Cinema

TEN DOUBLE PASSES TO THE NEW IRANIAN FILM ‘THE SALESMAN’

 

Iranian auteur Asghar Farhadi’s award-winning feature film, THE SALESMAN, tells the story of Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), actors playing the roles of husband and wife in a Tehran production of Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller.

They are also husband and wife off-stage, sharing an apartment that is devastated by an earthquake.

Forced to move, a tragic incident changes their lives in ways they could never have predicted.

THE SALESMAN has been described as a powerful social critique that touches on themes of family, gender, and the chilling psychology of vengeance.

The film will be released nationally on March 9.

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

Please provide your postal address in the body of the email. Winners will first be advised by email.

PARIS OPERA BALLET MAGNIFICENT REVIVAL OF NUREYEV’S ‘SWAN LAKE’

If you want to see pure, dazzling, practically perfect classical ballet technique danced superbly then this screening is for you.

The Paris Opera Ballet’s revival of  Nureyev’s SWAN LAKE is superb. The production choreographed by Nureyev was first presented at the Paris Opera Ballet in 1984 and previously last seen in 2011.  This screening was of the performance that took place at the Opera Bastille in Paris on the 8th December 2016.

Nureyev’s rather Freudian version is presented as if it is the main characters Siegfried’s dying dream,  controlled by Wolfgang, his tutor, who in Siegfried’s mind becomes the mysterious, malevolent Rothbart. The orchestra, under maestro Vello Pahn, plays superbly .

For the scenes in the palace there are clean , elegant lines of doorways and for the lakeside ‘white’ scenes there is  a rather Turner like ominous landscape. Continue reading PARIS OPERA BALLET MAGNIFICENT REVIVAL OF NUREYEV’S ‘SWAN LAKE’

T2 TRAINSPOTTING : AN IMPRESSIVE SEQUEL

First there is opportunity, then there is betrayal. This the repeated refrain of TRAINSPOTTING 2, a sequel that is not skeletal like so many sequels are.

There’s meat on the bones and dramatic marrow as well as the band get back together twenty years later to deal with old wounds and then largely fuck up all over again.

First there is opportunity to recapture the rapture of the original film, reuniting director Danny Boyle, screenwriter John Hodge, source author Irvine Welsh and most of the original cast. Then there is betrayal of the fans who count Trainspotting as a seminal film of the twilight of the Twentieth Century.

Marvellously, the opportunity is not betrayed, and T2 is a sequel among equals.
The film gets off to a sly start with ex junkie, Renton, now a gym junkie, tread-milling his way to cardio overdose. Continue reading T2 TRAINSPOTTING : AN IMPRESSIVE SEQUEL

BOTTICELLI INFERNO : BOTTICELLI’S PAINTING OF DANTE’S VISION OF HELL

Featured image – Director Ralph Loop at an event for the film.

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Dante

This is a  fascinating, intense examination of Sandro Botticelli’s (1445- 1510) famous work that jumps from the Vatican to Florence, Berlin, London and the Scottish lowlands.

The film is directed by Ralph Loop, who also has an expert, an Italian historian who knows the city of Florence in the Renaissance period to enthusiastically narrate part of the film. As well there are interviews with the Directors of the various galleries.

The film examines the history of one of Botticelli’s famous works : the illustrations he produced based on Dante’s Divine Comedy and particularly concentrates on The Inferno and his depiction of the nine levels of, and the map of the descent, into Hell, as described by Dante. In contrast, we also see his vision of Paradise. Continue reading BOTTICELLI INFERNO : BOTTICELLI’S PAINTING OF DANTE’S VISION OF HELL

TROPFEST 2017 : 25 YEARS STRONG

All images by Ben Apfelbaum (c). Featured image of Matt Day receiving his award. Among the onlookers are Rose Byrne and Will Gluck.

TROPFEST, in its 25th year, survived the heatwave that spread over the Sydney region on the weekend.

Matt Day was announced as this year’s winner with the Festival taking place at its new venue at Parramatta Park.

The winning film was  The Mother Situation  which tells the comedic story of three adult siblings who assist their terminally ill mother to commit suicide.

The 16 finalist films went head to head to take out the top prize, chosen by the impressive lineup of judges, which included Head of Jury, Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids, X-Men: Apocolypse, upcoming Peter Rabbit), George Miller (Academy Award Winner, Mad Max: Fury Road), Sam Neill (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Jurassic Park, upcoming Peter Rabbit), Rachel Perkins (Bran New Dau,upcoming Jasper Jones), Bruna Papandrea (Gone Girl, Wild, TV’s upcoming Big Little Lies) and Will Gluck (Easy A, Friends with Benefits, upcoming Peter Rabbit). Continue reading TROPFEST 2017 : 25 YEARS STRONG

TONI ERDMANN : AN UPLIFTING, MEMORABLE COMEDY

TONI ERDMAN is a nigh on three hour cinematic humoresque, about the powerful protectiveness of the paternal and the universally acknowledged truth that parents are put on earth to embarrass their children.

The film leaves an early calling card about its deliriously laconic pace in the opening scene where a delivery man is kept waiting a wee while to have his door knocking answered.

When someone finally comes to the door, the courier is told the recipient is not him, but his brother, a person just released from jail for letter bombing offences. The courier is asked to wait while the addressee is summoned. Continue reading TONI ERDMANN : AN UPLIFTING, MEMORABLE COMEDY

‘PASSENGERS’ FAILS TO REACH ANY GREAT HEIGHTS

PASSENGERS has met with critical hostility overseas. The previews concentrated on the action scenes in the film which in fact form a minor part towards the end. This created certain action movie expectations which were not met. I have to say that I did not mind the film, and stayed quietly engaged throughout.

This sci-fi film, directed by Morten Tyldum and written by John Spaihits, commences with a Star Ship Avalon transporting over 5,000 commuters to a commercialised planet called Homestead 2 which requires the passengers and crew to sleep in hibernation pods for one hundred and twenty years.

An asteroid hits the Avalon which causes a malfunction in mechanical engineer Jim Preston’s (Chris Pratt) pod. He awakens after only thirty years of the journey. With only an android bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen) for company Jim tries to overcome his loneliness by exercising and talking at length to Arthur.  Continue reading ‘PASSENGERS’ FAILS TO REACH ANY GREAT HEIGHTS

HELL OR HIGH WATER : A QUIET GEM OF A FILM

This is is a quiet gem of a film that slipped almost unnoticed  through the Christmas/New Year holiday period. It is dedicated to director David MacKenzie’s parents – David John MacKenzie and Ursula Sybile MacKenzie who both died during the making of this film.

The phrase ‘hell or high water’ has two meanings in the States. The typical interpretation is that one does what it takes no matter what. However in an American lease, hell or high water means you must continue payments no matter what obstacles you encounter. The later meaning is similar to what in Australia we call a force majeure clause, although in Australia this  can often be an excuse for non payment. Both meanings apply to this film.

HELL OR HIGH WATER deals with a divorced father played by Chris Pine and his ex con, older and volatile brother played by Ben Foster, who resort to robbing banks. Hot on their heels is soon to retire Texas ranger Marcus Hamilton, accompanied by his ‘Tonto’ Alberto Gomez, a half Indian/Mexican deputy, played by Gil Birmingham.

The film is confidently directed by MacKenzie who elicits an evocative ‘Robin Hood’ like performances from Pine as the measured, conflicted, haunted quieter brother and from Ben Foster as the reckless, homicidal yet loving older brother.

If you want grisly, the go to man is Jeff Bridges. As the crusty but wise Sheriff, he provided the humanity and wit of this film, even as he makes constant, politically incorrect, very funny Indian jokes at the expense of his Deputy. Even with his attitude, Bridges still manages to convey the affection and respect his character has for his sidekick.

The film is populated by oddball characters that small towns seem to contain. Many of the extras were local residents of the towns in which the film was shot.

The cinematography by Giles Nuttgene is stunning. Nearly all colour is bleached out, evoking a harsh and unforgiving landscape where heat sucks the hope out. The accompanying haunting and sometimes forlorn score is by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. The sensitive, humorous yet tragic screenplay is by  Taylor Sheridan.

This movie has been called a  neo Western with elements of High Noon in the plot. Given the neglect the West Texan setting demonstrates (albeit the film was actually shot in New Mexico), it makes comprehensible why people in these rural slums voted for Donald Trump.

The film premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section. It has received four Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Bridges), Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing. I have not seen the Oscar nominated films but I hope that this superior film  is not swamped by shallow, vacuous, poorly sung and danced Welcome To La La Land, a film that people either love or hate. Discerning cinephiles should hopefully love Hell or High Water. I believe HELL OR HIGH WATER has done whatever it  takes to win an Oscar or four.

FENCES : A GREAT PLAY, NOT SUCH A GREAT FILM

Based on August Wilson’s Pulitzer and Tony award winning play, Denzel Washington’s production of FENCES never escapes its theatrical roots. Astonishing then that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated the film for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

FENCES is only marginally more cinematic than those National Theatre filmed plays that are presently doing the art house rounds.
The great strengths of the film are the performances and with wall to wall words, from the roof of the mouth to the basement of the base baritone, you understand why actors of the calibre of Denzel Washington and Viola Davis would be attracted to such mouth filling verbiage. Continue reading FENCES : A GREAT PLAY, NOT SUCH A GREAT FILM

THE ROYAL BALLET PRESENTS ‘THE NUTCRACKER’ @ THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE LONDON

Ballet lovers should take this opportunity to see this screening of the Royal Ballet’s production of Sir Peter Wright’s version of Tchaikovksy’s /Petipa’s THE NUTCRACKER. This Royal Ballet production was particularly special as it was part of Sir Peter Wright’s 90th birthday celebrations.

This is terrific family fare, a quite traditional and enchanting production with some technically AMAZING dancing, particularly in the second act.

Visually this production is stunning with opulent, lavish sets and costumes and features some wonderful special effects, including a Christmas tree that grows on stage. Continue reading THE ROYAL BALLET PRESENTS ‘THE NUTCRACKER’ @ THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE LONDON

A STREET CAT NAMED BOB

Directed by Roger Spottiswoode (who also directed Turner & Hooch), this film is based on the autobiographical books by James Bowen about a man and his cat which tells the story of how Bowen, portrayed by Luke Treadaway, a homeless, recovering drug addict, ekes out a rather edgy and skint existence busking on the streets of London.

His patient, sympathetic support worker Val (Joanne Froggatt) manages to find him accommodation. One evening Bowen discovers Bob the cat guzzling his cereal. At first Bowen shoos him, but then he notices that the cat is badly injured, after which he then makes contact with his  neighbour, animal lover and activist Bettie (Ruta Gedmintas). Between Val, Bob and Bettie, Bowen’s life will never be the same. Continue reading A STREET CAT NAMED BOB

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA : AN EXTRAORDINARY NEW FILM BY KENNETH LONERGAN

Film makers are either torch bearers or pall bearers, their pictures either lighthouses shining over seas or drearily and turgidly shouldering moribund movies that should have been buried before they were born.

Kenneth Lonergan is a torch bearer, with a track record of three bona fide beacons as writer director, pictures that illuminate and lead intelligent taste. His directorial debut YOU CAN COUNT ON ME was a superior sibling story, starring Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo, his second film, MARGARET, was a disgracefully underrated career high for Anna Paquin, and now his third, His latest film delivers delivers a hat trick. Or to mix the bat and ball metaphors, three home runs. Continue reading MANCHESTER BY THE SEA : AN EXTRAORDINARY NEW FILM BY KENNETH LONERGAN

PATRIOTS DAY : A SEARING RE-ENACTMENT OF THE BOSTON MARATHON BOMBINGS

Great score, great cast, a gripping set piece and a marvellous edgy quasi doco feel for the lead up to the incident, PATRIOTS DAY is the apotheosis of the teaming of director Peter Berg and his star of choice, Mark Wahlberg.

A searing re-enactment of the Boston Marathon bombings in Boston in 2013, the film was originally titled Boston Strong, which seems eminently more suitable and more palatable to non jingoistic audiences.

Title aside, though, PATRIOTS DAY is a prime procedural thriller concerning the lead up, the event and the aftermath, and is absolutely gripping in its three act play out.

Continue reading PATRIOTS DAY : A SEARING RE-ENACTMENT OF THE BOSTON MARATHON BOMBINGS

MOONLIGHT : A MASTERFUL TRIPTYCH OF ONE MAN’S STORY

Forging the cinematic identity of Miami through stories that “go beyond the typical portrayal of a beautiful but vapid party town.”, MOONLIGHT is a masterpiece triptych of one boy’s story.

Featuring a trio of gifted actors, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes, inhabiting a single character, Chiron, MOONLIGHT tells the story of one young man’s coming of age in a tough Miami neighbourhood.

We first meet Chiron as an uncertain and tentative boy known as “Little”. Picked upon by his peers and neglected by his crack addled mother. Ironically, Little is rescued from his persecuting peers by Juan, the drug dealer who supplies his mother. He takes Little home to his girlfriend, Teresa, and teaches him to swim, and instils a sense of self pride.

The second act finds Chiron a bullied teenager grappling with his sexuality. Tenderness and violence, retaliation and repercussion, bleeds into the final chapter where Chiron, now known as “Black” a grown man, deals drugs in Georgia.

MOONLIGHT also features a stunning supporting ensemble, including Naomie Harris — playing with tough, impassioned grace a crack addicted single mother trying to raise her young son amid tempestuous personal struggles — and Mahershala Ali as the indelible early mentor, Juan. Both these actors have been nominated for Academy Awards for their performances, part of the eight Oscar haul of nominations the film has earned.

MOONLIGHT has been nominated for Best Picture and Best Director, Barry Jenkins, who, in cahoots with his cameraman, James Laxton, also nominated, creates an eloquent lensing as the camera choreographs around its subjects, whether it be the dizzying dance of the carousel or the shaky subjective pursuit of people or a ball.

Jenkins is also up for Best Adapted Screenplay, fashioned from a story by Tarell Alvin McCraney.

Rounding out the eight nominations are Best Film Editing, Nat Sanders & Joi McMillon, and Best Original Score, Nicholas Britell.

With all its integrated facets, MOONLIGHT is an authentically moving experience that is powerful, poignant and quietly passionate.

NT LIVE PRESENTS HAROLD PINTER’S ‘NO MAN’S LAND’

 

Following their hit run on Broadway, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart (they last appeared together in Waiting for Godot back in 2009) returned to the West End stage in Harold Pinter’s NO MAN’S LAND, captured live to cinemas from Wyndham’s Theatre, London as part of the wonderful NT Live series. The production ended its season at the Wyndham on December 17, 2016.

Pinter’s play transfers wonderfully from stage to screen , is clearly and thoughtfully shot with terrific use of close up at certain points ( for example when Patrick Stewart as Spooner crumbles in despair at one point in the first act, or the tension at his crawling exit. Or McKellan’s face when Hirst admits to seducing Spooner’s wife).

Superbly directed by Sean Mathias and with a stellar cast this is a magnificent, tense production. Continue reading NT LIVE PRESENTS HAROLD PINTER’S ‘NO MAN’S LAND’

DON’T CALL ME SON

DON’T CALL ME SON is an intimate film. The story, the characters, the setting … all personal.  The filmmaking… close-up and exclusive of clutter in dialogue, plot and technique.  One of the films chosen for Queer Screen’s 24th Mardi Gras Film Festival, this offering from Brazil, subtitled from the Portuguese, has been on the Festival Circuit since its premier at the Berlin Film Festival in February last year.  At that event it won the Teddy which Berlinale’s site calls ‘the most outstanding queer film prize in the world’.  It was in Australia for last year’s Melbourne Film Festival and has been selected for 20 Festivals from Transatlantyk to Ljubljana.

True to the intimacy which pervades the film, the film’s protagonist is in tight shot as we follow him through a party before the credits. The colours pulse blue and sexy, the music thumps distantly and he is wearing a confusingly closely feathered bird headpiece.  He accepts an intimate hug from a male partner and a deep kiss from a female dancer.  Then the realism sets in.  Suddenly he and the girl are having sex in a starkly white, brightly lit bathroom.  As the camera tilts down from the activity it is clear that he is wearing lacy female underwear. Continue reading DON’T CALL ME SON

PERFECT STRANGERS : A COMEDY OF MANNERS FOR THE TECH SET

Here’s a film for the  tweeting, texting, sexting crowd we’ve all become part of, thanks to the insidious and ubiquitous mobile phone.

PERFECT STRANGERS is the positively ironic and glib title of a dinner party game of dare for the digitals.

The titular perfect strangers are actually seven long-time friends (three couples and one bachelor), all in their forties, who gather one night for a dinner party and agree that no private calls or messaging will disrupt their evening. Instead, in a communal fit of ‘we have nothing to hide’ bravado, they place their devices on the table, and all incoming calls and texts are shared with the group. (Letting a caller know they’re on speaker is considered a cheat).

What seems, however, seems at first like an innocent and playful distraction between friends quickly turns into something more, as the messages start to reveal some eye-opening secrets and how little they may truly know about their partners and friends. Continue reading PERFECT STRANGERS : A COMEDY OF MANNERS FOR THE TECH SET

A MILLION HAPPY NOWS

It’s often said that the opening credits of a film tell the story.  A MILLION HAPPY NOWS begins with a short journey through a glare filled  garden of jagged branches into an indistinct  washed out, white walled home through a room in chaos to a terrible fear associated with the precipice-like drop from a balcony.   

The traveller under the credit roll is Eva Morales (Jessica Leccia) but she is not the only voyager of the film.  Her partner is Lainey Allen (Crystal Chappell), a woman of a certain age, a Soap Opera TV star, the winner of an Emmy and a woman with secrets.  Not just the ten year love story between she and Eva but her secret fear that there is a looming health crisis.  The bright lights and sudden flashes of the ever-present cameras worry her, lines are not “sticking” and names and recent events seem to be lost.  Lainey suddenly quits a 20 year career and moves with Eva to the isolation of a house above a beach and a small town.

Playing as part of Queer Screen’s Mardi Gras Film Festival, this film is a labour of love and it’s there in every frame and every word.  Written by Marisa Calin, actress and writer… she is the author of the respected YA novel BETWEEN YOU AND ME… it is a story close to home.  Calin’s grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s and she created the production company Perfect Pictures in 2014 to ensure the story was told. Continue reading A MILLION HAPPY NOWS

CHECK IT : SCREENING AS PART OF THIS YEAR’S MARDI GRAS FILM FESTIVAL

You know you have been teaching too long when edu-speak is pounding in your head.  Resilience – it’s been a pedagogic catch cry for a decade or so and it’s there front and centre of my mind as I watch CHECK IT, a film for the Queer Screen curated Mardi Gras Film Festival.

How do these young people survive?  They are the product of generations of drug affected parents, they live in a city with one of the highest rates of violence against LGBTQ people, they have no experience of education or mainstream employment yet this significant documentary exists to showcase their resilience, sense of community and seeks to empower their prospects. Continue reading CHECK IT : SCREENING AS PART OF THIS YEAR’S MARDI GRAS FILM FESTIVAL

‘TIM BURTON: THE ICONIC FILM MAKER AND HIS WORK’ BY IAN NATHAN

Unofficial and unauthorised, Ian Nathan’s TIM BURTON: The Iconic Film Maker and His Work is a handsome and illustriously illustrated study of the creator of Frankenweenie and Edward Scissorhands, to name just two iconic characters conjured by one of the most curious movie directors in contemporary cinema.

In his introduction, Nathan writes that, partly, the endeavour of the book is to describe the advent of the adjective Burtonesque. “If you use the word Burtonesque any film fan will know exactly what you are saying.”

Undeniably, there is a distinctive look to Tim Burton’s films, and like all great cineasts, image takes primary over narrative. Ian Nathan has had the great good sense of papering this book with images, and let his subject do the heavy lifting, sometimes in his own words, sometimes by his colleagues and collaborators. Continue reading ‘TIM BURTON: THE ICONIC FILM MAKER AND HIS WORK’ BY IAN NATHAN

JACKIE

 

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

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

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

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

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

LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP

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

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

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

PATERSON – A FINE NEW FILM FROM JIM JARMUSCH

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

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

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

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

RED CARPET : LION @ THE STATE THEATRE

LION, based on the autobiographical book, A LONG WAY HOME by Saroo Brierley and Larry Buttrose, tells the story of how Saroo, adopted by a loving couple in Tasmania, with the help of Google, searches for and finds his birth mother.

Nicole Kidman hugs Sue Brierley

Nicole Kidman stars as his adoptive mother Sue Brierley and David Wenham plays his adoptive father John. Dev Patel stars as Saroo.

The film’s Sydney premiere took place on the 19th December at the State Theatre saw the real life Brierley’s join their celebrity counterparts on the red carpet.

The director Garth Davis, the writer Luke Davies, the producers and all the major stars attended with the exception of Rooney Mara stayed after the screening to participate in a Q and A.
Continue reading RED CARPET : LION @ THE STATE THEATRE

QUEEN OF KATWE

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I’ve just heard on the news that another great, troubled talent has died, George Michael, at the age of just 53. God, it has been  a bad year for losing great musos…David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Joe Cocker. It’s just depressing…

Hey, if you need a bit of cheering up, I’ve got a great remedy. Catch the film QUEEN OF KATWE. You will come out of it feeling on top of the world.

QUEEN OF KATWE is a film set in Uganda, a part of the world that sadly doesn’t get much screen time.

It tells a true story. Phiona Mutesi (Nadina Naluanga) is a young girl from Katwe, a  very poor town in Kampala. Every day is a struggle for her mother Nakku Harriet (Lupita Nyong’o) to get the family through.
Continue reading QUEEN OF KATWE