Tuesday, 14 August 2018

August 16th
BlacKkKlansman
Submergence
Keep the Change
C'est la Vie
The Living Universe
More MIFF

As MIFF moves towards the closing night denouement on the weekend, it's an exciting week of excellent releases for the mainstream cinema. A couple of these scored really highly with me. I decided to go live a day early so you can ponder your choices!


BlacKkKlansman
Director: Spike Lee
Length: 114 min
© Universal - these brave boys hatch a plan to
infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. 
These unbelievable events, set in the 1970s, are based upon the incredible, but  true, exploits of Ron Stallworth, the first Afro-American policeman on the Colorado Springs force. Eager to make his mark, Ron (played by John David Washington, (Denzel's son), decides to go undercover and infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. How can a black man do this, you may well ask. Playing a "twins"game, Ron co-opts fellow cop Flip (Adam Driver) to do the face-to-face bit while he talks on the phone. Together the guys get in way deeper than is safe or  comfortable. Washington and Driver are superb together. This is masterful film-making from Spike Lee, whose films I've always loved. Playing on the audacity and outrageousness of the mission alone, the motif of Afro hair and the stupidity of many of the Klansmen, a modicum of ongoing humour is injected. But this is ultimately a serious film. Lee bravely pulls no punches, opening with a vilely racist Alec Balwin spewing hate. The racism never lets up as Lee exposes in ignominious detail the Klansmen's evil pronouncements on anyone who is not white American. It's actually quite confronting to listen to. The politics of black power are also highlighted with a subplot of the rise of 1970s' student activism. The tension doesn't let up for a moment, as we fear for these brave policemen's lives. Supporting cast of Laura Harrier as Patrice Dumas, president of the Black Student Union, and Topher Grace as David Duke, Grand Klan Wizard are compelling, as are all the smaller roles. Pay careful attention to the final scenes pointing to the sobering reality of the mess of today's fraught world still battling race issues. 
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended!

Submergence
Director: Wim Wenders
Length: 112 min

© Backlot films - two fine acting performances in 
an odd but strangely compelling film
In a glorious Normandie hotel, two people meet. James (James McAvoy) is an MI6 agent, who will pose as a water engineer, to infiltrate terrorist organisations in Somalia. Dani (Alicia Vikander) is a bio-mathematician about to take a deep dive in a submersible to the bottom of the ocean floor, to research the building blocks of life. After a passionate liaison of only a few days, the pair must go their own ways, but they have fallen deeply for each other, with a promise to meet again. When Dani cannot contact James she doubts their love, but he has no way of telling her he is now a prisoner of brutal Jihadists. As each endures their own private challenges, it is as if they are linked in the mind by a spiritual connection. The time frame goes back and forth between the present and their first connections. Although the film is somewhat "airy-fairy" and waffles at times, there is something lovely, certainly visually beautiful, about it. I find myself believing their dramatically sudden love, and their philosophical ponderings feel real. Yes, the title is a fairly heavy-handed metaphor for many aspects of life and love, and despite the very uncertain ending, (isn't life uncertain?) I found it worth seeing, especially with such fine actors in the lead.
3 - recommended!

Keep the Change
Director: Rachael Israel
Length: 94 min
Exclusive to Classic Elsternwick, Belgrave Cameo and Lido Hawthorn
© JIFF Distribution - a delightful and very un-mainstream 
view of love in the Aspergers world
David (Brandon Polansky), the son of wealthy New York parents, has high functioning autism. When he falls foul of the police he is ordered to attend a support group which he deeply resents, defining himself as "normal". He is also desperate to fit into the mainstream, but endlessly alienates women he's met on the internet by telling inappropriate jokes. When he meets fellow group member Sarah (Samantha Elisofon), his life takes a different turn. Many  of us have preconceived ideas about people on the autism spectrum, and have possibly seen films like Rain Man and I am Sam (featuring non-autistic people in the lead roles). This film will blow all those ideas sky-high. For starters it uses people who actually are autistic/Asbergers in the lead roles. Polansky is a long-time friend of the director, and his insights and experiences are central to the film, making it truthful, endearing and  . . . well, simply amazing.  Aside from being a sweet and endearing rom-com, this film should go a long way to altering perceptions of people with differences, and really should be seen by as broad an audience as possible.
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended!

C'est la Vie
Director: Olivier Nakache & Eric Toledano
Length: 115 min
© Madman - staff at an opulent wedding try to cope
with crazed costumes and unexpected dramas. 
Wedding planner Max (a wonderfully world-weary Jean Pierre Bacri) is near burnout and ready to sell his business. It doesn't help that this latest job is turning into the wedding from hell. First up, Max must contend with his argumentative assistant Adele (Eye Haidara), the wrong band, fronted by the arrogant James (Giles Lelouche), missing waiters and a tedious social climbing groom who has set the event in an 18th century chateau. As the evening progresses, things go increasingly wrong, while Max does the most incredible juggling act to try to pull it all together. I've never been a big fan of French comedy, but this one hit totally the right note for me, as well as having a depth to the characters not usual in this type of film. Each main character has some fatal, but very human flaw, and the revelation of these foibles, only enhances the plot. With the action confined to the stunningly photogenic chateau and taking place over one afternoon/evening, the film builds a magnificent momentum of unfortunate incidents, that never veer into farce, feel quite credible, yet had me chortling out loud. Best is that there is a truly warm sense of humanity and connectedness to the brilliant final scene that left me a very satisfied viewer.
4 - highly recommended! 

The Living Universe
Director: Alex Barry; Vincent Amouroux
Length: 90 min
Exclusive to Cinema Nova until 22nd August
© Nova - magnificent visuals and thought-provoking
discussion about what may one day be possible
Fans of space-based science fiction and science fact shouldn't miss this fabulous feature doco, exploring possibilities of finding life on exoplanets. These are planets way beyond our solar system, to which we can not yet travel, but are working on. Popular scientist Karl Kruszelnicki and Aussie astrophysicist Tamara Davis narrate a story of research, dreams and of possibilities, with additional commentary from some of the leading brain power in the field of space exploration. These interviews and insights are blended with a visual narrative of an imaginary spaceship, 150 years in the future, taking 50 years to travel to a planet four light years away. The machinery and technology required is discussed then digitally created, to make for a visually stunning viewing experience.
4 - highly recommended!  

More MIFF
The latest two docos I've managed to view have, unfortunately, come and gone. I mention them because, who knows, you may get a chance some other time to catch these bizarre films that make me question the sanity of the world.
People's Republic of Desire: In China online entertainment is huge, and young people flock to a social network site to perform, sing, chat - do anything to get zillions of fans who send "virtual gifts" which somehow translate in to real money. The tragedy is the people involved seem to have no real life beyond this compulsive, aimless desire for fame and fortune, and believe online connection is somehow a substitute for real human connection. Takes the Facebook phenomenon to new levels and is ultra-scary. 
Our New President: This Russian satirical doco is a bit of a crazed mish-mash using grabs from actual Russian TV shows, and clips from citizens who have something to say, all aimed at showing how the Clinton-Trump battle was seen through Soviet eyes. It's certainly very timely with the ongoing investigations into Russian involvement in the US election. The level of fake news and concocted lies is monumental, and when you think how many people believe it, it's gob-smacking. The film would have profited from an introductory narrative framework.
Footnote: some stunning films that have screened at MIFF will be heading to our cinemas over the next few months, so don't despair if you missed them.  


Tuesday, 7 August 2018

August 9th 

On Chesil Beach 

Mission Impossible: Fallout
MIFF: A Woman Captured


Not a lot to report this week, as film buffs are bum down/head up in cinemas watching the cornucopia of fine films that constitute MIFF. 

On Chesil Beach
Director: Dominic Cooke
Length: 110 min
© Transmission - love on the beach, or 
on the rocks?
In 1962, Florence (Saiorse Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) have just married and are spending their wedding night in a Dorset hotel near Chesil Beach. Both are young and nervous about the prospect of consummating their marriage (the sexual revolution hasn't quite hit yet). As things get more awkward between them, a flaming argument erupts. Things are said and decisions made that will affect their lives for ever. Writer Ian McKewan has adapted his acclaimed novel for the screen, but I find myself ambivalent about the film. The film looks lovely, the period is well evoked and  Ronan gives a nuanced  performance as the upper class classical musician, totally in charge in her musical world yet completely naive when it comes to love. The subject matter feels strangely anachronistic while the constant flashbacks from the wedding night to earlier times interrupt the dynamic of the unfolding drama. The hackneyed (though tear-jerking) denouement feels glib. Oddly, the awkwardness of the couple, rather than making for authenticity, lend an awkward feel to the film. Overall though, it probably is worth seeing. 
3 - recommended!

Mission: Impossible - Fallout
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Length: 147 min
© Paramount - Tom up to his old 
daredevil tricks
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is  on a heart-stopping mission to retrieve the stolen plutonium before disaster strikes. Sound familiar? Whether you love or hate blockbusters, this is certainly a full-on, breakneck, excitement packed addition to the genre and indeed the successful MI franchise. As you know, I am not a huge blockbuster fan, and I NEVER am able to follow the plot of these convoluted spy-vs spy movies, but perhaps it doesn't matter. It's never about plot: one goes to watch the daredevil Cruise perform his own mighty impressive stunts, and to enjoy the roller coaster of non-stop action. There's a strong supporting cast including Angela Bassett, Ving Rhames, Henry Cavill, Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Monaghan and Alec Baldwin. Ultimately it's mindless but fun entertainment, which for die-hard fans (and according to Rottten Tomatoes) is the best yet of the series. What would I know!?
2.5 - maybe!

More MIFF
Happening now - until 19 August


Many of the strong feature films from MIFF will be getting mainstream releases, so I try to preview films that I think won't see the light of day outside of festivals, especially documentaries. Remember, I reviewed three last week. 
A Woman Captured: This Hungarian doco is so mind-boggling as to defy belief. 53-year-old Marish has been a slave for years to a callous and abusive woman, Eta. As the film-maker chronicles Marish's miserable daily life, the oppressed woman finally works up the courage to hatch an escape plan. This is excruciatingly slow, but bizarrely intriguing, focussing in on the ravaged toothless face and daily torment of the unfortunate woman. How she allowed this to happen I'll never know, but apparently this sort of modern slavery is alive and well, not only in third-world countries, but also in Europe. (9th Aug, 12th Aug)
www.miff.com.au


Wednesday, 1 August 2018

August 2nd
The Wife
The Breaker Upperers
Dr Knock
The Last Suit
Melbourne International Film Festival - MIFF


Tonight's the big one - opening night of MIFF. While nothing I say would influence anyone, as the die-hards have already booked themselves out with countless films, I have been lucky to preview a few and will put my two bob's worth in. As well I've caught up with a number of latest releases for those eschewing festival mania and looking for an outing to their local cinema. 


The Wife
Director: Bjorn Runge
Length: 100 min
© Icon - a loving married couple hide a 
destructive secret
Joan (Glenn Close) and Joe (Jonathan Price) have been married for over 40 years. He is about to receive a major prize for literature, and she, ever the supportive wife, calm and elegant in his shadow, is obviously delighted. Or is she? This is yet another timely story in an era of increasing scrutiny of women's role and recognition in what still seems to be a man's world. The stand-out in this film is Close's performance, which is something to be relished. The nuances of her facial expressions, and the subtle portrayal of her well-disguised thoughts are simply brilliant.  Other fascinating themes emerge: Joe's masculine ego causing him to be critical of his son's literary aspirations; the role of a prying biographer (Christian Slater), hoping to unearth secrets, but most of all the unspoken dynamic between husband and wife - one in which she has been virtually complicit in a secret that she can no longer live comfortably with. Though there is little ground-breaking in the plot, Close could well be an early Oscar contender, and it's a definite watch to admire such a tour de force.
4 - highly recommended!

The Breaker Upperers
Director: Madeleine Sami & Jackie van Beek
Length: 85 min
© Madman - I mean, really? These two in a love affair!
Jen (van Beek)  and Mel (Sami) are thirty-something women, close friends and  running a business that is quite the opposite of a dating agency. The perform a service for people who want to break up but don't quite know how to go about it. Modus operandi vary - among them posing as police who  telling one partner the other has died; other times they play "the other woman", sealing the demise of the relationship. Being a fan of New Zealand comedy, I had high hopes for this one, but to be blunt it didn't really tickle my funny bone. The acting talent isn't the problem - for me it's the lack of really strong jokes in the story line. Chemistry between the two lead women is strong, and their droll patter and style of relating to each other works well. But Cecilia Pacquola as an aggrieved partner overplays her hand, while the affair between 17-year-old rugby player Jordan (James Rolleston of Boy and Pork Pie fame) and double-his-age Mel is not only tacky but unbelievable. But, as I always say, one gal's comedy is another's ho-hum, and critiquing material for laughs is a highly subjective matter.
2.5 - maybe!

Dr Knock
Director: Lorraine Levy
Length: 113 min
© Umbrella  - Omar Sy's charm goes a long way in this
amiable but conflicted French comedy
Marseilles thug Knock (Omar Sy) flees petty crims pursuing him for a gambling debt by taking a shipboard job as a doctor, though he has no training. Five years later we meet him, fully qualified, taking up a position in an idyllic French village (cue gorgeous cinematography). The outgoing doctor has had few patients, but Knock sees an opportunity - offer free consultations, convince people they are ill, and split the proceeds with the local pharmacist. Things go swimmingly until the local priest gets suspicious, Knock falls in love, and someone from his dubious past turns up. Apparently this tale was written as a satirical theatre piece back in the 1920s, and has been adapted several times. Thematically it alludes to hypochondria and powers of suggestion, and this modern version (set in the 1950s) strongly foreshadows medicine and pharmaceuticals as business propositions. (Really? Who'd have thought!) Little or no satirical feel is evident, while the film sports large plot holes and employs many stereotyped characters.Despite criticisms it is an amiable and amusing story which I enjoyed more than my rating indicates. Sy is such a charismatic actor and his character so likeable (despite his roguery) that I've cut the film some slack.
2.5 - maybe!


The Last Suit
Director: Pablo Solarz
Length: 93 min
Exclusive to Elsternwick Classic, Belgrave Cameo and Lido Hawthorn
© JIFF Distribution -  moving tale of a
Holocaust survivor keeping his promise. 
Abraham Bursztein (Miguel Angel Sola)  is an 88-year old  Holocaust survivor who now lives in Argentina and works as a tailor. On the eve of his kids placing him in a nursing home he does a runner, heading to Europe to track down a man who helped him survive the war and to whom he made a promise so long ago. This is yet another excellent film from the Jewish International Film Festival that is getting a broader release, and rightly so. It is infused with gentle humour and deep emotion. Abraham's determination to never set foot on German soil again makes for some interesting narrative moments. Sola's award-winning performance is superb, capturing the ingrained pain, anger  and trauma so familiar in Holocaust films. And yet he is a man still with drive and zest for life. The film is beautiful, gentle yet powerful.
4 - highly recommended!

Melbourne International Film Festival
August 2-19
www.miff.com.au

Devotees of MIFF don't need me to tell them what a fabulous array of films are on offer. As well as the usual headlining films, Australian premieres,  international feature, documentaries, galas and more, there is a special event worth mentioning at the Astor theatre. A 737-minute overnight marathon sees seven Nicolas Cage films being screened. The Cage-a-thon is unmissable for fans of the controversial actor. Meantime, a few I've caught so far, and well worth recommending are:
The Rape of Recy Taylor: In the era of #Black Lives Matter and #Me Too, this is a timely doco about a ghastly crime that took place in Alabama in 1944. As so often happened, white men got away with it, but the determination of Taylor and her family to fight for justice remains an inspiration in today's world. This is a wonderfully constructed doco with recollections, archival footage,  and current commentary on issues of equality and black rights. (Aug 13th, 16th) 
The Eyes of Orson Welles: This  latest doco is already considered a defining work about one of the greatest  film personalities of the 20th century. It has just won the Golden Eye documentary prize at Cannes. Director Mark Cousins is given access to a box of notes, letters, and sketches by Welles. In a fascinating filmic device, he speaks to Orson, commentating and asking questions about the great man's career, politics, love life and more - all interspersed with Welles' film clips. A must-see for fans. (Aug 6th & 19th)
Tigers are not Afraid: As part of MIFF's Night Shift (late night, scary, genre and weird stuff), this Mexican film tells the story of a group of kids, orphaned by the drug wars, and struggling to stay alive on the streets. The strong female protagonist, Estrella, has double trouble, as she flees a ruthless gang while the ghost of her mother haunts her. A rivetting combination of social realism, strong emotion, and supernatural elements, with compelling performances from the kids. (Aug 11th, 18th)
Strange Colors: For a look at the tough Aussie blokes who live out bush and mine opals, go no further than this unusual mood piece. Max's daughter Melina takes time from her studies to visit her dad, and discovers more about the outback blokes than she imagined. This is visually sumptuous, making use of breath-taking sunsets, and stark outback loneliness. Not a lot happens - it is definitely about atmosphere and unspoken feelings, but it certainly held my interest. (Aug 15th, 17th)
The festival is, as always, highly recommended!

Thursday, 26 July 2018

July 26th
RBG
Whitney


More films have released this week than I've managed to preview, so today only two, but again two worthy offerings! Interestingly, both are documentaries. Meantime Melbourne is gearing up for the film frenzy that is MIFF, and I'm desperately trying to get together a couple of recommendations for you. 

RBG 
Director: Ol Parker
Length: 114 min
© Icon - Notorious RGB doesn't show signs of 
slowing down, even at the age of 85!
In an era where the voices of women are (hopefully) becoming stronger, the contribution of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the cause is nothing short of phenomenal. In this exhilarating and inspiring biopic we meet one of the currently serving justices of the US Supreme Court, one of only four women ever elevated to the position. The film traces her life's journey, interspersing old footage with present day interviews and opinion.With luminaries like Bill Clinton and Gloria Steinem adding to the talking heads, along with Ruth herself front and centre, this is an eye-opener into a world where a seemingly shy woman has used her brain and perseverance to get to the top and influence many judicial matters to do with equality. When she speaks, her measured but forceful manner, especially in contrast to her diminutive physicality, is magnetic. She has almost become a pop-icon with young thinking people dubbing her "Notorious RBG", and whenever she has a dissenting opinion in the Supreme Court, social media is ablaze with chatter. There are the odd humorous moments in which some of her friends express their total awe of her. The film sure leaves me in awe.    
4 - highly recommended!

Whitney
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Length: 120 min
© Transmission - an in-depth wonderful biopic
of a talented woman with a tragic end
Most people know the name Whitney Houston, the number one female recording artist ever, with seven No. 1 consecutive hits and 200 million record sales. We know she died at the too-young age of 48 from drug-related causes. This in-depth doco reveals much more, tracking her young life, the arc of her success, her controversial marriage to Bobby Brown, and her ultimate self-destruct. The story is told through frank and revealing interviews with friends, family and professional colleagues. At time the stories are contradictory and smacking of hidden secrets. McDonald and his production team have made brilliant use of  extraordinary archival footage, both public and intimate. Some of it quite damning, revealing the highs and tragic lows of the super-star's life, but at all times maintaining a compassionate stance. Sometimes the chronology gets a trifle confusing, jumping around in time, but throughout her phenomenal voice and beauty are showcased. Even if you were never a major fan, this is an excellent doco that is both a treat for music lovers, and a revelation of a life scarred by trauma and possibly the pressure of too much fame.
4 - highly recommended!

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

July 19th
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
The Gospel According to Andre
Brothers' Nest
See You up There
Scandinavian Film Festival


Lunacy prevails! Yesterday I saw FOUR films in one day. That's the self-sacrificial dedication involved in a catching-up frenzy. Some of what I review today has been out a while, but being strong films, they are still on the circuit. Catch them while you can. The two new ones are chalk and cheese: mainstream fun and a powerful French drama. And what would life be without a festival? This time it's the best from the Nordic countries.  

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again 
Director: Ol Parker
Length: 114 min
© Universal - Abba songs plus Cher on the 
big screen has got to be good! 

Guilty confession time: I had a great time with this slightly silly, relentlessly upbeat and ultimately joyful sequel to the first film, both movies based around the music of Abba and set on an imaginary Greek island (though it was filmed in Croatia). This time we find out all about Donna's wild teenage years (played as an adult in the first film by Meryl Streep, and here by the lovely Lily James). We discover the background to the romances with the three "fathers" of Sophie, Donna's daughter. The story toggles between flashbacks of Donna's hippie years, and the present, in which Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is undergoing life-changing events. The film is bristling with one infectious song after another and dance numbers almost good enough for Bollywood. The appearance of Cher as the platinum blonde Grandmother is a winner, as is the return of the three dads, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan and Stellan Skarsgard. The young men chosen to play these guys in their youth(s), are perfectly cast. You can choose to look down on mainstream fare like this, or simply surrender and go along for the ride, which is pretty well guaranteed to put a big smile on your face. (great to see Andy Garcia ageing so nicely too!)
3.5 - well recommended!

The Gospel According to Andre
Director: Kate Novack
Length: 93 min
© Icon - Andre is a surprisingly complex guy
who is both deeply philosophical and a fashion icon. 
Few people would have expected a poor black kid from the segregated south to grow up to be a highly esteemed trendsetter of the fashion world. Yet this is what happened to larger-than-life personality Andre Leon Tully. This entertaining doco traces Andre's life, and showcases his personal philosophies of fashion, style, racial issues and more. You don't have to be a fashionista to be intrigued by this guy and his extraordinary story. The film cleverly weaves in many connections, from how the black southern churches influenced Andre's lifelong concept of style, how his strict grandmother taught him elegance and etiquette, and in some very poignant moments how his eccentric presentation has caused him pain. With fabulous fashion, as well as glimpses of Andre's friendship with other icons such as Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour, this is an entertaining piece of cinema.
3 - recommended!

Brothers' Nest
Director: Clayton Jacobson
Length: 97 min
© Label Distribution - no Kenny niceness here. 
Just two angry brothers with murder on their minds.

Two brothers Terry (Shane Jacobson) and Jeff (Clayton Jacobson) return to their childhood home in the country with one evil intent - to murder their step-dad Roger (Kim Gyngell) and prevent their dying mother from leaving the home to him. This is a very black comedy-thriller, with the emphasis more on darkness than laughs. Yes, there is a certain dry amusement in the increasingly tense way in which the brothers relate and the inanity and illogicality of their plan. But as the plot progresses a serious revelation of fraught and credible family dynamics emerges, and the tension really ramps up. The Jacobson's are excellent actors, and if you only think of Shane as amiable plumber Kenny, think again. He plumbs emotional depths in his performance, with both lead characters being well-written and portrayed. The overall atmosphere and setting are broody and tense, with an effective soundtrack, and a winning final line of dialogue to listen out for!
3.5 - well recommended!

See You up There
Director: Albert Dupontel
Length: 117 min
© Umbrella - a stirring and beautiful piece of cinema. 
Truckloads of awards have gone to this French drama, the story of a friendship forged in war, and continued in crime. At the war's end, ex-accountant Albert (played by the director) rescues fellow soldier  Edouard, who emerges alive, but with horrific facial injuries. While Edouard hides behind a carnival mask, the pair devise a scam involving selling plans for war monuments that will never be built. This is a bizarre mix of dark humour, quasi-surreal visions and settings, (reminiscent of Jeunet's Delicatessen) and moving themes of war, friendship, loss and desire for paternal acceptance. The inclusion of a young girl in the friendship adds yet another level to this intricate and multi layered plot, while the production is lavish and beautifully shot, capturing the era well.
4 - highly recommended!

Scandinavian Film Festival
Melbourne - until July 29
Palace Como, Brighton Bay and Westgarth
For other states, times and bookings, visit ScandinavianFilmFestival.com

© Scandinavian FF - The Swan is a  dark coming of age
story from beautiful stark Iceland. 
Already underway for a week now, it's well worth mentioning this terrific festival with diverse films from Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Finland and Norway. 
The Swan: Adapted from a popular Icelandic novel, this unusual and mesmerising film is the story of a young girl sent to work on her aunt's farm to develop her independence and resilience. Much of the cruelty and complexity of the adult world is revealed to her.  There is nothing mainstream here about the style or storytelling. The film is slow, exquisite in its look, and often mystical and haunting, with a voice-over telling of troubling dreams and Icelandic legends. The film is so unusual and at times disturbing, it has stayed in my mind for days after seeing it.  
A  Horrible Woman: Brace yourself for a story some of you may recognise. This award-winning Danish drama/comedy explores a love affair that quicky turns into a dysfunctional relationship. When happy-go-lucky beer-swilling, footy-playing Rasmus meets Marie, they are passionately attracted and she moves in. His life and apartment are turned upside down as she becomes progressively more controlling. The filmmaker challenges us to ask is it really her that is so horrible or is he so insecure and non-assertive that he allows the situation to happen? A wonderful and often uncomfortable examination of passive aggression and the dynamics of co-habiting. 

The festival is highly recommended!

Monday, 9 July 2018


July 9th
Back to Burgundy
Disobedience
Sicario Soledad
Mary Shelley


I'M BACK!!
Yes, after weeks of gadding in Europe and suffering mild movie withdrawal I'm back and into the catch-up viewing. Two of the recent releases (Sicario and Disobedience) are chalk and cheese. A couple of others I've seen previously at festivals and am glad to see their mainstream release. So here goes . . . again!

Back to Burgundy
Director: Cedric Klapisch
Length: 113 min
© StudioCanal - in a Burgundy vineyard
kids learn the subtleties of wine tasting young
Renowned director Cedric Klapisch has made a gorgeous movie about three siblings who inherit their father's vineyard in Burgundy. Lovingly capturing the change of seasons and the grape cycle, as well as the bonds and conflicts between the siblings, this is the sort of French film-making I most enjoy - tender, gentle, and intimate. One of the siblings Jean has returned from Australia when he hears of his father's impending death. There he has also been involved in winemaking and must face the choice now of returning, or staying in France at  his family home. This gives the film a nice connection with our great winemaking land. Nice also to see a strong female character in the form of sister Juliette, who is at the helm of the vineyard now that the patriarch has died. I saw this one at the French Film Festival and am delighted to see it get a mainstream release. 
4 - highly recommended! 

Disobedience
Director: Sebastian Lelio
Length: 114 min
© Roadshow  -  gripping emotional drama of
faith, repression and sexuality. 
Ronnie (Rachel Weisz) is a photographer living in New York. She returns home to London after the death of her father, a rabbi in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. There she reconnects with two close childhood friends - Esti (Rachel McAdam) and Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), both deep into the religious community. While Rachel has turned away from her orthodox upbringing, her presence reignites conflicts between tradition, faith and sexuality. Lelio directed the stunning trans-gender film A Fantastic Woman. No surprise that he is firmly in control of  the powerful emotions conjured up in this story. The three leads are at their best, conveying a story that is heartbreaking and also a testament to the inner strength required to stand up for who you really are in the face of restrictive morals and binding traditions within a very closed community.
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended! 

Sicario: Day of the Soldado
Director: Stefano Solimar
Length: 122 min
© Roadshow  - the hitman is back!
A sort of sequel to the fabulous Sicario in 2015, this takes up another story of  Mexican drug cartels, who now, it seems, are trafficking terrorists across the border. FBI agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) hires taciturn hitman Alejandro (Benicio del Toro) to assist in a fake kidnapping of a drug lord's daughter, to set the gangs against each other (as if they already aren't). The film is stunningly shot, has truckloads of action and tension, but always for me I find these sort of plots so convoluted and hard to follow. However, that's my problem, and within the genre it's pretty good, but not as gripping as the first one, which had a strong emotional focus in the female lead character. This film by comparison feels somewhat empty emotionally, but del Toro is a standout again. 
3.5 - recommended! 

Mary Shelley
Director: Haifaa al Mansour
Length: 121 min
© Transmission  - Gothic romanticism meets
a creative feminist writer
Mary Shelley (Elle Fanning) was famous for two things - her marriage at 18 to poet Percy Shelley and having written the immortal classic Frankenstein. This biopic looks at her early life, in an era where woman were not supposed to achieve much and certainly couldn't lay claim to having written a book, so had to publish under another name. There is nothing earth-shatteringly original about the film, but it's handsome enough, and Fanning plays her role with a feisty feminist slant. As a die-hard Frankenstein fan, I found it engaging entertainment when I saw it earlier at the British Film Festival.
3 - recommended!