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.

JACKIE

 

It’s true, it’s true, Pablo Larraine has made it clear. JACKIE is one of the most striking films of year!

Narratively, visually, acoustically – JACKIE takes the biopic into a shattering and totally satisfying new stratosphere.

The director of No, The Club and Neruda, all made in his native Chile, has moved north to fashion a fabulous film about a fairy tale time that became known as Camelot.

In mythical Camelot, that fine round table land of noble knights and fine ladies, the winter was forbidden till December, but for Kennedy’s Camelot winter came far too early, in November, 1963; exit the twenty second with a fatal shot.

Writer Noah Oppenheim retells this fabled story with its infamous finale solely through the eyes of Jacqueline Kennedy, structuring the film around Theodore H. White’s LIFE magazine interview with the First Lady, that took place a mere week after the assassination of her beloved husband, United States President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Continue reading JACKIE

SEX AND DEATH STORIES : SOME NOT SO LIGHT HOLIDAY READING

How we come in, how we go out, sex and death; these are the governing drives, our two greatest themes. Humid embrace, cold sweat.

In the vigour to mortis anthology, SEX & DEATH, edited by Sarah Hall and Peter Hobbs, twenty splendid stories that excoriate and excruciate the extremes of the exquisite remind us of what we already know – intuitive muscle memory – but can’t quite reconcile; the cognitive dissonance of living and dying and the attempts at loving in between. Continue reading SEX AND DEATH STORIES : SOME NOT SO LIGHT HOLIDAY READING

PETER CORRIS FAREWELLS CLIFF HARDY WITH ‘WIN, LOSE OR DRAW’

Peter Corris’ latest Cliff Hardy, WIN, LOSE OR DRAW is the last Cliff Hardy.

This amounts to a win, lose and draw situation for the legion of Cliff Hardy fans.

It’s a win because it’s a neat, clean, shaved and sober story, and Corris doesn’t care who knows it. Like Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, WIN, LOSE OR DRAW begins with Cliff Hardy being hired by a lucre lousy dad, Gerard Fonteyn, to investigate the disappearance of his daughter, Juliana, a statuesque fourteen year old vanished from their Vaucluse waterfront last December. Continue reading PETER CORRIS FAREWELLS CLIFF HARDY WITH ‘WIN, LOSE OR DRAW’

LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP

One of the best films of the year, LOVE & FRIENDSHIP is now available to be loved and befriended in the privacy of your own home.

A sly story of sex and sensibility, the script is based on an obscure short fiction called Lady Susan by Jane Austen, adapted for the screen and directed by the wily Whit Stillman.

Set in two hundred year ago England, the film starts explosively with a domestic disturbance at a stately country home and the ominous narration “If only it hadn’t been for Langford how happy we might have been.” Delicious. Continue reading LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP

PATERSON – A FINE NEW FILM FROM JIM JARMUSCH

Here’s a ready made New Years Resolution. See Jim Jarmusch’s new film, PATERSON.

Set in Paterson, New Jersey, the film is about a local bus driver called Paterson, and chronicles both the routine and the surprises that make up seven days of his life.

Paterson lives with Laura, whom he adores, cuddling and caressing her crannies as he nestles her nooks on waking, come work day or weekend.

On the first morning, she wakes too, telling him of a dream in which they were the proud parents of twins. Preternaturally, Paterson encounters twins throughout the day, and the days thereafter. Continue reading PATERSON – A FINE NEW FILM FROM JIM JARMUSCH

BRYAN CRANSTON’S MEMOIR : ‘A LIFE IN PARTS’

Part memoir, part acting manual, Bryan Cranston’s A LIFE IN PARTS is a six decade odyssey through a life that has seen him play many parts on the great stage of life.

Seemingly, Cranston had little chance of avoiding being bitten by the acting bug as, “My parents met like most people do; in an acting class in Hollywood.”, but a seminal event in his childhood almost robbed us of this thrilling thespian, a mortification during a school play.

Saying so long to to the stage, Cranston embarked on a series of employment adventures that included farmhand, beast feeder, house painter, security guard and marriage celebrant. He also embarked on a motorcycle saga with his brother Ed.
“With the Steppenwolf road anthem ‘Born to be Wild’ playing in our heads, we blasted out of California on motorcycles for parts unknown. Duration unknown. Everything was unknown.” Continue reading BRYAN CRANSTON’S MEMOIR : ‘A LIFE IN PARTS’

A UNITED KINGDOM

A black man and a white man slug it out in the ring. It might be Marquess of Queensberry rules in a hallowed hall of a major English university, but the playing field is far from level as the privileged pale person appears to get away with bending the rules to beat his Black opponent.

It’s a pertinent reminder that pigment was still a primary prejudice of the Britain of 1947, despite the progressive pose adopted that year of independence for India, ultimately punishing because of the appalling legacy of Partition.

The Black Man being duded in the boxing ring is a king, but not a real king like a Windsor or a Tudor, as the British would have it. Disparagingly, he would be the King of Congo Bongo Land. His name is Seretse Khama and his story is the basis of the drolly titled A UNITED KINGDOM. Continue reading A UNITED KINGDOM

THE MENKOFF METHOD

The opening shot of THE MENKOFF METHOD features a Melbourne tram.

Thirty years ago, director David Parker made Malcolm, a landmark Australian film about a Melbourne tram driver, so the expectation that this new film of his would be as wonderful and quirky seemed to be telegraphed with this establishing shot.
Not so.

THE MENKOFF METHOD is quirky, but comes nowhere near a coo-ee of Malcolm when it comes to comedy or heart. Continue reading THE MENKOFF METHOD

IAN FLEMING : THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN TYPEWRITER

Pay attention, 007!  Bloomsbury have published your creator’s letters.

Letters? You must be joking.

I never joke about his work, 007.

Emails, texts, tweets?

No, 007, letters, fully fledged, beautifully written correspondence with publishers, proof readers, and his public, with you as the principle subject.

I’m flattered. What’s it called?

THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN TYPEWRITER. It contains a selection of letters that charts the progress of his literary career from a January holiday in Jamaica to a September memorial service in London, spanning a dozen years.

This opusculum, to use one of Fleming’s favourite words, has been arranged in seventeen chapters covering your published case files.

Opusculum? Sounds like a SPECTRE torture chamber.

It actually means a small or minor literary work. Each of these letters is indeed a literary work, full of candour, style, and flourish that has sustained his reputation and popularity.

Seventeen chapters you say? That’s three too many. Fleming only published fourteen volumes of James Bond adventures. Continue reading IAN FLEMING : THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN TYPEWRITER

MICHAEL CONNELLY : THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE

Evocative of Raymond Chandler in title THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE, Michael Connelly’s latest Harry Bosch title also channels Chandler in tone with a per fine ounce of a dotty, near dead, industrialist’s issue with his issue.

THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE is a two tiered intriguer that has Harry Bosch working two cases, one officially sanctioned by the San Fernando Police Department involving a serial rapist dubbed The Screen Cutter, the other a private investigation for ailing aviation billionaire, Whitney Vance.

In a prologue – that’s book talk for a pre title sequence – a US Army helicopter made by the Vance company is shot down over Vietnam half a century ago. That short sequence resonates throughout the novel, until it neatly dovetails into the book’s end. Continue reading MICHAEL CONNELLY : THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE

MAHANA

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A Maori woman in silent mourning sits in bereavement black awaiting her trip to a burial. Before departing for the dearly departed’s funeral, it’s a state of sombre solemnity, the soberly dressed matriarch carrying out inspection of the attire his family are wearing to this sad occasion.

Soon this serene yet stern scene gives way to a riotous car race as two feuding families fang it out to finish first at the funeral.

MAHANA, Lee Tamahori’s welcome return home film, spools like a Western, with its protagonists gun shearers not gun slingers, and the old scores settled through brain rather than brawn. Continue reading MAHANA

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

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NOCTURNAL ANIMALS is Tom Ford’s lush, tense, thriller wrapped in a melodrama.

Amy Adams is Susan, described by her ex as a nocturnal animal, sporting a Veronica Lake hair style that’s a visual delight,an inspired aesthetic nimbly signifying the noirish nuance of the nocturnal animal tale.

In one of the year’s most startling starts, the opening titles feature obscenely obese elephantine females flaunting their fat – prolapsed tummies flap in their laps, thighs of thunder threaten to drape knees in curtains of adipose, a gross flesh fetish that glories in the gross, the gluttonous and the unglamorous.  Continue reading NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

THE FOUNDER : ANOTHER MICHAEL KEATON TRIUMPH

From Beetlejuice to Batman to Birdman to Burger Man, Michael Keaton is on a roll, an open sesame to Oscar contention with a big, beefy performance as Ray Kroc, the Big Mac and French Fries franchise robber baron.

Kroc was a travelling salesman caught up in the American Dream of succeeding. It was a dream that was receding. Until a chance lunch stop at a hamburger joint.

Run by bothers Dick and Mac McDonald it was a phenomenon of clockwork cuisine. Nick had already devised and mastered the time and motion marvel that made the McDonald’s conveyor belt burger a superior fast food operation and Kroc was impressed. He suggested franchise, but the boys had already tried that and failed because Nick wanted absolute control and could not guarantee it outside his personal fiefdom of patties and fries. Continue reading THE FOUNDER : ANOTHER MICHAEL KEATON TRIUMPH

FIVE GO ON A STRATEGY AWAY DAY

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famous-fiveTry to fathom the Famous Five in adulthood, old grist to the Millennial mill of clap trap commerce as they embark on their modern adventure, FIVE GO ON A STRATEGY AWAY DAY.

On securing a new job with large multinational corporation called Lupiter Funckstein, Julian realized his team was severely understaffed and promptly hired his childhood pals Anne, Dick and George. Ripping.

The harmony of their working relationship is threatened when they are required to attend a Strategy Away Day with all the manufactured tensions and stress of hot housed leadership games and fatuous team building exercises intended to “incentivise”, build “cohesiveness”, and create “outcomes”. Continue reading FIVE GO ON A STRATEGY AWAY DAY

LIKE CRAZY

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Thelma & Louise out of One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, LIKE CRAZY is, well, like crazy. Crazy good.

After busting out of Villa Biondi, a presumably secure psychiatric centre in the serene countryside of Italy, Beatrice, a delusional billionaire and Donatella, a mentally fragile tattooed introvert, embark on a road trip.

Beatrice keeps both motor and mouth at full throttle, as she heads off to visit her past with Donatella in tow.

A fabulous fabulist, Beatrice passes herself off as a clinical psychiatrist staff member when she first meets Donatella. On discovering the ruse, this pushes the already fragile woman deeper into distress, yet Beatrice’s personality is so robust, so dominant, and, in some intangible way, so simpatico, that Donatella’s fractured mental state allows herself to come under her wing.
And what an encompassing wing it is, flapping, soaring, gliding in to a myriad of mad adventures. Continue reading LIKE CRAZY

WORD HUNTERS TOP SECRET FILES

 

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Educational fun – for some, that’s an oxymoron. So too word play. WORD HUNTERS TOP SECRET FILES turns an oxymoron into a tautology.

Nick Earls and Terry Whidborne’s book is a towering word trade centre, a bazaar for the bizarre origins of words, designed for young readers as a companion to the three fiction titles in the Word Hunter series.

A little like a young readers version of The Inky Fool, Mark Forsyth’s The Etymologicon, WORD HUNTERS TOP SECRET FILES is a fascinating foray into word facts and the phraseology and vernacular that evolves from various forms and fields of human endeavour. Continue reading WORD HUNTERS TOP SECRET FILES

I, DANIEL BLAKE

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Those who categorise Ken Loach films as bleak have the initiative of an echo.

Watch the first three minutes of his latest picture, I, DANIEL BLAKE and I defy you not to piss yourself laughing. And watch the last three minutes and I defy you not to cry.

By golly, what more can we ask of a film-maker than to make us laugh and make us cry, to coerce a rallying cry from the audience, that we are human, and are worthy of respect. Continue reading I, DANIEL BLAKE

HER COMPOSITION

Joselyn Jensen possesses a Greta Gerwig quality as Malorie, a student composer turned call girl in Stephan Littger’s beautifully observed film, HER COMPOSITION.

Neither tarty or tantalising, Malorie enters prostitution in a chance, matter of fact way so as to ensure she can pay her rent and tuition at a prestigious New York music academy.

Her live in boyfriend has taken to seeing someone else and her scholarship is shipwrecked by a latent but inherent sexism in the school.

From crotchet to crotch, she makes men quaver as she hits the high notes of high class escorting in a brilliant subversion on sexuality and feminism, a Joan of Arc painting the New York subway and weaving those images into a soundscape, a concerto of her experience as a sex worker. Continue reading HER COMPOSITION

ORIGINAL BLISS

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“I prayed for a bike and didn’t get one. So I stole a bike then prayed for forgiveness”.

This is the twisted logic of the devout, indoctrinated from infancy, it shows an infantile reasoning, born of the longing of a loving, caring, protective Father.

Helene was a devout until her husband literally knocked it out of her.
Adult reasoning rises to the top and combined with experience, erodes dogma and results in lack of faith. But residue of faith remain, a sense of duty, honour of vows, and Helene stays faithful to a husband who finds fault in her faith, himself a jealous god, who will not tolerate false gods before him.

Plagued by incessant insomnia instigated by a marriage that is more incarceration than an intimate relationship, Helene spends her day compulsively cleaning and cooking in the marital home and channel surfing television, “no more than a bundle of preoccupations.”

A televised interview with renowned psychologist Eduard Gluck prompts her to read his book which consequently compels her to seek him out personally.

There is an instant attraction. His hair is too long, she blurts. By their next meeting, he has had a hair cut. Gluck becomes father confessor, a safe haven conduit for Helene to speak her mind, articulate her thoughts. But Gluck is not God, nor even a saint.

The psychologist suffers from paraphilia, a purveyor of pornography and a chronic masturbator. – If I had been a film you would have watched.

Going through their own individual hell, Helene and Gluck find a sort of salvation in each other, a Rilke-like connection, of two souls bordering and protecting and greeting one another.

Based on a story by Scottish writer A.L.Kennedy, ORIGINAL BLISS is directed by Sven Taddicken, and features two outstanding performances from the two leads, Martina Gedeck and Ulrich Tukur.

The eroticism is powerful, palpable, expectant, pregnant with subdued urgency.

Gedek, achingly beautiful in both physical and emotional sense and sensibility, embodies and empowers Helene, who, as described by author A..K. Kennedy “had been told that her life in its current form represented normality. Existence in the real world was both repetitive and meaningless; these facts were absolute, no one could change them. Ecstasy was neither usual nor useful because of its tendency to distract, or even to produce dependency. Her original bliss had meant she was unbalanced, but now she had the chance to be steady and properly well.’

Ulrich Tukur’s Gluck is a jaunty, playful portrayal, a patina over the painful self loathing he suffers from the blight of his pathological plight.

Profoundly powerful, thought provoking and emotionally charged, ORIGINAL BLISS is compelling cinema, eminently engaging, one of the few films of the year that warrants a second viewing and a seeking out of its source material.

ORIGINAL BLISS is playing as part of the current German Film Festival. Screening times are Friday November 18 at 9 pm  at the Chaucer cinema and Monday November 28 at 9 pm at Palace Norton Street.

JERRY LEWIS : THE MAN BEHIND THE CLOWN

A love letter to the Lewis lunacy and legacy, JERRY LEWIS: THE MAN BEHIND THE CLOWN is a sixty minute salute to the rubber faced farceur and film maker.

The picture begins with a recorded quote from Lewis, “there are three things that are real: God, Human Folly and Laughter.” Lewis certainly made a lucrative living from the latter two.

The Lewis brand of comedy is grounded in the juvenile and infantile, making more faces than a watchmaker and delivering more falls than a forest in Autumn. Continue reading JERRY LEWIS : THE MAN BEHIND THE CLOWN

MONSIEUR MAYONNAISE

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Kicked out of university. Makes a career as a people smuggler. Is this the sort of person we want to come to Australia? You bet it is!

It may sound like a Lubitsch comedy title, but MONSIEUR MAYONNAISE is actually a stunning documentary about film maker Phillippe Mora’s father, Georges Mora.

Expelled from university where he was studying medicine by the Nazi’s, Georges served with the French Resistance smuggling children to safety across the Swiss border.

After the war, he and his wife, Mirka, emigrated to Australia, where they became part of the Melbourne bohemian scene, opening up a restaurant, an establishment that was renowned for its mayonnaise. Continue reading MONSIEUR MAYONNAISE

WOODY ALLEN’S NEW FILM : CAFE SOCIETY

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The good news is that CAFÉ SOCIETY is arguably the best looking Woody Allen film ever. But Woody’s wit takes a back seat to the look – sumptuous cinematography by Vittorio Storraro production, design by Santo Loquasto and Suzy Benzinger’s costumes.

Allow me some more emphasis– lensed by Vittorio Storaro, who won deserved Oscars for Apocalypse Now, Reds, and The Last Emperor, production design by Santo Loqausto and costumes by Suzy Benzinger make CAFÉ SOCIETY not only the best looking Woody Allen film ever, but possibly the best looking film to come out of America this year.

Bronx browns give way to honey hued Hollywood, as Bronx born Bobby is packed off by his mother to work with her brother Phil Stern (a Woody wordplay on philistine) in the motion picture business. Continue reading WOODY ALLEN’S NEW FILM : CAFE SOCIETY

2016 SCIFI FILM FESTIVAL 19/10 TO 23/10 @ RANDWICK RITZ

Get ready for Australia’s only SF Film Festival! The 2016 SciFi Film Festival tessellates into the continuum at The Ritz, Randwick, this coming week, premiering the best bleeding-edge science fiction features and short films from around the world over five film-filled days.

The star attraction has got to be FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK, a seminal look at the undeniable star of the Star Fleet.

Fifty years ago, Leonard Nimoy donned fake ears, obtuse eyebrows, and a stony, imperceptible visage to play the emotion-limited but utterly loveble Mr. Spock on the pioneering TV series, Star Trek.

Second officer but certainly no second banana, Spock became the Star Fleet staffer that became an international icon.

Nimoy’s characterisation survived the pilot episode which saw the rest of the cast crash and burn.
Before Star Trek and Mr. Spock, Nimoy had struggled to have a job for more than two weeks at a time, doing guest spots and fifty worders on Gunsmoke, The Outer Limits and Get Smart. Continue reading 2016 SCIFI FILM FESTIVAL 19/10 TO 23/10 @ RANDWICK RITZ

PEDRO ALMODOVAR’S ‘JULIETA’

‘The first reaction by Alberto Iglesias, my musician for twenty years, when he saw the edited film was that it didn’t need music. He liked it bare, just as it had been born in the editing room’, says director Almodovar, of his new film JULIETA.

Thankfully, the film maker insisted that it did need music, at least little transitions to accentuate the changes of era or the character’s repetitions. Something delicate and light like Clint Eastwood’s compositions in some of his best films, like Million Dollar Baby.
The end result is a jazz infused score reminiscent of Ascenseur pour l’echafaud, a perfect accompaniment to this bold melodrama fashioned from three short stories by Alice Munro.

Two different actresses play the titular character, Julieta, Adriana Ugarte from twenty five to forty, and Emma Suárez from forty onward. They are both beautiful and believable performances essaying one woman’s journey from romantic optimism to the minutiae grit of guilt that cruelly cultures into a pearl of reproach. Continue reading PEDRO ALMODOVAR’S ‘JULIETA’

HOLLY THROSBY’S DEBUT NOVEL ‘GOODWOOD’

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Here’s the good wood on GOODWOOD. It’s good.

Holly Throsby’s debut novel, GOODWOOD, is a lyrical, rolling ballad of a small country town hit with a one/two punch of grief and of a one/two punch of burgeoning sexuality for the story’s narrator, seventeen year old, Jean Brown.

Set in 1992, the disappearance of two locals from the small town of Goodwood are harbingers of the disappearance of an era, before mandatory mobile phone use, social media and maniac serial killers burying backpackers in Belanglo.

Rosie White is the first to vanish, seemingly into thin air, followed by the burg’s butcher, Bart, believed to be boating but never returning, believed drowned, body undiscovered. Continue reading HOLLY THROSBY’S DEBUT NOVEL ‘GOODWOOD’