Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Week in Review - 26/10/08

  • Choke (Clark Gregg, USA, 2008)
  • Esther Kahn (Arnaud Desplechin, France/UK, 2000)
  • Rois et reine (Kings & Queen, Arnaud Desplechin, France, 2004)
  • Man on Wire (James Marsh, UK/USA, 2008)
Esther Kahn and Kings & Queen
I feel inadequate commenting on these remarkable films, the first of a three-week Arnaud Desplechin season at Melbourne Cinémathèque. Desplechin's style is certainly idiosyncratic and, while I found them (especially Esther Kahn) very moving, I think I was perhaps too tired to appreciate, absorb, analyse and understand them as much as they deserve. I'm hoping I'll formulate more of a considered opinion after this week's screenings of La Sentinelle and Playing "In The Company of Men".

Man on Wire
I'm not big on documentaries. Generally, I find they're a medium that's best suited for the small screen, though there are exceptions (Waltz With Bashir is a recent example, and I think Errol Morris' aesthetics are a big screen must. Seeing Philippe Petit, the subject of James Marsh's latest film, Man on Wire, on Denton's Enough Rope on Monday, and hearing good things about the film, I decided to give it a go. I wasn't disappointed.

James Marsh is a director I admire immensely. His previous film The King (with Gael Garcia Bernal, William Hurt, Paul Dano and Laura Harring) is a gutsy effort one of my favourite films of 2006. This documentary has not just an excellent subject, but is told by an excellent story-teller. Petit himself collaborated closely with Marsh, and he too has a strong sense of how to tell a story.

There are a number of other reasons that this film works so well: Petit is an entertainer, a showman. He had a vision of what he wanted to achieve and he made and kept a record of the planning of those achievements (such as the walking the wire between the towers of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, the Harbour Bridge in Sydney and finally, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York). His sense of rebellion, of doing the outrageous was so overwhelming that his planning for the WTC towers took on the magnitude and sense of a bank heist.

The film is thrilling right from the start. The way the story unfolds, we feel we are privy to the plans as co-conspirators to what the film calls "the artistic crime of the century". It's not a bad description. Music is used to good effect, adding to ambience and supporting the story-telling as it should.

Marsh has assembled most of Petit's co-conspirators and their vivid and emotional recollections, even after all these years have passed, is particularly moving. There is a sense at the end of the film, that Petit's friends felt betrayed or used by Petit. This is touched upon but not explored.

Finally, the fact that the Twin Towers are no longer there, and the manner of their departure (which is itself somewhat controversial) adds a poignancy to the film. This is a film that really should be seen on the big screen. I loved it, and so did the missus and kid (yes, it's a good film to take kids to).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Russian Resurrection 2008

The Russian Resurrection 2008 film festival opens in Melbourne on Wednesday evening with veteran director Karen Shakhnazarov's latest film, Vanished Empire. The festival honours Shakhnazarov with a retrospective that includes seven earlier works: Zero City, We Are Jazz Men, American Daughter, Rider Named Death, Courier, The Assassin of the Tsar and Day of the Full Moon. A second retrospective features Russian fantasy films Amphibian Man and Letters from a Deadman. Other than Vanished Empire, the festival includes 10 films, most notably (for me, at least) is The Banishment by Andrei Zvyagintev (The Return, 2003).

Vanished Empire (Ischeznuvshaya imperiya, Karen Shakhnazarov, Russia, 2008)
This is a beautiful-looking film, technically proficient in every respect. It's an homage to the Russia of times past, to the days of the Soviet Union. The protagonist, Sergei, is a narcissistic first-year university student who is more interested in the Rolling Stones, vodka and bedding girls than studying. Sergei is a mere teenager, of a similar age to what Shakhnazarov would have been in the year of the film's setting, 1973, so one suspects there is something personal in this story.

This film should appeal immensely to a mainstream audience, but left me a little cold. I found it a little contrived, particularly with the western soundtrack and also because I couldn't empathise with the main character. Plausibility was a little stretched at times. The strong points are the excellent visuals and the cultural depictions, such as the cars of the day.

The Banishment (Izgnanie, Andrei Zvyagintev, Russia, 2007)
I have only just learnt that Andrei Zvyagintev's The Return was his feature film debut. Now, I've got to say it really impressed me with it's sparse and elusive narrative, filled with mystery and ambiguity. It is visually spectacular, with a strong Eastern European aesthetic that one can't look away from. The Banishment is no less a film.

This is a much more ambitious effort than Zvyagintev's debut. Again he has crafted a story that is highly enigmatic. It stars Konstantin Lavronenko, who played the role of the absent father returned in The Return. Alex is a man with a shady past and his brother Mark (Aleksandr Baluyev) is of the same ilk. When Alex's wife, Vera (Maria Bonnevie), reveals she is pregnant and that he is not the father, a sequence of events unfolds that will have you on the edge of your seat. "If you want to kill, kill. If you want to forgive, forgive", says Mark.

The tension is palpable, magnified by the sparse dialogue. In one sense, words are not needed as the body language says it all. Yet in another, the inability of the protagonists to bring out into the open what needs to be said leads to unforseen consequences. This is both thematically similar to Nuri Bilge Ceylan's similarly excellent Three Monkeys and stylistically they also share much in common. As in Ceylan's films, Zvyagintev shows great confidence in telling a story, taking his time to create a palpable ambience. At 157 minutes, the film is quite long, but always engaging.

The cinematography is stunning throughout, with excellent use of the widescreen. There is one tracking shot in particular that left me breathless as the camera seemingly floated through space. I can recall only twice where the camera movement impressed me so: the caravan sequence in Noise and the various tracking shots in Soy Cuba. The use of darkness, light and shade are used to great effect. The music is haunting, reminding me of the gothic sounds of the music of Enigma. It renders the film with a sense of tragedy of biblical proportions.

Zvyagintev is a magnificent talent that just can't be ignored. If you see only one Russian film this year, make it The Banishment.

The Russian Resurrection film festival screens at Palace Como Cinema from 29 October to 5 November.

Vanished Empire is the Opening Night film, screening Wed 29 November, 7.00pm.
The Banishment
screens on Sun 2 November, 9.10pm.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

November - it's gonna be one of those months

Take a look at my Film Calendar for November, will you (click on the image to see it in full size, though unfortunately Blogger reduces the size of the image). We've all heard the term, "When it rains, it pours", but this is bloody crazy. We've got the Russian Film Festival (formal name is Russian Resurrection, in purple) at the Como, while at ACMI there's both the Festival of Jewish Cinema (with films from around the world, in orange), a Focus on Johnnie To (in blue) and the Buddhist Film Festival (in tan). There's numerous other screenings, such as the Pedro Costa season at Melbourne Cinémathèqe, Fassbinder's 15 hours of Berlin Alexanderplatz at ACMI et al. I've left off the new cinema releases - and there's a heap of these - because it just ridiculously congests the calendar.

Now, though we effectively have a long weekend with Cup Day, I know I've got a number of other events on during November, like birthdays and other family events, so I'm going to be lucky to see 20% or so of what I want to (which is most of what's on offer). Then, come December, aside from new releases, the calendar is looking pretty bare. Ah, such is life. Maybe I'll get to watch some of the 50 or so unseen DVDs I've got sitting there waiting for a rainy day...

BTW, I'm not going into details here, but a must-see tip for Russian Resurrection: The Banishment (by the director of the similarly classy The Return). More later.

And all these dates are viewable in my Google Film Calendar at the bottom of this page. You can subscribe to this calendar by clicking on the button at the bottom of the calendar. Then you'll see a wider version of the calendar. Note that you can customise your view of the calendar, even while you're looking at it on my blog.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Choke (Clark Gregg, USA, 2008)
Choke is actor Clark Gregg's writer-directorial debut, with a screen adaptation of a novel by Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club). I suspect that connection will draw many people to see Choke, but really they're very different films. First, Clark Gregg is not David Fincher, secondly this is a very different story.

Apparently, the story is semi-autobiographical, but I don't intend to go into the details of what parts are autobiographical, which are metaphorical, and which represent the experiences of those close to Palahniuk. I don't find it particularly relevant, but if you're interested, you can Google that yourself (or check out this article in The Age).

There's a lot happening in Choke, and the film attempts to get around this by depending too heavily on Rockwell's voiceover narration. It might have worked well with Edward Norton in Fight Club, but seems both a bit heavy-handed here and it detracts from the coherence. What the... ? The whole point of narration is to improve coherence, a shortcut alternative to depicting everything on-screen by relaying a character's thoughts.

I found the film a little disappointing. It looks good, it sounds good, the acting is good (Sam Rockwell is always good value, and the rest of the cast is also fine). The story is quirky, and to some, that could be code for where the film doesn't work.

The quirkiness factor comes in right from the start with just too many competing themes that feel forced (à la Little Miss Sunshine). There's the sex-addiction, and the attendance at group therapy sessions (a good place to get laid, apparently). Then there's the heritage theme park where Rockwell's character, Victor, plays a part alongside his best pal, Denny (a charismatic Brad William Henke), also a sex addict. There's the ruse Victor pulls in restaurants, pretending to choke, in order to get the sympathy of strangers. There's the descent into dementia by Victor's mother (Anjelica Huston), who may hold the key to some mysteries about Victor's identity. And there's the complexity that Paige Marshall (well-acted by Kelly Macdonald) brings in the form of a potential love interest.

On the surface, that's a lot of ground to cover, and Gregg does a not too bad job as first-time director. I'm sure a lot of people will find this film a lot more enjoyable than I did; the success of films like Juno and Little Miss Sunshine is testament to that. For me, there were many elements that in isolation may have been good, but didn't come together successfully as a whole. The editing of the film may be at least partially to blame, but ultimately, Gregg has been a little too ambitious and hasn't quite succeeded in sewing all the bits together as well as he intended. There's a twist at the end that I found a little weak and conventional, but I'm not giving that away. To the film's credit - and you'd expect this from a Palahniuk story - it's unconventional.

Choke opens on October 30.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I'm a sucker for these

There's a lot about me I've not disclosed on this film blog. No particular reason, other than much of it's not relevant to a film blog. What the fuck, I've spilled my guts on politics and my hatred for John-whatshisname... you know that neo-fascist weasel who lost the last election. You know, the one who wouldn't know the truth if it were a brick and fell on his head. So why not clothes?

As a child, I had many creative interests that boys weren't supposed to have. I loved cooking (got hooked when we made pikelets in prep class), and still do. In fact, I do 99% of the cooking in this household. I loved handcrafts and made mats, a frog-shaped door-stop and a cushion. I remember these, because I still have them (my mum kept them for me, bless her soul).

In my early 30's, I went through some personal transformation and working through some issues discovered I had some abject fears. Like a fear of dancing. This is a deep subject, but I won't go into the psychological aspect. I took up Latin American dancing, and consequently found a dearth of good clothes for men. So I started making my own. I made a lot of clothes over the next few years, and when I sold my transport business in 2000, I considered going into clothing (but didn't).

Colour is important to me, and always has been. I remember as a child how I used to arrange my Smarties in order of the colours of the rainbow. The colours of the rainbow are still important to me, and my wardrobe and sock drawer are a testament to that. I love colour co-ordination and I often compliment people in the street who take the time and care to adorn their bodies as if they were a piece of art (which they can be).

I work in IT and my current workplace is business casual, i.e., ties not required. But I wear them Monday to Thursday, because I love the opportunity to express myself through colour and clothing. Socially, in this country and culture, males don't get anywhere near as much opportunity to express their flair like women, but ties are an acceptable avenue in the workplace. I have a decent size tie collection and as time goes by, I find myself becoming more selective and buying reasonably expensive ties.

I was in Anton's at Melbourne Central on Friday. I hadn't been in there for quite a while and decided to have a quick look. They have outrageously good stuff in this store, which obviously caters to the gay crowd and those a little more adventurous in their tastes. I suppose I'm what you'd call a "heterosexual pooftah". All my life, people figured I must be a poof, because I like things that macho bastards (also known as "real men") intuitively know only pooftahs and women like. Like gardening, cooking, photography, making clothes, art, personal expression, writing, etc. Poofs, as you no doubt know, have no interest in car racing, sport and beer (I'm a modest wine-drinker, again, an obvious sign of a faggot). I was socially bastardised throughout my childhood, something I confronted around the time I also took up dancing (there you go again, another sign of a poof).

Well, back to Anton's. They have a fantastic range of Duchamp ties. For those of you are into more masculine things, Duchamp are to ties what Ferrari is to cars. They are the best looking pieces of silk a guy can wrap around his neck and look respectable in a corporate environment. I bought a couple at DJ's a couple of years ago and seeing the extensive range at Anton's (they just got a shipment in, and they only get two shipments a year, I'm told), I splashed out and bought three of 'em. Yes, three. And they're not cheap. They also had a hanky looking thingy, but not the matching tie (the one pictured above). The lovely lady in the store who delightfully sold me the ties said they'd sold out of this one, but that I should check out Duchamp's website. (Bitch! She didn't even give me a discount on three ties. No, she was lovely, really). I went to the website, saw it, ordered it all the way from the UK just last Friday, and it was in my letterbox when I got home from work today. That's bloody fantastic, isn't it? Ah, ain't life grand.

FWIW, these are the three ties I bought from Anton's. Each of them is truly a piece of art. Had I the money, I could've bought twenty or more. Check out the full current range at Duchamp. These pics don't do them justice. The colours and sheen are just magic. I feel like a million bucks when I have one of these on. And fuck 'em all, I don't care who thinks I'm gay. I wear that as a badge of pride.

Coming soon to a post office near you


I don't have a problem with any of these choices, but I'd have gone for:
  • Em 4 Jay, Em & Jay in pig masks
  • Tom White, Tom in the punt crossing the Yarra at Spotswood
  • Ten Canoes, the scene with the ten canoes
  • Shine, Geoffrey Rush as the wonderful David Helfgott
  • Everynight, Everynight..., "fucking pooftah!!!"
Something from Head On, Chopper, Babe or The Piano would also make a good choice.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Week in Review (x2) - 19/10/08

Oh, life is bigger
It's bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no I've said too much
I set it up
- REM, Losing My Religion

This used to be my favourite song. It was important to me at an important turning point in my life, when I lost religion (even though that's not what the song is about). It's also a song that pops into my head when life is full, too full, when it's big, bigger than you. And you are not me. Get the drift?

Well, it's been two weeks. Life has been so full, and I still scarcely have time to post my weekly summary. But I want to do it, for myself at least. I can't do credit for many of these films, but here goes.
  • Del rosa al amarillo (From Pink… to Yellow, Manuel Summers, Spain, 1963)
  • Ta'm-e gilas (The Taste of Cherry, Abbas Kiarostami, Iran/France, 1997)
  • Waitress (Adrienne Shelly, USA, 2006)
  • Zert (The Joke, Jaromil Jires, Czechoslovakia, 1969)
  • Kladivo na carodejnice (Witches' Hammer, Otakar Vávra, Czechoslovakia, 1969)
  • Wake in Fright (Ted Kotcheff, Australia, 1971)
  • Burn After Reading (Joel & Ethan Coen, USA, 2008)
  • Towelhead (Alan Ball, USA, 2008)

From Pink… to Yellow
Screening as part of the ACMI Focus on Víctor Erice & Abbas Kiarostami, I suppose this film by Manuel Summers sneaks in as Erice has only made three films. It fits in thematically, with its depiction of life from a child's perspective. I can't say it overly grabbed me and when the narrative shifted to an elderly couple, I dozed off.

The Taste of Cherry
I loved this film, which reminded me of Kiarostami's later film, 10. Shot mostly from within a car, a guy drives around town looking for someone to assist him in his mission to take his own life. The story is elusive (we never find out his exact reasons) and it has a controversial and ambiguous ending. The story is somewhat episodic as different people find themselves in the car with our 'hero'. The different characters and their respective responses to our hero are convincing and compelling. The final character's role is just fantastic, as he shares a story with our hero. I really related to it, as he describes how he also, some decades earlier had contemplated suicide, and what got him through. It reminded me of the adolescent neighbour in American Beauty, how he saw beauty everywhere, even in a plastic shopping bag blowing in the wind, or the way light reflected in the still warm blood of his neighbour. Very moving.

The missus was watching this on DVD and it had lost none of the sparkle that did it for me the first time on the big screen. One of the best romantic comedies of all time, not that it follows any romantic comedy conventions. For the record, my other favourites are Truly, Madly, Deeply and Like Water for Chocoloate.

The Joke
Wow, this Czech New Wave is seriously good stuff. No wonder the commies didn't let this film see the light of day for twenty years. A guy is cynical, unhappy and unable to form meaningful relationships. When he revisits his hometown, old memories flood his mind, and we learn how he got to be the person he is. Fundamentalism, in all its guises, stinks.

Witches' Hammer
Attacking exactly the same themes as The Joke, this story of medieval witch hunting is just as overt a criticism of communism, in spite of its use of metaphors. It also didn't see the light of day until 1989, when the iron curtain came down. I hadn't realised how widespread the hysteria over witchcraft was in Europe, and explains why many fled to the US (where a different form of hysteria-fundamentalism has arisen).

Wake in Fright
I was initially put off when I realised this MUFF screening was from a DVD. But once I got into it after a couple of minutes, it didn't really matter. The story is that good, and the visuals were quite OK. Now I know why this film has such a strong reputation; it is a genuine compelling film.

Burn After Reading
I found Burn After Reading absolutely entertaining. I didn't have high expectations as I think the Coen brothers get mixed results when they do comedy. The humour in this film is full of deadpan irony, greatly understated at times, farcical at others, but always unpredictable yet believable.

While it is in no way an explicit commentary on The War On Iraq, clearly that's the subtext. I'd say it's the first successful film to tackle the issue of homeland security in the US, post 9-11, simply because it doesn't reference it at all. Like most Coen films, people motivated by greed have a plan, and things don't go to plan. There's blood and a reasonable body count. As in all matters concerning national security, it doesn't matter who gets hurt, innocent or not. What's important is that leadership is decisive, bodies are disposed of and people are seen to be doing their jobs. Right?

The lineup of actors looks awesome on paper, and they don't disappoint. Most of them play against type. The film is very original, very exciting and very contemporary. Well-worth seeing.

With all the hysteria over Bill Henson and his photography of naked or semi-naked children, it's amazing that Towelhead has been released with scarcely a whimper of complaint.

This is quite a gutsy film, tackling taboo subjects head-on and pulling few punches. This is intelligently written. It looks like what I call a quirky-indie comedy but isn't. There's so much truthful depictions that reflect the complexity of real-life issues such as racism, teenage sex and paedophilia. Like American Beauty, there are generally no good or bad guys, but both good and bad exist in most characters.

I liked the way Towelhead doesn't force a message down your throat. You don't necessarily know Ball's stance on an issue, such as teenage sex. He just depicts it a certain way, and you make up your own mind.

Toni Collette plays a fairly typical-looking role to what she generally does in US films, but her role is better written than most (like Little Miss Sunshine et al). The visuals of the film were a little distracting for me, such as the over-use of golden-sunset hues and over-contrast, something that has been done to death on US network TV shows. Most won't have the same problem with it as I (my missus didn't even notice). There are a couple of minor scenes that slightly lacked plausibility, but for the most part, the film successfully pulled off some pretty major risks. Big kudos for that.

Is Cinema the Poor Man's Art?

Until recently, I hadn't been to the National Gallery of Victoria for about 15 years, and it wasn't planned. With the missus, I'd intended to take my 8-year old son to the theatre at the Arts Centre during the school holidays, but we just turned up and found it booked out. I didn't bother booking ($7 online booking fee seemed a bit outrageous); hey, how the hell are they gonna fill 400 seats at $30/head? Big mistake. They did.

So, quick change of plans and we walked up St. Kilda Rd. to the nearby NGV. The couple of hundred metres or so was quite a challenge. It was wall-to-wall people. We get to the NGV and there's a queue something like 3 kilometres long snaking all around the inside foyer to see the Art Deco exhibition. I swear I'm not exaggerating. So, one of the gorgeous volunteers suggests we become members and jump the queue. Now, I'm not a materialistic person, but I do value my time. So we paid the annual fee (we can go back again, we figure) and went in the members' entrance without delay. How good is that?

Hah, what a joke! The exhibition was in its final weeks, the weather was gorgeous and every man and his dog (well not his dog, but you get the idea?) was there. Some 4,000 - 5,000 people must have attended that single day. I started to get some perspective why this precinct was so congested.

I've been thinking about this for the last few days. Now, I'm no expert on attendances at the arts that I'm not particularly acquainted with, but I have been watching 100 or more films a year for a long time now (for 2007 and 2008, it's approaching 300 per annum). With the exception of MIFF and the French Film Festival, it's almost alien for me to see such huge numbers of people attending any screening I go to. In two and a half years of being a member of Melbourne Cinémathèque, I think we've filled up all seating at ACMI maybe twice, and on both occasions, it was because we used the smaller Cinema 1 (from memory, it holds 200 or so, compared to 380 in Cinema 2, the regular venue). A typical night at Cinémathèque, there's say 100-200 people and 300 is busy.

I've been to a session at the Kino and been the only person there. I've often been to various arthouse cinemas and been one of a very small handful. Then I'll take the kid to the latest blockbuster at Hoyts Melbourne Central, and I find it staggering to see hundreds and hundreds of seats filled in one of these huge cinemas (and there's about a dozen of 'em). Something like Wall-E will show on two or more screens in the opening weeks.

Now, I don't want to get too much into the "art house is dying" argument. Not only is Lynden Barber doing a much better job of it than I ever could, it's not really my point. I'm wondering why a family would spend $100-$300 for a day or night at the theatre. Not just a family, but many, many families. And other than Saturday nights, the arthouse cinemas are struggling. Lynden seems to think they're dying a slow death.

It was certainly dispiriting to see the Lumiere close down a couple of years ago. With Kino's association with Dendy and Nova's association with Village, the Lumiere was the only true art house cinema left in Melbourne (not counting ACMI, which is a different kettle of fish). Of course, the Lumiere had issues with service and facility. Who wants to go to a shitty looking cinema when they're all dressed up with their partner on a night on the town? Well I would, because for me it's all about what's on the screen, but I acknowledge that others place more emphasis on other criteria. And the service attitude was terrible. But the story of the Lumiere is for another post.

When I look at the strangers I find myself talking to at MIFF, it seems a whole different class of film-goer than I see during the year at say the Kino, Nova or Como cinemas, and certainly different to the ACMI clientele. I've spoken to people who attend 80 or more films over two weeks, but then don't see another film for the next 50 weeks. For the rest of the year it's the other arts. This seems to be the same upper middle-class demographic that also flocks to the French Film Festival.

What is it about these two events? I think it's at least partially about social stature. MIFF and FFF appeal to the status of some people. Sometimes it seems that this type of audience are less interested in the films themselves, but rather the social event. I've never seen (or rather, heard) so many people chatting during a film as I do at the FFF. And of course, the Como with its relatively recent pseudo-bourgeois decor perfectly caters to this market. Don't read this as a criticism of Palace Cinemas at all. I like the Como, as kitsch as it might appear to some. I was there last night and happy to find myself in new seats in Cinema 3 (though take note that Cinema 1 still has the old-style seats). By the way, the film was Towelhead, and I enjoyed it. More in another post.

I think my line of thinking should be reasonably apparent at this stage. I'm thinking that some arts are flourishing and some are floundering. I received my NGV magazine in the mail the other day. It's called Gallery and it's very flash. It costs serious money to put a magazine like this together. This is all funded, either by government, business and/or philanthropists. It seems that some people will support some arts because there's a prestige attached to it. They'll attend an event that costs $30, $50 or $120 per head, but not a $12 event. Maybe it's beneath them. Maybe cinema is just the poor man's art, the entertainment for the masses. Maybe cinema is not even seen as art, but rather just the way the less civilised entertain their families.

I recently learnt that ACMI received about $6M of funding for the remodelling that's currently taking place. In the same round of government hand-outs, the Art Centre received something like $140M to extend. That's one year of funding, with additional funding over subsequent years. Man, what ACMI could do with that kind of money. That's serious moolah!

Now, this is not a journalistic treatise but rather, just an expression of lingering thoughts that won't go away. A lot of money is spent on the arts, and as far as I'm aware, they don't really make money. They prosper because of the support of others, from the support of sponsors, and that support results in audience support.

While we can't expect sponsorship of commercial cinemas, we could see greater support for ACMI, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. As far as commercial cinemas, Palace has cottoned onto this idea by catering upmarket. And as far as I can tell, they seem to be succeeding where others have failed. I'm very interested in others thoughts on the matter. So, any ideas? Thoughts? Suggestions?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Week in Review - 5/10/08

Just a quick byte tonight. This is all time permits.

  • Le fils de l'épicier (The Grocer's Son, Eric Guirado, France, 2007)
  • Medium Cool (Haskell Wexler, USA, 1969)
  • Petulia (Richard Lester, UK, 1968)
  • Davandeh (The Runner, Amir Naderi, Iran, 1985)
  • Khaneh-ye doost kojast? (Where is My Friend's House?, Abbas Kiarostami, Iran, 1987)
  • Just Macbeth (written by Andy Griffiths, directed by Wayne Harrison, Playhouse Theatre)

The Grocer's Son
This is a French crowd-pleaser that should... dare I say... please crowds. My family liked it but for me it was just "meh". It's a meandering story, city boy goes back to his hometown in the provinces to help out with the family grocery business when the father falls ill. There's an attractive female who looks uncannily like Delta Goodrem and an array of idiosyncratic locals. Nice for a social night out, but nothing special. My main complaints are that it's too predictable and, like The Visitor, it lacks any genuine dramatic tension.

Medium Cool
An impressive film, edgy for it's time (or any time really) and the manner in which it captures a defining event is extraordinary. Wexler has crafted a fitting homage to the profession of cinematography (his normal line of work). Not without its faults, but compelling nonetheless. It screened as part of Melbourne Cinémathèque's season of Cinema '68: The Whole World is Watching, and indeed "the whole world is watching" is a line from the film. Medium Cool was an excellent selection for this season, a quintessential piece that encapsulates the political turmoil of the time. The film was complemented by the screening of Chiefs, a short documentary about crowd control devices in the wake of the Chicago convention featured in Medium Cool.

A fairly whimsical film that lacks the bite of Medium Cool (they screened together at Cinémathèque) but is enjoyable enough.

The Runner
An impressive film with some intriguing elements. The final visuals are quite extraordinary.

Where is My Friend's House?
I have a lot of affection for Iranian cinema. I also love the frequent telling of stories from a child's perspective. Maybe I've seen too many that have used the same theme as this one, as I found it a little repetitive (even though it was made before most of those I have seen). It's a worthy film, in fact, more than a worthy film. But I felt like I'd seen much of it before. I brought my son to this (at 7, a similar age to the protagonists) and he enjoyed it. This is an aspect I like about Iranian films.

Just Macbeth
The third row (at the Playhouse) might ordinarily not be the best position for a live performance, but for this children's theatre, it was where the action was. The kid (7 years old) loves the writing of Andy Griffiths, so the common style evident in this performance was right up his alley. He laughed and laughed, learning a little about Macbeth (the play) and Shakespeare in general. Heck, even I learnt what a soliloquy is. Great fun!