Wednesday, 24 January 2018

January 25
I, Tonya
Sweet Country
Faces Places

Do the great films ever stop rolling onto our screens? A biopic with a difference, an indigenous tragedy, and a sweet-hearted road-trip doco all offer viewers something special this week. 
I, Tonya
Director: Craig Gillespie
Length: 121 min
© Roadshow - Margot Robbie nails it as 
controversial figure skater Tonya Harding

This is the (maybe) true story of Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie), an American figure skater, and the first woman ever to land a triple axel (a highly difficult skating manoeuvre). She is more famous for the controversy and media frenzy that ensued when her rival, Nancy Kerrigan, had her knee bashed by an unknown assailant, just before a championship event. The film has an opening title card saying it is “based on irony-free, wildly contradictory, totally true interviews with Tonya Harding and Jeff Gilloolly". The facts are that everyone seemed to have a different version of who was really guilty of planning and executing the crime, but the upshot was that Tonya's career was ultimately ruined. This film has masterfully combined humour, personal drama, and the best ice-skating imaginable (some of it digitally recreated). The unusual device of having the characters alternately interviewed, then addressing the audience, then recreating the events in the film's various time frames makes for dynamic viewing. The acting is universally brilliant. Robbie encapsulates the trailer trash aspect of Tonya, without losing empathy, while Sebastian Stan, as her violent husband Jeff is perfect. As for Alison Janney playing Margot's abusive mother - you really have to see this performance to believe it! The film is both a brilliant retelling of a story just made for the media, who love to elevate then demonise their subjects, as well as a personally tragic tale of a woman too often condemned for her dubious background rather than assessed on her prodigious talent. 
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended!

Sweet Country
Director: Warwick Thornton
Length: 110 min
© Transmission - already much awarded, this film is 
gripping, top-class viewing 
Central Australia 1929 is a harsh place. White farmers battle the unforgiving outback, and Aboriginal workers are akin to slaves. Prejudice and violence are rife. Missionary farmer Fred Smith (Sam Neill) is asked by his neighbour Harry March (Ewen Leslie) to borrow his Aboriginal stockman Sam for a day's work. Sam takes his wife Lizzie and his niece along. Meantime, young lad Philomac has been chained up by March and escapes. What ensues will ultimately lead to the killing of a white man by a black man. Sgt Fletcher (Bryan Brown) with the help of Aboriginal tracker Archie and local farmer Mick Kennedy give chase.  Inspired by true events, this is yet another salutary view, through the genre of an outback Western, into the tragic history of our Indigenous people. The whole issue of justice, as represented by the trial presided over by Judge Taylor (Matt Day), is ultimately a hollow sham. Thornton is a masterful director and cinematographer. The beauty and terror of the outback are magnificently portrayed, and every detail of costumes and set are near perfection. Employing local Arrente people Hamilton Morris, Natassian Gorey Furber, Gibson John and twins Tremayne & Trevon Doolan to play Sam, Lizzie, Archie and Philomac is a stroke of casting genius and sends the authenticity quotient through the roof. When Fred, at the film's conclusion, mutters about lack of hope for the country, we are reminded that there is still a huge gulf between black and white Australia. 
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended!

Faces Places (Visages, Villages)
Director: Agnes Varda and JR
Length: 89 min
ACMI Jan 19 - Mar 3
Cinema Nova
© Madman - photographic street art features
large in a charming doco
Legendary French film director Agnes Varda is 89 years old. Together with 33 year old photographer and muralist JR (his name as obscure as his face, constantly shrouded in dark sunglasses) they take a road trip through French villages, interviewing ordinary people, taking photos and creating photographic prints of epic proportion. Agnes and JR then display the photos prominently on storefronts, trains, barns, water towers - in fact anywhere that will honor the local folk who are the subjects. In some locations, like the seafront, the displays are washed away by the next day's tide. In this charming and playful doco we meet coal miners, dock workers and their wives, goat farmers, and many other everyday French people who are all chuffed to be honored in this way. This is a lovely homage to ordinariness, creativity, the ephemerality of art, and a tender friendship that crosses the age barrier.
3.5 - well recommended!

No comments:

Post a Comment