Wednesday, 15 March 2017

March 16 2017:  
The Death and Life of Otto Bloom
Melbourne Queer Film Festival
The Eagle Huntress

More major entertainment is to be had this week.  The important civil rights historical drama Loving is a winner, Otto Bloom a mind-bending challenge, The Eagle Huntress takes you to the Mongolian steppes, and the Melbourne Queer Film Festival brings you the best from LGBTIQ film-makers worldwide. 

Director: Jeff Nichols
Length: 123 min
© Eone - an inspiring film about a love that 
managed to change the US constitution
In 1958, Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, a colored woman, were expecting a child. Unable to wed in their home state of Virginia, they tied the knot in Washington DC, then returned home where they were promptly arrested for miscegenation. The harrowing legal battle they fought up until 1967 was ultimately a major victory for the Civil Rights Movement. This beautifully understated film deals with its dramatic subject matter in a way that brings home the human element, as against focussing too much on the legalities of the case. Joel Edgerton gives one of his finest performances to date (why on earth he was overlooked for a Best Actor I'll never know), while Ruth Negga as his gently spoken but resolute wife is a revelation. I loved Loving!
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended!

The Death and Life of Otto Bloom
Director: Cris Jones
Length: 84 min
Exclusive to Cinema Nova
© Optimism Films- a time travelling conundrum to 
addle your brain!
I saw this at MIFF's opening night last year, and simply had to revisit it to see if I could make any more sense out of its central premise - namely a man experiencing time backwards. He moves through time and ages normally, but his memories are only of the future; of what has already been. I simply cannot get my head around such timewarp stuff. Nevertheless this is an intriguing entertainment, presented in the form of a faux-documentary. Various friends of Otto speak to camera with their memories - describing Bloom as a messiah, a genius, an artist, a recluse, while each "chapter" of the film tracks a different part of Otto's life as he rises to celebrity status then plummets to fallen idol. (Plenty of underhand digs at the media here!) A central theme plays with Einstein's theory of relativity and the idea that all moments in time have always existed simultaneously and always will.  The "live in the moment" mantra is also stressed! Xavier Samuel is excellent in the lead role, and especially noteworthy are Rachel Ward as the adult Ada who reflects upon her love affair with Otto, and her real life daughter Matilda Brown playing the young Ada. Despite having some unfathomable plot paradoxes, this is a lot of fun, and will leave you mulling for days afterwards.  
3 - recommended!

Melbourne Queer Film Festival
March 16-27

Once again top queer films from around the world, both documentary and feature, are coming to the big screen. Among them are the Teddy-award winning films Kiki and Paris 05:59 Theo & Hugo (Teddy is given to the best LGBT films at the Berlin Film Festival). This is a glorious film festival with something for everyone, regardless of your sexual orientation! I've managed to preview a few. Check out the website (above) to make your selections. 

Out of Iraq: How could anyone find the love of their life in the midst of war-torn Iraq? This sweet and inspirational doco about the unwavering passionate love affair between two Iraqi soldiers shows us how. Along with being incredibly and almost naively romantic, this story is a timely one for today, when brave individuals and countries are standing up for refugees' rights. (Note: Oscar-winning Aussie director Eva Orner, who directed the excellent Seeking Asylum, is at the helm here.) 

Below Her Mouth: This is a very hot lesbian film that absolutely sizzles with sexual attraction. Jasmine, soon to be married, meets Dallas, a roofing tradie, and the two embark upon a passionate affair which ultimately forces Jasmine to decide where her preferences lie. 

Being 17: Also showing at the French Film Festival, this is a sensitive story of two schoolboys who start as enemies, but slowly develop a closeness. Add in themes of family alienation, death, adoption, self esteem, along with a stunning Pyrenees mountain setting, and you have a winner from acclaimed director Andre Techine.   

Memories of a Penitent Heart: Revealing hidden truths can be both a liberating and educational experience. So it is with this fine doco on the life and death of Miguel Aldarondo who was brought up in an extreme Christian society where it was commonplace to make “deals” with God to heal sicknesses of loved ones and yet ostracize, in the name of that same God, anyone whose sexual preference was different. Within this devout family were those living a lie while Miguel lived and loved honestly. I applaud the filmmaker, niece of Miguel, for bringing the truth to light  and allowing those left to have some closure through the grieving and healing process. (4 stars from guest reviewer Peter Levy)

Fursonas: This is a fascinating topic - folk who dress up in big furry animal suits and go to special conventions for like minded "furries". Unfortunately it is done in a fairly dreary film-making style which doesn't show the subject matter to best advantage and concentrates too much on the in-fighting within the group rather than what motivates folks to get into it. 

The Eagle Huntress
Director: Otto Bell
Length: 89 min
© Sony- traditional culture, female empowerment and 
a great father daughter story
Aisholpan, a 13-year-old Mongolian girl, is trained by her father to become an eagle hunter, a role traditionally only occupied by men. This documentary has created controversy as to whether it really is a doco, or whether it has been scripted and re-enacted. Regardless, it doesn't detract from the enjoyment of a visually exquisite film, shot in the wilds of the Mongolian mountains. It could easily have been a TV documentary, but seeing it on the big screen is mighty impressive. It's wonderful, as always, to see a female protagonist overcome patriarchal oppression, and the father-daughter relationship is beautifully depicted. Despite moments that feel too good to be true, this is a sweet yet strong story that also gives great insight into a culture that is possibly at risk of dying out. 
3.5 - recommended!

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