Wednesday, 15 March 2023

March 16th 2023

Portrait of the Queen
The Elephant Whisperers (streaming on Netflix) 
More from Alliance Francaise French Film Festival

This week is very British, plus a bit French and a little Indian. From the Queen, to bowler hats, to elephants to cathedrals on fire - there are some super films to be had. 

Dir: Oliver Hermanus
Length: 102 mins
© Transmission - Nighy brings a career-best
perf to Mr Williams
London 1953: Mr Williams (Bill Nighy) is doing a bureaucratic desk job at the Public Works Department. He's a pretty dull guy - reserved, unsmiling, efficient, chained to his dull life and dull routine. But then the doctor diagnoses terminal cancer and gives him six months to live. He plans to take his life, but instead decides to live little. He meets a writer Mr Sutherland (Tom Burke) who takes him for a night on the town. Returning to London he runs into co-worker Miss Harris (Aimee Lou Wood), and begins to spend time with her, delighting in her youth and cheery disposition. Meanwhile at the Public Works department, a petition by local women for a playground has been shelved for months, and Williams decides to make it his mission to push for it to go through. If this sounds too low-key for you, think again. It is dealing with life's most vital issues, life and death, how to leave a mark on the world and how to spend your remaining days. And it is all done is such a quiet unostentatious way. What a shame Nighy didn't win best actor for his sublimely delicate and understated performance. Based upon the Japanese film Ikuru (directed by Kurosawa), this British version of the story with its bowler-hatted public servants and beautiful soundtrack will haunt you long after it is over. (Take plenty of tissues!) 
4 - highly recommended

Portrait of the Queen
Dir: Fabrizio Ferri
Length: 95 mins
© Transmission - not your average Royal film -
a great window into the world of photography and 
how it portrayed Queen Elizabeth
Charles Dance narrates this wonderful documentary, in which renowned photographers who have been tasked with shooting the Royal Family, especially Queen Elizabeth II, discuss what it meant to them, how they did it, and what is takes to get a great image. On one level this is an outline of the Queen's life as seen through decades of world famous, iconic and well recognised photographs, but it is something deeper - those candid and intimate moments that the world's best photographers managed to capture show another side of a woman much loved, but often at a distance. Technical revelations are important too; discussions of lighting and anecdotes of how certain shots were got. And then there are the many people, from famous faces to folks in the street, who also talk about how they perceive (and love) Her Majesty. Royal buffs and photography buffs should definitely catch this one.
4 - highly recommended

Alliance Francaise French Film Festival ...more
Continuing until April 5
Melbourne Palace cinemas
For all information on films, times, tickets, visit

Notre Dame on Fire (Notre Dame Brule)
Much-awarded director Jean Jacques Annaud (Name of the Rose, Seven Years in Tibet, The Bear to name a few) helms this thrilling retelling of the blaze that we all watched in shock on TV in 2019, when the iconic cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris caught fire. Testament to how well this film is done is that, even though we know the outcome, Annaud makes it gripping from go to whoa. Cleverly he opens with a standard day: the tourists are there en masse, folks from all around the world. After what is interpreted as a false alarm for fire, suddenly it is tourists who spot smoke and alert the world via social media, then it is panic stations and a race against time.Trying to get fire trucks and teams through the gridlocked streets, then having water pressure problems, makes it hell for the fire department. The bravery of the fire-fighting personnel is front and centre. The race to save the cathedral's art  treasures is heart-stopping. The clever intercutting of real footage with the reenactments of nightmarish conditions up in the heights of the cathedral is breathtakingly tense. There is a surprising hit of emotion too, as Parisians gather in the streets to sing hymns and support the fire-fighting effort. Real life turned into a gripping thriller. 
Another of my faves so far in the Festival

The Elephant Whisperers
Dir: Kartiki Gonsalves
Length: 41 mins
Streaming on Netflix
© Netflix - a story to melt your heart
This small gem has just won the Academy Award for Short 
Documentary. It is sweet and cute - so sweet and cute it makes you cry. Filmed in the south of India it deals with Bomman and his wife Bellie who are tasked with caring for an orphaned sick elephant, Raghu. They nurse the calf back to health and raise it almost as their child. Then baby elephant Ammu joins the family. As an insight into the nature of elephants this is eye-opening, and as a homage to people's love and care for animals it is inspirational. Cinematographically speaking, it is beautifully shot, with a lovely window into that part of India.
4 - wholeheartedly recommended

Saturday, 11 March 2023

 March 11th 2023

To Leslie
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
Alliance Francaise French Film Festival - two more reviews 

More excellent films are released this week, with another two recommendations from the ongoing French Film Festival. 

Dir: Chinonye Chukwu
© Universal - hatred and racism in America's south
in the 1950s
Fiercely loving mother Mamie (Danielle Deadwyler) reluctantly sees off her only child Emmett (Jalyn Hall) to have a holiday with his cousins in Mississippi in 1955. Trouble is, Emmett has grown up in Chicago and knows nothing of how colored people are expected to behave in the deep south. The fourteen-year-old boy behaves inappropriately towards a white woman, and is brutally beaten and lynched by hate-filled racist locals. The true story of Till focuses not only upon the murder, but also Mamie's bravery in going to court to testify,  hoping to get a conviction for the white murderers. (Mamie later became heavily involved in the Civil Rights movement in America.) This film concentrates, however, upon loss, grief and courage, seeing the story through the powerful lens of a mother's love and what she is prepared to do to fight for justice for her child. Deadwyler's performance is so impressive it almost steals the entire film, while her many awards prove it's a travesty that she's not up for an Oscar nomination this year. There is so much grief and emotion in this film, that too is overwhelming. Period recreation is excellent, accompanying sountrack evocative, the cast universally strong, but at times the style seems a little self-conscious and laboured with the extreme close-ups, especially of the murdered child. However, the subject matter remains ever relevant, and the film is yet another fine addition to the history of the fight for racial equality.   
3.5 - well recommended

To Leslie
Dir: Michael Morris
Length: 119 mins
© Kismet - how to squander a large sum - addiction 
and the possiblity of redemption
Based on a true story, the film follows Leslie (Andrea Riseborough), a West Texas single mum, who wins the lottery. But within six years she has squandered it all on booze and drugs, and is now virtually homeless. Reconnecting with her estranged, now adult son James (Owen Teague), she is offered a place to live on the condition she doesn't drink, but she both drinks and steals. So she is shunted along to an old friend Nancy (Alison Janney) who also gets fed up with her. Sleeping on the street, she is found by motel owner Sweeney (Marc Marron) who impulsively offers her a job in exchange for board. Can this hopelessly addicted woman turn her life around? Riseborough is up for an Oscar, and deservedly so. She took me on an arc of loathing of the manipulative, lying Leslie through to actually having compassion for her as the story moves on. Marron is memorable  for the kindness he brings to the character of Sweeney while Janney's Nancy brings some unexpected contrition to the later scenes. Pretty much most of the film feels gritty and authentic, with a real country and western feel to it, despite the ending feeling a bit too pat. 
4 - highly recommended

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
Dir: Laura Poitras
Length: 122 mins
© Madman - talent, activism, drug addiction - 
a potent combination 
Nan Goldin is a renowned photographer and activist. She lived a fairly Bohemian and wild life during the 70s and 80s, then years later, after an injury was prescribed Oxycontin for pain. She became addicted to opioids, nearly died from an overdose and founded the group PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now). This doco chronicles her work with the group, using activism to bring to account the wealthy pharmaceutical family Sackler, who were responsible for creating and promoting Oxycontin, despite knowng its potential for addiction. Constructed in chapters, the film juxtaposes periods of Nan's life plus her photography, with current work by the group and the progress of their protest efforts, with a major focus upon having famous museums remove the name Sackler from many of their collections. There is so much content in this film it's almost too much. Both themes are so worthy, there could well have been two films, one focusing upon the artistic life of Nan Goldin, the other upon the opioid crisis. For me it becasme too jumbled in together. But that's only me because it was awarded a Golden Lion at Venice 2022 and is up for a Best Documentary in the forthcoming Oscars.  
3.5 - well recommended

Alliance Francaise French Film Festival
March 8 - April 5
Melbourne Palace cinemas
For all information on films, times, tickets, visit
Yes, it really starts this week! You've had the chance to take up some of my advance recommendations from last week, and here are another two, with more to come! (For lovers of intimate personal drama, One Fine Morning borders on unmissable.)
November: Another film dealing with the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015. This time it's not from the perspective of victims (as in Paris Memories), but from that of the investigators in the anti-terrorist squad. Jean Dujardin plays lead investigator Fred, who, along with Heloise (Sandrine Kiberlain) are up against the clock to find the perpetrators and prevent another attack. This is pulsating and suspenseful film making, setting a cracking pace, and though at times we don't quite know who is who (so many undercover operatives), there's barely a moment to catch one's breath.
One Fine Morning
(Un Beau Matin): Lea Seydoux plays Sandra, a single mother juggling her life between her child, her work, her aging father Georg (Pascal Gregory) and finally a passionate love affair with a married man, Clement (Melvil Poupard). Without a doubt this is one of the most sensitive and moving films I've seen in a long, long while. Seydoux is poignantly heart-breaking as a woman who exudes love, compassion, sadness and resilience. Everything here feels 100% authentic, and horrifically close to home for those who have known the pain of loving an unavailable partner, or of trying to decide what's best for an ailing parent. 

Wednesday, 1 March 2023

March 2nd 2023

Empire of Light
Creed III
Weird: The Al Yankovic story - streaming on Paramount+
Alliance Francaise French Film Festival - five reviewed in advance
Oscar nominated Animated Short Films and Live Action Short Films

It's a bumper week. I'm breaking with tradition: the French Film Festival starts next week on March 8th. Instead of reviewing the offerings then, I'll review a few a week early to give you a chance to mull over which films you may like to book advance tickets for. Plus of course the regular new releases and a fun streaming film.    

Empire of Light
Dir: Sam Mendes
Length: 115 mins
© Searchlight - Colman is impressive, as always

Hilary (Olivia Colman) is working at a magnificent but fading art deco cinema in the south of England. When Steven (Micheal Ward) joins the  staff, the two form a most unexpected bond. He is black, hoping to get into architecture studies, and feels always judged by his skin color. She
has recently come out of a stint in a psychiatric institution and her mental health is fragile. Furthermore, her boss (Colin Firth) is always making harassing sexual moves on her.  Here is yet another film that has divided the critics big-time. I believe the nay-sayers have certain valid points. Yes, the discrepancy in age between Hilary and Steven is possibly not totally credible and yes, there are important under-explored themes intertwined with the spring/autumn love affair (rising racial tension in 80s England, and the meaning of film in people's lives). But there is something so essentially engaging and human about the characters in this film, and the way they interact. Especially Steven who is multi-faceted and kind, wise beyond his years. Hilary, despite her mental illness and prickliness is given a truth by Colman; her command of the arc of emotions is breath-taking. Toby Jones is also notable as the passionate projectionist, Norman. And the look of the film! Acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins is deservedly nominated for an Academy Award this year. It is a film that works really well as a homage to the cinematic experience and to the importance of human connection in all our lives.
4 - highly recommended

Dir: Lukas Dhont
Length: 104 mins
© Madman - beautiful boys and a beautiful 
friendship in this heart-wrenching story
Leo (Eden Dambrine) and Remi (Gustave de Waele) are thirteen-year-old best friends, devoted, inseparable and close with each other's families. They are caught somewhere between childhood and growing up. But when they start life at a new school, other children cast aspersions, and Leo finds himself uncomfortable with being seen in this light. His relationship with Remi starts to fracture. I don't want to say more about the plot, except that it involves tragedy, loss of innocence, forgiveness and the meaning of love in its purest form. This Belgian film is remarkable in many ways. For a director to elicit such sublime performances from two young actors is awe-inspiring. The intensely close-up shots of characters' faces keeps the emotion at a heightened level, with the audience able to imagine every nuance of thought. The lead boys are admirably supported by the many other naturalistic performances from all the kids, and standout turns from Lea Drucker as Nathalie, Leo's mother, and Emelie Dequenne as Sophie, Remi's mother. Dhont is a truly talented film-maker who has made an exquisitely beautiful film worthy of its Best International Feature Film nomination at this year's Oscars. 
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended

Creed III
Dir: Michael B Jordan
Length: 116 mins
© Universal - the boxing champ is facing some
serious challenges out of the ring
Adonis Creed (Michael B Jordan) is some three years out of the boxing ring. He runs a successful training gym, organises top level prize fights and 
has a happy family life. Then someone from his past, Damian (Jonathan Majors), resurfaces after 18 years in prison. This hulking, one-time boxing hopeful wants a shot at a title fight, but his real agenda is to settle a score with Creed. I'm not the ideal person to review boxing films, having a visceral dislike of the sport. That said, there is some good interpersonal drama here, with especially strong tension created between Creed and Damian. Creed's family life is appealing, especially with his feisty little hearing-impaired daughter. The fight scenes are well shot and choreographed with some interesting visual metaphors used in the final big scene. But the logic in me really feels critical of many finer points - how could boxers emerge from such gruelling bouts with so little facial damage, so little blood on their clothes, and still able to walk easily? And why does the plot feel so predictable with so many well-used tropes? That said, I was reasonably entertained, and Jordan is easy on the eye. I have to 'fess up that many other critics are very positive towards this film and concede it will no doubt be a major crowd pleaser for a particular demographic.     
3 - recommended for the fans, a maybe for all others

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
Dir: Eric Appel
Length: 108 mins
Streaming on Paramount+
© Roku/Paramount + - Radcliffe is almost
unrecognisable in this wildly crazy movie
Weird is definitely the word here! So is FUN! This zany film is at once a semi-truthful biopic of the singer Weird Al Yankovic, but  it's also a spoof on his life and work. For those who don't know, Weird Al used to write parodies of well-known songs back in the 80s; his lyrics were both clever and hilarious. Daniel Radcliffe has come a long way from Harry Potter, and he is simply perfect as Weird Al, combining a boyish seriousness with a quasi-lunacy, that just gets wilder as the movie progresses. The plot thread that has Evan Rachel Wood playing Madonna, Weird Al's supposed girlfriend, is a total hoot, while the lampooning of the recording industry also provides some winning scenes. Possibly the less said the better, except to add that some very famous people get their faces into this film. 
4 - highly recommended

Alliance Francaise French Film Festival
Opening next week in Melbourne and running March 8 - April 5
Melbourne Palace cinemas
For all information on other states, films, times, tickets, visit
As always, France's top films come to the festival, with something to please every taste in film. And for fans of The Big Blue, the 1988 classic, there is a beautifully restored version to be enjoyed. As usual, I'm lucky to preview a selection to help you in making some choices, and hope to bring you more as the festival progresses. 
Paris Memories (Revoir Paris)
: In November 2015 a series of coordinated terrorist attacks took place in Paris. We heard a lot in Australia about the stand-off in the Bataclan theatre, but several other attacks took place in restaurants and cafes. This film deals with two fictional victims, Mia (Virginie Efira) and Thomas (Benoit Magimel), who lock eyes across a crowded cafe just before a shooter comes in. Mia manages to hide in a closet with a cafe staff member, while Thomas is severely injured in his leg. The pair later meet and try to come to terms with what happened and the drastic ramifications for their lives. Efira's moving performance is the centrepiece of this exceptionally powerful story, which toggles across timelines, between the actual events and Mia's struggles to even regain memory of what happened, and to track down the man with whom she hid in the closet. The film moves in a beautiful arc from sadness and despair, to hope and renewal. This is my top pick so far.

The Colors of Fire (Coleurs de L'incendie)
: Set in 1927 this historical drama follows Madeleine Pericourt (Lea Drucker), who inherits everything from her financier father, only to lose it to a selection of scheming friends and relatives. The film is certainly a most handsome period piece, with well-earned Cesar nominations for production design and costuming. The story is definitely one for lovers of traditional narrative arcs - it weaves a terrific plot, in which Madeleine, with the help of her one-time chauffeur Mnsr Dupre (Clovis Cornillac), devises a cunning scheme that she hopes will get her revenge. A welcome appearance by veteran actor Fanny Ardant as an opera singer adds an intriguing layer, involving Madeleine's crippled son Paul and his relationship to said singer. Fine, solid, almost old-fashioned story telling with plenty to entertain viewers. 

Final Cut
 (Coupez!) From the director of the award winning The Artist comes this insane comedy/horror which is actually a remake of the 2017 Japanese cult film One Cut of the Dead. The first half hour is nothing short of a gore fest, which features buckets of blood, severed heads, axe-wielding crew members and a lot of screaming.  But we then discover this is actually a film about shooting a film, in which 
down-on-his-luck Remi (the wonderful Romain Duris) plays the hapless director. It seems by shooting this story, an ancient curse has been reawakened, bringing zombies to life. (Sounds convoluted? Sure is!) Whether you see it as very funny or very silly will depend upon your sense of humour, but Duris and the rest of the cast give it all they've got. 

Ride Above
(Tempete) Zoe has grown up with horses - her dad trains trotters. But when she is seriously injured by one of the animals she withdraws from life and her family. To add to the woes, the business is going downhill fast. Seb, one of the horse trainers, devises a plan that hopefully will bring Zoe back to them all. Melanie Laurent plays Zoe's mum, in one of her best performances yet, while Danny Glover stars as an American with vested interests in the French stud farm. Carmen Kassovitz plays the teenage Zoe with spirit, Pio Marmai captures the paternal bond with his daughter beautifully, and Kacey Mottet Klein is a stand-out as Seb. The whole family can go to this film, but be warned - get the tissues out! 

Sugar and Stars (A la Belle Etoile): What's a film festival without a foodie film? This one is based upon the true story of a young man Yazid, born in Epernay France, of Arab/ Muslim parentage. Due to his mother's problems, h
e was brought up with a foster family, and always wanted to be a pastry chef. This feel-good film traces his journey, from apprentice in a fancy hotel through to aiming for the French team in the World Pastry Championships. (who knew there was one!) The film follows a very traditional narrative arc, but Algerian influencer Riadh Belaiche plays Yazid so well, he breathes a lot of life and passion into a story of downtrodden kid makes good. 
The festival is, as always, highly recommended. 

Oscar nominated short films and
short documentaries
In cinemas nationally first two weekends in March. 
March 3,4,5 and 10, 11,12
Venues: Cameo, Classic, Lido, Village (Rivoli, Jam Factory, Knox, Southland) Nova, Thornbury
Here's a chance we rarely get: to preview the films nominated for an Academy Award in the categories Short Films (Animated) and Short Films (Live Action). What I love about short film is the ability of the film-makers to cram so much plot and so many themes into such a short run-time. Catching them is an opportunity not to be missed. 
Live Action Shorts:
An Irish GoodbyeTwo brothers try to fulfil their dead mother's list of 100 things she wanted to do before she died. 
Night Ride - a short-statured woman takes a tram for a joyride, but when louts start a brawl with a trans woman they get more than they bargained for from the "driver".
Ivalu - a young Inuit girl finds her big sister missing one morning, and reflects upon abuse within the family
The Red Suitcase: A 16-year-old girl is sent from an Arab country to France to be married off to an older man. Poignant and disturbing
Le Pupille: Slick, vaguely amusing tale set at Christmas time in a Catholic orphanage during WW2. 
Animated Shorts
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse: Based upon a children's book, the eponymous characters cover everything important about life, love, friendship and more in this exquisite and moving animation. Going to the program is worth it for this one alone.
An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe it: A Trumanesque animation about life being a digital construct. 
My Year of DicksA teen is on a quest to lose her virginity. Creative use of differing animation styles. 
Ice Merchants: a minimalist sketch animation that manages to encapsulate big issues like global warming, parental love, and death
The Flying Sailor: Based upon true story of a dockside explosion and a sailor who flew through the air, and landed unharmed. 
4 - highly recommended

Wednesday, 22 February 2023

 February 23rd 2023

Cocaine Bear
Knowing the Score
Georgetown (streaming on Netflix)

This weeks brings a hugely varied grab-bag of films, from mainstream bear-on-the-rampage lunacy, to a doco on being a conductor, to gay romance, to a sublime father/daughter relationship story. And for the stay-at-homes, another good Netflix offering. 
Dir: Charlotte Wells
Length: 102 mins
© Kismet - so understated and so beautiful -
a father daughter story  to impress
So subtle and delicate, this tiny slice of real life is a remarkable film that is so much more than it appears on the surface. Calum (Paul Mescal) is separated from the mother of his 11-year-old daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio). The father and daughter go on a holiday to a modest resort on Turkey, just to hang out, make some memories and bond together. Not a lot happens, but it is all about what we don't explicitly see. Sophie, somewhere between childhood and teen years, loves her father but is also vaguely aware that something is amiss; he is not a happy man. We never really know why; maybe because of the separation, the lack of his daughter in his daily life, or just deep depression. The unusually naturalistic performances from the two leads make you feel as if you are intruding upon real lives - tiny gestures, rapport, love, fun, and occasional moments of conflict shared by father and daughter. Several "flash forwards" to Sophie's adult years, seemingly infused with a deep sadness, add to the poignancy, and the overall feeling we may have that our childhood memories are not always what we thought, nor are our parents really the people we remember them as. Effective use is made of  a handheld camcorder to document the memories, setting in stone one perceived version of our past. 
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended

Cocaine Bear
Dir: Elizabeth Banks
Length: 95 mins
© Universal - not so cuddly! Bears, drugs
and lots of humans are a recipe for  trouble.
Bears can be threatening enough at the best of times, but a bear that's just consumed several blocks of cocaine? You may scoff, but this is inspired (loosely) by the true story of a huge black bear found dead in 1985 in a forest in Georgia, with its system stuffed to the gills with cocaine. The film version opens with a drug smuggler tossing blocks of cocaine out of a light aircraft then parachuting out himself, a duffel bag loaded with coke strapped to his body. But his chute fails to open and the duffel bag is found by the huge lumbering bear, who takes a major liking to the white substance. Let the drug-fuelled rampage begin. The forest is also hosting wandering European hikers, young kids heading to a waterfall, and park rangers. All in all, a bad combination. When some grisly deaths are called in to the police, a motley crew of more people join the mayhem, including law enforcement officers and drug dealers trying to retrieve the duffel bag. Add to the mix a gang of young hooligans hellbent on causing trouble.
Touted as a comedy/thriller, it works really well as a black comedy, with witty lines, sly asides, zany characters, and a lot of hilarious (albeit super gory!) goings on with the bear, not to mention with the ambulance that comes to the rescue. Great (and sad) to see Ray Liotta, in his last role, as the head drug dealer. In fact the whole cast is terrific and it's one of those really classic cinema experiences that will have you gasping with fright one moment and laughing uproariously the next.
3.5 - well recommended

Dir: Craig Boreham
© Umbrella - broody, at times disturbing, highly
explicit - loneliness meets hope
Casey (Josh Lavery) is fleeing a small town scandal where he had an affair with a married man. Homeless and alone in Sydney he hooks up with Tib (Daniel Gabriel), and together the two do some odd jobs together and form a relationship. But nothing is smooth sailing, and the two men are slow to recognise that their bond may be something more than just lust-based. This film has just taken out the AACTA award for best independent film. It is beautifully shot, and relentlessly evocative of the loneliness Casey must endure as he navigates the tough world of being gay and homeless in Sydney. The two leads have brilliant chemistry together, and their relationship feels very real. However, it will not be to everyone's taste as the very explicit sex scenes, including a rather sordid S&M dungeon, may be shocking for some viewers.     
A fine film, a definite no-no for prudish audiences, probably highly recommended for more broad-minded viewers 

Knowing the Score
Dir: Janine Hosking
© Sharmill - a woman at the top
of her game
Hot on the heels of Cate Blanchett's incredible performance in Tar, comes another film about an orchestra conductor, also a woman. This one is a documentary, and for my taste more accessible than Tar. We learn about the career of renowned conductor Simone Young, who rose up through the ranks at a time when there were no female conductors of orchestra. Simone got gigs at world-renowned opera houses and orchestras throughout Europe, before heading back to Australia. Here it has been an uphill battle in a world that couldn't seem to cope with a female conductor. As we speak, finally she is now head conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Interviews with Simone are eye-opening and frank and her lack of ego is endearing; others who talk about her add their accolades. Simone explains very clearly what it means to be a conductor, in a technical sense and to her personally. The selection of music is wonderful, as are the sneak peeks into famous concert halls of the world. All in all this is a memorable doco about a very grounded woman, doing what she loves, balancing work and family, and making it to the top.  
4 - highly recommended

Dir: C. Waltz
Length: 99 mins
Streaming on Netflix
© Paramount/Netflix - sleazy, smarmy, charming
- just what's needed to be a con artist
Ulrich Mott (Christoph Waltz) has just been fired from an internship in Washington politics. Stealing an ID card, he insinuates himself into an important dinner, starts making connections, and then big-noting himself as a mover and shaker with access to all sorts of powerful people. Basically he is a conman and his biggest con is to woo and marry journalist Elsa Brecht (Vanessa Redgrave), a massive 44 years his senior. She is (initially) his biggest fan, encouraging him in all sorts of opaque schemes. Her daughter Amanda (Annette Bening) is not so sure, seeing through the slippery Mott. Waltz is perfect for this sort of role; his smarm and charm is cringeworthy if sometimes over the top. Washington social climbing and power broking is well satirised, and even though Mott's schemes are at times incomprehensible, we go along for the ride. Redgrave and Bening are terrific in their respective roles. Critics have been mixed on this one, but I had a lot of fun with it, even more so knowing it's actually based upon a real-life character Albrecht Muth (look him up!).    
3.5 - well recommended