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Melbourne Film Festival highlights

Nine new strands emerge in unpredictable program

Of all the Australian fests, Melbourne’s program is by far the most fluid, seeming to reconfigure itself each year, adding and shedding sections as its programmers deem appropriate.

This year sees no less than nine new strands, among them Eros + Massacre, a nine-film retrospective dedicated to the Japanese New Wave, whose titles alone command attention — from Teruo Ishii’s 1969 shocker “Horrors of Malformed Men” to Masao Adachi’s pink movie “Gushing Prayer.”

Another new section, Young Blood, will showcase “films seen through the eyes of children and adolescents,” according to fest topper Richard Moore, while the Vengeance Is Mine sidebar will focus — as its title implies — on films of retribution, showcasing recent international fest hits like Berlinale discovery “Katalin Varga,” Dominic Murphy’s “White Lightnin’ ” and Nicholas Winding Refn’s “Bronson.”

Perhaps the most intriguing addition, however, is titled Punk Becomes Pop: The Australian Postpunk Underground. Inspired by “Living on Dog Food,” a new doc from local veteran Richard Lowenstein about the making of his 1986 cult fave “Dogs in Space” (which starred late INXS frontman Michael Hutchence), MIFF senior programmer Michelle Carey has curated a wide-ranging selection of short films, video clips and archival TV programs exploring the effects of Australia’s post-punk music scene on the nation’s architecture, fashion and culture.

In addition, a number of guests are braving the long journey Down Under, among them France’s Claire Denis and Danish helmer Refn. But the fest’s biggest catch is French New Wave vet (and one-time Godard muse) Anna Karina, who will present an overview of her career — from “Alphaville” and Jacques Rivette’s great, rarely seen “The Nun” (1966), to her two directorial outings, “Living Together” (1973) and last year’s “Victoria.”

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