Monday, August 4, 2014

The Melbourne International Film Festival, Miss Daisy, Madame Arcati and Dame Angela

Currently I’m spending more time in Melbourne than in Ballarat (generally it's the other way around). We’re in town for the 2014 Melbourne International Film Festival, an event Shane and I eagerly anticipate each year. Our first film screened on the first day of MIFF: Life Itself, an affectionate, moving documentary about the late American film critic Roger Ebert.

Fine as Life Itself was, the movie we saw on Sunday, August 3, will be hard to beat. It screened at the Kino cinema, one of the MIFF venues, although Driving Miss Daisy, a three-hander brilliantly performed by Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones and Boyd Gaines, wasn’t part of the festival. It was filmed in 2013 at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre during the sold-out season of the play, which regular visitors to this blog may remember I singled out as one of last year’s personal highlights. It’s marvelous that it’s been so sensitively captured on film; having the chance to experience it all over again was an utter joy.

Outside the Geilgud Theatre, London on the day we booked our tickets for Blithe Spirit.
Photograph by Barbara Britton

I mentioned above that the film will be hard to top, but in fact immediately afterwards it was at least equaled by a riveting, in-depth interview with Angela Lansbury conducted recently at London’s British Film Institute directly after the screening there of Driving Miss Daisy. (Miss Lansbury was in London appearing as Madame Arcati in a scintillating new production of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, which we saw back in April, and for which she received some of the best notices of her career). The interview is a must for lovers of theatre, film and, of course, the incomparable Miss Lansbury. Having said that, counting Shane and I, there were only eight people in the audience. Perhaps it was a mistake to screen it at the same time as MIFF. The Kino also ran Driving Miss Daisy on Saturday, August 2. I hope that at least on that day it got the audience it deserved.