Acute Misfortune is screening as part of the MIFF Travelling Showcase

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Acute Misfortune is screening as part of the MIFF Travelling Showcase

MIFF Travelling Showcase, the Melbourne International Film Festival’s tour of regional Victoria returns, featuring eight of the most talked about Australian and international feature films and documentaries of the 67th festival.
Among the esteemed films, this year’s program features MIFF Premiere Fund-supported films Acute Misfortune; the lyrical adaptation of The Saturday Paper editor Erik Jensen’s acclaimed biography which charts the tumultuous working relationship between the now-deceased provocative painter Adam Cullen and his biographer over a four-year period.
Winner of The Age Critics’ Award for best Australian feature film and garnering five star reviews, Top of the Lake actor Thomas M. Wright makes his directorial feature debut weaving a striking tale of the bright young wunderkind writer and the brilliant yet deeply troubled artist.
“I didn’t want to make a biographical film and it’s not,” reveals Wright. “I was just really interested in making a film about a relationship between a biographer and his subject, and I’m less interested in this film existing because of Adam’s success, or Erik’s success. What I’m interested in is what binds people together and then what causes relationships to rupture and become complex.”
Spanning 90 minutes, the film is the story of an increasingly claustrophobic relationship. It’s clear Cullen was violent and unpredictable, lying and hurting Jensen (at one stage he shoots Jensen in the leg with a shotgun), preying on his ignorance, yet Jensen continued researching and writing the book, for four years. The question of why is a central one of the film.
“This is an artist; this is one of the more acclaimed artists in the last 30-40 years in Australia, he’s won the Archibald Prize, he’s had a career retrospective of the Art Gallery of NSW, but his community is drug addicts, criminals, and caught in that dark side of life, and he invited this 19 year old prestigious journalist to come and write this book. It becomes a film about lies, and about theft and about persona.”
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Spinning Jensen’s award-winning book into a subtle, striking tale, Wright successfully delivers an authentic portrait of the writer and of the artist with the help of Jensen himself, co-writing the film over three years.
“It became very personal for both of us. But equally, Adam’s family and people who were close to Adam were made very close to the production, and the production was made with extraordinary support from people from all sides; that was really a personal mindfield for us to keep that tension, positive tension, and that communication,” Wright reveals. It is with remarkable access, that Daniel Henshall (Snowtown) who starred as Cullen, would actually wear the painters clothing as he fully inhabits the role.
“Dan was often wearing Adam’s real clothes, he’s painting with Adam’s paint brushes and paints, and working with people on the film who were Adam’s assistants and art dealers and doctors,” he explains. “We really tried to include the community and make it a really thoroughly researched film, and the people who were closest to Adam have said the film feels uncanny; it feels authentic, which as a filmmakers, that’s all we’re trying to do.”
These are true events, told almost entirely in real dialogue taken from Erik’s shorthand notebooks and Adam’s own writing and recorded interviews. Acute Misfortune is not a traditional film biography of an artist, but a questioning of that biography and of the circumstances that led to its writing, and is one you should see if you get the chance.
The MIFF Travelling Showcase will be at Bendigo’s Star Cinema Eaglehawk on October 5-6 & at Geelong’s GPAC and The Pivotonian on October 12-14.