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.

CHURCHILL : JONATHON TEPLITZKY’S COMPELLING BIO PIC

CHURCHILL follows Britain’s iconic Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the days before the D-Day landings in June 1944. As allied forces stand on the south coast of Britain, poised to invade Nazi occupied Europe, they await Churchill’s decision on whether the invasion will actually move ahead.

After stirring the British through the blitz and the Battle of Britain, poor old Winnie is knackered and someone clapped out. A lush and slightly demented

An impulsive, sometimes bullying personality and bulldog stubborn – fearful, obsessive and hurting – he is fearful of repeating, on his disastrous command, the mass slaughter of 1915, when over 500,000 soldiers were killed on the beaches of Gallipoli. Continue reading CHURCHILL : JONATHON TEPLITZKY’S COMPELLING BIO PIC

LADY MACBETH : FILMMAKER WILLIAM OLDROYD TAKES ON ONE OF SHAKESPEARE’S DARKEST CHARACTERS

We are experiencing a copious cinematic cascade of crinoline and corsets led by the currently screening My Cousin Rachel and A Quiet Passion. The latest entry, LADY MACBETH is, quite simply, lady magnificent, trumping the current crop with performance, power and precision.

William Oldroyd’s beguiling film begins with a wedding. In a beautifully framed and composed shot, the focus is on the bride, veiled in virginal white. There is no sign of a groom. The feel is more like a funeral than nuptial celebration.

Later, in a joyless bedroom, the groom appears and orders her to take off her nightie. She dutifully obliges. He has a gander but is not up for goosing, and leaves the chamber with the marriage unconsummated.                   Continue reading LADY MACBETH : FILMMAKER WILLIAM OLDROYD TAKES ON ONE OF SHAKESPEARE’S DARKEST CHARACTERS

I’LL EAT WHEN I’M DEAD : A FEROCIOUSLY FUNNY SATIRE OF THE WORLD OF FASHION

Featured image- Pic of author by Dennis Drenner.

A fission and fusion of fashion and crime fiction, Barbara Bourland’s I’LL EAT WHEN I’M DEAD is a ferociously funny satire of the gloss and goss industry.

Rip the dust jacket from the binding and wear it with pride, you’ll want to devour this delicious banquet of a book in one sitting, gutsing the glorious barbs and bon mots, characters and situations.

Plot thickens, narrative ripens under the impressive prose of Ms Bourland, with this scathing, coruscating and laugh out loud novel. Continue reading I’LL EAT WHEN I’M DEAD : A FEROCIOUSLY FUNNY SATIRE OF THE WORLD OF FASHION

A QUIET PASSION : TAKES US INSIDE THE WORLD OF THE SUBLIME EMILY DICKINSON

Keith Carradine plays Emily’s loving father.

Featured image – Cynthia Nixon and Jennifer Ehle in A QUIET PASSION.

Emily Dickinson was first featured in Terence Davies cinematic ode to Liverpool, Of Time and The City, which contained his recitation of “I reason, earth is short and anguish absolute, and many hurt, but what of that? I reason we could die – the best vitality cannot excel decay. But what of that? I reason that in Heaven, somehow it will be even, some new equation given. But what of that?”

With A QUIET PASSION he has delivered a fully fledged bio-pic of the sublime poet, but what of that?

A portrait of a morbid, obsessed recluse needs careful handling and for the most part Davies’ picture is a fascinating and enthralling character study of people, time and place.

Born into privilege in 1803, Emily Dickinson spent most of her life on her parents estate in Amherst, Massachusetts. In her youth, as finely depicted by Emma Bell, Emily is a fiercely intelligent young woman, feisty in forthright opinions on life, art, love, religion and gender equality. This exasperated her teachers at Holyoke Female Seminary to the point of her expulsion. But what of that?

Sent home to the bosom of her family, she jousts with father, a perfect picture of paternal affection and frustration from Keith Carradine, and parries with sister, a sincere and sparkling turn of sibling simpatico from Jennifer Ehle.

As time passes, the mature Emily is taken up by Cynthia Dixon, in a performance that is rightfully being praised as a career best. But what of that?

Florian Hoffmeister’s cinematography is exemplary with both exteriors – Antwerp doubling for Amherst – and interiors having a definite 19th century feel.

The authentic look of the film is further enhanced by Merijn Serp’s production design and Catherine Marchand’s cossies. But what of that?

A QUIET PASSION does live up to it’s title – there is a passionate quiet at the core of the film, that now and then rudely bubbles to the surface. The results are exquisite. However, the film’s quiet passion verges on scuttling the sublime by shots that are excessively held, exhausting interest and rendering scenes enervating rather than exhilarating. But what of that?

KEDI : THIS FILM WILL MAKE YOU PURR LIKE A KITTEN

Istanbul should be renamed Catstandenobled after viewing KEDI, a purrfectly affectionate catumentary about the feline inhabitants of the pearl on the Bosphorus.

KEDI could be renamed as well. May I suggest, The Mognificent Seven, as Director Ceyda Torun catalogues a septet of cats and their nine lives.

The film begins with a bird’s eye view of Istanbul – or Catsaresonoble – as gulls hover over the Bosphorus, then swoops down to street level to take in the arCATecture. Apologies for the catachresis). Continue reading KEDI : THIS FILM WILL MAKE YOU PURR LIKE A KITTEN

CAN I BE ME? : WHITNEY’S REFRAIN THAT WE NEVER HEARD

Houston , we have a problem.

Nick Broomfield’s documentary about Whitney Houston, CAN I BE ME?, is such a slow burn affair that interest for the general view may well splutter before it ignites.

It begins with the 911 call triggered in response to her unresponsiveness, the emergency call that first alerted the world that Whitney Houston had exited this life at the age of 48.

Over the radio voices, another voice intones that Whitney Houston died of a broken heart. Continue reading CAN I BE ME? : WHITNEY’S REFRAIN THAT WE NEVER HEARD

THAT’S NOT ME

It looks a million dollars but THAT’S NOT ME cost a mere $60,000.

THAT’S NOT ME begins with the picture’s protagonist, Polly, sitting on the toilet clutching an air freshener and delivering an Oscar acceptance speech.

Polly is an aspiring actress, the twin sister of another aspiring actress, Amy. She is a serious minded thespian, biding her time for a shot at stardom working at a cinema selling tickets, popcorn and choc-tops.

When her agent suggests her for a role in the popular soap, Summer Street, she baulks at the idea of playing an albino, perceiving whitening up as repugnant as blacking up.

Amy takes the gig instead, is a success, lands a role in an HBO show and starts dating Jared Leto.

A disastrous trip to LA does little to help matters, but the unbearable situation becomes a little better when Polly discovers that she can use her sister’s celebrity to her advantage to get free clothes, free booze and casual sex.

There’s not a dud note in THAT’S NOT ME thanks to a solid foundation in a script by Alice Foulcher and Gregory Erdstein, and anchored by a winning lead performance by Foulcher and Helmed with an assured hand by Erdstein.

The support casting is impeccable with a mix of the well known and the unknown. Andrew S. Gilbert and Catherine Hill are perfect as Polly’s parents and Isabel Lucas is ferociously good as Polly’s drama school pal, Zoe, who has transplanted to Hollywood and deliciously pays out on the studio who has dissed her.

Andrew O’Keeffe serves up a sparkling cameo as a soap star and the director, Gregory Erdstein sends the self important director caricature into cauterised comic cuts.

Cinematography by Shelley Farthing-Dawe is first class as is the rich production design of Sally Addinsall.

What could have been cheesy has been kept bright and breezy in this very funny film of awkward ambition, shallow celebrity, sibling rivalry and playing the real.

DATES FOR THE DIARY: 

THAT’S NOT ME plays Sydney Film Festival Saturday June 10 6.30 pm at Event George, and Sunday June 11 8.30 pm at The Ritz, Randwick, and Monday June 12, 6.30 pm at the Hayden Orpheum, Cremorne.

SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL DOCOS : TWO OF THE BEST

Invariably, the great surprises and sincere sensations of the Sydney Film Festival come from documentary film makers shining cinematic spotlights on our past, present and futures, rectifying the forgotten by elevating remembrance, examining the individual and celebrating the universal.

Two such gems are part of this year’s Festival line up. For some it will be an education. For aficionados it will be an edification. Link Wray, Mildred Bailey, Charley Patton, Jimi Hendrix, and more make up this stomping tribute to Native American musicians who have heretofore gone unheralded in their cultural contribution to world music.

This Sundance winner kicks off with the thumping riffs of Shawnee guitarist Link Wray’s 1950s classic Rumble; the tune that gives the film it’s irrepressible name and sets its fascinating rhythm. Continue reading SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL DOCOS : TWO OF THE BEST

DAVID LYNCH : THE ART LIFE

It’s forty years since Eraserhead fixed David Lynch into the cultural landscape. We know what he’s been doing since then, especially lately with the new episodes of Twin Peaks, but what came before?

DAVID LYNCH : THE ART LIFE goes some way in defining Lynch’s formative years. Although directed by a trio of aficionados, Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes and Olivia Neergaard-Holm, DAVID LYNCH: THE ART LIFE is pretty much a self portrait, with Lynch narrating anecdotal stories of his childhood, school days, early days and film work right up to the shooting of Eraserhead.

Lynch  talks of an idyllic upbringing, with early memories of sitting in a mud hole with a pal. Into adolescence, he recalls what most boys would identify with,- “I was real busy doing things my mother didn’t want me doing.” Continue reading DAVID LYNCH : THE ART LIFE

THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE

Currently in competition at The Sydney Film Festival, THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE will not be in line for any award Peter Dutton might lend his name to.

Khaled, a young Syrian refugee who has lost virtually all of his family, drifts to Helsinki as a stowaway passenger on a collier to seek asylum without great hopes for his future life. Honourable and honest, he reports to the local police, not wanting to be considered an illegal.

Simultaneously, Wikström, a travelling salesman of about fifty representing mainly men’s shirts and ties, becomes a refugee from a broken marriage, walking out on his alcoholic wife and selling his entire stock of cravats and collars. Going for broke personally and professionally, he stakes his stash on a poker game in which he cleans up.

With the winnings he buys an unprofitable restaurant at the far end of an inner court along a back street in Helsinki. Along with the venue, he inherits a trio of eccentric employees – a cook, a maitre d’ and a waitress. Continue reading THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE

LIBERATION DAY : A BIZARRE AND BRILLIANT DOCUMENTARY

“Our only responsibility is to remain irresponsible” is the motto of Laibach, the Slovenian band invited to appear in North Korea, a tour documented in the bizarre, beguiling and brilliant documentary, LIBERATION DAY.

Famous for their art rock interpretations of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, and their emblematic logo of the Cross and the Cog, Laibach’s inverse Orwellian motto “All propaganda is art” must have appealed to the powers that be in Pyongyang.

The invitation was too “out there” to refuse, the implications of their visit was even more out there when they were out there!

Confronting strict ideology and cultural differences, the band struggles to get their songs through the needle’s eye of censorship before they can be unleashed on an audience never before exposed to alternative rock’n’roll. Continue reading LIBERATION DAY : A BIZARRE AND BRILLIANT DOCUMENTARY

‘UNA’ AND ‘THE TEACHER’ : TWO OUTSTANDING FILMS AT THIS YEAR’S SFF

Two very different films about child abuse are among the picks of this year’s Sydney Film Festival (7-18 June).

Benedict Andrews first feature film, UNA, is a taut tale of sexual obsession.

Based on David Harrower’s play Blackbird, the screenplay has been written by the playwright.

The events of the summer when Una was thirteen still exert a tremendous, magnetic pull on her, thirteen years later.

Thirteen years ago, the thirteen year old Una waited for the much older Ray in a hotel room. Ray was her next door neighbour and Una had run away with Ray, they had sex for the first time, and the he appeared to have loved and left her.

Now, thirteen years later, Una tracks Ray, now known as Peter, to his workplace, neither to condemn or condone, but to confront.

What happened between Ray and Una should never have happened, but what happened transformed and shattered their lives. They are left to piece together their broken lives and to reflect on how their lives might be repaired. True to life, there are no easy answers.

The main characters names bear special significance in this film. Ray got to change his – he’s now called Peter- but Una has lived with hers. Una, translated from the Latin, means one.The core question for Una, throughout the course of her journey in the film is…Was I the only one?” Continue reading ‘UNA’ AND ‘THE TEACHER’ : TWO OUTSTANDING FILMS AT THIS YEAR’S SFF

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