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 WAY

Martin Sheen heads the cast of THE WAY

THE WAY(M) is a powerful and inspirational story about family, friends and the challenges we face while navigating this ever-changing and complicated world.

Martin Sheen plays Tom, an irascible American doctor who comes to France to deal with the tragic loss of his son (played by Emilio Estevez who also wrote and directed the movie). Rather than return home, Tom decides to embark on the historical pilgrimage “The Way of St. James” to honor his son’s desire to finish the journey. What Tom doesn’t plan on is the profound impact this trip will have on him.

THE WAY is a road movie that traverses some truly inspiring countryside through France and Spain. But landscape alone does not fuel this journey, rather the odd assortment of characters that Tom encounters, wanted or not.

First to foil any semblance of solitude is Joost, a fat and jolly Netherlander played with gusto by Yorick van Wageningen. He is on pilgrimage in an effort to lose weight – a losing battle. Then there is acerbic chain smoking Canadian shrew, Sarah, played by Deborah Unger, and finally, Irish Jack, (James Nesbit) hoping to open his writers block.

Nice work also from Tcheky Karo as the sympathetic French detective who aids Tom at the beginning of the film.

Sheen’s Catholicism shines through but does not blind the audience into conversion. This is not the road to Damascus, more a yellow brick road, a retelling of The Wizard of Oz, with a cranky Dorothy, and a trio of travellers who need to find a brain, a heart and some nerve.

© Richard Cotter

4th May, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- THE WAY, Emilio Estevez, Martin Sheen, Deborah Kara Unger, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

DELICACY

AudreyTautou memorable again in DELICACY

Delicate, delicious DELICACY(M) certainly lives up to its name as a delicacy of rom com that elevates a popcorn genre to caviar.
Audrey Tautou is enchanting as Natalie, who plummets from joie de vivre to veuve jeune early in the film.

Her sunny disposition is dimmed but not extinguished as she pours all her energies into her job as a manager of incomparable competence.

Her boss makes a move on her and is rebuffed. Her best friend feels guilty when she becomes pregnant. Her family grieve for both the loss of her husband and the engulfing grief of their daughter.

Then, out of the blue, like the proverbial thunderbolt, she becomes involved with the man least likely to all and sundry.

She is gorgeous, he is gauche, she is gamin, he has a bit of a gut, she is glamorous, and he is gormless. Its opposites attract writ large.

He is Scandi work subordinate, Markus, played with a nebbish Nordic charm by Francois Damiens. Cue Joe Jackson’s Is She Really Going Out with Him and you get the picture.

DELICACY is the creation of two brothers, David & Stephane Foenkinos.

David wrote the novel on which the film is based and the film has the flavours of Truffaut, Tati and Blake Edwards.

A lively and idiosyncratic supporting cast add to the texture of the film as does music and songs by Emilie Simon, an ingredient which finely balances the whimsical and the melancholy.

For those who like finesse and subtlety in their rom coms, DELICACY is just the ticket.

(c) Richard Cotter

4 May, 2012

TRISHNA

Frieda Pinto is memorable as TRISHNA

Now is the Winterbottom of our sub-continent made glorious cinema by this son of gawk.

TRISHNA is SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE out of TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES and is the perfect antidote to the saccharine saffron sanitised passage to India presented in THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL.

Winterbottom has taken the Hardy road before– a straight rendition of JUDE THE OBSURE and a frontier Western take on THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE called THE CLAIM.

Tess’s transformation and transmigration to Trishna is successful in that contemporary India represents a place of expansive and explosive industrialisation, education, and technology, just as the England of Thomas Hardy’s era was, and the heroine’s tragedy remains, that she has one foot in the old, traditional world and one foot in the burgeoning, brave new one.

Trishna is played by the breathtakingly beautiful Freida Pinto who gave SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE much of its luminance. Her co-star is Riz Ahmid playing Jay, an amalgam of the two men in the novel, Angel and Alec, an interesting conceit that works well in this particular telling of the tale.

Trishna lives a poor, sheltered life exacerbated when her father incapacitates himself in a vehicle violation. Wealthy young Jay, fresh to India having been brought up in England and now back to run his father’s hotel, offers Trishna work. He is besotted by her beauty and they commence an affair. What appears to be a modern relationship slips into a more traditional one where Trishna ostensibly becomes a sex slave, her new found emancipation emaciated by a chilling chauvinism.

Shot in Rajasthan and Mumbai, Winterbottom delights in the travelogue aspects of the film, with cameras mounted on vehicles in both rural roads and city streets. This gives a veracity and energy to the film’s theme of emerging industrial India contrasting with traditional landscapes, local fauna, specifically simian, and the colours and light of the subcontinent.

The pervading presence of Bollywood prevails as Jay dabbles in its production and Trishna, like all young women apparently, mimics dance moves and takes classes in choreography.

Like SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, TRISHNA boasts a gorgeous score with music by Shigeru Umebayashi and songs by Amit Trivedi, which gives the film a rich aural texture.

Michael Winterbottom’s TRISHNA opens at cinemas on Thursday 10th May, 2012.

© Richard Cotter

2nd May, 2012

Tags: Sydney movie review- TRISHNA, Michael Winterbottom, Frieda Pinto, Riz Ahmed, Shigeru Umebayashi, Amit Trviedi, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

WISH YOU WERE HERE

The partying doesn’t last in WISH YOU WERE HERE

WISH YOU WERE HERE (M) is a superb collaboration between talented spouses lead actress Felicity Price and director Kieran Darcy-Smith. Both are credited with the sparkling screenplay which focuses on four friends – husband and wife Dave and Alice (Joel Edgerton and Felicity Price), Alice’s sister, Steph (Teresa Palmer) and her boyfriend Jeremy (Antony Starr) – who have a hedonistic holiday together in Cambodia.

Heaven turns to hell when Jeremy goes missing and the other three return home harbouring secrets of what went awry.

Very much a paradise lost scenario, with temptation throwing the couple into turmoil, truth and trust torn asunder, the world rent irrevocably from a pleasant past to an uncertain future.

Joel Edgerton is brilliant as Dave, another top notch performance from an actor who continues to grow and prosper, and Felicity Price matches him perfectly – there is a palpable truth in their relationship and an honesty that plays out as they traverse the moral morass that engulfs them.

Production values are top notch with the Cambodian footage full of energy and abandon, and Sydney too shot with natural light and genuine location.

WISH YOU WERE HERE makes you glad that you are not (really there), but delivers a visceral, vibrant, volt charging vicarious journey that is all too credible and real and close.

© Richard Cotter

24th April, 2012

Tags- Sydney Movie Reviews- WISH YOU WERE HERE, Felicity Price, Kieran Darcy-Smith, Joel Edgerton, Teresa Palmer, Anthony Starr, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

EYE OF THE STORM – DVD RELEASE

Rampling, Davis and Rush star in EYE OF THE STORM

A beautiful irony – hopefully intentional- is the DVD/Blu- ray release of EYE OF THE STORM just in time for Mother’s Day.

Adapted from the Patrick White novel by Judy Morris, directed by Fred Schepisi and peopled with a sublime cast, EYE OF THE STORM (MA) is a magical, tragical tale set in 1972 Sydney.

Siblings Basil (Geoffrey Rush) and Dorothy (Judy Davis) are summoned from their European bases to attend malingering Mother, magnificently matriarchal in a majestic performance by Charlotte Rampling.

Basil has made a mark on the British stage and been knighted in spite of his blighted Lear, whilst Dorothy has made a marred marriage to an Italian prince, now dissolved, with title and small allowance the only legacy of the folly.

Both siblings are battered and bruised by the slings and arrows and are keen to get their hands on the outrageous fortune that lays a last breath away in the declining, decaying, yet still dominating dame who is their mother.

Using the reluctant services of the family lawyer Arnold Wyburd, a beautifully understated turn by John Gaden, they scheme to place their moaning mama in a society nursing home to expedite her demise.

Panic sets in to the household staff as they sense the impending end of their secure if eccentric world.

Most eccentric of the staff is Lotte, a refugee from Nazi Germany who is Mother’s cook and private cabaret act. Helen Morse is quite simply sensational in the role.

Basil’s stage connections allow for a cavalcade of luvvies inhabited by Jane Menelaus, Billie Brown and Heather Mitchell, and there is a wonderful star turn by Colin Friels as prole pollie with PM aspirations and on the prowl for a leg over with Dorothy.

Beautifully directed, designed and shot, EYE OF THE STORM also boasts a gorgeous score by composer Paul Grabowsky.

The DVD/Blu-ray edition contains a Q&A with the cast.

(c) Richard Cotter

24th April, 2012

BURNING MAN – DVD RELEASE

Bojana Novakovic in Teplkizky’s BURNING MAN

BURNING MAN. the latest film from Jonathan Teplitzky (BETTER THAN SEX, GETTIN’ SQUARE) is a reckless, haunting, funny, life-affirming love story, all of which is reflected in the film’s opening short scenes: a lovely empty garden, a car crash, a woman crying, a world in flames. Intriguing and slightly bewildering, the potency and beauty of this opening sequence raises questions and yet still portends answers.

The device of keeping the audience off balance is absolutely right for this film for when we finally discover the true spine of the story. When we meet Tom, it’s clear he is a good man, behaving badly. He’s the principal chef at a casually chic restaurant (where he doesn’t respond well to criticism from the clientele), a devoted, if mercurial father to eight year old Oscar, and a man more attractive to women (lots of them) than he is to himself.

Whatever is going on with Tom, his actions seem to be tolerated by those around him. Everything comes to a head when he prepares a party for his son in a beachside park. His anger erupts and he finds himself in police custody. Not much of a birthday for Oscar.

The films artistry and finesse has attracted a wonderful cast. As Tom, Matthew Goode shows just how good an actor he is, treading that fine line between despicable and likeable. He is the central character, but he wouldn’t shine at all without the brilliant satellite performances he reflects from Bojana Novakovic, Rachel Griffiths, Essie Davis, Kerry Fox, Kate Beahan, Marta Dusseldorp,and Gia Carides. These women, in very different ways, ignite, inflame, quell and calm the burning man.

Winner of the Awgie for Best Original Screenplay, BURNING MAN is a smoking, sizzling, sexy experience.

The DVD/Blu- ray release contains audio commentary with writer director Jonathan Teplitzky and a featurette ‘Inside Burning Man’.

Tags” BURNING MAN, Jonathon Teplitzy, Matthew Goode, Bojana Novakovic, Rachel Griffiths, Essie Davis, Kerry Fox, Kate Beahan, Marta Dusseldorp,and Gia Carides, DVD/Blu-ray release.

ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS

Isabelle Carre and Benoit Poelvoorde in ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS

A lovely little soufflé of cinema, ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS (M) is a tasty sweet treat that should please the crowd that found CHOCOLAT so enchanting.

Isabelle Carre plays Angelique, a shy chocolatier who hides her cocoalossal confection perfection under the proverbial bushel.
Struggling choc-shop proprietor Jean Rene, played with bashful brio by Benoit Poelvoorde, suffers similar awkward timidity, hires Angelique as his new sales rep, setting the stage for a star crossed lovers scenario that’s sweet without slipping into syrupy sentimentality.

There’s a touching pathos at work here, deftly nuanced by director and co- screenwriter, Jean Pierre Ameris, who turns tension and turmoil into tenderness and trust in a tantalising truffle of a film.

The best comedy comes out of tribulation and this couple has it in spades, emotional timidity trowelled on. He is seeing a shrink about his shyness; she is attending Emotions Anonymous meetings, a 12 step intimacy program for the emotionally challenged.

Panic and pain propel this picture, yet it is packed with an endearing empathy for these people, vulnerable introverts; lonely hearts in cardiac arrest.

A polished ensemble of supporting actors mostly playing a chorus of chocolate makers and locations in the Lyon/Rhone area add to this comedy confection. But this isn’t a movie about eye candy, this is a film about soul sugar.

Who would have thought fear could be so funny?!

© Richard Cotter

12th April, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- ROMANTIC ANONYMOUS, Jean Pierre Ameris, Isabella Carre, Benoit Poelvoorde,

THE DEEP BLUE SEA

Terrence Davies’s ‘THE DEEP BLUE SEA’

On the face of it, THE DEEP BLUE SEA (M) seems terribly old fashioned and an odd choice of film for a 21st century cinema audience.
Based on the play by Terence Rattigan written sixty years ago, it tells the story of Hester, a high society hostess who heaves her husband aside to co-habitate with a raffish RAF pilot shortly after the end of the hostilities of WW II.

Under the deft direction of Terence Davies, Rattigan’s play slow burns across the screen, a simmering experience rather than a boil over, and all the more enthralling for its subtle nuance.

Terry does Terry a treat, bringing in his trademark sing-alongs in public houses and tube stations to help drive the narrative and establish the era.

In what is basically a ménage a trios, a trio of thesps bring the central characters to vivid life.

As the wedded woman wooed by the dashing flying ace, Rachel Weisz continues to collect career accolades, with a winning performance of pluck and vulnerability, a finely judged characterisation of one wounded while capable of wounding.

As the laddish, cadish, former flyboy whose escapades in the sky have been superseded by the somewhat sedate sidewalks of Civvy Street, Tom Hiddleston, awfully good as F. Scott Fitzgerald in Woody Allen’s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, casts a dapper dash as a man trying to find his place in peace time.

As the wronged and wounded husband, Sir William Collyer, Simon Russell Beale is excellent as the baffled cuckold bouncing between vindictive, vengeful and forgiving.

The supporting cast are marvelous with particular kudos to Barbara Jefford as Collyer’s mother – frightening!

Davies use of Samuel Barber’s ‘Concerto for Violin and Orchestra’, Op14 is inspired. The composer commenced work on the composition on the eve of WWII but not completed until a month after Hitler had invaded Poland, plunging Europe into six years of chaos and upheaval. The disruption is clear in the piece and has a disjointed resonance that is perfect for the picture’s soundscape.

It’s time , yet again, to give a rat’s about Rattigan.

© Richard Cotter

12th April, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- THE DEEP BLUE SEA, Terrence Rattigan, Terrence Davies, Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russell Beale, Barbara Jefford, Samuel Barber, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

THE PIRATES: BAND OF MISFITS

THE PIRATES: BAND OF MISFITS!

Kids and adults alike have been dudded these school holidays, most especially with the dumbed down, dulled down, in the doldrums Aardman animation THE PIRATES: BAND OF MISFITS!

Admires of Aardman most likely will be disappointed by this pipe and slippers take on what should have been a riotous, rambunctious, robust romp through the seven seas.

Instead we have a tedious time on tardy tides, a shipwreck of a show with a paucity of funny lines and a pace more akin to a sea slug. Director Peter Lord has lost his zest from Chicken Run 12 years back.

After a series of aborted booty attacks, the Pirate Captain boards the Beagle where Charles Darwin identifies the buccaneer’s bird as a dodo.

The credulous captain had always thought his pet a parrot but the biologist convinces him it is indeed the rare breed dodo, thought extinct, and that the pirate can plunder the plumage by presenting it to the Royal Historic Society and Queen Victoria.

Unfortunately, his scheme scuppers the skippers chance of winning the coveted Pirate of the Year award.

Based on Gideon Defoe’s book The Pirates! In an adventure with Scientists, the screenplay is written by the author but fails miserably to translate. Things that have been lost should have been kept, things added should not have been, and the direction is just slack, no winds in the sails at all. At 88 minutes it’s about 80 minutes too long.

Not a patch on Arthur Christmas, Chicken Run or Flushed Away

(c) Richard Cotter

10th April, 2012

THIS MUST BE THE PLACE

Sean Penn as Nazi hunting rock star Cheyenne

THIS MUST BE THE PLACE (M) is a bizarre odyssey tale featuring Sean Penn as a former rock star called Cheyenne – think a cross between Alice Cooper and Robert Smith of The Cure – who is benevolently and benignly bedded and wedded to his bride of 35 years, Jane, a professional fire-fighter, in his baronial Irish manor.

When he learns of the death of his estranged father, a Holocaust survivor, he returns to America and embarks on a road trip of retribution. His quest is driven by the revelation that his father’s concentration camp commandant could still be alive and living in the United States.

Mostly shot in Michigan and New Mexico, this renegade road movie was made by Paolo Sorrentino and takes its title from a Talking Heads song. The writer of the song, David Byrne, pops up in the picture, as himself, a faithful friend of Cheyenne and performs the song in a brilliant conceptual concert, highly theatrical but eminently cinematic. Byrne also contributes to the score in collaboration with Will Oldham.

Not your average Nazi hunter movie, THIS MUST BE THE PLACE bristles with imagination, creativity, and a cast at the top of their game.

Sean Penn is pitch-perfect as the introspective genius, a post-modern punk mime with loads of guy liner and minimal speech and a comma of hair that constantly needs blowing from his field of vision.

Frances McDormand is just lovely as his supportive spouse and Judd Hirsch is outstanding as the professional Nazi hunter cohort, Mordecai Midler, while Harry Dean Stanton, master of the cinematic monologue, is in top form.

Indeed, all the supporting cast, without exception, is conspicuously detailed which gives the film its deliciously finished eccentricity. THIS MUST BE THE PLACE is the place for audiences who enjoy the audacious.

© Richard Cotter

2nd April, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- THIS MUST BE THE PLACE, Paolo Sorrentino, Sean Penn, David Byrne, Talking Heads, Will Oldham, Frances McDormand, Judd Hirsch, Harry Dean Stanton, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

RIN TIN TIN

RIN TIN TIN

Fungible. Sounds like a mushroom mish mash not something I’d instantly associate with Rin Tin Tin, arguably the world’s most famous dog.

Fungible is the word Susan Orlean uses with proclivity in her highly entertaining biography of the dog who was a superstar of stage, silent cinema, talking pictures and television, RIN TIN TIN (ATLANTIC BOOKS).

The definition of the word , being of such nature or kind as to be freely exchangeable or replaceable, in whole or in part, for another of like nature or kind.

And that’s what Rinty became – a canine franchise that survived decades, a dog that had its day for generations, and a legend that won’t lie down.

After the success of her book The Orchid Thief, a publishing phenomenon as well as the source for the Academy award winning film Adaptation, Susan Orlean had a number of stories she could have followed up with, but it was the amazing exploits of this puppy prodigy that took the lead.

“I knew I loved the narrative of Rin Tin Tin because it contained so many stories within it: it was a tale of lost families and identity, and also of the way we live with animals; it was a story of luck, both good and bad, and the half turns that life takes all the time. It was a story of war as well as a story of amusement. It was an account of how we create heroes and what we want from them.”

Of course, first and foremost in people’s minds, Rin Tin Tin was a Hollywood hound, the wonder dog of Warner Brothers who garnered more votes in the inaugural Academy awards than any human actor.

The popularity of the pooch was unmatched, fending off such canine competitors as Lassie, who had a similar longevity due to television.

Orlean’s book is a treasure trove of Hollywood trivia, how deals were done, how sets and back lots were used and reused, the magic of movies and the men and animals that made them.

The two men most responsible for the ensuing and lasting legacy of RIN TIN TIN is the original owner and trainer, Lee Duncan, and the producer, Bert Leonard, protégé of Sam Katzman, and the man who brought Rinty to television, cementing the four legged phenomenon’s seemingly eternal fame.

This book not just scintillates the nostalgia nerve but is good enough to re-arouse real interest in a dog story that’s been lying dormant for too long. More than Orlean’s previous book, this one is howling for the Hollywood treatment, a story of surprise and wonder, a stroke of luck in a luckless time, a fulfilled promise of perfect friendship.

Charlie Kaufman sharpen your pencil!

(c) Richard Cotter

25th March, 2012

Tags- RIN TIN TIN by Susan Orlean, Book Review, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

FULL SERVICE

Scotty Bowers. Pic by Stephani Diani

Animal instincts of homo sapien Hollywood are given a good airing in Scotty Bower’s unabashed biography, FULL SERVICE, MY ADVENTURES IN HOLLYWOOD AND THE SECRET SEX LIVES OF THE STARS (GROVE PRESS).

Bi-sexual octogenarian Bowers outs many famous names, all fortuitously deceased and therefore unlikely to press for libel.

Discharged from military service at the end of World War II, the ebullient Bowers was a 23 year old bowser jockey pumping gas on Wilshire Boulevard.

As Hal David and Burt Bacharach said, ‘L.A. was about to become a great big freeway/Put a hundred down and buy a car/ In a week, maybe two, they’ll make you a star/ Weeks turn into years/How quick they pass/And all the stars that never were/are parking cars and pumping gas’.

Scotty Bower’s may never been a movie actor but his star was in the ascendency as a partner or procurer for studio types who swang both ways or wanted straight anonymous sex.

According to his Tinsel Town tell all, Walter Pidgeon was his entrée into the secret sex shenanigans, browsing Bowers at the bowser, gauging his boredom and bribing him to participate in a poolside petting session with Jacques Potts, movie milliner, or Hollywood hatter.

Not a movie star but certainly a Hollywood heartthrob, Bowers boasts of bedding Tyrone Power, Spencer Tracy, Vivian Leigh and Rock Hudson.

By his own admission, “living in Hollywood meant that you were never far away from a world of fantasy and make believe. Reality and fiction often blurred, even in the way people lived their lives. There was a wonderful duality about it all, a kind of mixing of personalities, times, eras, events.” So just how much is real or imagined or when you wish upon a star stuff, is a moot point.

The tone is not vindictive or muck raking, if anything it’s celebratory, a vivre la difference/ laissez faire tome.

“The truth is I never cared one iota about how people got their rocks off in private, just as long as they weren’t hurting anybody.”

Scurrilous, salacious, and as Noel Coward would say (he’s mentioned in the book) “I couldn’t have loved it more!”

© Richard Cotter

25th March, 2012

Tags: Movie Book Review- FULL SERVICE: MY ADVENTURES IN HOLLYWOOD AND THE SECRET SEX LIVES OF THE STARS (GROVE PRESS), Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

THE RUM DIARY

Johnny Depp as Paul Kemp in THE RUM DIARY

There’s nothing rum about Bruce Robinson’s Bacardi- fuelled adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s novel, THE RUM DIARY (MA) with Johnny Depp as the dipso gonzo gringo journo.

Based on the debut novel by Hunter S. Thompson, THE RUM DIARY tells the increasingly unhinged story of itinerant journalist Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp). Tiring of the noise and madness of New York and the crushing conventions of late Eisenhower-era America, Kemp travels to the pristine island of Puerto Rico to write for a local newspaper, The San Juan Star, run by downtrodden editor Lotterman (Richard Jenkins).

A couple of other ex pat journos form part of his alcohol addled adventure: Paul Risoli is the savvy yet mostly sober, Sala, and Giovanni Ribisi, redeeming himself from the ultra bland Contraband, as the sozzled but sly Moberg, and Julian Holloway makes a nice uber cameo as an ex pat Brit journo, something Graham Greenish, to stamp Bruce’s Britishness.

Adopting the rum-soaked life of the island, Paul soon becomes obsessed with Chenault (Amber Heard), the wildly attractive Connecticut-born fiancée of Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart). Sanderson, a businessman involved in shady property development deals, is one of a growing number of American entrepreneurs who are determined to convert Puerto Rico into a capitalist paradise in service of the wealthy. When Kemp is recruited by Sanderson to write favourably about his latest unsavoury scheme, the journalist is presented with a choice: to use his words for the corrupt businessmen’s financial benefit, or use them to take the bastards down.

Bruce Robinson wrote and directed WITHNAIL & I and THE RUM DIARY should attain the same cult status with wining lines like: “Cuba should be wiped off the face of the earth so that their citizens can live in peace”. And “So we are all in the same Jacuzzi and know what to do when a turd floats up”. And “There is no American dream just a piss puddle of greed.” Gem.

© Richard Cotter

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- THE RUM DIARY, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

THE HUNGER GAMES

Jennifer Lawrence plays the heroine in THE HUNGER GAMES

The first great popcorn movie of the year has arrived in THE HUNGER GAMES (M).

Written and Directed by Gary Ross whose earlier film Pleasantville is a kind of template to this robust action adventure yarn, THE HUNGER GAMES, is the first in a franchise that looks to sweep the cinema in the manner of Harry Potter and Twilight.

Eschewing the supernatural of wizards and vampires, THE HUNGER GAMES is about real flesh and blood characters albeit living in a dystopian future where a civil war of megaton propensity has established a ruling class that exacts annual tributes from 12 districts.
These tributes are in the form of a boy and a girl from the area chosen by lottery to compete in mortal combat with each other and against the contenders from the other districts.

These “games” are televised and attract stupendous sponsorship. The show’s host, Caesar Flickerman has achieved cult status and as played by Stanley Tucci, you can see why. He, and Toby Jones as his co-commentator, Claudius Templesmith, have enormous fun in their roles and create quite a satirical bite to this Brady Bunch Battle Royale.

As the film’s protagonist and heroin, Katniss Everdeen, Jennifer Lawrence perfectly projects the poise, intelligence and athleticism the role requires. Here is the fulfilment of the promise we saw in Winters Bone a couple of years back, a promise that has been percolating in stellar supporting roles in The Beaver and Like Crazy.

Devoid of werewolves and warlocks, this latest teen market “event cinema” has a lot of meat to its story – conscription, class warfare, capital punishment, the manipulation of the media.

As well as helmer Ross, screenwriting credits also go to Billy Ray whose Shattered Glass and Breach come to mind when thinking about the manipulation on show here, and Suzanne Collins who wrote the novel, which ensures integrity of the source material.

THE HUNGER GAMES is THE TRUMAN SHOW meets SURVIVOR, with a dash of TOMORROW WHEN THE WAR BEGAN.

Beautifully shot by Clint Eastwood’s cinematographer of choice Tom Stern, the film boasts an exquisite costume design by Judianna Makovsky, Oscar nominated for Gary Ross’ previous film Seabiscuit, and costumer on Cirque de Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant. Also of interest, Steven Soderbergh is credited as one of a trio of second unit directors.

One criticism that could be levelled against the film is that it sidesteps the barbaric base of its story – pitting children against each other in a fight to the death. Pictorially, this is prettified, or at least sanitised. However, the hope is that this self-imposed subtlety isn’t detrimental to the many layers of loftier philosophical and ethical issues inherent in the narrative.

(c) Richard Cotter

25th March, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- THE HUNGER GAMES, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

A DANGEROUS METHOD

Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender in A DANGEROUS METHOD

Sex, sex, sex. Is that Michael Fassbender ever thinks about? Fresh from his shenanigans in SHAME where he unashamedly showed his schlong, here he is a shrink and Carl Jung no less, in David Cronenberg’s A DANGEROUS METHOD (M)

The story begins in Zurich, 1904. 29-year-old psychiatrist Carl Jung is at the beginning of his career, and lives with his pregnant wife Emma (Sarah Gadon) at Burgholzli hospital. Inspired by Sigmund Freud’s work, Jung tries Freud’s experimental treatment known as psychoanalysis, or ‘the talking cure,’ on 18-year-old Sabina Spielrein, played with jut-jawed ferocity by Keira Knightley.

Sabina is a well-educated Russian who speaks fluent German, has been diagnosed with hysteria, and is known to be disruptive and violent. In talks with Jung, she reveals a childhood marred by humiliation and beatings from her authoritarian father. The psychoanalysis uncovers a disturbing sexual element to her dysfunction, which upholds Freud’s theories connecting sexuality and emotional disorders. More than slap and tickle, Sabina likes to be spanked.

Through his correspondence on Sabina’s case, Jung forges a friendship with Freud, a splendid Viggo Mortensen, teaming up with Cronenberg for a third time after the superb A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. Relationships deepen between Jung and Freud, who sees Jung as his intellectual heir, and between Jung and Sabina, who is brilliant despite her ailment.

Freud asks Jung to treat a fellow psychiatrist, Otto Gross, played in ultra louche bravura by Vincent Cassel. Jung is intrigued by Gross’s defiant and clever arguments against monogamy. After being influenced by Gross, Jung pushes aside his own ethics and gives in to his feelings for Sabina. They enter into a sexual tryst, violating the doctor/patient relationship.

Says director Cronenberg, “With A DANGEROUS METHOD, I sought to make an elegant film that trades on emotional horror, but loses none of its power to seduce. I was stimulated by offbeat and intimate details that illuminate the three leads themselves, and that give a sense of what it must have been like to be at once trapped and liberated by their cerebral and physical bonds. It was a strange ménage à trois, not that Sabina had any sexual relations with Freud, but still there was love in each part of the triangle, including between Jung and Freud; there was an incredible affection and friendship between them.”

With a terrific script by Christopher Hampton derived from his stage play with a display of dazzling dueling dialogue, A DANGEROUS METHOD continues Cronenberg’s contrapuntal fascination with the normal and the bizarre, and works like an amalgam of two of his previous films, SPIDER and DEAD RINGERS.

© Richard Cotter

25th March, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- A DANGEROUS METHOD, David Cronenberg, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

THE NEW ELECTRIC BALLROOM-

Odile Le Clezio, Genevieve Mooy and Jane Phegan. Pic Heidrun Lohr

“Stories are fishy things” says the only male character in Enda Walsh’s THE NEW ELECTRIC BALLROOM, now playing at the Stables Theatre.

He should know something about the piscatorial as he plies his trade trawling the bleak Irish coast where this play is set. He’s trying to hook the youngest sister of a trio of tragic siblings, shipwrecked sheilas smashed on the wretched rocks of love and desire.
These women are certainly “stamped by story”, a story that is re-enacted day after day, like a ritual, complete with a sort of transubstantiation from peasant dress to party frock and garish makeup and lipstick worn like some surreal stigmata.

“What would the Virgin Mary make of all this?” muses Clara, the eldest, who leads this pitiful parley and, like nature, abhors a vacuum. A lull in conversation is anathema. And so the play is awash with talk, as repetitive as waves lapping the shamrock sea shore.

It’s as if a loquacious Leprechaun has re-imagined Sartre’s NO EXIT. NO EXIT, with three people imprisoned in a room, doomed to relive a past strewn with the wreckage of unrequited desires, the only door an entrance where a fisherman, substituting for Sartre’s valet, appears bearing the fruits of his catch, baiting the young Ada, unsure of his lure and lacking confidence in his casting.

Pardoning the pun, there is no such lack of confidence in the casting of this production. Genevieve Mooy as the eldest of the sisters, Clara, Odile Le Clezio the middle sister, Breda, and Jane Phegan as the youngest, Ada, present a tyro trio of tortured souls, who are somehow reconciled to the belief that the happiest time in human existence is in the womb, in amniotic amnesia.

As the sole bloke, Justin Smith plays Patsy, who becomes a patsy in the women’s re-enactment fantasy. He endures a blarney baptism and is reborn as a crooner, a pasty saviour who fails to bring any salvation or succour to the sisters, a dud redeemer and unsuitable suitor for Ada.

Kate Gaul’s production is slick, finely nuanced, and as mentioned, beautifully cast. Tom Bannerman’s set is simple, simultaneously symbolic and functional, while Verity Hampson, whose lighting design illuminated the recent production of THE BOYS at the Stables, again illustrates her mastery of the space.

Kudos too to prop maker Heidi Lincoln for her fabulous fish.

© Richard Cotter

13th March, 2012

Tags: Sydney Play Of The Week- THE NEW ELECTRIC BALLROOM. Edna Walsh, Genevieve Mooy, Olile Le Clezio, Jane Phegan, Justin Smith, Kate Gaul, Tom Bannerman, Verity Hampson, Heidi Lincoln, Heidrun Lohr, Jean Paul Sartre- NO EXIT, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

CORIOLANUS

A scene from Raplph Fiennes fine film, CORIOLANUS

Shakespeare’s big, boofy, bovver boy, CORIOLANUS(MA) gets a big screen workout in Ralph Fiennes’s fine film which he both directs and takes the lead role.

Balkanising without bowdlerising the bard, Fiennes has made a remarkably contemporary movie that illustrates the timelessness of Shakespeare’s stories and his insights into human nature.

Political extremism, political expediency and political compromise conspire against Coriolanus, a man born to rule, his courage and victory on the battlefield bolstering that self evident right, but whose disdain of power broking, political manipulation and pragmatism is frustrating to the point of fatal anathema.

Fiennes’s spittle spraying soldier is in direct contrast to the suave suited politicians whose back stabbing character assassinations are no less vile than Coriolanus’ slaughter of insurgents on the war torn streets and certainly less honourable. His frustrations at political rule, all talk and blather rather than appropriate action, are fueled by the fact that his mother, Volumnia, is pushing him to secure high political office.

Behind every great man there is a controlling and ambitious mother and Vanessa Redgrave’s performance is pure patrician power player complete with military haute couture and haughty demeanour.

As Coriolanus’ political mentor, Menenius, Brian Cox gives us a consummate numbers man, sensitive to his candidate and the electorate, feeling his protégé’s discomfort while juggling political protocol.

Coriolanus’ great tragedy is that both his greatness and his folly lie in the fact that he cannot adapt. Bred as a war machine, he is redundant in peacetime, leaving room for lesser men, cockroaches of no conviction to scuttle in and bore their way into power.

© Richard Cotter

6th March, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- CORIOLANUS, Ralph Fiennes, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox.

ADDRESS UNKNOWN

John O’Hare and Patrick Dickson in ADDRESS UNKNOWN

Set in the first few years of Fuehrer Adolph’s ascension in the Fatherland, ADDRESS UNKNOWN chronicles the friendship between two business partners in a successful San Francisco art gallery. Martin Schulse, a German-born Aryan, has returned to Germany with his wife and children and re-established ties to his homeland, becoming active with the National Socialists; Max Eisenstein, a German Jew, has remained to run the gallery in San Francisco.

Early correspondence depicts a jolly fraternity between the two, each eager and happy to hear about the other’s lives and fortunes. Martin is hopeful that under Hindenburg and Herr Hitler, Germany can shuck the shame and crushing poverty that has prevailed since the end of the First World War.

As the correspondence criss-crosses the Atlantic, the pen-pals’ relationship is poisoned by Martin’s embracing of the Nazi party and its anti Semitic policies.

The writing is not on the wall but piteously on paper when Martin not only resolves to sever all communication with his old friend, but refuses to give succour to Max’s sister, a former mistress of Martin, who is pursued and persecuted under the Party’s pogrom.
In a case of the pen being mightier than the sword, Max unleashes a flurry of letters, an indictment in ink, a postal onslaught, releasing a reciprocal betrayal, the ultimate in return to sender retribution.

Adapted for the stage by Frank Dunlop from Katherine Kressman Taylor’s novella, this slow burn of a production effectively builds from a pipe and slippers comfort zone to a harrowing harbinger of the Holocaust.

Director and soundscapist, Moira Blumenthal is very well served by her two actors, John O’Hare as Max, whose California cool is lowered to cold, calculating under the sangfroid of his ex mate, and Patrick Dickson as the pragmatic Aryan, Martin, clever but without a clue when it comes to the taming of the shrewd.

Moira Blumenthal’s production, in association with the Tamarama Rock Surfer’s, opened at the Bondi Pavilion Theatre, Queen Elizabeth Drive, Bondi Beach, on Thursday 1 March and runs until Saturday 24th March, 2012.

© Richard Cotter

5th March, 2012

Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- ADDRESS UNKNOWN, Bondi Pavilion Theatre, Moira Blumenthal, Tamarama Rock Surfers, Patrick Dickson, John O’Hare. Kathrine Kressman Taylor, Frank Dunlop.

CARNAGE

John C Reilly in Polanski’s latest, CARNAGE

A couple of geriatrics garnered gongs in this year’s Academy Awards – octogenarian actor Christopher Plummer and septuagenarian writer Woody Allen.

Septuagenarian filmmaker Roman Polanski’s latest picture CARNAGE (M) shows these two codgers are not alone in bringing to the screen daring, funny, mature and entertaining stories.

Based on Yasmina Reza’s play THE GOD OF CARNAGE, Polanski has rendered a brisk, biting, hilarious picture that reverberates, recoils and rebounds its theatrical origin and transcends it.

Polanski is a prolific practitioner in both cinema and theatre and here he melds his proficiency of stage and screen into a seamless cinematic presentation of a modern day drawing room comedy.

Politically correct parenting is at the heart of this acerbic comedy of manners as two couples meet to discuss a playground pummeling perpetrated by one couple’s progeny against the other.

Power couple Nancy and Alan Cowan have come to Penelope and Michael Longstreet’s apartment to mitigate and mediate over their son’s attack on the Longstreet lad.

At first, all seems cool, calm and collected, as they discuss parenting and discipline over cake and coffee. But the veneer of civility slips with the introduction of “button” words like victim and bully and attorney Alan’s incapacity to curb taking constant calls on his mobile phone.

Manners mortared, politeness torpedoed, the discussion of the scuffle escalates into a verbal squabble of stupendously espoused vitriol, an uncivil vomiting of contradicting convictions, a spewing of grotesque prejudices and a skewering of veiled hypocrisy. I couldn’t have loved it more!

As the mobile phone fetishist, Christoph Waltz delivers his best screen performance since he took out the Oscar for INGLORIOUS BASTARDS. His on screen spouse is played with piss elegance by Kate Winslet.

The other couple teams two time Academy Award winner, Jodie Foster with nominated yet to win but only a matter of time Oscar bearer, John C. Reilly.

This is an awesome foursome unleashed in the confines on apartment to inflict conflict of WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF proportions

Decorum and diplomacy scuttled by the adults, Polanski slyly bookends the film with the children who instigated the story and their micromanagement of the mêlée. Enfant terrible? More like parents infantiles!

Brilliantly paced, beautifully scripted, perfectly performed, CARNAGE is 80 minutes around a whirl with a girl hurl full of burl; pitch perfect Polanski and the funniest film so far this year.

© Richard Cotter

3rd March, 2012

Tags: CARNAGE, Roman Polanski, Christoph Waltz, Kate Winslett, Jodie Foster, Jophn C Reilly, THE GOD OF CARNAGE, Yasmina Reza, Richard Cotter, Sydney Arts Guide.

MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE

A scene from Sean Durkin’s stunning debut film

The insidious and malevolent world of cults comes under the microscope in MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (MA) a stupendous feature film directorial debut by writer director, Sean Durkin.

Four names, one person ads up to a multi layered performance by Elizabeth Olsen, playing a girl damaged and abused as result of a cult.

Named Martha, renamed Marcy May by the Messianic megalomaniac master of the murderous mind-messers, the girl flees from the nefarious nutcases back to the bosom of her family, an older sister, newly married, intent on starting a family of her own.

Escaped from the cankered cloister of the cult compound, Martha discovers the difficulties in re-assimilating with her sibling, the psychological ulcers carried from her indoctrination suppurating and oozing septic toxins into old wounds from past family feuding.

MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE is one of those startling independent features like WINTER’S BONE and FROZEN RIVER that have strong female protagonists and a compelling narrative drive.

Elizabeth Olsen’s double barrel performance of the quad-monikered central character is simply sensational, a calling card for casters who require quality of technique and nuance. Fragile and frail, the damage done by inner demons and outer angels is palpable, as is the parabola of paranoia.

As the sister striving to provide her sibling with succour and solace, Sarah Paulson is equally splendid; symbiotic and sympathetic in a distressing scenario of a free spirit torn asunder.

Stupendously sinister is John Hawkes as the Charles Mansonesque leader of the cult whose sexual subjugation and death loving diatribes are genuinely creepy, spiked with a certain verisimilitude of a murderous mindset.

Stunningly shot by Jody Lee Lipes, and skiting a sensational score by Daniel Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE is seriously superior cinema.

© Richard Cotter

20th February, 2012

Tags: SYDNEY MOVIE REVIEWS- MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, ELIZABETH OLSEN,SEAN DURKIN, SARAH POULSON, JOHN HAWKES, JODY LEE LIPES, DANIEL BENSI, SAUNDER JURRIAANS, SYDNEY ARTS GUIDE, RICHARD COTTER.

VALENTINE’S DAY DATE MOVIES 2013

Two CIA agents fight over Reece Witherspoon in THIS MEANS WAR

THIS MEANS WAR (M) is unabashed drivel from go to woe with heavy emphasis on the WOE! Pity somebody didn’t call Whoa on this pinnacle of jejune.

THIS MEANS WAR quickly becomes THIS MEANS YAWN with a pedestrian action sequence that looked like Jason Bourne on tranquilisers, as an opener.

Two crack CIA agents, one played by the bland Chris Pine, wooden surname, wooden performance, the other by Tom Hardy, a good actor obviously doing this for the money, are buddy-buddy to the point of homoerotic, which may explain Pine’s character’s repetitive root rat womanising and lack of commitment to any female except his grandmother. Hardy is more hetero, with a son and an ex.

They both fall for Reese Witherspoon and engage in puerile tax payer funded sabotage of each other. That the CIA would hire a couple of boofheads like this is frightening, but possibly all too possible.

It’s a bit of an ask for audiences to believe Reese Witherspoon can’t get a man, but when she chooses pallid Pine, THIS MEANS WAR becomes THIS MEANS WHORE!

Simon Kinberg is credited as one of the screenwriters. He was responsible for MR AND MRS SMITH, and this dog’s breakfast looks like all the stuff that was discarded from that movie, thrown out in the trash, and somehow made its way to the Murdoch recycling plant and thought suitable for a News Limited audience.

As an actioner it’s torpid, as a rom com it’s insulting. Some laughs are garnered from Chelsea Handler playing Reese’s mentor, but the material seems out of whack with the rest of the screenplay. I’d say she probably penned her stuff herself.

Director McG has all the comic flair of a bout of typhoid and under his heavy hand THIS MEANS WAR becomes THIS MEANS BORE.

From the terrible to the tolerable, THE VOW is a rom com that doesn’t pretend to be anything else and yet throws up interesting
questions about memory, the heart and the brain.

Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum in THE VOW

Sort of similar to WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING but without the scam, THE VOW has newlyweds Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum facing a seemingly insurmountable tragedy when she loses all memory of their lives together.

This is a situation that confronts many people in their later years with the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Whether it is more or less tragic when it afflicts younger people is an arguable point, but there is no denying that it is catastrophic in any relationship.

Add to the mix that the girl can still come under the influence of disapproving parents and a not so old beau is sniffing and circling, then you really do feel for the dazed and confused spouse who cannot seem to persuade his soul mate that he is madly, truly, deeply.

This is similar but superior to McAdams role in THE TIME TRAVELLERS WIFE and has echoes of THE NOTEBOOK in which she starred a few years back. My favourite McAdams vehicles remain MEAN GIRLS and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS but THE VOW is a lot better than I expected. And Channing Tatum is certainly more charming and appealing than Chris Pine, who as an actor has all the charisma of the Federal Member for Sturt.

© Richard Cotter

13th February, 2012

Tags: Valentine’s Day Date Movies, Sydney Movie Reviews, THIS MEANS WAR, THE VOW, Richard Cotter, Sydney Arts Guide

BEST WE FORGET

Ellen Steele and Nadia Rossi in BEST WE FORGET. Pic Nick Bowers

Totally unforgettable as I remember, BEST WE FORGET at The Old Fitzroy.

According to one of the play’s characters, I am meant to only remember 35% of what I saw.
I do remember this: walking in to the space to be confronted by a long, white table, a conference table that could just as easily be a bridal table. Two wine casks placed at one end gave extra credence to the wedding trestle image.

Two women (Ellen Steele and Nadia Rossi) were already in place behind the table, at opposite ends. A third woman, the convenor (Jude Henshall), was standing in front, telling the entering audience to feel free to partake from the casks and to be informal during the ensuing panel discussion.

She then takes centre seat behind the table and launches into a diatribe about memory and forgeting, scoring a triple A with Amnesia, Aphasia and Alzheimer’s, some other diseases beginning with A, and at least one that didn’t.

There seemed to be some female obsession with the Bourne Identity that was revisited, a brief vignette from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, and a quote from Milan Kundera, plus personal diary readings, pie charts, graphs and slides.

Have I forgotten anything? Probably!

What I remember is an energetic presentation and depiction on the subject of memory and forgetting, a self devised piece, I imagine, from the three women collective, isthisyours?

Did I mention the Polaroids…? Or the cassette tapes…? Recorded memories serving as audio and visual prompts…?

The performance ends with a whimper rather than a bang, like fading memory rather than a flash of recognition. All over before I’d remembered to tap that cask of wine.

Isthisyours? productions opened at the Old Fitzroy theatre, corner Cathedral and Dowling streets, Woolloomooloo, on Wednesday 8th February and runs until Saturday 25th February, 2012.

© Richard Cotter

11th February, 2012

Tags- Sydney Theatre Reviews- BEST WE FORGET, Ellen Steele, Nada Rossi, Jude Henshall, isthisyours?, Richard Cotter, Sydney Arts Guide.

YOUNG ADULT

Charlize Theron as Mavis Gary in Jason Reitman’s YOUNG ADULT

Young Adult is the gleaming reteaming of the creators of JUNO.

Writer Diablo Cody, who won an Oscar for JUNO, has been overlooked by the Academy this time, even though this screenplay is just as sharp, astute, funny and sad as JUNO. Of the official contenders in the best screenplay race, I nominate BRIDESMAIDS to be a ring in over the more detailed, genuinely funny and cutting edge YOUNG ADULT. And it must be galling for director Jason Reitman to be overlooked in preference to the navel gazing Terrence Malick. Seeing that the best film nomination list has bloated out to nine, couldn’t they have made it 10? Or delete the undeserving THE TREE OF LIFE or WAR HORSE?!

Charlize Theron’s performance is arguably her best since she took home Oscar for MONSTER, but she’s been edged out by Glenn Close in the stupendously ponderous Albert Nobbs. Theron plays Mavis Gary, who as a teen was the queen of mean, now as an adult, she is a stunted prom princess.

YOUNG ADULT is a brilliant play-on-words title, because not only is Mavis Gary an immature adult, her job has been that of a writer of teenage fiction.

Instead of fiction being an edifying occupation it has been an atrophying one and Mavis is caught up in the fiction that if she returns home she can snare her high school sweetheart from the clutches of his wife and newborn.

Mavis is a delusional, alcoholic bunny boiler, who has a toy dog, and a juvenile attitude.

(c) Richard Cotter

12th February, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- YOUNG ADULT, Reviewer Richard Cotter, Sydney Arts Guide, Diablo Cody, Jason Reitman, Charlize Theron

SHAME

Carey Mulligan in Steve McQueen’s new film. SHAME

It appears that Oscar knows no SHAME. It has shunned this intriguingly beautiful yet confronting film. When the star from Hunger teams with the lead from An Education, you get SHAME. Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan play brother and sister in Steve McQueen’s provocative follow up to his feature film debut, HUNGER.

SHAME has been rated R for high impact sex scenes. The siblings don’t have sex with each other in the film, but they may have had an incestuous encounter previously. She says to him at one stage, “We are not bad people. We just come from a bad place.”

Their sexual lives are quite different. He, Brandon, is a satyr, besotted with anonymous sex and apparently insatiable. Real or virtual, mutual or masturbation, Brandon is addicted to his bar, fretting if he frots not, a flesh fetishist who is not fazed if the fornication is free or for a fee.

His sister, Sissy, is almost the reverse, falling deeply, madly in love with anyone she has sex with, becoming boorishly needy upon consummation, displaying the monotony of a monogamous goose.

The salaciousness of the subject of sex addiction may pull punters and conversely repel others, but this film has an undeniable beauty, depth and soul.

From the opening image of Brandon, shipwrecked in his bed sheets, staring into the void, to the fabulous tracking shot down 7th Avenue to the Garden, to the audacity of almost single shot scenes, McQueen shows a mastery of cinema technique, allowing his actors and the script to breathe.

McQueen co-wrote the screenplay with Abi Morgan, author of The IRON LADY and the recent hit television series, THE HOUR. Behind the scenes, he’s reteamed with Sean Bobbitt and Joe Walker his cinematographer and editor from Hunger.

SHAME features beautifully detailed, nuanced and natural performances throughout, but special mention must go to James Badge Dale as Brandon’s boss who has a fling with Sissy, and Nicole Beharie as Marianne, a colleague of Brandon who stirs emotional passion in him that perversely incapacitates his ability to perform.

SHAME has not been nominated for an Academy Award – as a film it is superior to both the flacid TREE OF LIFE and facile WAR HORSE, and Steve McQueen trumps both Steve Spielberg and Terence Malick as a helmer, hands down.

(c) Richard Cotter

12th February, 2012

Tags- Sydney Cinema Reviews- SHAME, Steve McQueen, Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, Reviewer Richard Cotter, Sydney Arts Guide

J.EDGAR

Leonardo DiCaprio as the troubled FBI boss, J.Edgar Hoover.

J.EDGAR (M) is Clint Eastwood’s latest biopic. He sort of did it with Nelson Mandella a few years ago with INVICTUS, and most certainly did with Charlie Parker in BIRD.

Declining to call it HOOVER in case punters thought it might be a vehicle for a vacuum, Clint took to the diminutive of his god fearing Christian names to tell the story of the SOB who headed up the FBI, J.EDGAR (M).

Clint has yet to recover his dynamo mojo of 2008 where he brought off the dazzling double of THE CHANGLING and GRAN TORINO, and his last two films have been worthy but stodgy. J.Edgar makes it a tubby hat trick.

Academy award winning screenwriter of MILK, Dustin Lance Black, has constructed a confusing script about the disconsolate gangster-busting dragster, and one wonders whether Clint is uncomfortable with cross dressing – a remnant from THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT where Jeff Bridges upstaged Mr. Eastwood by frocking up.

The unhappy camper is played by Leonardo DiCaprio with a bulldog earnestness and prosthetics that made me think I was watching J. Winston rather than J. Edgar. Performance wise, Leonardo seems to be channeling Jack Nicholson.

The cruelest make-up make-over is reserved for Armie Hammer, the Adonis cast in the role of Hoover’s alleged secret lifelong love, Clyde Tolson, who appears to be punished for his handsomeness by being made look particularly ugly.

Interestingly, the jingoistic J.Edgar made me patriotic. The best things in the film are Australian. Naomi Watts as Hoover’s devoted secretary Helen Gandy is the epitome of stoic poise.

Also Damon Herriman as the Lindburgh kidnapper, Bruno Hauptman – although he bears an uncanny resemblance to Glenn Close and I briefly thought that Albert Nobbs had migrated from Ireland to America and resumed her impersonating skills.

And Ashley Irwin superbly conducts and orchestrates Clint’s cool, tinkling score.

© Richard Cotter

21 January, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- J.EDGAR, Clint Eastwood, Dustin Lance Black, Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Damon Herriman, Ashley Irwin, Richard Cotter, Sydney Arts Guide.