carpenter? Well, you’ll like this one, because he’s in it. And rightly so, because this brisk, polished, if somewhat self-congratulatory doco is all about Bands That Sound Like John Carpenter Soundtracks, aka the sub-subgenre Synthwave. You know: Gunship, Perturbator, Carpenter Brut, Power Glove, et al. Director Iván Castell is very much in print-the-legend mode here and as a result the film is more surface sheen than deep dive, but style over substance is very much in keeping with the subject matter.

Bloodshot Heart (2019)

Not to be confused with the recent Vin Diesel vehicle with a remarkably similar title (and one of the last films I saw in the cinema before all this), Bloodshot Heart concerns the increasingly bizarre tribulations visited upon middle-aged driving instructor Hans (Richard James Allen), a perennial sad sack who still lives with his mother (Dina Panozzo). Already haunted by an undisclosed past trauma, Hans starts to unravel after an attractive young lodger, Matilda (Emily David) moves in. Hans is smitten, Matilda has a dark past, and so we proceed down the De Palma/Hitchcock/Argento rabbit hole. Bloodshot Heart is a genre exercise, but which genre?

Siberia (2019)

Arthouse legend Abel Ferrara abandons his beloved New York City to decamp for the wilds of Siberia in his latest offering, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival back in February and is now making the virtual scene at Rev. Willem Dafoe is Clint, an American man running a bar in the remote Siberian fastness, who undertakes a kind of spiritual pilgrimage by dogsled into his own haunted past, gradually revealing why he has fetched up so far from home. Between this and Disney’s Togo, we are well and truly into Dafoe’s Dog Sled Period now. Siberia is fearlessly weird, deeply allegorical, even Jungian, a kind of snowbound fever dream of self-examination and regret.

Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street (2019)

Actor Mark Patton recalls his experiences starring in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, AKA the really gay Freddy Krueger flick. Directors Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen don’t lack for ambition, attempting to both to mount a production history and to put the film in its context as a cult classic and an important artifact of gay culture, but this is often at odds with central subject Patton, who was himself closeted at the time Freddy’s Revenge was made and avers that being in the film effectively torpedoed his career. The tension between the intent of the filmmakers and that of their subject elevates the whole enterprise.

Killer of Sheep (1978)

Presented as part of Rev’s Black Voices That Matter stream, this is Charles Burnett’s take on Italian neorealism, but his subject is the Los Anglees suburb of Watts and the African American community who live there. Looselt plotted and episodic, the film follows the daily travails of Stan (Henry G. Sanders), a slaughterhouse worker, as he smacks up against the systemic limits of his hardscrabble working class life. Like Siberia, it’s almost a work of psychogeography, obliquely exploring the deep connections between person and place, gradually building up a portrait of both.

Revelation Perth International Film Festival – Couched Edition runs until July 19, 2020. Get your fix here.

* A joke. Everyone knows W.A. is an apocalyptic capitalist hellscape where bloated mining consortiums nuke Indigenous sacred sites at will, and the arts industry rank and file are too shit-scared to kick up a fuss in case Woodside yanks their funding, the dogs.

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