Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Catch up time

It’s amazing how time passes. It’s been nearly seven weeks since I posted anything of substance. I’ve been trying to drag myself to writing articles but frankly, for a number of reasons, I’ve needed a break.

I’ve been battling a mystery condition – I think it may be Addison’s disease. Unfortunately, in many cases, traditional medicine can only diagnose a condition once it’s chronic, which is too late (it’s like gluing a vase once you’ve broken it, rather than moving it away from the edge). Fortunately, I have a friend of a friend who is a very switched-on naturopath, and with his help, I am on the road of improvement. My no. 1 priority has been exercise and getting my health, fitness and strength to where it should be (and I’m not there yet), as well as shedding a bit of unwanted fat. What to speak of earlier nights.

I think another factor that has obstructed my writing is grief. Having the time to grieve over the suicide of my son, Abhi, is a kind of luxury that one doesn’t always get. The last few weeks have included various anniversaries of good times we had together just before he left us, culminating in the first anniversary of his passing on this coming Friday. As I start a new job the day before, I’m just hoping I can hold it together OK.

But you know, life is not all doom and gloom. Life goes on, and I suppose I need to pull my finger out and get some writing up here. I’ve been seeing films pretty much as usual. I regret that I’ve not posted reviews of some really good stuff. I wanted to comment about Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, which is an excellent companion piece to his previous A History of Violence. Or Tarantino’s Death Proof, which I liked a whole lot more than many (I don’t think it’s his best work, but it is very entertaining).

I have been to various Australian Perspective screenings at ACMI that included Q&A with the directors/writers/producers. A Sting in the Tale had a very good reception and the conversation after just kept on going. It was particularly pertinent in the wake of the election (I was so relieved to see the end of John Howard. And the Libs lost Bennelong – how good is that?). The Independent is another rare Australian political film – not outstanding, but worthy, and we had a good Q&A with that. Pure Shit also had a screening with a Q&A, and some great dialogue came out of that. That film would make a great companion piece to my favourite film of last year, Alkinos Tsilimidos’ Em 4 Jay. Both films are concerned with drug addiction (yeah, I know, everyone’s favourite topic, right?) but unlike say, Candy or Little Fish, these films are overflowing with authenticity, especially the naturalistic dialogue. I’ve come to see that most Australian films lack authentic dialogue, drifting towards theatricality and caricature.

On the subject of Alkinos Tsilimidos, I have recently interviewed him for the second time. I have already transcribed and edited our original conversation, and have quite a bit of work to complete the second. I’m planning to submit a significant article to Senses of Cinema.

Another good Q&A at ACMI followed Alex Frayne’s Modern Love, a local film that has been doing the rounds on the international festival circuit, but struggled to be seen in Australian cinemas. It’s an unusual film, made on the smell of an oily rag, and the passion of a small group of talented friends. It’s worth seeing if one gets the chance, and while it’s flawed, I suspect the film will create new opportunities for this young film-maker. I met Alex and the lead, Mark Constable, after the film and we had some interesting conversation in the ACMI Lounge. I learnt that Mark had a small role in Tsilimidos’ Tom White.

Unfortunately, I never got to write about Kriv Stender’s excellent Boxing Day before it finished it’s short stint at the Nova. I wanted to give it a plug while it was still on. In my opinion, it’s the only outstanding Australian film of 2007. It’s dialogue was so authentic, the story was so well written, and the acting was excellent. Films like this never seem to get the reception they deserve, though it has had very good critical reviews. This is a film that really should be seen if you get the chance. No other local film comes close. I felt while watching it that it was not just an excellent local film, but that it is a good contribution to world cinema.

A little news I learnt yesterday at an ACMI function is that there will be Focus Seasons in 2008 on Gus Van Sant and John Cassavetes. I’m looking forward to catching up on the Van Sant films I haven’t seen. As I’ve only seen Cassavete’s Opening Night, I there should be several gems for me to catch up on with that Focus.

Lastly, to document what I’ve seen since my last Week in Review, these are the films I’ve seen up to last Sunday. In bold are my highlights. I’m happy to discuss any of them, or anything mentioned above. Or anything, for that matter.



  • Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino, USA, 2007)
  • I Vitteloni (Federico Fellini, Italy, 1953)
  • Nel nome del padre (In the Name of the Father, Marco Bellochio, Italy, 1972)
  • Romance (Catherine Breillat, France, 1999)
  • Brève traversée (Brief Crossing, Catherine Breillat, France, 2001)
  • Sex is Comedy (Catherine Breillat, France, 2002)
  • För att inte tala om alla dessa kvinnor (Now About All These Women, Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1964)
  • Scener ur ett äktenskap (Scenes from a Marriage, Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1973)
  • Tapage nocturne (Nocturnal Uproar, Catherine Breillat, France, 1979)
  • 36 fillette (Catherine Breillat, France, 1988)
  • Away From Her (Sarah Polley, Canada, 2007)
  • Across the Universe (Julie Taymor, USA, 2007)
  • Bitter Springs (Ralph Smart, UK, 1950)
  • Dead Heart (Nick Parsons, Australia, 1996)
  • Modern Love (Alex Frayne, Australia, 2006)
  • Red Road (Andrea Arnold, UK, 2006)
  • Control (Anton Corbijn, UK, 2007)
  • Der Verlorene (The Lost Man, Peter Lorre, Germany, 1951)
  • Die Brücke (The Bridge, Bernhard Wicki, Germany, 1959)
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, USA, 2007)
  • Pure Shit (Bert Deling, Australia, 1975)
  • Die mörder sind unter uns (The Murderers are Among Us, Wolfgang Staudte, East Germany, 1946)
  • Fanfaren der Liebe (Fanfares of Love, Kurt Hoffmann, Germany, 1951)
  • Rosen blühen auf dem Heidegrab (Roses Bloom on the Grave in the Meadow, Hans H. König, Germany, 1952)
  • Interview (Steve Buscemi, USA, 2007)
  • Boxing Day (Kriv Stenders, Australia, 2007)
  • Into the Wild (Sean Penn, USA, 2007)
  • A Sting in the Tale (Eugene Schlusser, Australia, 1989)
  • Bee Movie (Steve Hickner & Simon J. Smith, USA, 2007)
  • The Professionals (Richard Brooks, USA, 1966)
  • Désaccord parfait (Twice Upon a Time, Antoine de Caunes, France, 2006)
  • The Independent (Andrew O'Keefe & John Studley, Australia, 2007)
  • Suspiria (Dario Argento, Italy, 1977)
  • September (Peter Carstairs, Australia, 2007)


  • Dekalog: 3 (Krzysztof Kieslowski, Poland, 1989)
  • Dekalog: 4 (Krzysztof Kieslowski, Poland, 1989)
  • Dekalog: 5 (Krzysztof Kieslowski, Poland, 1989)


  • Mr Electric (Stuart McDonald, 30 mins, Australia, 1993)


Marina said...

I hope things slowly get back to normal. I've missed reading your insights. I'm particularly curious about your take on "Control". Hopefully we'll hear a little more about that later.


Paul Martin said...

Marina, things are normal. It's just a different normal.

I really liked Control. Not in an earth-shattering way, but it was good. I thought it was a good companion piece to Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People, and it was interesting to see some of the same characters from a different perspective, and with a different director's interpretation. I actually bought a couple of Joy Division albums after seeing the film (I really love Love Will Tear Us Apart Again in particular).

Maya said...

Paul, getting on with life is not the same as getting over anything. It's been 11 years for me since I lost my partner to AIDS. At the time it was very important over the course of a few years to write out my grief, to carry it, to find ways to light it, to leave it in shadow when necessary. I finally did fall in love again. I finally did "get on with life"--a phrase I really don't like--even as I have learned to respect and love that I live with a death horizon that honors memory and the presence of those absent. At Christmas time I had a big party and I always put a photo of Jim with a candle near the Christmas tree. Most of the people I know now never knew him, don't know who he is, and ask. Answering that question keeps him here with me all this time. Let yourself grieve, Paul. Write. Never ever ever ever let him go.

Paul Martin said...

You know, Michael, as we age, the more likely we are to have experienced some tragedy in our lives. It's tragic to lose anyone, but I think a partner or child is probably the toughest. I lost my father in 2002, but that was different - old age is a warning that death is coming. It's also the natural order, so it is often easier for us to let the person go, so to speak.

I agree with your opening comment. I don't know if I'll ever get over the loss of Abhi. But I do let him go. My belief is that he has moved on to a better place (and I'm not talking heaven here). He has left us and I won't see him again in this lifetime, but I do believe we'll meet again.

As for grieving, I don't have a problem with that. Letting him go is part of that grief, but letting go doesn't mean forgetting him. It means not holding on. He's gone, I have to accept that and come to terms with it. Thanks for sharing, Michael.