All posts by Richard Cotter

As a child, Richard loved going to the pictures. He is still getting over the advent of the talkie which set cinema back a century but still sounds off on radio ABC, 2GB and 2UE etc about the state of cinema whenever invited. As well, Richard has been a theatre practitioner for the past 35 years and has been resident director for Big Splash Productions for the past 10 years.

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING

Many critics thought Julian Barnes much too good to win the Booker Prize, but then he did, a half dozen years ago, with The Sense of an Ending.

Many thought that the book, a very internalised view of memory, would be impossible to turn in to a beautifully textured film, but then playwright Nick Payne, author of the stupendous stage play, Constellations, wrote an adaptation and the acclaimed director of The Lunchbox, Ritesh Batra agreed to be the helmer, and so we have the graceful film, THE SENSE OF AN ENDING.

Here’s a sense of a beginning: Tony Webster leads a reclusive and quiet existence until long buried secrets from his past force him to face the flawed recollections of his younger self, the truth about his first love and the devastating consequences of decisions made a lifetime ago. Continue reading THE SENSE OF AN ENDING

NERUDA

Pablo Larrain’s picture of the  larrikin poet, NERUDA, is as ambitious, ambiguous and audacious as his anti biopic, Jackie.

Man and myth, icon and hedonist, a champagne Marxist with the heart of a poet and a predilection for pulp, Larrain’s Neruda, personified in performance as a portly proletariat potentate by Luis Gnecco, is a delicious super imposed study of a popular hero, who’s hallowed legacy is harrowed by the blunt edge of a fallen halo.

Writer Guillermo Calderon and director Pablo Larrain have invented a world, just as Neruda invented his. The film is more a “Nerudian” film than it is a film about Neruda. Continue reading NERUDA

THE GIRL BEFORE : A DEBUT NOVEL BY J.P. DELANEY

A dream house becomes a nightmare dwelling in J P Delaney’s uber impressive debut novel, THE GIRL BEFORE.

Stick Girl in the title these days and you’re assured a bestseller it seems, but THE GIRL BEFORE is bound to sweep away Gone, Girl and Girl on a Train on equal merit and not just marketing spin.

“Sometimes I have a sense that this house- our relationship in it, with it, with each other -is like a palimpsest or pentimento, that however much we try to over paint Emma Matthews, she keeps tiptoeing back: a faint image, an enigmatic smile, stealing its way into the corner of the frame.” Continue reading THE GIRL BEFORE : A DEBUT NOVEL BY J.P. DELANEY

THE VICEROY’S HOUSE

“Makes Buckingham Palace look like a bungalow”, Lady Mountbatten opines as she surveys her new digs in THE VICEROY’S HOUSE, the latest picture to depict Partition and the creation of Pakistan.

The dwelling was designed by Lutyens and took 17 years to build. Its imposing architecture was an expression of Imperial power, intended to intimidate. It was completed in 1929, as Wall Street crashed, but few could have imagined that in less than 20 years it would become the home of the first President of India. Interestingly, it remains the largest residence of any head of state anywhere in the world.

Back in 1947, Lord Mountbatten was appointed the last British Viceroy of India, a Horay Henry of the Last Hurrah of the Raj, and this film depicts him as much a hapless pawn in the machinations of the British Government at the time as the creator and administrator of the divvy up.

Director Gurinder Chadha, probably best known for her breakout film, Bend It Like Beckham, split’s the film’s narrative fairly evenly between the political wrangling of the real historical figures upstairs in the seat of Colonial power and the emotional downstairs scenes, centred on the fictional romance between Jeet, a Hindu personal valet to Mountbatten, and Aalia, a Muslim
translator for Mountbatten’s daughter Pamela, and it’s as cheesy as a naan laced with rennin. Continue reading THE VICEROY’S HOUSE

DON’T TELL : A BRILLIANT NEW AUSTRALIAN FILM

Above : Jack Thompson plays the silkiest of silks, Bob Myers. Featured photo- Sara West plays the gutsy main character, Lyndel.

DON’T TELL is the kind of film that makes audiences “do tell” and strong word of mouth should launch this splendid court room drama into the box office success it so richly deserves.

Sara West is superb as Lyndal, a young woman at crisis point, desperate to be heard and needing to be believed. A decade ago, she was sexually abused by a teacher at a school run by the Anglican Church.

The vile experience together with the bottled up anger, guilt, and fear has derailed a life on track for a stable and productive life.

After ten years of troubled existence, Lyndal must tell of her experience, must publicly dispel her appalling sentence of silence to have any semblance of a normal life. Continue reading DON’T TELL : A BRILLIANT NEW AUSTRALIAN FILM

WHITELEY : A BRILLIANT DOCO ON ONE OF OUR GREATEST ARTISTS

Australia is certainly at the arts end of the world, put on the global creative cartography by Brett Whiteley, and James Bogle’s brilliant documentary is completely deserving of Brett’s talent. WHITELEY may well be the best Australian film of the year.

Writer/director James Bogle and co writer, Victor Gentile, have fashioned a fine feature film from Whiteley’s own voice, and the voices of his muse and ex wife, Wendy, either captured on archival footage or recreated from notebooks and interviews over four decades.

Like most artists, this larrikin painter subordinated his life to the overwhelming needs of his art. It is a selfishness, but a selfishness that creates great and enduring art.

Infused with Whiteley’s art, the film is assuredly and undeniably a work of art in itself, as it seeks to fathom the mysteries and intrigue of genius, the confusions and contradictions of this sensitive, selfish man with a soaring talent. Continue reading WHITELEY : A BRILLIANT DOCO ON ONE OF OUR GREATEST ARTISTS

TEN DOUBLE PASSES TO THE AMERICAN ESSENTIALS FILM FESTIVAL

 

This May Palace Cinemas once again brings the best of American independent film to Australian screens with American Essentials.

Twenty films make their Australian premiere at the three-week festival, celebrating the latest indie treasures in narrative feature and documentary, together with newly restored American classics.

Thirty-one films curated by Artistic Director Richard Sowada reflects the remarkable breadth of contemporary independent cinema produced in the US, proving a richness far greater than the same old, same old studio pictures inherent in the Hollywood machine.

American Essentials kicks off with 20th CENTURY WOMEN. Nominated for Best Original Screenplay in this year’s Academy Awards, Mike Mill’s 20thCENTURY WOMEN resembles a ramshackle novel rather than a polished screenplay. Continue reading TEN DOUBLE PASSES TO THE AMERICAN ESSENTIALS FILM FESTIVAL

GET OUT : MUCH MORE THAN A BLACK AND WHITE STORY

 

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? meets The Stepford Wives in this creepy anthropological and psychological sleeper hit.

Like Sidney Poitier, Daniel Kaluuya’s Chris is invited by his white girlfriend to meet the folks. Like Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn, Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener are upper middle class liberals, brimming with bonhomie. He is a neurosurgeon and she is a psychiatrist. And they both want to play in, and with their daughter’s intended’s brain. Continue reading GET OUT : MUCH MORE THAN A BLACK AND WHITE STORY

TEN DOUBLE PASSES: THE NEW FRENCH FILM ‘THE INNOCENTS’

The original title for Anne Fontaine’s THE INNOCENTS was Agnus Dei, or Lamb of God.The Holy Ovine who is supposed to take away the sins of the world, God’s gamboller who will grant peace and mitigate mercy.

The film is based on a true story, on events that occurred at the end of World War II. As the Nazi’s were withdrawing from Poland, the Russians advanced and occupied and pillaged Poland. Rape was considered a reward and Soviet soldiers were responsible for the insemination of several nuns.

The convent closed ranks, Mother Superior deciding to conceal the atrocities. Within cloisters, the baby bumps mature, and the physical and psychological effects fit to burst.
Now is the winter of this convent from whence a maid becomes a glorious summoner. Continue reading TEN DOUBLE PASSES: THE NEW FRENCH FILM ‘THE INNOCENTS’

THEIR FINEST : A MOVIE LIKE THEY USED TO MAKE

My Mum’s mantra about modern movies is “Why don’t they make films like they used to?”

Well, guess what, Mum? They still do.

At least Lone Scherfig’s latest film, THEIR FINEST, is about how they made films back in the Forties, and so finely made is it, that it does, in fact, feel like a picture made back then.

In the midst of the Second World War, the population of England and her allies were in need of something uplifting they could relate to, to help raise the spirits of the nation during this bleak time.

Going to the pictures became more than just an exercise in entertainment, but an excursion into hope and optimism.

Gemma Arterton stars as Catrin Cole, a creative copywriter who catches the eye of the Government section that produce propaganda feature films. She is employed to create engaging scenarios and write female dialogue, to tap into the emotions and imaginations of the fast growing women’s workforce, to stroke the heart, stoke the hearth, and keep the home fires burning. Continue reading THEIR FINEST : A MOVIE LIKE THEY USED TO MAKE

RAW : IN YOUR FACE FILMMAKING

A slap in the vagina with a piece of veal to vegans and vegetarians, RAW is about a couple of cannibal sisters who certainly like their meat rare.

These self same samplers of human flesh and sinew are veterinarian science students at a well heeled university, where fees cost an arm and a leg.

This is the alma mater of their parents, so they are carrying on an alpha tradition.

Another tradition that runs deep in the family is their dedicated veganism, so when initiation rituals include meat eating and blood splattering, we know we are in for some extreme angst, conflict and life altering experience.                         Continue reading RAW : IN YOUR FACE FILMMAKING

COLOSSAL : A QUIRKY NEW FILM STARRING ANNE HATHAWAY

Colossal entertainment of a bent and skewed kind awaits audiences with COLOSSAL, Anne Hathaway’s brave heart take on domestic violence, male manipulation and the canker of unrequited hanker.

COLOSSAL is a film in which a recognisably universal story is manipulated through a monster mash of genres – part rom com, part creature feature – and it works a treat in a meteoric, metaphoric euphoria.

The plot follows Gloria who has lost her high flying job and fiance due to being a tragic hostage in the battle for the bottle. She is the very opposite of her name.

She makes an ignominious return to her home town, rekindles an acquaintance with a bloke from her past and starts working in his bar. A drunk tending bar – now there’s a plan.                       Continue reading COLOSSAL : A QUIRKY NEW FILM STARRING ANNE HATHAWAY

PERSONAL SHOPPER : EXPLORING THE WORLD OF THE BEREAVED

 

In Olivier Assayas’ formidable film, PERSONAL SHOPPER, mourning becomes electric.

Genuinely eerie, PERSONAL SHOPPER is a ghost story but not in the contemporary chintzy, clutzy, gormless gory CGI scaremongering generic of hackneyed haunting.

No cheap thrills here, just a film with the gift of enigmatic clarity. There’s a piercing sadness and melancholy beauty in Olivier Assayas beautifully chilling essay on grief.

Kristen Stewart excels here, exquisitely transcending those vapid vampires that boosted her career.                Continue reading PERSONAL SHOPPER : EXPLORING THE WORLD OF THE BEREAVED

DENIAL : A DRAMATISATION OF THE DAVID IRVING VERSUS PENGUIN BOOKS LTD CASE

One cannot help muse that the defiant, deluded Holocaust denier, David Irving, must have been duped into thinking the case he brought against Penguin Books and their author, Deborah Lipstadt, was going to be heard by Jewry rather than a jury when he agreed that the matter be adjudicated by a judge alone.

Of course, the truth of the matter is brilliantly argued in the astonishingly gripping court room drama, DENIAL.

After historian Deborah Lipstadt’s book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory is published in the UK, she is shocked to learn that British author David Irving, a prolific writer of texts on World War II, is suing her for libel.                        Continue reading DENIAL : A DRAMATISATION OF THE DAVID IRVING VERSUS PENGUIN BOOKS LTD CASE

THE DAY OF THE JACKAL : CLASSIC SUSPENSE

Forty four years on and THE DAY OF THE JACKAL is still as taut, tense and terrific as it was when released in cinemas in 1973.

Helmed by master craftsman Fred Zinnemann this original adaptation of Frederick Forsyth’s best selling book is 143 minutes of precise methodical planning, suspenseful in a cool, measured way that reflects the cold calculating calm of the assassin code named The Jackal.

In a precision piece of police procedural, the movie painstakingly maps the trajectory of the hiring of the hitman to the cat and mouse chase and capture.

Continue reading THE DAY OF THE JACKAL : CLASSIC SUSPENSE

CHARLOTTE RAMPLING’S MEMOIR REVEALS WHO SHE IS, SORT OF…

How appropriate that an outfit called Icon Books should publish Charlotte Rampling’s WHO I AM.

Rampling is an undeniable icon of film and popular culture, and her book, co authored by Christophe Bataille, is sure to achieve iconic cache.

The first thing to say about WHO I AM is what it is not.

In the first paragraph, Rampling says, with a laugh, One thing it definitely can’t be is a biography. I’ve tried telling my life story. It doesn’t work…..I don’t open up. Continue reading CHARLOTTE RAMPLING’S MEMOIR REVEALS WHO SHE IS, SORT OF…

A MAN CALLED OVE

Remember when the ownership of a Holden or a Ford was tribal? The same kind of one car nation or the other raises its quaint and parochial head in the Swedish episodic comedy, A MAN CALLED OVE.

Curmudgeon sexagenarian Ove is a Saab man through and through, with unmitigated disdain for Volvo drivers, although that at least is better than Audi, – “four zeros on the grille and one behind the wheel” is his disparaging default.

Recently widowed, Ove is the quintessential angry old man next door, the self appointed and opinionated neighbourhood watchman, with strict principles and a short fuse, who spends his days enforcing block association rules that only he cares about, and visiting his wife’s grave.

When suddenly retrenched, Ove decides that life is finally not worth living. He decides to commit suicide, but after a series of attempts, it appears that life is not ready to give up on Ove. Continue reading A MAN CALLED OVE

THE FAMILY : A NEW DOCUMENTARY BY ROSIE JONES

A matriarch with a Messiah complex, Anne Hamilton-Byrne was a glamorous yoga teacher whose charismatic aura amassed a cult following and spawned a surrogate family of illegally sourced children, under the auspices of The Santiniketan Park Association.

Rosie Jones’ documentary, THE FAMILY, is an investigation into the cult and the dogged detective work of policeman, Lex De Man, longest serving member of Operation Forest, which sought to prosecute Hamilton-Byrne.

Altogether 28 children spent time under the strict regime of Anne, self proclaimed reincarnation of Jesus Christ, and The Aunties, Anne’s apostles, disciples in strict and restrictive discipline; a core group of 14 believed they were Anne and her husband Bill’s biological children and bore the Hamilton-Byrne name. Continue reading THE FAMILY : A NEW DOCUMENTARY BY ROSIE JONES

ZACH’S CEREMONY : A NEW FILM BY AARON PETERSEN

If you think the Sydney lock out laws are Draconian, consider the Queensland State Government’s Alcohol Management Plan affecting the town of Doomadgee – a first offence penalty for possessing a full strength alcoholic beverage is a fine of $44,175 or incarceration if unable to pay.

Imagine that imposition to the beer swilling burgers of Sydney. The weekend paralytic would be apoplectic, yet this appalling apartheid prohibition is levelled at the indigenous inhabitants, further pathetic paternalism by a white society.

Back in 1930, white Christian missionaries thrashed indigenous culture out of the locals, now there is a concentrated effort to claw it back. Out of a population of a thousand, there were fourteen suicides in twelve months, due partly to alcohol and drugs which is part of the problem of dissociation that prevails in these communities. Continue reading ZACH’S CEREMONY : A NEW FILM BY AARON PETERSEN

LAND OF MINE : A POWERFUL ANTI LANDMINES MOVIE

One of the best films of the year, LAND OF MINE, is the cinematic cousin, or soul mate of The Hurt Locker and The Hill.

In a nutshell, this bombshell of a movie is set in the days following the surrender of Nazi Germany in May 1945, when German POWs held in Denmark were put to work by the Allied Forces. With minimal training in defusing explosives, they were sent to remove in excess of two million of their own landmines from the Danish west coast.

The film begins with our introduction to Sergeant Rasmussen, military moustached veteran of the Nazi occupation, going berserk at the sight of a soldier, part of a column of vanquished Germans soldiers filing down the road, draped in a Danish flag.

Incensed to the point of inflicting grievous bodily harm, he screams at the souveniring soldier, “This land is mine.” Continue reading LAND OF MINE : A POWERFUL ANTI LANDMINES MOVIE

LOVING : AN EXCEPTIONAL FILM BY JEFF NICHOLS

I saw LOVING back in November and loved it. I saw LOVING again last week and loved it even more.

As good as Emma and Natalie and Isabel were, I was fervently rooting for Ruth Negga to win the Academy Award for her beautifully poised performance as Mildred Loving, a black woman who had the temerity of accepting a marriage proposal from a white man, Richard Loving, in the state of Virginia, United States of America, 1958.

The United States of America, contrary to its appellation, was not united in everything, as the Appalachian state continued with a miscegenist law about marriage. It was the state of Virginia, where the appropriately named Loving’s were making their home and starting a family, that first terrorised and humiliated them, then jailed them and then banished them for defying its law against interracial marriage. Continue reading LOVING : AN EXCEPTIONAL FILM BY JEFF NICHOLS

THE PANTHER WITHIN : A STRIKING NEW AUSTRALIAN DOCUMENTARY

Knocking the Who Do You Think You Are? concept out of the ring, THE PANTHER WITHIN is a winning technical and emotional knock-out of a film.

In a tag team bout of several suspenseful rounds, film-maker Edoardo Crismani and his mother Barbara embark on a search to unravel the mystery surrounding Barbara’s father Joe Murray, an indigenous boxing champion who danced and sang vaudeville, and married a blue-eyed blond white woman in 1930s Australia. Astonishing!

On the ropes as far as reliable historical documentation regarding Joe Murray, mother and son journey across the land, from Adelaide to Mildura, Melbourne and Ballarat. They trawl through libraries, meet with researchers, historians and Aboriginal elders, delving into the hidden heritage of the man known as The Black Panther, trying to piece his story together. Continue reading THE PANTHER WITHIN : A STRIKING NEW AUSTRALIAN DOCUMENTARY

DAVID STRATTON : A CINEMATIC LIFE

What a cast!

Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Sam Neil, Judy Davis, Jackie Weaver, Rachel Griffiths, Geoffrey Rush, Bryan Brown and Eric Bana. To name a few. That’s the incredible line-up amassed for DAVID STRATTON: A CINEMATIC LIFE.

A film critic can sometimes unearth an audience for a film that does not have the vast advertising techniques and budget that ensures a mass audience for a major movie, usually from a studio in Hollywood.

Such an excavator is David Stratton whose exuberance for the wide exhibition of quality films, especially those made in Australia, is extolled in this brilliant exultation of local films, DAVID STRATTON: A CINEMATIC LIFE. Continue reading DAVID STRATTON : A CINEMATIC LIFE

THE SALESMAN

We’ve all probably done it. Pressed the intercom key release indiscriminately, thinking the caller is someone expected.
That’s what Rana does, expecting her husband as she prepares to take a shower.
The upshot is a devastating seismic incident, a potent aftershock to the earthquake that begins THE SALESMAN, this years recipient of the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.

This Iranian bombshell explodes into an exploration of a couple imploding. School teacher Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and his wife Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) need new digs when their home is devastated by an earthquake.

The couple are also actors in an amateur Tehran production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, and a member of their troupe arranges for them move into a new apartment, until recently occupied by a mysterious young woman. Continue reading THE SALESMAN

MUSICA VIVA PRESENTS ‘EIGHTH BLACKBIRD’ @ CITY RECITAL HALL

EIGHTH BLACKBIRD send you to musical seventh heaven with their Musica Viva set which includes the world premiere performance of a work by home grown composer Holly Harrison.

Named from a Wallace Stevens poem that talks about lucid, inescapable rhythms, EIGHTH BLACKBIRD is a sizzling sextet originally hailing from Ohio celebrating twenty-one years performing new works that defy easy classification. True to say, there’s no pigeon-holing the EIGHTH BLACKBIRD.

The program for the Musica Viva Tour combines pieces they have worked on in recent seasons with music from two of their recent recordings, one of which, Filament, won them their fourth Grammy. Continue reading MUSICA VIVA PRESENTS ‘EIGHTH BLACKBIRD’ @ CITY RECITAL HALL