Wednesday, 21 March 2018

March 22
Mary Magdalene
Divine Order
Pecking Order
The Endless

Easter is nearly here so what better time to bring out another Jesus story. This week sees the release of Mary Magdalene in the mainstream department, along with two excellent Nova exclusives and a film from a land that doesn't seem to send many films down under - Switzerland.  

Mary Magdalene
Director: Garth Davis
Length: 120 min
© Transmission - revisiting of the one of the world's
best known  stories from a feminist perspective
The ubiquitous Rooney Mara plays Mary Magdalene, in a new slant on the Jesus story. Mary leaves her family to join a group of disciples who follow Jesus (Joachim Phoenix), a charismatic rabbi who is preaching and fomenting uprising against the ruling Roman Empire. This is an intriguing perspective on how life may have been amongst the poor folk of the Jewish community as against the money-grabbing doyens of the Synagogue.  Cinematography is impressive, and nothing is made too glossy (except for Mary, who always looks too clean and freshly scrubbed). The story starts languidly in Mary's village, then moves along at a cracking pace, with big jumps in the timeline, making it occasionally feel fragmented.  Phoenix gives quite a different (but strong) take on the outspoken Jesus, but Mary, although almost an early feminist, indulges in too many longing looks. It's a mixed bag, but nevertheless I find it beautiful to look at, and engaging viewing, despite having no idea of its theological accuracy.
3 - recommended!

The Endless
Director: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
Length: 111 min
Exclusive to Cinema Nova

© Umbrella - eery, mind-bending and unusual. 
Brothers Justin and Aaron (played by the directors) live impoverished lives in LA after leaving Camp Arcadia, home to what Justin calls a "UFO death cult" where they spent their young years after their mother's death. After receiving a strange videotape, they decide to revisit the place, believing that all the members may have staged a mass suicide. But they find life going on much as they remembered it, with friendly welcoming people who seem not to have aged. But there is a pervasive edge of unease and soon things get creepy with happenings defying the natural laws of time and nature. The brothers realise they are at risk of getting caught up permanently in a strange time loop. Sound weird? Sure is!! This is low-budget but intense, disturbing and highly imaginative film-making. The Endless challenges the brain, captures the imagination and should especially appeal to fans of a genre that is somewhere between horror and sci-fi.
4 - highly recommended!

The Divine Order
Director: Petra Biondina Volpe
Length: 96 min
© Rialto - Nora goes in to bat for women 
getting the vote In Switzerland
Switzerland in the early 1970s: women still do not have voting rights - aghast!! Nora (Marie Leuenberger) is a wife and mother who gets involved with the burgeoning women's movement, fighting for a right that most women around the world already have. That this is based on truth is compelling, and the subject matter of oppression, women fighting for their rights, and ever-present misogyny is always relevant in today's world. But something about the film's uninspired directing style, large time leaps and bland characterisations takes away from its potential impact. The very subject matter should have given rise to a far more powerful film and the ending is too sudden and too neat. Leuenberger is fine as the timid Nora with a good balance between strength and self-effacement. The film HAS won quite a few awards at various festivals, including being Switzerland's entry for Best Foreign Film in this year's Oscars. Ultimately though it doesn't linger long in my memory.
2.5 - maybe!

Pecking Order
Director: Slavko Martinov
Length: 90 min
Eggsclusive to Cinema Nova
© Vendetta - Brian shows off
a favourite Barred Plymouth
The Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon Club is the subject matter for this unexpectedly delightful and quirky doco. In the lead-up to the National Championships we meet a variety of club members, all fanatical about their birds, but many with their own feathers ruffled as to the running of the club. We follow the battle for club president, with die-hard traditionalist Doug not wanting to cede power to the younger Rhys. Meantime chook fanciers of all ages  work tirelessly to get their birds ready for the big day. It's quite an eye-opener for the uninitiated to see how much love, washing, and blowdrying go into the preparations. Many of the characters border on the seriously eccentric, while the variety of breeds of feathered friends is impressive. All in all, the doco is great fun and  simply chookalicious!
3.5 - well recommended!

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