Cinema

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

Keith Carradine plays Emily’s loving father.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LEXUS AUSTRALIA SHORT FILM PRESENTATION @ DENDY QUAYS

Featured photo- Judy Davis, David Wenham and Nashen Moddley.

During the recent Sydney Film Festival the world premiere screening of the first short films produced under the auspices of the wonderful $200,000 Lexus Australia Short Film Fellowship took place at the Dendy Quays.

The Fellowship recipients, four  talented Australian writer-directors – Anya Beyersdorf for How The Light Gets In, Brooke Goldfinch for Outbreak Generation, Alex Murawski for Snow, and Alex Ryan for Red Ink – were at the Gala Premiere and introduced their works.

The shorts impressed with their uniqueness and boldness of vision with Alex Ryan’s uncompromising Red Ink being my personal favourite as it depicts a young man who has a devastating psychotic episode at his local supermarket with a terrible outcome. Continue reading LEXUS AUSTRALIA SHORT FILM PRESENTATION @ DENDY QUAYS

KEDI : THIS FILM WILL MAKE YOU PURR LIKE A KITTEN

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

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

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

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

Houston , we have a problem.

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

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

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

TEN DOUBLE PASSES TO ‘WHITNEY : CAN I BE ME?’

Whitney Houston was a sure thing, or as sure as the music industry had ever seen. A transcendent talent with pedigree and mentorship to match, she was going to be the greatest female vocalist ever. For a time, she was, and then she all-too-publicly fell short.

Documentarian Nick Broomfield and iconic music video director Rudi Dolezal offer a never-before-seen backstage look at the height of Houston’s stardom and trace with penetrating detail the forces that contributed to her shortened career and subsequent death in 2012, at age 48.

Whether it be racism, religion, drugs, sexuality, self-doubt, gossip, rivalry, insufficient training, the demands of parents and the industry, a troubled marriage playing out in headlines, or the inevitable toll those stresses take from so muscular and passionate a singer, the directors leave nothing unturned.

The filmmakers create a picture of a remarkable woman who needed more help than she received and provide an unflinching, gripping, and wholly committed exploration of talent given and taken away, in an era obsessed with how Whitney lived when she wasn’t on the stage.

This documentary, sadly recounting another story of a brilliant but troubled artist, makes for compelling viewing. You  will get your chance to see it when it opens in cinemas next Thursday 15th June.

Editor’s Note : The double passes associated with this post have been won.

 

THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE

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

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

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

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

RAPHAEL : LORD OF THE ARTS

“ Here lies Raphael: when he was living, nature feared he would defeat her, now that he is dead, she fears her end is near.”

From the team that has produced “The Vatican Museums”, “Florence and the Uffizi Gallery” and “St. Peter’s and the Papal Basilicas of Rome”, we are privileged to see a stunning examination of the life and works of one of the greatest Renaissance artists.

Widely regarded and celebrated as an “enfant prodige” by both his peers and generations to follow, together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael completed the triad of Renaissance Masters.

Raphael’s life and works traced the development from the arts of the Renaissance to Mannerism bringing the figurative arts to unprecedented heights.
He died young, aged 37, on his birthday, and yet managed to leave an unforgettable mark on the artistic world. Continue reading RAPHAEL : LORD OF THE ARTS

10 DOUBLE PASSES TO PREVIEW SCREENING OF ‘UNA’ @ PALACE NORTON STREET

UNA follows a young woman’s journey to reclaim her past. Fifteen years earlier,  when she was a minor, Una ran away with an older man, Ray, a crime for which he was arrested and imprisoned.

When she comes across a photo of him in a trade magazine, Una tracks him down and turns up at his workplace. Her abrupt arrival threatens to destroy Ray’s new life and derail her stability. Unspoken secrets and buried memories surface as Una and Ray sift through the wreckage of the past.

Their confrontation raises unanswered questions and unresolved longings. It will shake them both to the core. UNA gazes into the heart of a devastating form of love and asks if redemption is possible.

The film is  an adaptation of Scottish playwright David Harrower’s celebrated, Olivier Award-winning play Blackbird.

Ex-pat Australian director Benedict Andrews is the helmer and Ben Mendelsohn is in the cast playing Ray. Academy Award nominated actress Rooney Mara plays Una.                        Continue reading 10 DOUBLE PASSES TO PREVIEW SCREENING OF ‘UNA’ @ PALACE NORTON STREET

HOTEL COOLGARDIE : A PROVOCATIVE NEW AUSTRALIAN DOCUMENTARY

Pete Gleeson’s  HOTEL COOLGARDIE depicts a real life Australian working holiday misadventure of two Finnish women, Lena and Steph, as a result of  being robbed of all of their holiday savings in Bali.

The duo get an authentic outback experience, working for three months as under-trained bartenders at the Denver City Hotel, the only pub in the remote and isolated gold mining town of Coolgardie in Western Australia, some  500 kilometres east of Perth.

The two young women are considered willing prey, and relentlessly have to say no to every verbal request for sex as they  fight off aggressive, unwarranted sexual advances from the hot-blooded and permanently drunk male clientele.

Australian Responsible Service of Alcohol laws are continuously ignored by the hotel licensee and the hotel staff. The drunken locals display obvious signs of excessive alcohol consumption and alcohol poisoning, the sure signs being talking loudly, coarsely, incessantly and with heavily slurred speech.

Continue reading HOTEL COOLGARDIE : A PROVOCATIVE NEW AUSTRALIAN DOCUMENTARY

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING

Many critics thought Julian Barnes much too good to win the Booker Prize, but then he did, a half dozen years ago, with The Sense of an Ending.

Many thought that the book, a very internalised view of memory, would be impossible to turn in to a beautifully textured film, but then playwright Nick Payne, author of the stupendous stage play, Constellations, wrote an adaptation and the acclaimed director of The Lunchbox, Ritesh Batra agreed to be the helmer, and so we have the graceful film, THE SENSE OF AN ENDING.

Here’s a sense of a beginning: Tony Webster leads a reclusive and quiet existence until long buried secrets from his past force him to face the flawed recollections of his younger self, the truth about his first love and the devastating consequences of decisions made a lifetime ago. Continue reading THE SENSE OF AN ENDING

NERUDA

Pablo Larrain’s picture of the  larrikin poet, NERUDA, is as ambitious, ambiguous and audacious as his anti biopic, Jackie.

Man and myth, icon and hedonist, a champagne Marxist with the heart of a poet and a predilection for pulp, Larrain’s Neruda, personified in performance as a portly proletariat potentate by Luis Gnecco, is a delicious super imposed study of a popular hero, who’s hallowed legacy is harrowed by the blunt edge of a fallen halo.

Writer Guillermo Calderon and director Pablo Larrain have invented a world, just as Neruda invented his. The film is more a “Nerudian” film than it is a film about Neruda. Continue reading NERUDA

THE ROYAL BALLET IN BALANCHINE’S ‘JEWELS’

 

We were privileged to see absolutely dazzling dancing in this revival of Balanchine’s Jewels by the Royal Ballet.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Balanchine’s work and a decade since it became part of the Royal Ballet’s repertoire.

The three works, all without a clear narrative structure, are a homage by Balanchine to French Romanticism (Emeralds) America and Broadway (Rubies) and the Imperial Russian ballet of Petipa ( Diamonds). The works feature scores by three composers – Faure , Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky.

Continue reading THE ROYAL BALLET IN BALANCHINE’S ‘JEWELS’

THE VICEROY’S HOUSE

“Makes Buckingham Palace look like a bungalow”, Lady Mountbatten opines as she surveys her new digs in THE VICEROY’S HOUSE, the latest picture to depict Partition and the creation of Pakistan.

The dwelling was designed by Lutyens and took 17 years to build. Its imposing architecture was an expression of Imperial power, intended to intimidate. It was completed in 1929, as Wall Street crashed, but few could have imagined that in less than 20 years it would become the home of the first President of India. Interestingly, it remains the largest residence of any head of state anywhere in the world.

Back in 1947, Lord Mountbatten was appointed the last British Viceroy of India, a Horay Henry of the Last Hurrah of the Raj, and this film depicts him as much a hapless pawn in the machinations of the British Government at the time as the creator and administrator of the divvy up.

Director Gurinder Chadha, probably best known for her breakout film, Bend It Like Beckham, split’s the film’s narrative fairly evenly between the political wrangling of the real historical figures upstairs in the seat of Colonial power and the emotional downstairs scenes, centred on the fictional romance between Jeet, a Hindu personal valet to Mountbatten, and Aalia, a Muslim
translator for Mountbatten’s daughter Pamela, and it’s as cheesy as a naan laced with rennin. Continue reading THE VICEROY’S HOUSE

DON’T TELL : A BRILLIANT NEW AUSTRALIAN FILM

Above : Jack Thompson plays the silkiest of silks, Bob Myers. Featured photo- Sara West plays the gutsy main character, Lyndel.

DON’T TELL is the kind of film that makes audiences “do tell” and strong word of mouth should launch this splendid court room drama into the box office success it so richly deserves.

Sara West is superb as Lyndal, a young woman at crisis point, desperate to be heard and needing to be believed. A decade ago, she was sexually abused by a teacher at a school run by the Anglican Church.

The vile experience together with the bottled up anger, guilt, and fear has derailed a life on track for a stable and productive life.

After ten years of troubled existence, Lyndal must tell of her experience, must publicly dispel her appalling sentence of silence to have any semblance of a normal life. Continue reading DON’T TELL : A BRILLIANT NEW AUSTRALIAN FILM

The Paris Opera Ballet in Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

f we shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended, That you have but slumber’d here. While these visions did appearA Midsummer Night’s Dream, Scene 7

Stunningly danced the latest screening of the Palace Opera and Ballet season is the Paris Opera Ballet’s presentation of Balanchine’s A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT DREAM in two acts and six scenes .It is the first time the Paris Opera Ballet has performed this particular Balanchine work , one of Balanchine’s few narrative ballets .

Created in 1961 it features the marvellous music by Mendelssohn and uses a luscious reworking of the original Karinska costumes by fashion icon Christian Lacroix. Continue reading The Paris Opera Ballet in Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

TEN DOUBLE PASSES TO THE AMERICAN ESSENTIALS FILM FESTIVAL

 

This May Palace Cinemas once again brings the best of American independent film to Australian screens with American Essentials.

Twenty films make their Australian premiere at the three-week festival, celebrating the latest indie treasures in narrative feature and documentary, together with newly restored American classics.

Thirty-one films curated by Artistic Director Richard Sowada reflects the remarkable breadth of contemporary independent cinema produced in the US, proving a richness far greater than the same old, same old studio pictures inherent in the Hollywood machine.

American Essentials kicks off with 20th CENTURY WOMEN. Nominated for Best Original Screenplay in this year’s Academy Awards, Mike Mill’s 20thCENTURY WOMEN resembles a ramshackle novel rather than a polished screenplay. Continue reading TEN DOUBLE PASSES TO THE AMERICAN ESSENTIALS FILM FESTIVAL

GET OUT : MUCH MORE THAN A BLACK AND WHITE STORY

 

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? meets The Stepford Wives in this creepy anthropological and psychological sleeper hit.

Like Sidney Poitier, Daniel Kaluuya’s Chris is invited by his white girlfriend to meet the folks. Like Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn, Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener are upper middle class liberals, brimming with bonhomie. He is a neurosurgeon and she is a psychiatrist. And they both want to play in, and with their daughter’s intended’s brain. Continue reading GET OUT : MUCH MORE THAN A BLACK AND WHITE STORY

TEN DOUBLE PASSES: THE NEW FRENCH FILM ‘THE INNOCENTS’

The original title for Anne Fontaine’s THE INNOCENTS was Agnus Dei, or Lamb of God.The Holy Ovine who is supposed to take away the sins of the world, God’s gamboller who will grant peace and mitigate mercy.

The film is based on a true story, on events that occurred at the end of World War II. As the Nazi’s were withdrawing from Poland, the Russians advanced and occupied and pillaged Poland. Rape was considered a reward and Soviet soldiers were responsible for the insemination of several nuns.

The convent closed ranks, Mother Superior deciding to conceal the atrocities. Within cloisters, the baby bumps mature, and the physical and psychological effects fit to burst.
Now is the winter of this convent from whence a maid becomes a glorious summoner. Continue reading TEN DOUBLE PASSES: THE NEW FRENCH FILM ‘THE INNOCENTS’

THEIR FINEST : A MOVIE LIKE THEY USED TO MAKE

My Mum’s mantra about modern movies is “Why don’t they make films like they used to?”

Well, guess what, Mum? They still do.

At least Lone Scherfig’s latest film, THEIR FINEST, is about how they made films back in the Forties, and so finely made is it, that it does, in fact, feel like a picture made back then.

In the midst of the Second World War, the population of England and her allies were in need of something uplifting they could relate to, to help raise the spirits of the nation during this bleak time.

Going to the pictures became more than just an exercise in entertainment, but an excursion into hope and optimism.

Gemma Arterton stars as Catrin Cole, a creative copywriter who catches the eye of the Government section that produce propaganda feature films. She is employed to create engaging scenarios and write female dialogue, to tap into the emotions and imaginations of the fast growing women’s workforce, to stroke the heart, stoke the hearth, and keep the home fires burning. Continue reading THEIR FINEST : A MOVIE LIKE THEY USED TO MAKE

TEN DOUBLE PASSES TO THE NEW FRENCH FILM ‘THE INNOCENTS’

Directed by acclaimed filmmaker, Anne Fontaine (Coco Avant Chanel, Nathalie, Gemma Bovery), THE INNOCENTS is based on actual events and set in Poland at the end of World War 2.

The film chronicles a largely forgotten piece of history based on the astonishing true experiences of Madeleine Pauliac and deals with complex issues of war and faith.   

She is a young doctor at a Red Cross hospital who responds to a desperate plea from a nun and breaks protocol to visit a local Benedictine convent, where she is shocked to find a nun in the midst of a complicated labour and several more in various stages of pregnancy.

As she uncovers the truth of what happened, she begins the demanding task of caring for these women, whilst navigating the reluctance of the wary Mother Superior, who wants to keep the events that brought her charges to this situation, a secret from the outside world.

THE INNOCENTS will screen at selected arthouse cinemas from Thursday 27th April.

Sydney Arts Guide has ten in season double passes to give away. Be one of the first to email editor.sydneyartsguide@gmail.com. Winners will be advised by return email. Please provide your postal address in your email.

RAW : IN YOUR FACE FILMMAKING

A slap in the vagina with a piece of veal to vegans and vegetarians, RAW is about a couple of cannibal sisters who certainly like their meat rare.

These self same samplers of human flesh and sinew are veterinarian science students at a well heeled university, where fees cost an arm and a leg.

This is the alma mater of their parents, so they are carrying on an alpha tradition.

Another tradition that runs deep in the family is their dedicated veganism, so when initiation rituals include meat eating and blood splattering, we know we are in for some extreme angst, conflict and life altering experience.                         Continue reading RAW : IN YOUR FACE FILMMAKING

COLOSSAL : A QUIRKY NEW FILM STARRING ANNE HATHAWAY

Colossal entertainment of a bent and skewed kind awaits audiences with COLOSSAL, Anne Hathaway’s brave heart take on domestic violence, male manipulation and the canker of unrequited hanker.

COLOSSAL is a film in which a recognisably universal story is manipulated through a monster mash of genres – part rom com, part creature feature – and it works a treat in a meteoric, metaphoric euphoria.

The plot follows Gloria who has lost her high flying job and fiance due to being a tragic hostage in the battle for the bottle. She is the very opposite of her name.

She makes an ignominious return to her home town, rekindles an acquaintance with a bloke from her past and starts working in his bar. A drunk tending bar – now there’s a plan.                       Continue reading COLOSSAL : A QUIRKY NEW FILM STARRING ANNE HATHAWAY

PERSONAL SHOPPER : EXPLORING THE WORLD OF THE BEREAVED

 

In Olivier Assayas’ formidable film, PERSONAL SHOPPER, mourning becomes electric.

Genuinely eerie, PERSONAL SHOPPER is a ghost story but not in the contemporary chintzy, clutzy, gormless gory CGI scaremongering generic of hackneyed haunting.

No cheap thrills here, just a film with the gift of enigmatic clarity. There’s a piercing sadness and melancholy beauty in Olivier Assayas beautifully chilling essay on grief.

Kristen Stewart excels here, exquisitely transcending those vapid vampires that boosted her career.                Continue reading PERSONAL SHOPPER : EXPLORING THE WORLD OF THE BEREAVED

DENIAL : A DRAMATISATION OF THE DAVID IRVING VERSUS PENGUIN BOOKS LTD CASE

One cannot help muse that the defiant, deluded Holocaust denier, David Irving, must have been duped into thinking the case he brought against Penguin Books and their author, Deborah Lipstadt, was going to be heard by Jewry rather than a jury when he agreed that the matter be adjudicated by a judge alone.

Of course, the truth of the matter is brilliantly argued in the astonishingly gripping court room drama, DENIAL.

After historian Deborah Lipstadt’s book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory is published in the UK, she is shocked to learn that British author David Irving, a prolific writer of texts on World War II, is suing her for libel.                        Continue reading DENIAL : A DRAMATISATION OF THE DAVID IRVING VERSUS PENGUIN BOOKS LTD CASE

TEN DOUBLE PASSES TO THE CONTROVERSIAL NEW FRENCH FILM ‘RAW’

This is a funny, sexy and scary new French film which has already won a slew of awards.

RAW tells the story of Justine (Garance Marillier), a brilliant 16-year-old whose admission to a prestigious veterinary school sparks a coming-of-age like no other. With her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) watching on, Justine partakes in a bizarre hazing ritual where she is forced to eat raw meat for the first time, defying her vegan upbringing and unleashing an insatiable desire for flesh.

Tapping into the violence of youthful rites of passage and the power of sisterly bonds, RAW is emotionally and physically visceral, and totally unforgettable. The film imaginatively and intelligently expands contemporary horror cinema, announcing French writer-director Julia Ducournau as a key figure in an exciting and bold new wave of female genre filmmakers.

A Monster Pictures film, RAW will release nationally on Thursday 20 April.  Here is the link to the trailer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDiVGDmgsFY.

Sydney Arts Guide has ten double passes to give away. Be one of the first to email editor.sydneyartsguide@gmail.com. 

Please put RAW competition in the subject line and provide your postal address. Winners will be advised by email and passes will be mailed out.