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.

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

JASPER JONES

JASPER JONES is a gem.

JASPER JONES is based on the best-selling Australian novel by Craig Silvey. The novel has received broad critical acclaim and commercial success including being short-listed for the prestigious IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2011 and short-listed for the Australian Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2010.

Pic opens with schoolmates Charlie and Jeffrey debating the attributes of the super hero, and how Spiderman is an urban superhero who would be out of his comfort zone in their small, rural town.

For Jeffrey Superman and Spiderman are the supreme embodiment of a superhero, but for Charley it’s Batman, whose super power is not supernatural like the kid from Krypton, but courage like the caped crusader.

Courage is at the forefront of JASPER JONES, and author Craig Silvey has courageously adapted his novel with Snowtown scribe, Shaun Grant.

Idle banter about bantering idols and childish choices like “Would you rather wear a hat made of spiders or have a hand with fingers replaced by penises?”, give way to more pressing matters when Charlie answers a midnight summons from town outcast, Jasper Jones.

Charlie accompanies Jasper to a billabong where the body of a 16-year-old girl, Laura Wishart, hangs from an eucalypti tree. She was Jasper’s girlfriend, his only friend, and now she is dead. Charlie immediately wants to contact the police but Jasper is adamant that they cannot, as he will be blamed because he is Aboriginal and explains that he already knows who is the killer; it’s Mad Jack Lionel, the town recluse and former abattoir worker who is rumoured to have slaughtered a woman several years ago. Continue reading JASPER JONES

T2 TRAINSPOTTING : AN IMPRESSIVE SEQUEL

First there is opportunity, then there is betrayal. This the repeated refrain of TRAINSPOTTING 2, a sequel that is not skeletal like so many sequels are.

There’s meat on the bones and dramatic marrow as well as the band get back together twenty years later to deal with old wounds and then largely fuck up all over again.

First there is opportunity to recapture the rapture of the original film, reuniting director Danny Boyle, screenwriter John Hodge, source author Irvine Welsh and most of the original cast. Then there is betrayal of the fans who count Trainspotting as a seminal film of the twilight of the Twentieth Century.

Marvellously, the opportunity is not betrayed, and T2 is a sequel among equals.
The film gets off to a sly start with ex junkie, Renton, now a gym junkie, tread-milling his way to cardio overdose. Continue reading T2 TRAINSPOTTING : AN IMPRESSIVE SEQUEL

THE WRONG HAND : JANE JAGO’S BRILLIANT FIRST NOVEL

There’s no disputing the good writing and deserved bestsellerdom of books like Gone, Girl and Girl on a Train, just as there is no disputing the good writing and deserved bestsellerdom of Australian fiction that conjures comparison with these international blockbusters.

I recently waxed lyrical over Emily McGuire’s An Isolated Incident (run the search on this site), and I unequivocally wax the same lyricism for Jane Jago’s THE WRONG HAND.

This is a strong meat story of juvenile homicide, the taking of a young male life by two other young males. Based on the James Bulger case, Jago has written an absorbing narrative of the families affected, and the fate of both victims and the perpetrators. Continue reading THE WRONG HAND : JANE JAGO’S BRILLIANT FIRST NOVEL

SPOOK STREET : AN EMINENTLY ENTERTAINING READ

Featured image – talented, versatile author Mick Herron.

In prose and dialogue drier than a perfect Martini, SPOOK STREET may have a double O in its title but its tone is more Le Carre and Deighton than Fleming, although there’s the odd nod to Bond, in a sly “What would James do?” way.

These spooks are not strictly MI 5 or MI 6, this bunch is MI sfits and MI istakes.
“Slough House was a branch of the service, certainly, but ‘arm’ was pitching it strong. As was ‘finger’, come to that; fingers could be on the button or the pulse. Fingernails, now; those, you clipped, discarded, and never wanted to see again.”

The series has had a River run through it – River Cartwright – and he’s pretty much front and centre in SPOOK STREET. Continue reading SPOOK STREET : AN EMINENTLY ENTERTAINING READ

TONI ERDMANN : AN UPLIFTING, MEMORABLE COMEDY

TONI ERDMAN is a nigh on three hour cinematic humoresque, about the powerful protectiveness of the paternal and the universally acknowledged truth that parents are put on earth to embarrass their children.

The film leaves an early calling card about its deliriously laconic pace in the opening scene where a delivery man is kept waiting a wee while to have his door knocking answered.

When someone finally comes to the door, the courier is told the recipient is not him, but his brother, a person just released from jail for letter bombing offences. The courier is asked to wait while the addressee is summoned. Continue reading TONI ERDMANN : AN UPLIFTING, MEMORABLE COMEDY

FENCES : A GREAT PLAY, NOT SUCH A GREAT FILM

Based on August Wilson’s Pulitzer and Tony award winning play, Denzel Washington’s production of FENCES never escapes its theatrical roots. Astonishing then that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated the film for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

FENCES is only marginally more cinematic than those National Theatre filmed plays that are presently doing the art house rounds.
The great strengths of the film are the performances and with wall to wall words, from the roof of the mouth to the basement of the base baritone, you understand why actors of the calibre of Denzel Washington and Viola Davis would be attracted to such mouth filling verbiage. Continue reading FENCES : A GREAT PLAY, NOT SUCH A GREAT FILM

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA : AN EXTRAORDINARY NEW FILM BY KENNETH LONERGAN

Film makers are either torch bearers or pall bearers, their pictures either lighthouses shining over seas or drearily and turgidly shouldering moribund movies that should have been buried before they were born.

Kenneth Lonergan is a torch bearer, with a track record of three bona fide beacons as writer director, pictures that illuminate and lead intelligent taste. His directorial debut YOU CAN COUNT ON ME was a superior sibling story, starring Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo, his second film, MARGARET, was a disgracefully underrated career high for Anna Paquin, and now his third, His latest film delivers delivers a hat trick. Or to mix the bat and ball metaphors, three home runs. Continue reading MANCHESTER BY THE SEA : AN EXTRAORDINARY NEW FILM BY KENNETH LONERGAN

PATRIOTS DAY : A SEARING RE-ENACTMENT OF THE BOSTON MARATHON BOMBINGS

Great score, great cast, a gripping set piece and a marvellous edgy quasi doco feel for the lead up to the incident, PATRIOTS DAY is the apotheosis of the teaming of director Peter Berg and his star of choice, Mark Wahlberg.

A searing re-enactment of the Boston Marathon bombings in Boston in 2013, the film was originally titled Boston Strong, which seems eminently more suitable and more palatable to non jingoistic audiences.

Title aside, though, PATRIOTS DAY is a prime procedural thriller concerning the lead up, the event and the aftermath, and is absolutely gripping in its three act play out.

Continue reading PATRIOTS DAY : A SEARING RE-ENACTMENT OF THE BOSTON MARATHON BOMBINGS

MOONLIGHT : A MASTERFUL TRIPTYCH OF ONE MAN’S STORY

Forging the cinematic identity of Miami through stories that “go beyond the typical portrayal of a beautiful but vapid party town.”, MOONLIGHT is a masterpiece triptych of one boy’s story.

Featuring a trio of gifted actors, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes, inhabiting a single character, Chiron, MOONLIGHT tells the story of one young man’s coming of age in a tough Miami neighbourhood.

We first meet Chiron as an uncertain and tentative boy known as “Little”. Picked upon by his peers and neglected by his crack addled mother. Ironically, Little is rescued from his persecuting peers by Juan, the drug dealer who supplies his mother. He takes Little home to his girlfriend, Teresa, and teaches him to swim, and instils a sense of self pride.

The second act finds Chiron a bullied teenager grappling with his sexuality. Tenderness and violence, retaliation and repercussion, bleeds into the final chapter where Chiron, now known as “Black” a grown man, deals drugs in Georgia.

MOONLIGHT also features a stunning supporting ensemble, including Naomie Harris — playing with tough, impassioned grace a crack addicted single mother trying to raise her young son amid tempestuous personal struggles — and Mahershala Ali as the indelible early mentor, Juan. Both these actors have been nominated for Academy Awards for their performances, part of the eight Oscar haul of nominations the film has earned.

MOONLIGHT has been nominated for Best Picture and Best Director, Barry Jenkins, who, in cahoots with his cameraman, James Laxton, also nominated, creates an eloquent lensing as the camera choreographs around its subjects, whether it be the dizzying dance of the carousel or the shaky subjective pursuit of people or a ball.

Jenkins is also up for Best Adapted Screenplay, fashioned from a story by Tarell Alvin McCraney.

Rounding out the eight nominations are Best Film Editing, Nat Sanders & Joi McMillon, and Best Original Score, Nicholas Britell.

With all its integrated facets, MOONLIGHT is an authentically moving experience that is powerful, poignant and quietly passionate.

DENNIS KELLY’S ‘OSAMA THE HERO’ @ THE KINGS CROSS THEATRE

The provocatively titled OSAMA THE HERO by Dennis Kelly is an examination of the hothouse hysteria that the West has been laden with due to the twin towers of terrorism and trepidation.

Asked to present a school project on an inspirational character, nerdy Gary chooses Osama bin Laden as his subject. After all, Gary argues, Osama inspired manifold minions by giving up his manifold millions to live in a cave and lead a jihad, fighting on the frontline. Poor taste compounded by paranoia makes poor Gary a pariah. And when a garage explodes, he is thrown on the pariah heap, a pyre built of perverts and paedophiles. Continue reading DENNIS KELLY’S ‘OSAMA THE HERO’ @ THE KINGS CROSS THEATRE

PERFECT STRANGERS : A COMEDY OF MANNERS FOR THE TECH SET

Here’s a film for the  tweeting, texting, sexting crowd we’ve all become part of, thanks to the insidious and ubiquitous mobile phone.

PERFECT STRANGERS is the positively ironic and glib title of a dinner party game of dare for the digitals.

The titular perfect strangers are actually seven long-time friends (three couples and one bachelor), all in their forties, who gather one night for a dinner party and agree that no private calls or messaging will disrupt their evening. Instead, in a communal fit of ‘we have nothing to hide’ bravado, they place their devices on the table, and all incoming calls and texts are shared with the group. (Letting a caller know they’re on speaker is considered a cheat).

What seems, however, seems at first like an innocent and playful distraction between friends quickly turns into something more, as the messages start to reveal some eye-opening secrets and how little they may truly know about their partners and friends. Continue reading PERFECT STRANGERS : A COMEDY OF MANNERS FOR THE TECH SET

LION

Deserving of a lion’s share of both box office booty and award adulation, LION is a raw and roaring tale of loss and recovery across two continents and twenty five years.

Saroo is a five year old scamp living with his mother and older brother in a rural village of India. One day, he accompanies his brother in search of work in a town quite a journey from his village.

Travel tired, he is told to rest and not to move at the railway station. Searching for a comfortable cocoon in which to slumber, Saroo cradles inside a carriage. On wakening, he finds himself on a train destination unknown, and not knowing how long or how far he has travelled.

The traverse seems as big as the universe and he is delivered to a big city, time and distance unbeknown to the little tacker. Lost, bewildered, traumatised, he has a string of misadventures before finding himself in an orphanage and finally into the safe haven of adoptive parents.

The trans sub continental train ride seems infinitesimal compared to his final destination, the great Australian footnote state of Tasmania.

And so Saroo grows into adulthood under the adoring care of mother and father and saddled with another Indian orphan as surrogate sibling.

Torn between his devotion to his adoptive parents and a desire to reunite with his biological family, he decides to delve into a bit of detective work to position his present with his past.

The first great Australian film of the year, LION has a pride of talent before and behind the camera. Continue reading LION

‘TIM BURTON: THE ICONIC FILM MAKER AND HIS WORK’ BY IAN NATHAN

Unofficial and unauthorised, Ian Nathan’s TIM BURTON: The Iconic Film Maker and His Work is a handsome and illustriously illustrated study of the creator of Frankenweenie and Edward Scissorhands, to name just two iconic characters conjured by one of the most curious movie directors in contemporary cinema.

In his introduction, Nathan writes that, partly, the endeavour of the book is to describe the advent of the adjective Burtonesque. “If you use the word Burtonesque any film fan will know exactly what you are saying.”

Undeniably, there is a distinctive look to Tim Burton’s films, and like all great cineasts, image takes primary over narrative. Ian Nathan has had the great good sense of papering this book with images, and let his subject do the heavy lifting, sometimes in his own words, sometimes by his colleagues and collaborators. Continue reading ‘TIM BURTON: THE ICONIC FILM MAKER AND HIS WORK’ BY IAN NATHAN

THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY

One of the eagerly anticipated cinema releases of this month is LION starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. For those who missed his previous film, THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY, there is now the opportunity of catching up with this woefully underrated gem.Infinitely fine film that makes maths add up to a grand sum of entertainment.

Writer/Director Matthew Brown’s THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY shows all the pluses and none of he minuses in a sterling piece of bio-pic the equal of, if not superior to, The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything.

Beginning in Colonial India, 1913 we are introduced to Srinavasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel) a 25-year-old self-taught genius, whose obsessive, solitary study of mathematics compels him to scratch out his calculus on the slate floors of an old temple, not such a strange place considering Ramanujan believed that an equation has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God. Continue reading THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY

PRIZE FIGHTER : UPSTAIRS @ BELVOIR STREET THEATRE

I haven’t been ringside since I attended a bout of World Championship Wrestling. That “sport” of course was totally theatrical, a silly pantomime of phoney biff but with a certain athleticism.

La Boite’s production of PRIZE FIGHTER at Belvoir is also totally theatrical, but with a more striking athleticism and a much more sober and sombre aesthete.

Isa is a Congolese refugee getting by in the ‘burbs of Brisbane as a boxer. Trained in the jab and duck by his brother, his killer instinct was honed as a child soldier, press ganged into service by the same guerilla gang that massacred his family. Continue reading PRIZE FIGHTER : UPSTAIRS @ BELVOIR STREET THEATRE