Sunday, October 22, 2006

Christine Vachon season

Christine Vachon has produced a great body of work, and she is being recognised with a season running at ACMI until Sunday 29/10/06. I saw Mrs. Harris (2005) on opening night last Thursday. Directed by Phyllis Nagy, starring Annette Bening and Ben Kingsley. I would not have known that it was made for TV (by HBO Films) had it not been announced.

Based on a true story, it covers a society murder in 1980 of Dr Herman 'Hy' Tarnowner (Kingsley) by Jean Harris (Bening). The story is not in chronological order and there are some unusual if not inconsistent devices (some quite comical). While not an exceptional film, it is worth seeeing due to its unusual nature.

Yesterday I saw
Kids (1995) with the 30 minute short Oreos With Attitude (1990). Oreos (directed by Larry Carty) was a very entertaining and subversive parody on race in New York City. A black couple are ambitious social climbers who make all the 'right' moves. They decide to adopt a white child (at any cost) because they don't want to risk having a child of their own who has a 30% chance of being darker than themselves. If white couples can adopt a black child, why can't they adopt a white child? The film details hypocrisy, deceit and superficiality in a very amusing way.

Kids was the first film by Larry Clark (of Ken Park fame) in which young actors Chloe Sevigny and Rosario Dawson also debuted. It was a grim but extremely honest portrayal of teenagers reckless about sex, drugs and violence, taking place in one day. Telly considers himself a stud and targets young virgins to charm and unleash his prowess. What he doesn't realise is that he is HIV infected. We know this because Jennie's (Sevigny) sole sexual encounter was with him, and she has been diagnosed positive.

It is a both gruelling and compelling two hours during which time we see Telly's and his buddy Casper's exploits. The ease with which Telly is able to seduce girls is realistically shocking, and should be compulsory viewing for teenagers' sex education (better than any educational video). The dangerous consequences of indisriminate sex and drugs is graphically portrayed.

It is a very bold film by the director as well as his young cast. Due to the OFLC's refusal to classify
Ken Park, we haven't had the opportunity to see this film in Australia. But based on the director's work on Kids, I can see no reason why mature adults should not be able to see adult cinema of serious artistic merit.

I had just enough time after
Kids to take a walk around a very crowded Federation Square among the Diwali (Indian Festival of Lights) celebrations before going back into the dark of ACMI's Cinema 1 to see I Shot Andy Warhol (1996, directed by Mary Harron). This is yet another dark story, in which Lili Taylor takes centre stage as Valerie Solanas, a 60s radical lesbian advocating hatred towards men in her SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto. She wanted Andy Warhol to produce a play she wrote. After being continually ignored, humiliated, and with her mental state declining, she shot him.

Taylor's performance was excellent, really inhabiting her role. I confess to not knowing much about Warhol, but Jared Harris played a good likeness. During the film, I couldn't help but think that this was like a female version of
Factotum (a fictionalised misognynist Charles Bukowski). It was only later that I remembered that Taylor also played a significant role in Factotum.

None of the above films was perfect but definitely worth seeing. They are not subversive cinema
per se, but they depict subversive characters or stories. They are all truly independent cinema, with originality, artistic merit and authenticity. In other words, not the sort of thing the serious cinemaphile has access to on the big screen on a regular basis (even at the so-called indendent cinemas). I would have liked to have seen The Notorious Bettie Page (it screened on Friday), but will hopefully catch another couple next weekend when the season comes to a close. Films still to be screened: The Safety of Objects, Office Killer, Velvet Goldmine, Go Fish and Swoon.

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