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.

A DANGEROUS METHOD

Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender

New to DVD is David Cronenberg’s A DANGEROUS METHOD(M).

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!

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 and 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, and is certainly more accessible than his most recent film COSMOPOLIS which opens in cinemas this week.

© Richard Cotter

1st August, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- A DANGEROUS METHOD, New DVD release

A HOAX-

Glenn Hazeldine and Shari Sebbens in A HOAX. Pic Brett Boardman

False, fallacious, facetious, fake, fraudulent, fiction. These are the F bombs that explode in well timed detonations throughout the drama of A HOAX, directed by Lee Lewis, currently playing at Griffin Theatre Company.

Winner of the 2011 Griffin Award, Rick Viede’s explosive exploration of literary hoax and the reasons they are committed makes for a mature examination of ethics, race, gender and identity.

Hoaxers can be hucksters, pranksters, psycho or sociopaths but Viede’s Ant, the author who perpetrates the furphy is none of these. His charade channels his own life, experience and thoughts informed by toiling as a social worker. He’s savvy enough to know that the best way for his work to find purchase in publishing and find a wide audience is by gilding the truth with a fiction, of tapping into the “misery memoir” that has mesmerised the market and making his creation carnate.

The play begins in a hotel room with a young girl visiting a man for payment. It plays like a hooker/client transaction, and in a way it is. But who is taking advantage of whom? Ant, the bard, needs a beard; Miri, the beard, needs the bread.

The real prostitution here is that of the truth. Ronnie, the literary agent, declares: “people want the truth” in one breath and “no one cares as long as they say it’s true”, in another. She further obfuscates “the only difference between fact and fiction is the way you package it.”

In this mire of masquerade a hoax can be commissioned by culpable publishers complicit in its creation yet hypocritically critical if discovered.

Glenn Hazeldine as Ant is terrifically good in his second consecutive show at the Stables. Talk about own the space.

Shari Sebbens, currently starring in the film version of The Sapphires, is sensational as Miri Smith, a contemporary cut up of Eliza Dolittle and Frankenstein’s creature, both outgrowing and destroying her creator. She charts a coruscating course from clueless to cruelly controlling and destructive.

Sally McKenzie is a force of nature as Ronnie Lowe, the agent once admired as Momma Midas, now known as Momma Shit, a PR piranha who needs a feed.

And Charles Allen, making his Sydney stage debut as Tyrelle Parks, the revenge seeking self proclaiming camp, black, Queenie faggot, delivers the goods.

An exceptional piece of writing – funny, sad, poignant, frightening- excellently executed, A HOAX is a fully fleshed foray into where the truth lies.

Rick Viede’s A HOAX opened at the Stables Theatre, 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross on Wednesday 25th July and plays until Saturday 1st September, 2012.

© Richard Cotter
31 July, 2012

Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- A HOAX, Stables Theatre Kings Cross, Lee Lewis, Rick Viede, Glenn Hazeldine, Shari Sebbens, Sally McKenzie, Charles Allen, Brett Boardman, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

AND IF WE ALL LIVED TOGETHER?

Two Hollywood greats live it up in Paris

Hollywood dynastic DNA is all over AND IF WE ALL LIVED TOGETHER? (M) (Et si vivait tous ensemble?), a fine French film that features Jane Fonda and Geraldine Chaplin.

Fonda plays Jeanne married to Albert (Pierre Richard). She is dealing with a fearful physical diagnosis as well as Albert’s declining mental faculties.

Chaplin plays Annie, married to Jean (Guy Bedos), close friends of Jeanne and Albert.

Both couples share a forty year friendship with each other and with a lone wolf Lothario, Claude (Claude Rich), who is preoccupied with erectile dysfunction.

Children of the Swinging Sixties and the storming of the Sorbonne, they now stand united in old age, raging against the dying of the light, recalcitrant organs and joints, the five forms a federation of friends and decide to shack up together.

These women and men who caught and sang the sun in flight refuse to go gentle into that good night; however their newfound communalism is not without its pros and cons. Memories, both good and bad, fond and foul, when flesh was fresh and firm, and youthful feelings flashed across the firmament, fuel contentment and contempt, yet in the face of mortality the positives prevail.

Fonda and Chaplin are gorgeous, and while Jane has obviously had some cosmetic complementation, it is subtle, and both women present a suppleness of body, presence and poise. Piss elegant!

Fundamentally light and breezy, AND IF WE ALL LIVED TOGETHER?, directed by Stephane Robelin, is a more honest less laboured approach to the geriatric genre than THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL. As much as I admire Dench and Smith, I’d rather cohabit with Fonda and Chaplin and their retinue of male duffers in France than some fake, fakir fairytale in the subcontinent.

© Richard Cotter

26th July, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- AND IF WE ALL LIVED TOGETHER?, Jane Fonda, Geraldine Chaplin, Pierre Richard, Guy Bedos, Claude Rich, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

IN DARKNESS

Children faced with the horror of the Holocaust IN DARKNESS

Agnieska Holland’s film IN DARKNESS (MA) conjures not only SCHINDLER’S LIST but Nathan Englander’s recent short story collection, WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT ANNE FRANK.

One may ask if everything has now been said on the subject of the Holocaust. But in Holland’s opinion the main mystery hasn’t yet been resolved, or even fully explored. How was this crime (echoes of which continue in different places in the world from Rwanda to Bosnia) possible? Where was Man during this crisis? Where was God? Are these events and actions the exception in human history or do they reveal an inner, dark truth about our nature? Does our true nature live IN DARKNESS?!

Exploring the many stories from this period uncovers the incredible variety of human destinies and adventures, revealed in the richest texture of plots and dramas, with characters that face difficult moral and human choices, exercising both the best and the worst in human nature.

One of those stories is Leopold Socha and the group of Jews from Lvov’s Ghetto, whom he hides in the city’s sewers. The main character is ambiguous: seemingly a good family man, yet a petty thief and a crook, religious and immoral at the same time, perhaps an ordinary man, living in terrible times. During the story Socha grows in many ways as a human being. There is nothing easy or sentimental in his journey.

This is why it’s fascinating; it’s why we can make this journey with him. The group of Jews he saves is not made of angels. The fear, the terrible conditions, their own selfishness make them complex and difficult, sometimes unbearable human beings. But they are real and alive, and their imperfections give them a stronger claim to their right to life than any idealized version of victims could.

The screenplay is by novice screenwriter, David F. Shamoon, the son of parents who had to flee Baghdad to escape Iraq’s persecution of Jews, who personally optioned the film rights to the book, IN THE SEWERS OF LVOV by Robert Marshall, and spent a year researching the era and writing the script ‘on spec’.

Instead of the attics and basements and barns used to conceal Jews fleeing from Nazi annihilation, this group is secreted in the sewers, a dank, dark, disgusting dungeon, degraded in a damp dung heap, a labyrinth of liquid filth. They live in the dark, stink, wet and isolation for over a year. An ordeal of ordure…

Arbitrary executions coincide with selfless acts of love as the film runs a gamut of extremes, a testament to human endurance and the eventual triumph over inhumanity.

Great films like this remind us of uncomfortable truths but also attest against the detestable, and that IN DARKNESS a light can be shed, and shared.

© Richard Cotter

25th July, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- IN DARKNESS, Agnieska Holland, David F Shamoon, IN THE SEWERS OF LVOV, Robert Marshall, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

MAGIC MIKE

Channing Tatum, Cody Horn and Olivia Munn in MAGIC MIKE

Imagine a brassier, bolder, glitzier THE FULL MONTY shelving Sheffield, England for Tampa, Florida and you have an idea of MAGIC MIKE.

Based loosely on the experiences of Channing Tatum who plays the titular character, it’s about a band of boy disrobers, all male revue, a virtual pay for view, who titillate women of all ages by stripping and dry humping their way through raunchy musical routines.

The troupe is led by Dallas, a real carney, played in uber exuberance mode by Matthew McConnaghy. His dream is to take his strippers into the stratosphere.

Magic Mike has a protégé, a young feller who shows a flair for flagrante, played by Alex Pettyfer. This should serve as calling card for better things as it should for Cody Horn who plays his sister, who Magic Mike takes a magic like to.

Written by Reid Carolin, director Steven Soderbergh steers the picture in a quite relaxed fashion, allowing a sense of freedom in dialogue and delivery, which for the most part, works quite well. Shooting the picture under his nom de plume, Peter Andrews, and cutting it under the pseudonym of Mary Anne Bernard, Stevie Three Hats has created quite a freewheeling spin on the subculture of male strippers, with subplots of drug abuse, group sex and other excesses.

Botox, buttocks, boobs and nude dudes – not as cheerful as THE FULL MONTY or as edgy as BOOGIE NIGHTS – but worth a look, or a peek, just the same.

© Richard Cotter

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- MAGIC MIKE, Channing Tatum, Matthew McConnaghy, Reid Carolin, Stevn Soderbergh, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

Chris Nolan throws in the trowel in tidying up the trilogy of the cape and cowl.

Beginning with an excellent action adventure mid air escape sequence where we are introduced to villain Bane, a hybrid Hannibal Lecter cum World Championship Wrestler caricature, we are catapulted into a Gotham City eight years after the events of the last film.

Harvey Dent has been canonised and the Dark Knight demonised. Bruce Wayne has become a Howard Hughesesque hermit ministered by his overweening butler, Alfred.

At a charity do at stately Wayne Manor, bearded Bruce catches cat burglar Selina Kyle purloining his mother’s necklace. But it’s not just the family jewels she’s interested in but lifting the fingerprints of the billionaire in a case of dire digital identity theft.

This purloining pussy makes Bruce’s loins purr but she’s in the employ of Bane whose plan is to crash Wayne’s stocks and make the prince a pauper.

The plot is pretty impressive – bankrupt Bruce, take control of the Wayne Corporation, and use the clean, green reactor the billionaire benefactor have been developing to make a dirty nuclear bomb.

The most horrifying aspect of this is that it’s not motivated by ransom but revenge; erratic, overwrought, emotive zealotry brought about by blind devotion and sociopathic instinct fostered by a cult that worships killing.

Christian Bale as Bruce/Batman, Michael Caine as the Batman’s batman, Alfred, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox are all back for this franchise finale and are joined by Marion Cotillard, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy and Ben Mendelssohn, but its Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is the real surprise here, a scene stealing turn as an orphan succored by the Wayne Foundation and now a Gotham City cop who aids and abets the Bat better than anybody.

Seasoned behind the scenesers who have contributed to all three episodes of the trilogy -Aussie editor Lee Smith, cinematographer, Wally Pfister and cossie designer Lindy Hemming – add their prodigious talents to this spectacular black, bleak and brutal curtain.

One could nitpick about some of the choices and whether THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is superior to its predecessors (it’s not) but it’s certainly a million miles more entertaining than any of the Marvel movies, leaving Spidey and The Avengers in a dark dust of disappointment.

As super heroes go, nobody beats the Bat for a balance of brain and brawn.

© Richard Cotter

19th July, 2012

Tags: Sydney Arts Guide- THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, Sydney Arts Guide. Richard Cotter.

THE DOOR

THE DOOR

After an illustrious career in his native Hungary, director Istvan Szabo has carved out an enviable enclave in English speaking films especially with actresses of high caliber,– Glenn Close in MEETING VENUS,Annette Benning in BEING JULIA, and now Helen Mirren in THE DOOR (M).

Coupling her with the great German actress Martina Gedeck, Mirren plays a character called Emerenc, Gedeck’s housekeeper. The eminence of Emerenc and the magnitude of Gedeck’s character, Magda, raises a fairly pedestrian and episodic plot to a notch above the ordinary.

They say good casting is half the work and certainly a good part of the heavy lifting is done by these two stars of the silver screen, technique and experience shining through not so sparkling screenwriting.

Indeed, the story’s origins in a novel by Magda Szabo are never severed as might serve a more polished screenplay, and Andrea Veszits and Istvan Szabo’s scenario merely acts as a blueprint for these two actress architects to erect an edifice of emotion from bare bedrock.

Magda is a novelist, middle class, married to a fat cat bureaucrat.

Emerenc is the far more eccentric character, a keeper of cats and a depository of startling stories concerning storms, Nazis, and the Sovietisation of her homeland.

A series of vignettes really, with an odd theatrical style, THE DOOR does not initially present a welcome mat to audiences. Indeed, some may wonder if they are going to get over the threshold, and then Mirren makes you marvel, kindles care in her character, creates a mystique, not like some femme fatale but of a rich and interesting woman, a strongbox of stories waiting to be accessed, an intricate combination of tall tales and true.

What could have been suet becomes sirloin in the presence of these cinema supernumeraries. The helmer may be hibernating but the mesmerising Mirren and the giddying Geddeck keep us entreatingly awake with an entertaining two handed turn that rates more than just worth a look.

© Richard Cotter

19th July, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- THE DOOR, Istvan Szabo, Martina Gedeck, Helen Mirren, Magda Szabo.

HYSTERIA

Tanya Wexler’s new film, HYSTERIA

An hysterical magical history tour de force, HYSTERIA (M) deserves to create quite a buzz at the box office.

It single-handedly tells the story of the invention of the vibrator whilst exploding the myth of the catch-all complaint of hysteria which held women under the thumb in medical theory and theological discourse.

‘In the time of Victoria
There was no talk of clitoria
When table legs had to be covered
And women were chronically dud- lovered
Orgasms were paroxysms, Gloria!’.

HYSTERIA could have gone the way of Carry On or Merchant Ivory films. Thankfully, the filmmakers found a much more interesting way to go.

Picking up on a more modern definition of the word hysteria, “a burst of hilarity”, the film makers fashioned a movie that was funny, that tickled, that gave satisfaction.

Stephen and Jonah Lisa Dyer have fashioned a screenplay that is witty and wise, comic and poignant, beautifully rendered under Tanya Wexler’s deft direction.

Hugh Dancy plays newly minted medico, Mortimer Granville, a healer whose heeding of hygiene in hospitals goes against the established thinking of the day. His ‘germ theory’ is derided as poppycock and he is dismissed from duty.

The hostility of the hospitals hastens his employment in private practice with Dr. Dalrymple, London’s gynecological guru, whose manual massage has caused quite a considerable clientele of ‘hysterics’.

Dalrymple played with delicious duplicity by Jonathan Pryce has two daughters, the staid stay at home phrenologist, Emily,(Felicity Jones) and the firebrand feminist, Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhall). These two raise the stakes in the rom com component of the film causing friction and faction between the young doctor and his more conservative employer.

Another key player who offers a delirious portrayal of a pixilated pioneer of progress is Rupert Everett, effortlessly ebullient and effervescent as Granville’s friend and benefactor, Edmund St. John-Smythe.

A rib-tickler if ever there was one!

© Richard Cotter

11th July, 2012

Sydney Movie Reviews- HYSTERIA, Tanya Wexler, Stephen Dyer, Jonah Lisa Dyer, Hugh Darcy, Jonathon Pryce, Maggie Gyllenhall, Rupert Everett, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

THE KING IS DEAD

Rolf de Heer’s latest film is THE KING IS DEAD

Rolf de Heer’s THE KING IS DEAD plays like a dark riff on The Castle and will resonate with anyone who has anything to do with being a resident and coping with nasty neighbours.

Max, science teacher, and Therese, tax accountant, buy a house in a seemingly quiet leafy suburban street. A light and airy dwelling close to public transport and with off street parking they think they have found their dream house.

They move in, finding a nice family on one side and, what they brand “interesting” on the other. But interesting soon becomes loud, and loud soon becomes intolerable and when the intolerable becomes the violent, and the police are powerless to do anything, and the community lawyer suggests ear plugs, Max and Therese are forced to try and solve the problem of the nightmare neighbour from hell themselves…and end up with a corpse on their hands.

But wait, there’s more, even that’s not the worst of it, because the corpse has friends…and even worse, enemies…the cadaver owes cash and it’s a case of till debt do us part, paid in full with interest.

Fresh from her supporting Something About Maryesque role in UNSUITABLE FOR CHILDREN, Bojana Novakovic plays Therese to Dan Wylie’s Max, a couple whose patience and tolerance is whittled away by the Neanderthal neighbours comprising Luke Ford, Anthony Hayes and Gary Waddell who plays the titular King, an ice addled old duffer who allows his property to be a venue for vice and violence.

Waddle is a wonder, making a detestable character sympathetic, a cinematic cousin of David Wenham’s Johnny Spitieri in GETTIN’ SQUARE.

Indeed, THE KING IS DEAD is, in bloodline parlance, GETTIN’ SQUARE out of THE CASTLE, and deserves a fair go at your local neighbourhood multiplex.

(C) Richard Cotter

11th July, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- THE KING IS DEAD, Rolf de Heer, Bojana Novakovic, Dan Wylie, Luke Ford, Anthony Hayes, Gary Waddell, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN

Sarah Snook delivers a breakout performance. Pic Craig Wilson

The feature film debut of Peter Templeman, whose short film THE SAVIOUR was nominated for an Oscar five years back, NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN stars Ryan Kwanten and boasts a standout, breakout, calling card performance by Sarah Snook.

Kwanten plays soon to be sterile slacker called Jonah – after the dude that lived in a sperm whale – whose zygotes will be zero after surgery for testicular tumour.

Testes tumour humour hasn’t been so satisfying since LOOK BOTH WAYS, as Jonah searches for wombs for rent, where his seed will find purchase and disseminate his DNA.

Failing to convince an old squeeze to conceive, from here to paternity looks like an empty eternity and the desperate daddy to be dabbles in all manner of dupes and manipulations.

Flat mate and apparent soul mate, Stevie (Snook) acts as a kind of prenatal midwife brokering her buddy’s ball brew to a bunch of would be breeders, but the fruits of her labour fail to fertilize.

Jonah’s desperate desire is driven by a dire expiry date not by love or romance. He’s irresponsible, has a nest that needs feathering, barely a farthing to his name, and farthest from the father model as fairly fathomable.

Michael Lucas’ screenplay ticks all the boxes in the rom com recipe book and the casting is excellent, especially the show stealer Snook.

The film looks sensational thanks to cinematographer Lachlan Milne and editor Matthew Walker. All in all, NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN is a feature all associated with should feel proud.

© Richard Cotter

11th July, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN, Peter Templeman, Ryan Kwanten, Sarah Snook, Bojana Novakovic, Lachlan Milne, Mathhew Walker, Craig Wilson, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

METAMORPHOSES

Jacqui Livingston in METAMORPHOSES. Pic Rudi Yap

I wish theatre companies and venues in Sydney would go through metamorphoses to lure and entice audiences. Disgraceful that PACT in Erskineville has METAMORPHOSES running there at the moment but passing traffic wouldn’t know, even people who knew it was on may scratch their heads and wonder whether they had come to the right place. Signage outside the theatre makes no mention of it. On opening night for Christ sakes! A great and disgusting pity because this show should be up in lights.

Mary Zimmerman’s play, based on the myths of Ovid, is staged as a series of vignettes, a cycle that begins with the creation of the world and ends with a story of gods made carnate, the return of the prodigal and eventual redemption.

Judeo-Christianity is all Greek made sleek by a fine ensemble of actors well drilled by director Dino Dimitriadis whose simple design of boxes in a basement works brilliantly as each piece is unwrapped from its packing case, antics from antiquity aired in simple, clear storytelling.

One of the boxes is full of water and water is used as a potent symbol throughout, from the refreshing and recreational to the dark and dire, used both as an instrument of rejuvenation and rebirth and an instrument of torture and death.

Clear of voice and fluid in movement, the eleven cast members fairly glide through this panoply of parables delivering a disciplined, concise and compact production, presented by Apocalypse Theatre Company in conjunction with Bakehouse Theatre Company.

Producers and venue please honour the talent on show here by signage on Railway Parade – you don’t light a candle and bury it under a bushel.

Dino Dimitriadis’s production of Mary Zimmerman’s METAMORPHOSES, adapted from the myths of Ovid, opened at the PACT theatre on Thursday 5th July and plays until Saturday 21st July, 2012.

© Richard Cotter

7th July, 2012

Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- METAMORPHOSES, PACT Theatre, Erskineville, Ovid, Mary Zimmerman, Dino Dimitriadis, Apocalypse Theatre Company, Bakehouse Theatre Company, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN

Rhys Ifans in THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN

After only a decade since its big screen reboot and five years since Spiderman 3, Sony has sought to spin a new origin story for the arachnid kid, called THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN.

Such is the appetite for super hero films, the studios, it seems, are happy to regurgitate lycra clad lad tales ad nauseum.
Peter Porter is now played by Andrew Garfield and the director is the fortuitously named Marc Webb, who three years ago gave us the jaunty rom-com 500 Days of Summer.

Screenwriters James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves have Peter Porter, progeny of Professor Porter, parentless, orphaned, fostered by Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Pater Porter’s brother and sister in law.

On an excursion to Peter Porter’s father’s partner’s lab, Peter Porter is pricked by a genetically perverted spider whose DNA enhances the high school photographer in strength and agility, packing eight leg power into the bipeds biochemistry.

His father’s former partner, Curt Connors, had been working with Peter Porter’s pater on genetic engineering of spurious cross species experiments when Pere Porter and his spouse disappeared. Connors was particularly interested in the regeneration of limbs, a selfish quest as he is in akimbo limbo, having lost an arm.

A herpetologist, wants to make like a skink, and does so, becoming a repugnant and repellent reptile, a nemesis for the newly minted gossamer good guy.

Spiderman’s squeeze is Gwen Stacy, played by the sweet and sassy Emma Stone. Gwen’s dad is the city’s police chief played with a simmering cynicism by Denis Leary. He wants Spidey to stay away from his daughter for fear he’ll make her a spinster.

So poor Peter Porter is in a pickled pepper with no papa, in the poo with parent of petting pal, and not at peace with papa’s mad professor partner!

While the final slugfest at high altitude between the Spiderman and the Lizard lad is kind of impressive in IMAX 3D (major vertigo alert), as an origin story it lacked originality. This story has been spun before, and the suspension of disbelief seems perilously close to dissolving under the weight of schmaltz.

Spiderman can weave his web as a weapon but cannot spin his amazing silk to staunch wounds and thus save lives? A metaphor for mayhem over humanity, perhaps? Too hallowed a hope from this shallow popcornography. Let’s hope the Dark Knight does not disappoint.

© Richard Cotter

3rd July, 2012

Tags_ Sydney Movie Reviews- THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

THE THREE STOOGES

THE THREE STOOGES- Revisited

I’d love to report that the appearance of Larry David as a nun is worth the price of admission to the Farrelly Brothers take on the knuckled headed nitwits born of depression era vaudeville, THE THREE STOOGES.

Unfortunately, and as much as his screen time is enjoyable, it is not enough to save this misconceived misstep in muddle headed numbskullism. His casting and the idea that Moe could be a reality TV show star are the only truly inspired aspects of this hamstrung, ham-fisted homage to the unholy trinity of slapstick saints.

It was evident from their cinema debut, DUMB AND DUMBER, that the Farrelly’s were inspired by the likes of Moe, Larry and Curly and seemed the likely candidates to bring these comic icons into the 21st century. The problem is that they are icons, indelibly etched into a generation’s psyche and readily available on You Tube.

Impersonations and recreations just don’t cut the comedy mustard and the puns are punishing. Sean Hayes as Larry, Will Sasso as Curly, and Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe are valiant in their impressions but the material is so musty airing it doesn’t help freshen this hackneyed mess.Told in three stages of the stooges development, er evolution, er, wiseguy!

Not as good as the classic originals nor the Farrellys at their best, in my opinion, THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY is their zenith, THE THREE STOOGES is best left to undiscriminating tots these school holidays, especially those who like lashings and lashings of red cordial, thumb their noses at gluten free menus and enjoy a good eye poke and scrotum strangling.

Stay to the end to see a studio disclaimer to fend off liable litigation on behalf of little children. Autism, Asperger and Alzheimer sufferers may well be the target audience.

© Richard Cotter

3rd July, 2012

Tags; Sydney Movie Reviews- THE THREE STOOGES, Farrelly Brothers, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

ALL THE RAGE

Xavier Coy and Duncan Fellows in ALL THE RAGE. Pic Sylvia Della Vedova

John A.D. Fraser traverses territory trail blazed by Martin McDonaugh in his latest play ALL THE RAGE appropriately propping up the play bill at the Old Fitzroy Theatre.

On a spare stage presenting a white wall and two doors at either end, the play begins with a woman in black who disappears through one door as the other is burst open by two men in overalls and their blindfolded captive. All three are Irish. The two captors banter about movies settling on a sing song of the theme from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which they get wrong much to the ire of their captive.

The younger of the captors, Boyle, known as Boyler, is affronted that the blind folded feller dares dis Dick van Dyke and tinks it’s shite that the Sherman’s wrote the shanty.

Boyler wants to blow The Baker’s brains out, for The Baker is the name of the blindfolded bearded boy, to be sure.

The captain of the captors, the senior partner who goes by the name of Skin the Goat, nixes the knocking of the know it all because The Baker, it turns out, is a master blaster, a bomb maker of exquisite explosive skill, and the whole raison d’être for kidnapping him in the first place is to force him to construct a device that will devastate an international event and disgrace England.
And then there’s that woman from the opening scene…………………..

Laurence Coy as Skin the Goat, Duncan Fellows as the Baker and Scarlett McGlynn as the woman are all fine, but it is Xavier Coy as the simmering simpleton psychopath who steals the show. It’s a frightening characterisation of that sad and sickening infantilism that feeds fatality lists fueled by fanatics everywhere.

With the recent handshake between Queen Elizabeth and former IRA commander Martin McGuinness, this compact play about spin shenanigans is as timely as a tick…tick..tick.

John A.D. Fraser’s ALL THE RAGE opened at the Old Fitzroy theatre, Cathedral and Dowling streets, Woolloomooloo on Tuesday 26th June and is running until Saturday July 14, 2012.

© Richard Cotter

28th June, 2012

Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- ALL THE RAGE, John A.D.Fraser, Tamarama Rock Surfers, The Old Fitzroy Theatre, Laurence Coy, Xavier Coy, Duncan Fellows, Scarlet McGlynn.

PORN.CAKE-

Olivia Pigeot and Josef Ber in PORN.CAKE. Pic by Giselle Haber

Let them eat cake. Attributed to Marie Antoinette, what does it really mean? Let the starving stew in sugar? Or feed the hungry the finer things?

There’s certainly plenty of food for thought in Vanessa Bates play PORN.CAKE the confronting confection currently being served at the Stables Theatre.

Can you have your cake and eat it too? Is the return of the home made cake a quest for comfort in a world carved up and compartmentalised? Has cake been “pornified” by such culinary linguists as Nigela Lawson and Jamie Oliver? Is yesterday’s cup-cake a stale sponge? What is the recipe to keep romance in a relationship?

So many ingredients make Bates’ art big and the pop culture calorie counter gets bigger under Shannon Murphy’s mix-master melange.

The icing on this cake is the committed cast of four – does this make it a four play? – Josef Ber, Glenn Hazeldine, Olivia Pigeot, and Georgina Symes. This cake consuming ménage a quatre gorge, gouge, and grapple their way through a garrulous gateaux engagement, a grand bouffe of gluttony and regret, and the greener pastures of nostalgia scented with green apple shampoo.

Justin Nardella’s sunken lounge entertainment pit design acts as a comfy cushioned amphitheatre where these gateaux gladiators play their games – on themselves and the audience.

Gluttons for punishment especially for the gluten intolerant – food fads, fetishes and preferences are focused upon – the characters kvetch and retch, and use their evolved thumbs for texting. Thumbing- up has led to dumbing-down in the intimate conversation stakes. Even the arrival of a birthday cake literally loses its celebratory sparkle before it reaches centre stage.

As tasty as Nigella and with an Oliver twist, PORN.CAKE is a drama of domestic science baked at extreme temperature so as to blacken the humour. Delicious!

Vanessa Bates’s PORN.CAKE opened on Friday 22nd June at the SBW Stables Theatre, 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross and runs until Saturday 14th July, 2012,

© Richard Cotter
25th June, 2012
Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- PORN.CAKE, Stables Theatre, Vanessa Bates, Shannon Murphy, Josef Ber, Glenn Hazeldine, Olivia Pigeot, Georgina Symes, Justine Nardella, Gisella Haber, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

THE UNSPEAKABLE ITCH

Kate Smith and Drew Fairley in THE UNSPEAKABLE ITCH. Pic Heidrun Lohr

In the cosmos of the credit card cosmopolitan, those who have the biggest deck carry the big stick of social status. That’s the central plank in THE UNSPEAKABLE ITCH, the latest collaboration of Kate Smith and Drew Fairley, a “till debt do us part” bomb-com now playing at The Darlinghurst Theatre.

The play opens with the couple quibbling over a naming ceremony for their imminent pride and joy – a teak deck. It’s a rich joke – a swipe at the sacred by the profane – a kind of christening of consumerism.

Smith and Fairley play power partners Bec and Matt Shakespeare, dual income no kids Bondi set who face the proverbial seven year itch. Their lives have become moribund by moolah and it is filthy lucre that lures Matt into infidelity with his employer, Belle. Bec is tempted by Baz who has blown in from Britain.

THE UNSPEAKABLE ITCH is really an overstretched sketch with songs.

The performer’s voices are amplified presumably so that they can be heard over the playback tracks but in the straight dialogue scenes this effect is distracting and discombobulating. As is the use of the use of stage mist, a slide show and film projection, it would appear for little purpose other than padding.

The songs by Phil Scott aren’t bad but in the intimate space of the Darlo they really don’t need amplification especially since the two performers are quite able to belt it out.

Both actors are more than adequate in their antics, but it’s Smith who steals the show with her arch doyen realtor, Belle, in tacky gold tracky, a predatory property purveyor who is the personification of someone who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.

There are certainly flashes of fun, but not every joke is a gem and the timing seems off. There’s an itch to laugh but much of the comedy comes coated in calamine so the production is antipruritic rather than astringent.

Nothing a shorter version wouldn’t fix.

THE UNSPEAKABLE ITCH, originally commissioned by the Merrigong Theatre Company, opened at the Darlinghurst Theatre Company, 19 Greenknowe Avenue, Potts Point on Wednesday 12th June and plays until Sunday 8th July, 2012.

© Richard Cotter

21st June, 2012

Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- THE UNSPEAKABLE ITCH, Darlinghurst Theatre Company, Drew Fairley, Kate Smith, Phil Scott, Merrigong Theatre Company, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

ELENA

Nadezhda Markina is sensational as ELENA

Andrey Zvyagintsev is a man who makes movie masterpieces.

After his breathtakingly beautiful THE RETURN, the movie maestro returns with ELENA (M), a film that revels in the minutiae of life and makes it riveting.

Spare, precise, with a stylish symmetry, this tale of tortured loyalties and familial ties begins with a series of domestic rituals – ablutions, breakfasts, toilets, dressings- the mundane made fascinating by a mantilla of intrigue.

Who is the woman, who rises from a bed in one room, to groom herself and prepare food for the man she awakens in another bed in another room?

She is Elena, he is Vladimir. She nursed him in hospital and he married her. Each has a child from a previous marriage. Her son, Sergey, is a lay-about with a lay-about son of his own and a wife who he keeps barefoot and pregnant. Vladimir’s daughter, Katerina is careless and contrary to her father, a wealthy businessman. Katerina is prickly towards Elena as Vladimir is prickly towards Sergey.

This creates prickles within the couple’s otherwise solid relationship, the nettles nudging piercing point when Vladimir suffers a health crisis, reunites with his daughter, and sets about drafting a new will. Nascent nettles bloom into a catastrophic cactus where maternal instinct conspire to spousal extinct.

Zvyagintsev hitches a ride on the Hitchcock highway where the MacGuffin hurtles into the heartland of moral disarray.

Nadezhda Markina is nothing short of sensational in the title role – the eternal maternal- gentle, sweet, feminine – driven by desperation in defence of her child, however misguided it may be.

It’s a heartbreaking performance of a person corrupted by moral malaise and serves not only as a virtuoso insight into human nature but as an allegory of modern society, ex Soviet or not.

ELENA may be set in Moscow but moviegoers from Mascot to Manly will identify with the machinations of manipulative offspring, breaches in blended families, and the balance between welfare and mollycoddling. Bludgers need bludgeoning before they infect their progeny and cause sins committed on their behalf. It seems some who sacrifice to succor are sacrificed themselves on the altar of selfish sons who take their mothers (and their wives) selflessness for granted.

From the mundane to murder, from grief to guilt, ELENA runs a gamut of detailed drama, thrilling and thoughtful, gorgeously framed and shot, and accompanied by a superb score by Philip Glass.

© Richard Cotter

20th June, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- ELENA, Sydney Movie Of The Week, Audrey Zvyagintsev, Nadezhda Markina, Philip Glass, THE RETURN, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

CHINESE TAKEAWAY

Ignacio Huang and Ricardo Darin in CHINESE TAKEAWAY

The Spanish Film Festival launched last Monday evening at the Chauvel Cinema with sangria and savouries and a screening of the sweet Argentinean comedy, CHINESE TAKEAWAY.

Predominantly from Spain, the festival features films from other Spanish speaking countries, including Argentina, Peru, Mexico and Columbia. Four of the films come from Argentina and if CHINESE TAKEAWAY is anything to go by, the Argentine contingent alone will be worth the price of a ticket.

The film opens in China with a most surprising, astonishing, bizarre bovine incident then moves to Argentina where we meet the cranky, contrary Roberto Caesar, prickly proprietor of a ferreteria, which to the English seeing eye would suggest weasel wares per chance, but in Spanish translates to hardware store, per favour.

Roberto is a loner, a collector of things, including cuttings of bizarre stories from the newspapers. In a curious coincidence, he stumbles upon the Chinese man from the opening sequence as the fellow is being ditched from a taxi near the airport.

The foreigner, Jun, has an address tattooed on his arm and Roberto drives him there. It is the address of Jun’s uncle, but his father’s brother has moved on.

Receiving no help from the local police or the Chinese embassy, two scenes that brilliantly burst the bureaucratic bubble that beleaguers so many of us at times, Roberto offers to billet the boy, setting a deadline of seven days to find his relatives or return to China.

With no common language, it’s a bewildering time for both men, but a relationship develops between the curmudgeon and his eager to please lodger.

CHINESE TAKEAWAY offers the best kind of comedy, the laughs rising effortlessly from character and situation, layered with pathos as a serious plight underpins proceedings.

Ricardo Darin is spectacular in his personification of isolation, a legacy of a motherless childhood and an absurd stint in military national service. This distancing cannot disguise his inherent integrity, honesty and courage, however, as we see in his deeds with Jun. It is seen with crystal clarity by Mari played by Muriel Santa Ana, who is head over heels in love with him and is willing to wait for his reticence to romance recede.

Written and directed by Sebastian Borensztein, CHINESE TAKEAWAY is a lovely, charming, bittersweet, funny film that celebrates the unpredictability of life, its absurdities and its genuine joys.

CHINESE TAKEAWAY screens at The Chauvel Cinema Friday July 6 at 6.30pm and at the Palace Norton Street Sunday July 8 at 6.30pm, Thursday July 12 at 9.15pm and Saturday July 14 at 6.45pm.

The 15th Spanish Film Festival runs at both venues from July 4 through to July 15.

© Richard Cotter

20th June, 2012

Tags: Spanish Film Festival 2012 Preview, Chauvel Cinema, Ricardo Darin, Muriel Santa Ana, Sebastian Borensztein, CHINESE TAKEAWAY, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

TAKE THIS WALTZ

Luke Kirby and Michelle Williams in TAKE THIS WALTZ

TAKE THIS WALTZ (M) takes its title from the Leonard Cohen song, which itself was taken from Lorca. It is not, however, some slavish cinematic illustration of the lyrics, rather a thematically entwined rumination of romantic love.

Margot, played by the marvellous Michelle Williams is married to Lou, played by the equally swell Seth Rogen. They have a happy marriage in a kind of goofy juvenile way with childish games and baby talk keeping their selves orbiting within their universe of two.
Then a comet in the form of Daniel enters their atmosphere, and he collides with Lou’s bride, giving her a terrible thrill. Daniel is an artist that has moved in across the street from the couple and uses his fee to make ends meet as a rickshaw driver.

TAKE THIS WALTZ is Sarah Polley’s follow up film to her feature debut AWAY FROM HER and makes a startling companion piece. The former film was about an enduring relationship that hits the rocks of dementia. The latter concerns a five year old marriage that has become moribund to the monotony of matrimony; the emotional amnesia that comes with complacency has settled in.

Lou especially is satisfied with the state of the marriage, a homely type who writes recipe books for a living and comes from a large family whose wholesomeness is only worried by a sister struggling to stay sober, a sensational support starrer by Sarah Silverman.

Sarah Polley has taken this waltz -TAKE THIS WALTZ – take this waltz/ Take its broken waist in your hand/ with a garland of freshly cut tears/ Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay, Take this waltz/ take this waltz /Take this waltz/it’s been dying for years – and danced it to the end of love.

If Leonard Cohen was a film maker rather than a poet, this is what we’d expect.

© Richard Cotter

12th June, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- TAKE THIS WALTZ, Movie Of The Week, Sarah Polley, Leonard Cohen, Michele Williams, Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

A ROYAL AFFAIR

A scene from Nikolaj Arcel’s A ROYAL AFFAIR

King Christian VII of Denmark would rather be an actor than a monarch. Statutes are given short shrift but whole screeds of Shakespeare are committed to memory- although something is rotten in the state of Denmark does not rank; indeed it rankles. Could it have something to do with his step-mother and her overweening aspirations for his step brother?!

In 1766, the stage managed marriage to Caroline Mathilde, sister of George III of England to this cuckoo king takes place, is comically consummated, brings forth issue of a son, and alienates the couple.

On a year-long tour of Europe without his queen and heir, the juvenile liege befriends a German doctor, Struensee, and after bonding over Lear,- “we two alone will sing like birds in a cage” – and bestows on him the garland of royal physician.

Returning to court, the manic monarch ignores his queen. Caroline has grown accustomed to a quiet existence in oppressed Copenhagen but finds an unexpected ally within the kingdom with the comely quack.

The attraction between the two is initially one of shared ideals and philosophy, but it soon turns into a passionate and clandestine affair.

Committed to the ideals of the Enlightenment that are banned in Denmark, Struensee convinces the King to assert his previously untapped power to remove the conservative political council and implement drastic changes to Danish society.

Egad! This bloke wants to put more money into education and health at the cost of defence and the landed gentry!

As the Court plot their return to power and the downfall of the Queen and Struensee, the consequences of their affair are made clear and a cuckolded king is duped into driving Denmark back into the dark ages.

Winner of the Best Actor at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Mads Mikkelsen is magnificent and marvelous as the well meaning medico whose good deeds are brought down by his dalliance with the kid king’s queen.

His co-star, Mikkel Boe Folsgaard took out the best actor at the Berlin Film Festival for his marvelous and magnificent portrayal of the mad monarch, King Christian VII.

As Queen Caroline, Alicia Vikander is transcendent with an incandescent quality that prompts recollection of another Swedish screen star, Greta Garbo.

Trine Dyrholm is sensational, as usual, as the dowager Queen conspiring against the crown, and David Dencik is oozily oily as the unctuous cleric and hypocrite whose conniving crucifies any scrap of scruples the Christian church may aspire to.

Director Nikolaj Arcel, best known to Australian audiences for co-scripting the original THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO, blows the dust from history with a sure dramatic drive, steering the screenplay (voted best script at Berlin) by his DRAGON TATOO co-writer, Rasmus Heisterberg, and turns it into a sumptuous, subterfugal cinema experience. Good looking, so refined, if you thought history was dull, wait till you take a look at this zinger.

A ROYAL AFFAIR will be screening at the Sydney Film Festival this Friday before its general release on June 21.

© Richard Cotter
10th June, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- A ROYAL AFFAIR, Denmark Royal Family, Sydney Film Festival, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

MONSIEUR LAZHAR

Monsieur Lazhar inspiring his students

One of the highlights of the closing weekend of the Sydney Festival is MONSIEUR LAZHAR, a Canadian GOODBYE MR CHIPS by way of TO SIR WITH LOVE.

Nominated in this year’s Oscars as best foreign language film, this concise and coruscating movie belies its stage origins and stands as a fully fledged film experience.

Produced by the dynamic duo of Kim McCraw and Luc Dery, the producing pair responsible for last year’s searing INCENDIE, MONSIEUR LAZHAR is based on a one character play by Evelyne de la Cheneliere and written for the screen and directed by Phillipe Falardeau.

The story is set in Montreal where a shocking incident has left a year six class devoid of a teacher. An Algerian immigrant, Bachir Lazhar, applies for the gig and is hired.

Lazhar is very “old school” when it comes to teaching French and his more formal approach brings him into conflict with some of his pupils and their parents.

But most of his students warm to him, responding to his innate humanity, and fellow staff members endorse his more traditional approach as well.

Discipline and succour, so prone to the excesses of political correctness in schools now, are thrown into the practical spotlight by a provocative thoughtfulness that transcends trendy platitudes.

“Today you work with kids like radioactive waste”, laments a colleague, a sports teacher who dare not touch a child even when its patently obvious physical guidance can only aid sports acuity.

A parent teacher interview shows the contemporary chasm that has opened between these two pivotal players in children’s development, a relationship that teeters on the contemptuous.

As Lazhar seeks to educate les enfants he struggles to come to terms with his own precarious émigré status in this extraordinary empathetic and eloquent 90 minute drama.

In the title role is Fellag, an Algerian performer well known in Europe for his one-man stage shows. Like his character, he knows what it is like to be an exile, and this experience commensurate with his honed craft as an actor makes the characterisation all the more potent.

Pre teens Sophie Nelisse and Emilien Neron as Alice and Simon, two students most profoundly affected by the demise of their original teacher are astonishingly good amongst a class of splendid child performers.

Danielle Proulx, memorable in C.R.A.Z.Y a few years back, is terrific as the school principal tossed upon the cloudy seas of education buffeted by the gale force of bureaucracy, as is Brigitte Poupart as Claire, a sympathetic colleague of Monsieur Lazhar.

An education as well as an entertainment, MONSIEUR LAZHAR is in a class of its own.

(c) Richard Cotter

11th June, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- MONSIEUR LAZHAR, Sydney Film Festival, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

THE PIANO DIARIES

Funny, fierce, sexy and sassy Joanna Weinberg

Actress and singer-songwriter Joanna Weinberg returned to Camelot on Sunday 27 May with her acclaimed show THE PIANO DIARIES. THE PIANO DIARIES is the story of Joanna’s life written on the piano, instead of in a diary.

Her father, a Jewish musician, her mother a blue stocking, eloped to Paris in the early Sixties. Their passion produced progeny pretty quickly and from there they take the toddler Joanna to live in South Africa where she experiences appalling apartheid. One of the most affecting songs in the show bears tragic witness to this.

At 14, Joanna flees J’berg for Durban, infatuated by a rock star boy god, lead singer of the Cosmic Snails. dropping piano for dramatics, she appears in a groundbreaking production of Othello playing Desdemona to the first black performer to take the lead role.

Migrating to Australia, she takes up the piano again and commences composing and performing. THE PIANO DIARIES is the proud and prodigious product of that reunion, an intensely personal account of a life drenched in music and art, love and disappointment, escape, migration, joy, despair and an indomitable belief in the power of music!

This ninety minute musical maelstrom includes a multitude of memorable songs including an hilarious harmonic homily concerning domestic husbandry attributed to her grandmother, and an ode to art and artists that is inspiring and whimsical.

Funny, fierce, sexy and sassy, it’s a story that crosses continents and decades and dances its way across musical genres- Klezmer, Cabaret, Soul, Jazz. The show features Joanna herself on keyboard and vocals along with accompaniment of cello, percussion, guitar and wind.

Joanna is also performing at Katoomba’s Winter Magic festival on June 23 and then at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre in Canberra on the 28th and 29th of June, 2012.

Just as a footnote, something about the venue. Camelot is a boutique venue that is a home in Sydney for home all manner of World, Jazz, Cabaret, singer/songwriters and other Acoustica.

Part of the radical facelift and reinvention of the space is presenting 2 stages: the music stage (featuring a German Grand Piano) and the sideshow stage (for smaller musical acts, as well as burlesque, magicians, contortionists, hula-hoopers and other carnivalesque offerings!), and the dance-floor will ensure many a fun foot-stomping night!

Camelot, corner 103 Railway Parade & 19 Marrickville Road, Marrickville (directly opposite Sydenham Train Station, a short 2 minute stroll away!) is well worth a visit soon!

© Richard Cotter

29th May, 2012

Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- THE PIANO DIARIES, Joanna Weinberg, Camelot, Klezmer, Cabaret, Soul, Jazz, Katomba’s Winter Music Festival, Tuggeranong Arts Centre, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

DEEMING

The postcard for Frank Gauntlett’s DEEMING

Art mirroring reality or reality aping art?

Where does one begin and the other end?

Should art lead or follow?

Without reality there is no art, but art is not merely the factotum of reality.

What elevates art is imagination and in DEEMING playwright Frank Gauntlett imagines how the concept of “reality entertainment” has been with us much longer than the advent of Big Brother, Survivor and My Kitchen Rules.

One hundred and twenty years ago, Frederick Bailey Deeming would have been deemed fit for fronting up to the Old Bailey for sundry unseemly crimes – not the least mass murder, a regular Sweeney Todd, a Deeming barbarian of fleet feet stalking the streets of Antipodes.

Actor manager Alfred Dampier, in cahoots with thespian Alfred Harford, conspires to create a Reality Theatre, called ‘Wilful Murder!’ to cash in on the public thrall that the murder has cast over the play going populace.

The show is a palpable hit but success breeds excess, and so, with surfeit, the lines between fact and fantasy, blur into bloody bombast.

Unlike the play within the play, I doubt this production of DEEMING will be the hit it should be.

The two male leads, Anthony Hunt and Patrick Trumper as the Alfreds Dampier and Halford respectively, are terrific: princes of the proscenium, this pair, playing the Victoriana with vaudevillian vigour. For some reason, Emily Stewart, as Dampier’s wife and showbiz partner, feels like a third wheel. Either the director has failed to tell her she is in a play not a video, or she has wilfully murdered her own role and thus committed stage suicide.

I must give her the benefit of the doubt as I saw no directorial hand at work here.

A director was credited, but the program contained neither biography nor note.

Make of that what you will. The lighting was fanny by gaslight, but often you could see sweet fanny all, so what was the point?
I hope this play is picked up by a producer who shows as much imagination as the script and its two male players.

Frank Gauntlett’s DEEMING opened at the King Street theatre, corner King and Bray Street, Newtown on Wenesday May 23 and runs until Sunday June 3, 2012.

© Richard Cotter

29th May, 2012.

Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- DEEMING, King Street Theatre Newtown, Frank Gauntlett, Anthony Hunt, Patrick Trumper, Emily Stewart, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

THE SKIN I LIVE

A cutting scene from the latest Almodovar flick

One of the great mysteries of this year’s Academy Award nominations was the omission of Pedro Almodovar’s scintillating THE SKIN I LIVE IN, from the Best Foreign Language Film category. THE SKIN I LIVE IN (R) the spooky, kooky Almodovar melodrama is now available to enjoy in the privacy of your own home.

A refashioning of the Frankenstein story, THE SKIN I LIVE IN stars Antonio Banderas as famed skin specialist, Doctor Robert Ledgard.

Ostensibly a pillar of the established medical mondo, the dermatological dynamo has a casa that is a compound with a secret laboratory and operating theatre where he burns the midnight oil honing his skills on synthetic skin production. He has been experimenting on the same human guinea pig, a woman incarcerated for many years, and the cellular therapy seems to be accelerating at a satisfactory pace.

But what is the sinister secret of his plastic surgery subject, Vera Cruz, pampered pet and petulant self-harmer, gorgeously personified by Elena Anaya? And just who is his loyal housekeeper, Maria, deliciously Danversesque in the hands of Marisa Paredes, star of Almodovar’s ‘All About My Mother? What is the truth behind the fates of the doctor’s wife and daughter?

All is revealed as the back story is precisely peeled away to reveal the viscera of the story in all its gory glory. We discover that the good doctor’s burning ambition was literally forged in fire and from the ashes of tragedy a Phoenix of fanaticism emerged and a weird pyro Pygmalion scenario engulfed his personal and professional life.

This dermatological drama plays like a literary bizarre bastard child of Franz Kafka and Mary Shelley with its cinematic sensibilities sifted through Bunuel, Sirk and Whale.

Boasting another brilliant score by Alberto Iglesias and stunning production design by Antxon Gomez, THE SKIN I LIVE IN is a sumptuous feast for the ear, eye and psyche.

Pure Almodovar.

© Richard Cotter

23rd May, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- THE SKIN I LIVE IN, Pedro Almodovar, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

SILENT SOULS

A scene from the evocative new Russian film, SILENT SOULS

Subtle, sensuous, and utterly fascinating, SILENT SOULS (M) is a 75 minute road movie of great distinction by Aleksei Fedorchenko.

When manager of a provincial paper mill Miron’s beloved wife Tanya passes away, he asks his best friend and colleague Aist to help him say goodbye to her according to the rituals of the Merja culture, an ancient Finno-Ugric tribe from Lake Nero, a picturesque region in West-Central Russia.

According to the film maker, although the Merja people assimilated into Russians in the 17th century, their myths and traditions live on in their descendants’ modern life.
After tenderly washing Tanya’s body and bunting her pubic hair with ribbons for her last terrestrial journey, the two men set out on a road trip thousands of miles across a land littered with bridges, with them, two small birds, buntings, in a cage.

Along the way, Miron shares intimate memories of his conjugal life. This stirs submerged romantic and erotic feelings in Aist and adds poignancy to the solemn proceedings. As they reach the banks of the sacred lake where they soak her body in spirits, cremate her, and sprinkle her sand mingled ashes on the water, each man realises he wasn’t the only one in love with Tanya!

In addition, there is an intriguing back story to Aist, whose father was an eccentric poet and keeper of the Merja culture. These scenes are slightly off centre with the rest of the narrative and tone and are redolent of the directors’ reputation as a truth thief. He did, after all, make a mockumentary of the Soviets landing on the moon in the Thirties.

Beautifully shot and with minimalist performance from the two leads, SILENT SOULS is an unexpectedly entertaining and anthropologically fascinating film that resonates with a simple majesty of ritual that elevates ordinary lives to a soulful experience.

© Richard Cotter

23rd May, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- SILENT SOULS, Contemporary Russian Cinema, Aleksei Fedorchenko, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.