Tuesday, 24 April 2018

April 25
Last Flag Flying
Indonesian Film Festival

Films release early this week thanks to Anzac Day. And yes, another Festival starts tomorrow. All three films this week get my big score of 4 and above, so get on down to your local cinema and start watching! (I know Gurrumul starts this week, but I'll be catching it in a day or so and bringing my review to you next week.) 

Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Length: 128 min
© Palace - harrowing but stunningly
executed. My heart breaks for the boy.
Zhenya and Boris are in a loveless marriage. With divorce proceedings underway, and each with another lover waiting in the wings, they are eager to get on with a new life. Life at home is ugly - vicious fights and abusive yelling. Worst of all, neither seems to want custody of their 11-year-old son Alyosha, who overhears all that's going on. Then Alyosha goes missing. This is visceral, incisive story-telling. The carelessness with which the parents treat each other, their son, and even the new people in their lives is shocking. Their selfishness and disregard for others is monumental.  Mobile phones seem to replace real interaction. Russian society as a whole isn't much better, the film implies. Volunteers who search for the boy use that purposeful good deed as a means to counter the alienation all around them. Everything about the director's attention to detail is near flawless while the award-winning cinematography evokes an austere, bleak and demoralising world. The lead actors are all superb, while early scenes of the young Alyosha sobbing his heart out are so realistic as to be almost unbearable. Winner of the Cannes 2017 Jury Prize and numerous other awards, this is an emotionally draining but brilliant movie that should be a wake-up call to people drowning in the self-absorption of modern life, at the expense of their close relationships.
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended!

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Length: 98 min
© Fox - another disturbing film!  You may find your
jaw sore from clenching through the anger and tension.
Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) moves from her home city of Boston to Pennsylvania to escape a stalker. Still traumatised, she seeks counselling, then signs some "routine paperwork" in which she unwittingly commits herself to a 24-hour stay in a psychiatric hospital for clinical observation. Unable to get herself released, things deteriorate as she catches a glimpse of medical orderly David (Joshua Leonard), who she believes is her stalker. From here on, the less said, the better! Foy is remarkable in her role, walking the fine line between calm and violence, making us question what is real, while being a timely reminder of the ever-present threat of stalking for women. Leonard is mega-creepy as David, while the characters of fellow inmates Violet and Nate add to the depth and convolutions of the excellent plot. No doubt some critics will reference this film against others in the genre of "madhouse thrillers". You know I don't work this way, wishing to assess films as they stand on their own two feet. And how tall this one stands - a thrilling, unnerving, terrifying, claustrophobic ride that feels so authentic you may never contemplate going  near mental health advice again!
4 - highly recommended! (with a warning for those with phobias about mental institutions)

Last Flag Flying
Director: Richard Linklater
Length: 122 min
© Transmission - warm, funny, moving - 
three top actors in a great film of the legacy of war
I've always loved director Linklater (think Boyhood, Before Midnight). He has a knack for writing dialogue that is so real, you think you're talking with the characters. Teaming with the writer of the book on which the movie is based, he creates a moving, funny, ultimately uplifting film. Marine Sal (Bryan Cranston), army medic Doc (Steve Carrell) and Reverend Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) all served together in the Vietnam war 30 years prior. Now they meet up again in 2003 when Doc tracks them down and asks them to accompany him on a journey to Arlington to bury his son, who has  been killed in the Iraq War. What evolves is a road trip of reconnection, recollection, joy and tears. The naysayers are implying this is a bland mainstream road movie. I see it as a glorious showcase for three titans of Hollywood acting to inhabit their characters in a way that leaps off the screen. Carrell proves again the power of his dramatic acting. Fishburne is superb as he loses his  pompous aging stuffshirt minister persona to revisit his younger self. Cranston's performance is flawless - he plays a seemingly tough guy who drinks too much, jokes around, but is also compassionate and a stickler for the truth. For me he's one of the best actors around today. Though there are the expected moments of American sentiment, there are also criticisms of  US military policy, making it ultimately quite an anti-war film.
4 - highly recommended! 

13th Indonesian Film Festival
26th April - 2 May
For folks who think of Indonesia merely as a Balinese holiday destination, here's a chance to get a deeper insight into the country's history, culture and film.
Over the week, six diverse films will screen, each with a Q&A session featuring film-makers and hosted by film critic Peter Krausz. 
Films include a couple of innovative horrors, a doco exploring the spice trade, a feminist drama on vengeance and redemption, a much-awarded coming-of-age drama, and a closing night screening of a restored 1954 Indonesian classic. 
For more information on the films and times, visit:  
Indonesian Film Festival: http://iffaustralia.com
ACMI: www.acmi.net.au/events/13thindonesian-film-festival/

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