Thursday, 6 August 2020

August 6th - 23rd
MIFF (Melbourne International Film Festival - online):
Some Kind of Heaven
Bombay Rose
Lara
The Letter
Coded Bias
Prayer for a Lost Mitten
Bloody Nose Empty Pockets

For MIFF-o-philes it's finally here, but online this year! For the next two and a half weeks you can watch the best in international film, all from the comfort of your own sofa! Go to www.2020.miff.com.au for all the details. Meantime lucky me has reviewed several, all highly recommended, for your consideration. 

Some Kind of Heaven 
Dir: Lance Oppenheim
Length: 83 mins
© MIFF - oldies having fun
Imagine Baby Boomers spending their days and nights as if they are young again - dancing, golfing, hooking up, in fact on a perpetual holiday without having to work. That's life in a ginormous (now 130,000 people) retirement village in Florida, known as The Villages. This insightful doco focuses on four people trying to live that fun life, but nevertheless facing the inevitable issues of growing older - loneliness, health and money problems, addiction, in fact the usual stuff of life. Maybe one can never escape what it means to age, but these folk are sure having fun trying. There's a bitter-sweet edge to this engaging doco, which is beautifully shot and could help you to see aging in a new light. (BTW, I spent a couple of days there four years ago, while on holiday, staying with a friend of my husband's. It really has to be seen to be believed, but not sure I'd want to live there!)

Bombay Rose 
Dir:Gitanjali Rao
Length: 93 mins
© MIFF - gorgeous animation; terrific story
Kamala works by day selling flowers on the streets on Bombay and dances by night in a club. She catches the eye of another flower seller Salim, but he is Muslim and she is Hindu. Meantime a thuggish creep wants to whisk her away to Dubai. Throw into the mix Mrs de Souza, English teacher to Kamala's sister, a mute boy who helps Kamala's grandpa mend antique toys, and the general chaos that is Bombay (Mumbai today), and you have a quintessentially Indian film that is vibrant, and true to life..  Eight years ago I saw a short by Rao at the Fort Cochin Bienalle (in Kerala India), and thought her to be a stunning film-maker. This debut feature film lives up to that promise, and is a treat for all the senses, with a fabulous soundtrack of Gazals (classical Indian songs), upbeat songs, and exquisite animation that captures both the mythology and tradition of India, and its modern beating heart. The variety of painting styles are numerous, making for a captivating, absolutely unique film. 

Lara
Dir: Jan-Ole Gerster
Length: 98 mins
© MIFF - Mother and son - not the warm fuzzy
relationship you might hope for
This impressive German drama has won a truckload of awards. A powerful drama, it portrays mother Lara (Corinna Harfouch), who gave up on her own musical talents years ago, but poured her energies into pushing her son Viktor (Tom Schilling) to become a top pianist. The trouble is Lara has mixed motivations - she is proud of Viktor, but also insanely jealous, bitter and resentful of his success. In the course of one day, when Viktor is to premiere his new composition at an evening concert, Lara goes through the wringer of emotions, even giving away tickets to Viktor's show  to random strangers. This film is all about the nuances of emotions; Harfouch's performance is outstanding, despite Lara being someone one does not enjoy spending time with. The musical soundtrack complements the narrative, and for fans of deep and meaningful mother/son stories, this should hit the spot. 

The Letter
Dir: Christopher King, Maia Lekow
Length: 81 mins
© MIFF - an eye opener on life in rural Kenya
Karisa lives in the Kenyan city of Mombassa. He heads to the rural village where his 90-year-old Grandma has been quietly tending her patch of land, up until the time a relative sends a letter accusing her of  witchcraft. She is apparently the cause of all manner of ills from women's barrenness to various illnesses. Many old women accused of witchcraft have been killed so Karisa goes to investigate, while director King documents the proceedings. This is a fascinating insight into a life we would seldom see - simple, humble village life, with a hefty side-serve of superstition and ignorance. Tragic that again old folk are in the firing line, as a whipping-post for every other bit of life's misfortunes the younger ones experience. The doco is also beautifully filmed, with some stunning scenery (when it's not just barren dirt), and colorful traditions. 

Prayer for a Lost Mitten
Dir: Jean Francois Lesage
Length: 79 mins
© MIFF - the existential sadness of life
is captured in this powerful doco
Winning the top award at the Canadian Documentary Festival, this is a beautiful, melancholy, reflective feature documentary, set in the Montreal winter. After an extraordinary opening sequence of snow falling at night, we meet a variety of anxious people at the lost property section of the transit office, searching for such lost items as hats, keys, and scarves. When the director later tracks them down and interviews them we learn a lot more about the true meaning of loss in their lives - loss of loved ones, of youth, of relationships - the stuff we all share in common. The timelessly evocative black and white cinematography makes the whole thing like an elegaic poem - rich, evocative and simply exquisite to look at, while provoking thought and self-reflection in us all.  

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets
Dir: Bill Ross, Turner Ross
Length: 98 mins
© MIFF - a crew of disreputables celebrate closing
night of a Las Vegas Bar

Las Vegas bar, the Roaring 20s, is closing down and a group of heavy-drinking regulars celebrate from morning right through until the wee hours of  next morning. Mike is a thoughtful ex-actor, Pam likes to show off her boobs, a drag queen flaunts his stuff, others want to argue, cry, hug, regret, pronounce love, denounce politicians, while the amiable barman loves to grab his guitar and sing. Most of the men have a crush on Shay who also tends bar and has a wayward teenage son. I really believed that these were the actual characters, until I read that this is a film experiment using actors to play themselves in what is essentially an improv exercise. Boy, does it work well. Everything they say feels totally authentic; one can feel their joy, pain and regret. Though not a lot happens, this is one of the most enjoyable times I could spend with a bunch of people in a place I'd probably be reluctant to ever step into. Innovative, novel and entertaining. 
  
Coded Bias
Dir: Shalini Kantayya
Length: 81 mins
© MIFF - persons of color, women and people who've
crossed the legal line- watch out for the inbuilt bias
being used in all manner of invasive technologies

When AI researcher Joy Buolamwini finds a facial recognition program seems unable to recognise her, she begins to further investigate algorithmic coding of many data systems. What she discovers is absolutely shocking: not only do so many technologies have inbuilt bias on the basis of color, they also discriminate around gender and social standing, influencing outcomes relating to finance, employment opportunities and the criminal system. She has now formed the Algorithmic Justice League to fight the rampant use of facial recognition systems for public surveillance, and to try to call to account the massive corporations like Google and Facebook which use these biased algorithms. Sobering, and disturbing watching.   

Monday, 3 August 2020

August 4th - imminent releases
23 Walks - in cinemas now 
Echo in the Canyon - digital release August 5
Deerskin - in cinemas from August 6
One Man and His Shoes - available from Aug 6 on DocPlay
Blood Vessel - available On Demand and DVD from Aug 5

How strange to now live in a land divided - those states that have cinemas open and those that don't. Sorry Victorians, you may have to wait to see some of these, but I'm recommending you to a few films that are available online, so you won't miss out. A reminder for those in the lockdown that as well as all the wonderful programs available free from SBS On Demand and ABC iview, you can access Kanopy free with your library card. Fans of documentaries should definitely get themselves a very affordable subscription to DocPlay, chock full of the world's best docos.  Stay tuned later in the week for an extra edition showcasing the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), online this year, with opening night on Thursday August 6th. 

23 Walks
Dir: Paul Morrison
Length: 103 mins
Now showing in many cinemas in all states except Victoria (sniff!!)
© Rialto - touching and heart-warming story
of love in later years
Dave (Dave Johns) and Fern (Alison Steadman) meet by chance in a park walking their dogs Tilly and Henry. Gradually casual friendship starts to blossom into romance. But each is not totally truthful with the other, threatening their connection. Johns was amazing in I Daniel Blake, and here he is absolutely truthful in his portrayal of an older guy, not quite knowing how to make the right moves, and not realising the ramifications of being deceitful by omission. Steadman is perfect as Fern, the woman too burned by her past to be comfortable with a new friendship with a man, let alone anything more. It's great to see a film handling love in older years, though the issues they face could apply to many age groups. Set along glorious English walking tracks and in verdant parks, and featuring two captivating canines, one huge and one tiny, this is a sweet film which hits all the right notes and never gets overly sentimental. 
4 - highly recommended

Echo in the Canyon
Dir: Andrew Slater
Length: 82 mins
Available for purchase on Apple, PSN, Microsoft, Google and Fetch. 
© Echo in the Canyon - LLC - Universal -
Jakob Dylan chats with Dave Crosby
This is a real nostalgia trip for boomers who reveled in the music of the mid 60s, specifically that music associated with Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles. Jakob Dylan, (Bob's son) takes us on a journey through present and past, featuring legendary artists such as The Byrds, The Buffalo Springfields, Crosby, Stills Nash & Young, The Beach Boys, The Mamas and Papas and more. There is a blend of wonderful clips of the original artists and their songs, plus the rehearsals for, and the final concert, which pays tribute to that seminal music era and features the likes of Jakob Dylan, Norah Jones, Beck and other current artists discovering the past. Such musicians as Dave Crosby, Jackson Browne, Michelle Phillips and Ringo Starr put in their two bob's worth with vibrant anecdotes and reminiscences, and there is much about how the Beach Boys and the Beatles influenced each other. Some critics are peeved about what has been left out, but the songs that are in here all stand the test of time, and are still inspiring to current songwriters. This music defined an era of freedom and hope where people felt they could do anything. I danced my way through much of the film - riveted, and with a fervent desire to return to the era.
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended

Deerskin
Dir: Quentin Dupieux
Length: 77 mins
Available in selected cinemas in states other than Vic
© Umbrella - things get out of hand when Georges
becomes obsessed with his jacket, and his film-making
Jean Dujardin who you may know from The Artist, plays Georges, a middle aged divorcee, who buys a second-hand deerskin jacket from an old codger who throws in a hand-held video camera.  Georges heads off to a remote French alpine village. He soon becomes obsessed with the jacket, imagining it talks to him, and then he adds to his deerskin look with hat, boots and trousers. When he meets local bartender Denise (Adele Haenel, from Portrait of a Lady on Fire), he somehow misrepresents himself as a film-maker, and appoints Denise his editor. But in the search for cinema verite, things start to go in a direction that is definitely not as one would expect. This film is a piece of lovely lunacy - never making a whole heap of logical sense, but never boring me. Dujardin is always a terrific screen presence, the minimalism of the settings and story are intriguing, and the oddball twists near the end make for an unexpectedly surprising cinema experience.
3.5 - well recommended

One Man and his Shoes
Dir: Yemi Bamiro
Length: 82 mins
Available from DocPlay: www.docplay.com
© Madman/DocPlay - shoes ain't shoes man - they
are status symbols, and something to kill for.
Basketball fans, particularly lovers of Michael Jordan, will adore this film, but even if you're not a follower of that sport, there is plenty of interest in this latest offering from DocPlay. There is much more than initially meets the eye here. It starts a bit like a plug for Nike, showing how once Jordan was signed up, the entire marketing machine took off, with the new sneaker, the Air Jordan, becoming a status symbol, a collectors' item, and something worth killing for - literally. The advertising campaign was a huge success, thanks in part to director Spike Lee. Jordan himself represented a turning point, in which a black man could take his place, front and centre, in broader society. Hence the cultural and racial significance of those sneakers makes them movie worthy. However, the story takes a darker turn when some young people were killed for their sneakers and neither Jordan nor Nike spoke up. The doco is an informative and sobering look at the power and danger of marketing, plus another  perspective on Black American history. Plus, it's a good-looking film with well-paced use of fast-moving, up-to-the-minute visuals.
4 - highly recommended

Blood Vessel
Dir: Justin Dix
Length: 90 mins
Available from DVD – JB Hi Fi and Sanity and Video on Demand:  iTunes/Google /Fetch/Foxtel Store/Umbrella Entertainment
© Umbrella  -  great to see Nathan Phillips back in
a cracking action/horror .
Six people are adrift on a life raft after a World War 2 hospital ship has been torpedoed by the Germans.  Nathan Phillips plays Aussie Sinclair; the rest of the motley group include Russian Teplov (Alexander Cooke), Jane Prescott (Alyssa Sutherland), a smug Yank, a scared Brit and an Afro-American engineer. Grappling their way onto a passing German destroyer (as you do!) they find no-one on board, except a small child (Ruby Hall) speaking Romanian and covered in blood. It soon becomes evident an ancient horror is resident on the ship. Who will survive? This is actually a lot of grisly fun for those who enjoy a strong genre movie. Shot in a (sometimes too dark) black and red color pallette, and full of genuinely scary special effects, the film barrels along at a cracking, throat-ripping pace, with classic tropes of secret treasure, skeletons, bat-faced demons, ancient books, creepy dolls, loads of blood, and a wonderful twist in the final moments.
3.5 - well recommended for fans of the genre

Thursday, 23 July 2020

July 23rd
House of Cardin
Guilty (DOCPlay)
La Haine (Kanopy)
Calm With Horses
The Vigil

What a strange and disturbing life we are leading, especially those of us in Victoria. While three of the films I review today are screening in other states, viewers will have to wait a while to catch them in our virus-plagued city. However, the reviews may pique your interest, and if you live elsewhere, go track ' em down. Meantime, for the housebound lockdownees, I cover a couple you can catch up with on online platforms. Keep safe folks, stay home, and wear your masks! 

House of Cardin
Dir: David Ebersole, Todd Hughes 
Length: 97 mins
© Umbrella - the man behind the legend  
Over the years there have been many films about iconic fashion designers, but none so fascinating and inspiring (for me) as this one, featuring Pierre Cardin, a creative genius in not only haute couture, but furniture, accessories, the arts and more. The film is a virtual smorgasbord of fabulousness - his ground-breaking clothing, his branded accessories and furniture, theatrical spaces he has created, his visits to other cultures and lands where he has become a household name, and the invaluable  insights from so many unexpected people: singers Alice Cooper and Dionne Warwick, actress Sharon Stone, other famed designers to name a few. Best of all the man himself - a workaholic who lives to enjoy his work and is still going strong at 98 years old. For anyone who wants to see that age is no barrier to keeping on creating, this is the film for you. It's vibrantly shot, with so much packed in - a treat for the eyes as well as the heart. 
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended

Guilty
Dir: Matthew Sleeth
Length: 82 mins
Streaming on DOCPlay: https://www.docplay.com
© DOCPlay - Heartbreaking anti-death penalty doco
In 2015, after ten years in prison in Indonesia, Myruran Sukumaran and Andrew Chang, two of the so-called Bali 9, were executed. This heart-wrenching documentary looks at the lead up to their deaths, focusing on the last three days of Sukumaran's life, as all appeals for clemency fell upon deaf ears. Adam McConvell plays Sukumaran in the recreated scenes; other segments of the film deal in archival footage. The grief of Sukumaran's family is near impossible to watch. The film-maker shows Sukumaran's incredible talent for painting, fostered by Ben Quilty, and which he developed and used to also benefit other inmates. Without preaching, the film asks the question of whether redemption is possible, and if it should be a reason to show mercy. With searing emotion, it makes the viewer feel the ultimate penalty is too harsh and cruel a price to pay, even for such a crime as drug-trafficking. This is powerful, thought-provoking film-making.
4 - highly recommended   

La Haine 
1995
Dir: Mathieu Kassovitz
Length: 98 mins
Streaming on Kanopy (https://www.kanopy.com/ - accessed with your local library card)
Recognise the young Vincent Cassell?
Winner of the 1995 Palme D'Or for Best Film and Best director, this film is a French classic, following the lives of three young men in the Paris suburbs, a day after rioting has occurred. Vincent Cassell, now a household name, plays Vinz, a restless, violent youth whose aimless day goes downhill. Not a heap happens, but it is the capturing of an era, a milieu, a feeling of the youth malaise of the time that is wonderfully portrayed in stark relief in impressively broody black and white cinematography.
4 - highly recommended  

Calm with Horses
(Also known as The Shadow of Violence)
Dir: Nick Rowland
Length: 101 mins
© Vendetta - tough story of a man torn between two
very different senses of duty
In a rural town in Ireland, Doug Armstrong (Cosmo Jarvis) tries to be a good father to his special needs son Jack. His estranged partner Ursula (Niamh Algar) is distressed because Doug hangs out with local criminals, the Devers family, headed  by father and son Paudi (Ned Dennehy) and Dympna (Barry Keoghan). Torn between his job as enforcer for the gang, and his love for Jack, Doug's life is headed for disaster. This is a confronting story, superbly acted, complex in its issues, and yet recognisable in the basic themes of parental love, forgiveness and redemption. Not everyone likes viewing such gritty tales, but this is worthy watching.
4 - highly recommended 
 

The Vigil
Dir: Keith Thomas
Length: 89 mins
© Rialto - Hasidim meet horror
Yakov (Dave Davis) is a former Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn's Hasidic community. Bad things happened in his past that alienated him, but now he needs  money, so takes a job via the local rabbi to act as a Shomer. This means watching over a dead body for a night. But creepy things are afoot in the Litvak household, and this will be no ordinary night for Yakov. Fans of horror should enjoy this genuinely creepy tale, but what gives it an extra twist is the clever blending of traditional horror tropes with aspects of Jewish tradition and superstition, featuring a malevolent presence known as a mazzik. Equally creepy is the wizened Mrs Litvak (Lyn Cohen), but there is intriguing interweaving of a more serious backstory into her character. Davis is a standout as he goes through th emotional wringer and holds the film together. 
3.5 - well recommended  

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

July 8th
Dogs Don't Wear Pants
A White, White Day
More from Melbourne Documentary  Film Festival - The Walrus & the Whistleblower
Sommerdahl (Acorn TV)

Scandinavia certainly features large this week, in online films, cinema features and streamed series. Uh-oh!! But since writing this, we've gone into lockdown again, so anything showing only in the cinema may transfer to online, or simply have to wait in the wings again. So, for the next few weeks my reviews will revert to what is accessible online, as we'll all have plenty of time for that. I feel an overwhelming sadness at what is happening, and also a modicum of anger towards those over-optimists, or those in denial, who think this pandemic is getting better, or not to be taken seriously. To me it was obvious that as soon as restrictions eased, numbers would start skyrocketing. We need to be super-vigilant, even paranoid, if we want to beat this thing and ever go back to the cinemas again. 

Dogs Don't Wear Pants
Dir: Jukka Pekka Valkeappa
Length: 105 mins
Available now VOD  via Google Play, iTunes, Fetch and Umbrella Entertainment
© Umbrella  -  kinky but compelling
Juha Pekka Strang) loses his wife in a drowning accident. Trying to rescue her, at the moment he goes unconscious he believes he sees her alive again. Years later he stumbles into an exclusive BDSM (Bondage Disciplie Sado-Masochism) club run by raunchy dominatrix Mona (Krista Kosonen) and starts visiting her for "strangulation sessions". Gradually he rediscovers a new passion in life. This much awarded film will sure please any fans out there of the Bondage and Discipline sexual oeuvre. It makes 50 Shades of Grey look like a kid's film, and won't be to everyone's taste. But it is skillfully made, beautifully shot, features great lead performances, and underneath all the kinky stuff manages to deal with issues of coming to terms with loss, self-awareness and identity, along with an engaging plot of Juha's relationship with his motherless daughter.  

Along with Nova, Classic, Lido and Cameo, Palace Cinemas were up and running on 2 July. A reminder that several of the films currently screening were reviewed by me last week: Love Sarah, The Taverna, Master Cheng, Romantic Road. Supposed to be releasing tomorrow was A White, White Day, winner of, and nominee for, umpteen high-profile festival awards. I promised a review so here it is, and I'll run it again when the cinemas reopen, as they close again tomorrow. Aargh!!!

A White, White Day
Dir: Hlynur Palmason
Length: 109 mins
© Palace  -  austere and compelling
Taciturn, gruff policeman Ingimundur (Invar Eggurt Sigursson) is still grieving his wife, who died in an accident on a remote road in Iceland. Tending his land and minding his beloved grand-daughter, one day trawling through old photos he becomes obsessed with the suspicion that his wife was having an affair with a man he knows. Lovers of bleak, Scandi, character driven thrillers should get a lot out of this. One draw card is the amazing central performance, depicting a man so embedded in his grief, and suppressing all emotions except a burgeoning rage, jealousy and desire for revenge. The endless white, bleak landscape becomes almost something to meditate upon, in what is an intense,  challenging but rewarding film.   


The Sommerdahl Murders
8 episodes, each around 45 minutes
Streaming on Acorn TV: https://au.acorn.tv/
© Acorn TV  - Scandi police drama well worth
a look
Set in Denmark, the first two episodes (that's where I'm up to so far) introduces us to police investigator Dan Sommerdahl, his wife Marianne, a forensic technician with the police, and Dan's best friend Flemming Torp. While celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary Dan is called away to investigate a body washed up on the beach, throwing a bit of a spoke in the marital harmony. The plot draws a nice balance between the interpersonal drama, and the police investigative drama, which also involves tracking down a newborn baby belonging to the dead woman. The series has hooked me, and ongoing episodes appear to follow the relationship threads, with new crimes thrown into the mix. Acting is strong, scripting believable, and characters are compelling enough to make me look forward to the next episodes. A treat for Scandi crime lovers. 

More from . . .
Melbourne Documentary Film Festival
Online now until 15th July 
For ticketing and synopses of films visit: mdff.org.au
Streaming via https://watch.eventive.org/mdff
© MDFF  -  who'd have thought?
The festival is in full swing and you still have a week to catch many terrific docos. See my previous two posts for earlier  reviews. This week I add:

The Walrus and the Whistleblower: If you remember the doco Blackfish from 2013, you'll know people have been protesting for years about keeping such mammals as dolphins and whales in captivity. This tense doco features the battle waged by Phil Demers, a former trainer at Marineland Niagara, Canada, who became a sort of surrogate mum to an orphaned walrus pup, Smooshi. Phil eventually realised many creatures were suffering (abused, neglected, mishandled - whatever you want to term it) at the facility, and decided to mount legal action against the owners of Marineland. The legal ins and outs of the case are great for law buffs, but it is the remarkable and moving relationship between Phil and Smooshi that makes this doco well worth seeing.  

Sunday, 28 June 2020

June 29th 
Master Cheng
Romantic Road
Love Sarah
The Taverna
More from Melbourne Documentary  Film Festival - online June 30 - July 15th


This week I'm a one-eyed reviewer thanks to being forced to lie horizontally for five days following emergency retinal surgery. A word of warning, especially to older readers: floaters in the eye - the internet says they are common, and not serious. Eye surgeons say yes, they are common, but ALWAYS check them out, as they can be a precursor to retinal detachment, as was the case for me. So, that dealt with, it seems many more films are now being released, quite a few for enjoyment on the big cinema screen, for those happy to go.  So here are some I've seen; find them where you can, as who knows what will and won't be opening or staying open!! I'm recommending them all, with my pick of the week Master Cheng. 
Master Cheng
Dir: Mika Kaurismaki
Length: 114 mins
© Vendetta - China meets Finland in the kitchen
in this gorgeous film

After the death of his wife in Shanghai, master chef Cheng (Pak Hon Chu) heads off with his small son Niu-Niu to Finland, hoping to track down and repay a Finnish man who has helped him out of trouble. Ending up in a remote town, and unable to locate the man, he finds a cafe  run by Sirkka (Anna Maija Tuokko), and an unlikely alliance forms. This is delightful, uplifting and warm-hearted story telling, understated, witty, moving and a joy to watch. Local old fogeys Romppainen and Vippula add to the rich mix of characters, as they fall in love with Cheng's unfamiliar cuisine. As well as giving a strong lesson in cross-cultural understanding, this film is seductively charming in so many ways. (Don't go to the cinema hungry!)
  
Romantic Road
Dir: Oliver McGarvey
Length: 80  mins
© HiGloss  - romantic and treacherous 
journey in an ancient Rolls Royce
Eccentric London lawyer Rupert Grey heads off on a six-month adventure with Jan, his wife of 35 years. (Factoid: Rupert is the great grandson of former British PM Earl Grey, after whom the tea is named.) The couple take Rupert's beloved 1936 Rolls Royce and depart from Mumbai, hoping to arrive in Dakha, Bangladesh for the Chobi Mela photographic festival. This fun and informative documentary highlights English quirkiness at its best. The film is a feast of amazing adventures and perils, as they meet maharajahs, tea-wallahs, curious locals, and much needed car mechanics. As hard as it was for Rupert and Jan, I can only imagine how the camera crew battled all the challenges along the way. The film is also a lovely testament to an enduring relationship and the value of taking time out together to create unforgettable memories. 

Love Sarah
Dir: Eliza Schroeder
Length: 97 mins
© Rialto - cake lovers will be simply 
drooling in this sweet story
Aspiring baker Sarah is killed in a bicycle accident just as she is about to open her shop with best friend Isabella (Shelley Conn). Sarah's daughter Clarissa (Shannon Tarbet) enlists the help of estranged grand mother Mimi (an excellent Celie Imrie) to make the dream a reality. Sarah's old flame Matthew (Rupert Penry Jones) turns up to lend his expert baking hand, and to explore another agenda on his mind. This film is very sweet, very predictable and somewhat formulaic. However, in these fraught times I think it is exactly what the doctor ordered to pick up one's spirits, and make for a salivating distraction that is a celebration of mending estranged families and of female friendships (not to mention of fabulous cakes and diabetes-inducing sugar highs!)

The Taverna
Dir: Alkinos Tsilimidos
Length: 86 mins
To screen at select Palace Cinemas, plus Classic, Lido and Cameo
© Rescued Films - Greeks behaving badly - 
or is everyone up to no good in this entertaining
multi-cultural comedy?
Kostas (Vangelis Mourikis) runs a popular suburban Greek taverna. When belly dancer Jamila (Rachel Kamath) refuses to dance after spotting her ex at a table with his older lover, waitress Sally (Emily O'Brien-Brown) decides to step into the breach. Throw into the mix sleazy groping customers, an impromptu kidnapping, rampaging possums, and Kostas's drug-addict son having an accident, and you have a recipe for an absolutely chaotic night. After directing such serious films as Every Night . . .Every Night and Tom White, Tsilimidos turns his hands to a black comedy inspired by his own Greek/Aussie experiences, and shot at White Village Tavern (round the corner from where I live!) As a Hellenophile, I really relate to the sensibility of this film - Mourikis nails his role, while Turkish actor Senol Mat as chef Omer is a hoot (if totally morally questionable!) Notable too is screen debut of popular singer Emanuela Costaras as  waitress Katerina.

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival
Online 30th June - 15th July 
For ticketing and synopses of films visit: mdff.org.au
Streaming via https://watch.eventive.org/mdff


So, last edition I reviewed four films from this excellent festival which includes Melbourne stories, Aussie stories, international stories, biographies, docos focusing on music and art and way more. MDFF is about to start so make your selections and get into some seriously good doco watching!  


Let's Talk About Sex (75 mins): Your guide to all things sexy is Julia Sloane, who starts off chatting with her parents, and reflecting upon her very conservative upbringing. She then takes audiences on an enlightening and entertaining sex tour. She interviews folks on the street about their attitudes to sex, visits a massage parlour specialising in bondage and discipline, takes us on a tour of a sex toys shop, meets a guy who designs 3D virtual sex experiences, and attends a pole-dancing class. It's all very open and a lot of fun and could possibly revive anyone's flagging sex life. 


The Boys Who Said No (90 mins): People called them draft dodgers, but these young men were the face of youth with conscience,  refusing to be drafted to fight in a war they didn't believe in, the controversial Vietam War. Back in the 1960s America was a hot-bed of protest and social change. This fabulous doco traces that era, with riveting archival footage including activist/singer Joan Baez, Martin Luther King, and the protesters then, along with interviews with them now. It's extraordinarily timely given the upsurge again in protest movements. 


Man on the Bus (83 mins): Melbourne producer/director Eve Ash gets curious about some old home movies after her mother's death. They show an unknown man looking lovingly into the camera, and Eve as a girl playing with a little boy. She starts researching, and what she unearths about her mother's secret life will turn everyone's lives upside down. This is intriguing, shocking, funny in parts, and basically compelling entertainment on an intensely personal scale. I refuse to tell you too much since the film plays out like a good detective story; just know that the fabulous old recreations of the North Rd Brighton bus hold the key to a story that perhaps is not so far removed from many families' skeletons in the closet!


Descent (62 mins): Kiki Bosch is one of the world's only professional ice free-divers - that is, she dives without a wetsuit or scuba kit in the most freezing waters in the world. This has helped her get over debilitating sexual trauma, and has created a determination and resilience seen in few humans. She helps train others to use her techniques for their own self-development. Inspirational, scary and fascinating viewing. (If you missed it at Sydney FF, here's another chance!) 


The World's Best Film (89 mins): At age 24, aspiring film-maker Joshua Belinfante was told he didn't have long to live, thanks to a massive tumour. After his recovery he set off to visit 10 countries over 5 years, meeting 13 individuals all over the world, each one of whom is "the best" at whatever they do. So we meet people who are "the best" at dog sitting, cigarette bumming, being a granddad, running London toilet tours and much more. Whether these people are or are not the best is irrelevant; ultimately the film is an affirmation of life, self esteem and the philosophy that you can do whatever you want if you really set your mind to it, as the director has proven with his sweet and uplifting film.