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 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

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.

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.

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

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.

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY

Colin Firth as Bill Haydon in TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY

Tinkering with a literary masterpiece and a well loved television miniseries may seem to be cinematic suicide but the big screen adaptation of TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY (M) is a triumph.

Tailored from a sterling script by Bridget O’ Connor and Peter Straughan, this Cold War character study of deception and betrayal is superbly directed by Tomas Alfredson, a Scandinavian cineaste who came in from the cold with LET THE RIGHT ONE IN a few years ago.

Soldiered by an impressive cast, led by the entirely right enigmatic Gary Oldman as George Smiley, breathtakingly extraordinary in his breathtaking ordinariness.

Brought back from retirement to ferret out a mole hidden in the highest echelons of the British espionage establishment, Smiley conducts a clever, clandestine and covert operation to flush the agent who is running with the foxes whilst hunting with the hounds.

In his sights are Bill Haydon ( Colin Firth), Toby Esterhase (David Dencik), and Roy Bland(Ciarin Hinds), one of whom has been undermining the Circus, colloquial term for the Secret Intelligence Service.

Assisting Smiley’s spying on the spies is Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) and field agent Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy).
The mandarins of MI6 are played by an impressive clutch of actors comprising John Hurt, Toby Jones and Simon McBurney, and there’s superlative support from Mark Strong, Svetlana Khodchenkova and Kathy Burke, splendid as a retired colleague of Smiley’s.

Handsomely lensed by Hoyte van Hoytema who shot LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and more recently, THE FIGHTER, the cinematography complements the stunning production design of Maria Djurkovic and Jacqueline Durran’s costumes which brilliantly evoke the Seventies setting of the piece.

Completed by a beautiful score by Alberto Iglesias, who also composed the music for the film version of John Le Carre’s THE CONSTANT GARDENER, TINKER,TAILOR, SLDIER, SPY is an espionage thriller that relies on story rather than stunts.

© Richard Cotter

18th January, 2012

Tags: SYDNEY MOVIE REVIEWS- TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY, BRIDGET O’CONNOR, PETER STRAUGHAN, TOMAS ALFREDSON, GARY OLDMAN, COLIN FIRTH, DAVID DENCIK, CIARIN HINDS, BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, TOM HARDY, JOHN HURT, TOBY JONES, SIMON MCBURNEY, MARK STRONG, SVETLANA KHODCHENKOVA, KATHY BURKE, HOYTE VAN HOYTEMA, MARIA DJURKOVIC, JACQUELINE DURRAN, ALBERTO IGLESIAS.

THE BOYS

Johnny Carr, Josh McConville, Anthony Gee are THE BOYS. Pic Brett Boardman

That most iconic symbol of Australian domesticity, the Hills hoist, takes centre stage of Griffin’s 21st anniversary production of THE BOYS

A totem of the Australian dream, the hoist spins hysterically at the play’s beginning, an eerie harbinger of the Australian nightmare we are about to experience.

The backyard setting, another symbol of Australian aspiration, is a barren, brown grass affair … desolate, dusty, dead, a far cry from the aspirational Victa mower manicured lush green turf of the Aussie half acre.

Its perimeters are bordered by tin, a brilliant design choice both visually and aurally, as characters and beer cans bang and scrape and bounce off the surface, adding to the visceral menace and terror of the piece. In the intimacy of the Stables it is intimidating.

Sam Strong is the director of this show, which is a strong production in every facet. Renee Mulder’s design, complimented by Verity Hampson’s lamp work, gives the performers a perfect playpen to present this potent examination of malevolence.

This play, written by Gordon Graham, has deservedly become a bona fide classic of the Australian theatre.

The boys of the title, the Sprague siblings, are each splendidly played. Josh McConville as eldest brother and jailbird, Brett, is a seething mass of pit-bull mentality, harbouring an intense malaise of emasculation, his social dysfunction manifesting in erectile failure, the cause of which, of course, is all his slag shag, Michelle’s, fault.

Johnny Carr as middle brother Glenn is torn between being hemmed in at home and being hen pecked by his upwardly mobile girlfriend, Jackie. He subconsciously understands his relationship with her is healthier than his home life, but is beholden by blood ties and the frightful fraternity Brett expects and exacts.

As the baby brother Stevie, Anthony Gee is frighteningly infantile, with tantrum turns tantamount to homicidal rage, a necklace medallion moodily sucked like some adult dummy that seems to agitate rather than pacify. When not sucking on his jewellery, he’s sucking on a tinnie like his booze-fuelled frères.

THE BOYS could just as poignantly been titled ‘The Girls’, in that the story is as much about the females in these fellows’ lives as about themselves.

Pivotal is their mother, Sandra, played with iceberg precision by Jeanette Cronin. Rising from the sea of misogyny, she seems to subscribe to some sorority with her sons’ girlfriends, but there’s a submerged glacier of maternal single-mindedness that absolves the fruit of her womb of any abrogation of responsibility and consequent abhorrent behaviour.

As Brett’s tarty squeeze, Michelle, Cheree Cassidy is suitably hard–edged, a fabulous foil to the level-headed Jackie, a catalyst for the inner conflicts of the Sprague brethren, given fine shadings by Louisa Mignone.

Eryn Jean Norville is heartbreaking as the hapless Nola, incubator of Stevie’s indiscriminate seed, who sees instinctively that she and her baby are part of a continuum of dystopia. Hardly more than a baby herself, a baby doll defiled, she has a distressing insight at the end of the play – ‘but all this evil, all this violence and hatred, they think they’re using it. But it’s using them!”

Director Sam Strong has stated that THE BOYS in the theatre is not something you describe. It is something you feel. Affirmed most emphatically by this production.

THE BOYS plays the Stables theatre, Kings Cross until Saturday March 3, 2012.

© Richard Cotter

13th January, 2012

Tags: SYDNEY THEATRE REVIEWS- THE BOYS, SYDNEY PLAY OF THE WEEK, SYDNEY FESTIVAL 2012, GORDON GRAHAM, RENEE MULDER, VERITY HAMPSON, JOSH MCCONVILLE, JOHNNY CARR, ANTHONY GEE, JEANETTE CRONIN, CHEREE CASSIDY, LOUISE MIGNONE, ERYN JEAN NORVILLE, RICHARD COTTER, BRETT BOARDMAN, RICHARD COTTER.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig star in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

With a fascinating title design by Tim Miller and groovy music theme, a torture scene that threatens the male protagonist’s manhood and the protagonist played by Daniel Craig, the English language Hollywood studio version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (MA) could well be called CARDIGAN ROYALE.

Eschewing James Bond’s suits and tuxedos for cardigans and scarfs, Craig plays investigative journalist, Mikael Blomkvist. He doesn’t have a license to kill but at the beginning of the film he is accused of character assassination of a Swedish big shot and is bankrupted by libel litigation.

To his fiscal salvation comes a retired Scandinavian magnate who offers him dirt on the big shot that has bankrupted him in return for investigating a forty year old mystery. To crack the case he teams with a punk computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander, body pierced, inked, and psychologically sallied by a series of male abusers.

Because the case involves “men who hurt women”, as Mikael puts it, Lisbeth takes to it with ferocious and voracious vengeance. Rooney Mara is outstanding as Lisbeth, whose surname suggests a lizard like amphibian, a creature whose temperature adapts to that of its surroundings. Salander’s cold blooded countenance is a reflection of repeated cold-hearted abuse inflected upon her by state appointed guardians, the most recent of which is quite sickeningly depicted.

Nazis, incest, and fratricide – “the most detestable collection of people – and they’re family” exclaims the scandalised Scandi patriarch.

Some may argue that a remake is unnecessary but in a giant English speaking world, it means the story will be accessible to a wider audience. Remember, the book on which it is based would not have become an international bestseller if it had not been translated from Swedish.

This version is a much more stylish film than its Scandinavian predecessor – perhaps too slick for some purists – and boasts a cast that is far more recognisable to an international market.

Christopher Plummer is superb as the retired tycoon industrialist that sets Mikael sleuthing, as is Steven Berkoff as his loyal lawyer. Robin Wright is terrific as Mikael’s colleague and part time squeeze, with stellar support supplied by Stellan Skarsgard, Joely Richardson and Geraldine James.

Director David Fincher has assembled many of his cohorts from his previous film, The Social Network, including Cinematographer JEFF CRONENWETH, DONALD GRAHAM BURT (Production Designer) Editors, KIRK BAXTER, A.C.E. and Angus Wall, and TRENT REZNOR and Atticus Ross (Composers).

And to keep some Scandinavian sanctity, one of the numerous producers is SØREN STÆRMOSE, most recently producer of the Swedish language versions of Stieg Larsson’s MILLENNIUM Trilogy.

At 158 minutes running time, it’s a credit to the production that it never flags or feels flabby – quite the contrary -it is fleet with a fluidity that seems to elude so many film makers even with films half its length.

(c) Richard Cotter

12th January, 2012

Tags: Sydney Cinema Reviews- THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO, Reviewer Richard Cotter, Christopher Plummer, Steve Berkoff, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgard, Joely Richardson, Geraldine James, Rooney Mara, Tim Miller, Daniel Craig, David Finch, Jeff Cronenweth, Donald Graham Burt, Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Soren Staermose.

THE DESCENDANTS

George Clooney as Matt King with family in THE DESCENDANTS

Set in the archipelago of the Hawaiian Islands, THE DESCENDANTS (M) is the latest marvel from director Alexander Payne, whose string of successes includes ELECTION, ABOUT SCHMIDT and SIDEWAYS. As noted in the prologue, families are like archipelagos – each member part of a group but separate.

George Clooney stars as Matt King, descendant of a Hawaiian Queen, and trustee of the family estate which constitutes the last great tract of land on their island.

He and his cousins have decided to sell due to a change in family trust law and while he is embroiled with clan counseling, his wife, Elizabeth is involved in a boating accident that leaves her in a coma.

While Elizabeth is placed on life support machinery in the intensive care unit, Matt seeks his own life support by gathering his two daughters about him, the eldest, Alex, played by Shailene Woodley, the younger, Scottie, named for her grandfather, played by Amara Miller, making her motion picture debut.

Told that Elizabeth will never resuscitate, another layer of grief is formed when Alex reveals the truth about her estrangement from her mother, a bombshell that resonates through family, friends and the fate of the Trust Fund.

This is a big bold satisfying movie, that balances the braying and the bawling, the comic and the tragic, the hilarious and the heartbreaking. Clooney’s emotional nuance is exhilarating.

Served by a sensational cast that includes Patricia Hastie as Elizabeth who apart from the opening scene remains comatose in a hospital bed throughout the picture, Sid (Nick Krause), Beau Bridges and Michael Ontkean as cousins, Judy Greer, Clooney’s co-star in THREE KINGS and Robert Forster as Matt’s irascible father-in-law, Scott Thorson.

Shot by Phedon Papamichael who lensed SIDEWAYS and recently was director of photography on Clooney’s THE IDES OF MARCH, the film feels like paradise postponed, with overcast skies predominant. Yet it still makes you hanker for Hawaii.

The screenplay by Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, is a zinger, beautifully layered and textured and fulsome, peopled with multidimensional characters and an evolving plot line that’s full of surprise.

THE DESCENDANTS is the first great film of the year, adult, assured and satisfying – worth seeing twice.

© Richard Cotter

12th January, 2012

Tags: Sydney Cinema Reviews- THE DESCENDANTS, Reviewer Richard Cotter, Alexander Payne, George Clooney, Shailene Woodly, Amara Miller, Patricia Hastie, Nick Krause, Beau Bridges, Michael Ontkean, Judy Greer, Robert Forster, Phedon Papamichael, Karl Hart Hemmings.

SHERLOCK HOLMES TRIFECTA

Jude Law and Robert Downey Jnr in GAME OF SHADOWS

2012 is a bumper year for Conan Doyle’s deductive detective, Sherlock Holmes, with a new film, a new television series and a new novel. The quality is in ascending order.

Guy Ritchie’s latest franchise film, GAME OF SHADOWS, pits Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock against Jared Harris’ Moriarty in a loose (to the point of laxative) telling of THE FINAL PROBLEM, Conan Doyle’s curtain call for the Baker Street sleuth. Oh, that we should be so lucky that this was the swansong of this particular cinematic series, of which this instalment had me harrumphing “Alimentary”.

The trouble, as I see it, is that the director has two marvelous characters played by two very watchable actors (Jude Law is back as Watson), yet he doesn’t trust either! Instead of letting them breathe, and letting the narrative run, Ritchie leaves story and character breathless. What should be breathtaking storytelling is breathless blather, brain draining cutting, the same mindless film editing that trashed James Bond’s last outing, QUANTAM SOLACE.

It seems the man who gave us LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS doesn’t know how to keep his powder dry. A visually arresting scene concerning a chase through the woods loses much of its power because Ritchie has telegraphed the trick photography from the film’s get-go.

Stephen Fry is left out to dry as Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft, and the original girl with the dragon tattoo, Noomi Rapace, gets way too little kick arse action to make an impression. Eddie Marson’s contribution as Inspector Lestrade will surely get him a nomination as best performance from the cutting room floor.

It’s left to Jared Harris to steal the show, as is right and fitting for the Napoleon of crime.

This is a film for the video game set. I suppose the clue is in the title – not for those interested in clear cinema narrative, nor, I suspect, fans of Conan Doyle. It made me feel Holmesaphobic. Luckily I was cured of such a phobia by reading THE HOUSE OF SILK, the new Sherlock Holmes novel published by Orion.

Written by Anthony Horowitz, creator of FOYLE’S WAR and MIDSOMMER MURDERS, and adapter of many of the recent Poirot television appearances, THE HOUSE OF SILK begins with a beguiling conceit that Holmes’ chronicler, Dr. John Watson, had purposefully suppressed the publication of a casebook.

“The adventures of THE MAN IN THE FLAT CAP and THE HOUSE OF SILK were, in some respects, the most sensational of Sherlock Holmes’s career but at the time it was impossible for me to tell them, for reasons that will become abundantly clear….the events which I am about to describe were simply too monstrous, too shocking to appear in print.”

And so the game’s afoot, with a great story and in tone with the original works … so much so that this new story has been written with the full endorsement of the Conan Doyle Estate. This is the first such time that they have given their seal of approval for a new Sherlock Holmes novel.

The setting is late 19th century London, but the puzzling and sinister case, complete with corruption, coercion and cover-ups in high places is as contemporary as phone hacking scandals and internet scams.

“Show Holmes a drop of water and he would deduce the existence of the Atlantic. Show it to me and I would look for a tap.” muses Dr. Watson. In nailing Conan Doyle’s style, Horowitz manages seduction by deduction, creating a redux as opposed to a reflux in the case of the film, GAME OF SHADOWS.

Clever plotting, rich characterisation, nimble pacing, and a nice sense of nuance make this a worthy continuation of the Conan Doyle canon. Whereas the film looks like it’s been shot from a cannon!

© Richard Cotter

5th January, 2012

Tags: Arthur Conan-Doyles, SHERLOCK HOLMES: GAME OF SHADOWS, THE FINAL PROBLEM, Stephen Fry, Naomi Rapace, Eddie Marson, THE HOUSE OF SILK, Anthony Horowitz.

THE IRON LADY

Merryl Streep is outstanding as Maggie Thatcher in THE IRON LADY

Sink the Belgrano and pass me the Oscar. La Stupenda Streep is awesomely scary as Maggie T, the first female Prime Minister of Great Britain.

From a screenplay expertly fashioned by Abi Morgan and intelligently helmed by Phyllida Lloyd we are shown the old Tory’s story in flashback, as she comes to turn with widowhood and the dying of the light.

Close the coalmines and pass me another Oscar – nods will probably go to Meryl and Jim Broadbent as Denis, who seems to be cornering the market in sweet back seat spouses a la Iris and Arthur Christmas.

The seventeenth Oscar nomination for Streep is almost assured as she chameleons into another extraordinary character with the help of a top notch make-up and hair magician.

Besides Broadbent she is more than ably supported by a gallery of British luvvies the likes of Richard E Grant, Nicholas Farrell, John Sessions and Anthony Head.

Impressive too is Alexandra Roach as the young Maggie Thatcher.

A study of power, extreme self confidence, and the sacrifices that come with public office, as well as a potted history of the world between 1959 and 1990,

THE IRON LADY is a fascinating biopic of a ferocious female, forged from war ravaged England who became a first and formidable friend or foe depending on which side of fascism you faced.

© Richard Cotter

23rd December, 2011

ALBERT NOBBS

Jonathon Rhys Meyers and Glenn Close in ALBERT NOBBS

Are Glenn Close and her creative cohorts having a lend?

One has to wonder when the two leading characters in ALBERT NOBBS (M), is a Mister Nobbs and a Miss Dawes? Knobs and doors, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more. To continue with schoolboy snigger, Mr. Nobbs sports a set of knockers as does another cove, a Mr. Page, (Janet McTeer) no page boy this, mammy.

This tale of cross dressing domestics is as much about the upstairs downstairs of certain individuals as it is the social strata of servants in uncivil Victorian era Dublin.

As a master class of acting by Glenn Close it is a success, a triumphal chameleon turn as the transvestite Albert Nobbs, a woman so abused as to sublimate her sexuality and self into servitude, existing as a male solely to survive.

Except for her diminutive stature, all traces of femininity have evaporated, so successful the sublimation of her sex, to the point she fantasises of taking a wife, with no apparent lesbian leaning.

This is tragic transvestism as opposed to the more common cinematic treatment of cross dressing, comedy, and without the need to fall into farce or camp, the final product probably could have done with a little bit of comic leavening.

What we are presented with is a dour Dublin drama that is a bit of a drudge. One of the key plot points, Nobbs’ secret’s discovery is, pardon the pun, a drag, with Janet McTeer’s trannie turn tragically telegraphed by a k.d.lang look and languor.

When Albert gets a bee in her bonnet over a flea in her frillies – actually a parasite in her corset- it’s literally a booby trap. Keeping abreast of anatomical anomaly, it’s tits at ten paces as Page beats her breast, bares her chest, shares the jest, and puts mutual trust to the test.

© Richard Cotter

23rd December, 2011

TIN TIN

Spielberg gets in touch with his inner child in TIN TIN

I am happy to report that TIN TIN (PG) is great fun and a triumph of 3D animation.

The pic gets off to a fine start with a highly imaginative and very busy title sequence which telegraphs the story is an amalgam of three comic book adventures. These have been weaved together by Dr. Who alumnus Steven Moffat, Hot Fuzz/Shaun of the Dead scribe, Edgar Wright, and Attack the Blocker, Joe Cornish.

While Snowy the Dog practically steals the show, there’s a standout performance by Andy Serkis as the alcoholic Captain Haddock, continuing and consolidating his reputation as the go to man in acting for animation, animatronics, CGI etc.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are excellent as The Thompson Twins and Daniel Craig puts on his best arch villain voice as the baddies, past and present.

TIN TIN sees Spielberg getting in touch with his inner kid again, something that’s been missing in recent projects and is his best film since CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.

(c) Richard Cotter

23rd December, 2011

THE SKIN I LIVE IN

A cutting scene from the latest Almodovar flick

THE SKIN I LIVE IN is the latest kooky, spooky melodrama from Almodovar.

In this macabre story, lifted from the novel “Mygale” by Thierry Jonquet, and fashioned by Pedro and Agustin Almodovar, Antonio Banderas returns to the Almodovar fold after twenty years (since Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!) to play skin specialist, Dr. Robert Ledgard.

His casa is a compound that has a secret laboratory and operating theatre where he continues to hone his skills of skin grafting. He has been experimenting on the same human guinea-pig for the past many years and his cellular therapy has progressed at a satisfying pace.

But what of the sinister secret of his plastic surgery subject? And just who is his loyal housekeeper? What is the truth behind his wife and daughter?

This dermatological melodrama is Kafkaesque distilled through Hitchcock, Bunuel and Douglas Sirk. One to nip and tuck into!

© Richard Cotter

23rd December, 2011

PUSS IN BOOTS

Dreamworks Animation’s PUSS IN BOOTS (G)

Not quite as successful or sustaining as ARTHUR CHRISTMAS, Dreamworks Animation’s PUSS IN BOOTS (G) is nevertheless an enjoyable romp, a spinoff of the remarkable Shrek series.

Antonio Banderas reprises his role as the fashion footwear feline, one cool cat, a gato that takes the gateaux, and there’s no denying the casting is purr-fect.

The film works best when it focuses on the feline – the milk drinking, the pussy playfulness, the kitty caboodle. When it strides into Zorro zone – an almost irresistible temptation when you have Antonio aboard- it becomes a bit overblown.

Keep the Puss Tom and eschew The Fox, and the Boots has more fidelity and felicity and is less fatuous – in this case Fatuous Catus.

All that litters is not old – it’s just that some writers need to be more malkin savvy for this mouser to sustain feature length without fur-balling.

© Richard Cotter

4th December, 2011

RESTLESS

Mia Wasikowska and Denis Hopper star in Gus Van Sant’s latest, RESTLESS

When a mortuary worker finds Annabel and Enoch, the two protagonists of Gus Van Sant’s latest film RESTLESS (M) scoping out the morgue and asks “Can I help you?” Enoch’s jaunty reply is “No thanks. We’re just browsing.”

Enoch is morbidly obsessed with death. Our first glimpse of him is chalking his own outline as if he was a dead body at a crime scene. Recently orphaned – both parents killed in a car crash which he survived- he is a pathological funeral goer.

It’s at a memorial service he meets Annabel. She is legitimately attending the requiem of a fellow cancer patient. A relationship develops. She has three months to live. He was lucky to survive to car wreck that claimed his parents. She is optimistic and a passionate Darwinian. He is moody, gloomy, and has visitations from the ghost of a Kamikaze pilot.

Annabel lives with her mother and older sister. Mum has hit the bottle as a coping mechanism to deal with her daughter’s disease and imminent death. Her sister is stoic and supportive. Enoch lives with his aunt, Mabel, who he blames for the loss of his parents.

RESTLESS is profoundly more satisfying than most disease of the week sudsers with the seemingly ubiquitous Mia Wasikowska as “the kid with cancer, not a cancer kid” and Denis Hopper’s son, Henry Hopper distilling a quirky existentialism into the character of Enoch. Dad would be proud.

Continuing the Hollywood lineage and legacy, Schuyler Fisk, daughter of Sissy Spacek, stars as Annabel’s sister and the film is produced by Ron Howard’s daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard.

Rounding off an excellent ensemble is Lusia Strus as Annabel’s melancholic alcoholic mama, Jane Adams as Auntie Mabel, and Ryo Kase as the kamikaze ghost.

© Richard Cotter

27th November, 2011

Tags: SYDNEY MOVIE OF THE WEEK, RESTLESS, Gus Van Sant, Mia Wasikowska, Denis Hopper, Schuyler Fisk, Bryce Dallas Howard, Luisa Strus, Jane Adams, Ryo Kase.