Monday, January 21, 2008

The Week in Review

  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Tim Burton, USA, 2007)
  • Going Down (Haydn Keenan, Australia, 1983)
  • Omiros (Hostage, Constantine Giannaris, Greece, 2005)
  • Nocturna (Adrià García & Victor Maldonado, Spain, 2007)
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm - 4th Season (Various, USA, 2003)
Sweeney Todd
I really like Tim Burton's films, every one I've seen. He employs a dark bent to fairytale-like stories. Sweeney Todd initially reminds me of the look and feel of Sleepy Hollow, but is more grotesque and ghastly, with a look strongly reminiscent of early German expressionism.

I must say that I was a little sceptical about a horror story musical. (I'm not generally fond of musicals, though I did like Once quite a lot. While some will argue that Once is not really a musical, I think it is, albeit an unconventional one). Burton really cracked me up with this one, the humour was really black and yet parodic. Can you imagine Depp and Bonham-Carter singing away these stereotypical (superficially at least) sounding musical songs, but the story and visuals are so macabre (I won't, of course, go into details at this stage).

I've got an aversion to gratuitous violence. This film has it by the bucketloads, yet it works brilliantly. I was simultaneously horrified by what was on screen (and physically affected), yet laughing myself silly and in awe of the magnificent visuals simultaneously. Burton has once again inventively excelled and the film deserves all the awards it receives.

Going Down
This independent Australian film has some redeeming humorous moments, but the drug and alcohol themes did little for me.

Hostage is screening as a part of ACMI's Focus on the Greek Diaspora, and has awoken me to a quality of cinema I'm not accustomed to seeing from Greece. Not that we see a lot of Greek cinema in this country, but what I have seen is often plagued with the failings of many Australian films - drawn towards soap opera and dumb humour. Not so with this serious and subtle multi-layered film that tackles universal themes like immigration, xenophobia, social dislocation, official corruption and more.

A young man boards a bus from his town in Greece and proceeds to hijack it. Loosely based on a factual incident that occurred in northern Greece in 1999, the reasons behind the hijacking are gradually revealled through flashbacks. At first I didn't think I would overly like the film; I often find the use of hand-held camera distances me from a film's story. As the narrative developed, and the nuances of the various relationships between the bus' occupants were depicted, the strength of the writing shone through and left me spellbound.

The hijacker is an Albanian immigrant who has been wronged and yet is no hero. He is a kind of anti-hero, and ultimately the film is a tragedy, a point brought home in a final scene when his mother pleads with him to surrender. The imagery and emotional depth at this point was breath-taking. At the Q&A afterwards, the director, Constantine Giannaris acknowledged his use of classic tragedy as a device here.

Hostage had only a small audience at the screening I attended, but has been very warmly received. I loved it and highly recommend the second screening that has been announced for this coming Saturday 26 January at 4pm. Go see it.

This is an animated Spanish film but in English (perhaps there are multiple versions). And it's a children's film that caters well to the accompanying adults. My son and I were able to discuss some of the themes afterwards, which for me is a good indicator. A boy, Tim, is afraid of the dark, and the dark is causing the stars to disappear. Somehow, Tim has to remedy the situation.

Curb Your Enthusiasm
I love it.

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