Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring

Are you in the mood to get away from it all? Feel like a trip somewhere. Well if you can’t really afford to an alternative is to see the new Korean film ‘Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring’. This was a film that couldn’t be further away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. The setting is a remote and picturesque mountain lake in a South Korean wilderness preserve. It is within this setting that an elderly Buddhist monk and his protege, a young boy, live out an existence in a small wooden house on the lake. The monk teaches the boy in the ways of life, bearing in mind Buddhist teachings.

I connected strongly with this film and many scenes within it. The monk forcing the boy to be weighed down with a stone after he has cruelly tied stones to innocent animals he has been playing with in the bush. The scene when the monk finds out that his protege has been having an affair with a young woman who he has been healing, and he forces her to leave..how gutted the young man is…the lecture that the monk gives the young man about the evils of lust….the scene of the monk stoically ending his life…the scene of the young man climbing the mountain top with a buddha statue, and leaving the buddha there to watch over his home on the water

Forgive the commercial term but this film was a good package. A serene and mystical setting…an intelligent narrative…and a
exquisite orchestral soundtrack made this one of the most special and wistful offerings of the year.

Green Card

Aussie Peter Weir’s 1990 romantic comedy ‘Green Card’ still holds up well today. It is about what ensues when the lives of two very different people are thrown together.

In ‘Green Card’ Frenchman George and American Bronte agree to a marriage of convenience for practical reasons. George has been offered a great job in the states but he needs a work permit, a Green Card. If he is married he will automatically be eligible for a permit. Bronte, a keen gardener, has found the perfect flat with its own greenhouse, but it is only available to married couples. Barely knowing each other George and Bronte agree to live together and get married- platonically- and their only hurdle is the local immigration department.

Ok, that’s enough of a boring plot description! What’s ‘Green Card’ like?! Here are some prompts.

Think romance…this film has a soft, mushy heart. It has one of the most stirring finishes in cinema, featuring one of those great enigmatic endings.

Think the comedy of ‘odd couple’ dynamics. Bronte is conservative, reserved, arch. George is a provocateur, and often deliberately outrageous, especially to Bronte’s far too straight and try hard boyfriend! There are some hilarious scenes such as when George does a little bit of improvising on the piano at a one of Bronte’s friends parties’, and Bronte hides her face in her hands in embarrassment.

Think suspense and real involvement with the main characters. The crunch scenes when George and Bronte have their big interview with immigration, and have to improvise like hell and hope for the best.

Summing up, to use an analogy, ‘Green Card’ felt like a favourite winter jacket that fitted just right.

Russian Doll

‘Russian Doll’, made in 2001, is one of the best Australian films made in recent years. The film features a strong storyline with a good Aussie cast. Hugo Weaving played the main character Harvey, a private investigator and want to be writer. His life is in a state of turmoil when he finds out that his girlfriend is having an affair. He is further thrown when he agrees to do a favour for his best friend Ethan (David Wenham).

Ethan is having an affair with a beautiful young Russian woman, Katia (Natalie Novikova). Katia’s story is that she came out to Sydney as a mail order bride only to discover that her husband to be had suddenly died of a heart attack. Katia befriends Ethan, and he soon becomes more than a shoulder to cry on!
Ethan soon realises his happy marriage with Miriam (Rebecca Frith) is at risk unless Katia can be controlled. He asks Harvey to take her on as a roommate and to wed her in a marriage of convenience. Harvey agrees when Ethan sets him up with plenty of money so he can give up his day job and spend his time writing his great Australian novel. It doesn’t take Harvey too long into the arrangement to know that he is going to have his hands very full coping with Katia!

This was a clear case of the filmmakers, writer/director Stavros Kazantzidis and co-writer Allanah Zitserman,knowing the kind of film they wanted to make, and carrying it off with class. They have come up with a clear blueprint, a good recipe, that makes for a charming, entertaining screwball romantic comedy.

The classic ingredients are all here:- the kooky female lead Katia ala something that Goldie Hawn would have played in her prime… the straight laced, conservative male, a part that would have suited someone like George Segal…a storyline that could have come out of ‘When Harry Meets Sally’-
friends becoming lovers on the rebound, breaking up and then getting back together again…Have you got the picture?!
As well as its many layers, ‘Russian Doll’ has many riches. Most of them relate to good performances from a strong cast. Natalia Novikova shines as the kooky Katia, Hugo Weaving gives his usual good performance. The only star that didn’t shine, so to speak, was David Wenham as Ethan. I found him a little miscast, his performance was stilted.

There were some strong supporting role performances. One of Australia’s best actresses Rebecca Firth was great as Ethan’s naive, homely wife, Miriam. Sasha Horler gave a charismatic, comic performance as one of Katia’s devious, horny Russian girlfriends, and had a wonderful quirky Russian accent.

One of the pleasures of the film was that it was set around Sydney and it was great to see Sydney icons such as the nightclub spot, ‘The Russian Coachman’ featured. Summing up, I strongly recommend ‘Russian Doll’. Take out on DVD one night, have a few glasses of wine, sit back on the couch, and enjoy a well made, feel good local movie.

Open Water

I went to see ‘Open Water’ , expecting to see a new variation on the Jaws theme
and was pleasantly surprised. This was quite a different, and more reflective experience. The
film was loosely based on the experiences of a yound couple scuba diving off the Great Barrier Reef years ago who were never found.

A young overworked couple, Susan and Daniel, go on a much looked forward holiday in the Bahamas. The holiday is going well, they are finally chilling out a little, when they choose to go a scuba diving expedition. Disaster ensues when whilst the couple are exploring the beauty of underwater life their boat leaves back to the shore, believing that all the divers have been accounted for.

Yes, this is a creepy kind of film. There’s one main question that it asks. What would it be like to be part of a couple stranded out in the middle of the ocean, trying to survive?!
There are plenty of stages that Susan and Daniel go through during their experience. Please forgive the cliche but it really is the case of going through the whole gamut of emotions.
What were some of the more memorable scenes/moments ?! Daniel screaming his lungs out, venting his spleen about how they have been left stranded.
One of the ploys that the couple uses to keep their head above water is to talk about old movies.
As the hours clock by and there is no rescue in sight, the couples stress levels rise dramatically. In a scene mixed with both high comedy and drama the couple blame each other for the mess that they have got themselves into and nit pick about each others faults.

Yes, the movie does provide one with a real sense of what that kind of experience would be like.
For audiences the main hook is ofcourse the creepiness value. Will the sharks have their day?! With an appropriately creepy soundtrack cued for the dramatic moments, there were plenty of women curling their bodies up in their seats and putting their hands in front of their faces!
‘Open Water’ was made on a low budget, and features strong direction and good performances from its two leads.
Summing up ‘Open Water’ is well worth checking out.

Woman With Dog’s Eyes

Oh, why do some playwrights choose such strange titles for their plays?! A case in point, Louis Nowra’s new play ‘The Woman with Dog’s Eyes’, currently playing at the Stables Theatre in Kings Cross. Thank God the title failed to put me off.
This was a strong drama which was given a powerful Griffin production under the direction of David Berthold.

The black sheep returning to the fold scenario has Malcolm and Penny Boyce celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary at a hotel in the Blue Mountains. Malcolm has arranged a celebratory dinner with his family. Sons Keith and Luke
arrive and everything seems to be going well. Then everything is thrown into chaos when youngest son Todd unepectantly arrives, having been invited by one of his brothers. Years ago Malcolm and Todd had a huge falling out and Malcolm has not wanted anything to do with his younger son. The family celebration is put on a knife’s edge.

Nowra takes us on a rocky and poignant journey as we look through the keyhole into the machinations of the Boyce family. The strong cast bring the dramatists rich characters vividly to life.
Jane Harders was outstanding as mother Penny, determined to hold the family together. Alex Dimitriades gave a sensitive performance as troubled Todd who had been wayward in his younger days but now felt more able to deal with life’s responsibilities. One of our strongest dramatic actors
Danny Adcock was always going to be formidable as Malcolm. Toby Schmitz was good as the ascerbic, sharp shooter Luke. His performance requires him to feign an epileptic fit on stage, no small ask! Rounding out the cast was Jack Finsterer as son Keith, the most smug, conservative and materialistic of the three sons.

The play features some stand-out scenes for the actors to show off their class. Jane Harders is so poignant in the scene where she puts all her cards on the table to her husband, and basically tells him ‘no Todd, then no me’.The final scene with its calm after the storm, its note of reconciliation, was deeply felt. Summing up, ‘The Woman with Dog’s Eyes’ was an emotional night in the theatre.

Corporation

I saw the Canadian film ‘The Corporation’ tonight. This documentary was put together by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott and Joel Barkan. It was, as I had anticipated a sobering, chastening experience.
There was one central metaphor to this film, and that was greed, and how it has seeped into every fabric of society.
The movie’s theme was that it showed a world that had become increasingly commercialised. There has become very little that does not have a monetary value, that can’t be bought. For example the film depicted an African village where people did not even have enough money to buy the supply of water they needed to live on.

‘The Corporation’ can be summed up by the scenes showing young girls in underdeveloped countries making clothes on ridiculously small wages which were later sold at high prices in Western countries. One of the American fashion gurus whose company made enormous enterprises out of such cheap labour said that she had no idea that this practice was going on but the film went on to show that five years later these same practices were still happening to support her company.

‘The Corporation’ ended on a powerful note. One of the film’s main interview subjects was ofcourse Michael Moore. The film ended on a Moore note with the filmmaker saying that he still felt positive about the future and that people were prepared to come out in the open against corporate greed. As the final credits rolled, the bottom of the screen was lined with different websites that people can access that people can resource to make a difference. Power to Moore and ‘The Corporation’ filmmakers for making a strong and well researched documentary.

Features of Blown Youth

Director Fiona Hallenan chose Melbourne playwright Raimondo Cortese’s play ‘Features of Blown Youth’ as her contribution to this years New Directions program run by Newtowns’ New Theatre.

Cortese’s 1997 play was billed as a raw, violent and ultimately provocative Australian drama. My take was that it is about the dynamics of young people interacting in a shared household in the inner city. The household comprised a student, a stripper, a struggling writer, a cynical idealist and a wannabe tough guy. Outsiders who interacted with the group included a naive skinhead, an ambitious prostitute and a pushy landlord.

‘Features of Blown Youth’ had good tension and a genuine feel for its young, tempestuous characters, trying to find their way in the world. I had a good handle on most of its characters; the sexy young stripper with a heroin habit…the punky feminist who enjoys having arguments and making people feel nervous and uncomfortable…the burning intensity of the young writer…the aggressive ‘heavy’ young Italian guy with the the coarse mouth…the pushy new landlord who likes throwing his weight around.

Hallenan’s direction worked well. Most of the cast were on stage for the entire play and were in ‘freeze frame’ when they weren’t in the main action. There was a good raw energy coming the cast even though there were clearly differing abilities.

On the night, the New Theatre enjoyed a good attendance. What stood out was that it was mainly a young audience. Like myself, they seemed to enjoy Cortese’s young and restless kind of theatre.

Intimate Strangers

Patrice Leconte’s ‘Intimate Strangers’ has an intriguing scenario. Anna is a thirties something woman with marital problems busily talking about her problems during her first appointment with her new psychiatrist. There’s just one little hiccup. She isn’t unburdening herself to her new shrink, Dr Monnier. She has stepped into the wrong rooms and is talking to mild mannered tax accountant, William Faber. He is so drawn to Anna and her story that he assumes the shrinks role. Anna is so pleased with their session that she books in for another appointment. Faber has a new career!

The films’ tagline summed up what this movie was about. ‘She confused him for a therapist and told him her deepest secrets. Now, two people who never should have met are discovering there’s nothing more seductive than the truth’.

‘Intimate Strangers’ had rich pickings. I enjoyed its unpredictability, never going quite where one expected it to. I loved how multi-layered it was. It felt like everytime that the film was getting just a little under powered a new layer was added. It was usually managed through introducing a new character; the real psychiatrist, Anna’s husband…
The music score was well woven into the film, cue-ing shifts in the narrative, and adding to the atmosphere.
There were many questions. Who was this woman Anna, what did she want, how was she going to involve William?

I enjoyed spending time with most of the characters.
I particularly liked the character of William’s spunky ex-wife who hadn’t quite made the leap away from William to her new relationship. I least enjoyed the character of William’s possessive, matronly secretary. Sure there was comedy, however I found her characters far too stereotypical and cliched.
The two main characters were taken on impressive journeys- Anna to break away from her the little girl part of herself, William to finally come out from his father’s shadow.

To top off a fine film, Leconte came with a superb ending. All in all , ‘Intimate Strangers’, (maybe that’s all we can ever be for each other), was one of my favourite films of the year .

In My Father’s Den

Last night I saw a New Zealand film ‘In My Fathers Den’. The film, written and directed by Brad McGann, and adapted from a novel by Maurice Gee, was the opening night film of this years’ Sydney Film Festival. It was time to step into the shoes of the main character. Paul.

Paul was an internationally famous war photographer who had to come home to hishometown in New Zealand to attend his father’s funeral. He didn’t want to stay too long because this was his past life and he didn’t want to get drawn into all that negative energy again. He had left the hell that was his family home in his late teens to make a new life for himself, and he was succeeding.

Through the film he is forced to confront all kinds of angels and demons.
He spends plenty of time in his late father’s den, where he looks at his books and listens to his classical music.
He had to relate again to his brother who he had never gotten on with. He had to meet up with his old childhood sweetheart again and feel some of the old feelings again. The largest demon by far was facing up to some of his father’s dark influence.

By the film’s end he felt he had been through everything. Had he learnt anything?! That one can’t put one’s head in the sand and pretend that one doesn’t have to face things. Avoidance can be the worst enemy!

Stepping out of Paul’s shoes for a moment, ‘In My Father’s Den’ was a well made, poignant drama from New Zealand with strong performances by the cast including Matthew MacFayden in the lead, and our own Miranda Otto.

Coffee and Cigarettes

I caught up recently with Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’ at the Dendy cinema at Newtown.
This was a collection of some 11 short scenes featuring a widely diverse range of actors including our own Cate Blanchett. All of the scenes are linked together by the characters enjoying the pleasures of conversation over multiple coffees and cigarettes. The overwhelming impression of Jarmusch’s latest film was that it was very much more theatrical than cinematic. So be it…At least Jarmusch chose to light the film in black and white, which lended the film much more atmosphere.

I felt like a bit of a voyeur watching ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’. I kept on being drawn into trying to work out what was going on inside these particular characters. My favourite vignettes- the outrageous Roberto Benigni chatting to Steven Wright and deciding toi take Wright’s dentist appointment for him. What a typically Benigni thing to do!
Then there was the case of two iconic rock figures, Tom Waits and Iggy Pop, mumbling to each other and making even less sense than one would expect.

Perhaps the most pertinent scene to cafe life was the scene featuring Renee French. Here was a well laid out scene with a woman quietly having coffee and reading a magazine in a rather run down cafe. Her peace,her little Nirvana, was ‘broken’ with the constant disturbances of the waiter. Somehow I could relate!
There is the clever scene where two friends catch up for coffee. The scene hook is that one of the friends plays amateur psychologist and believes that his friend has some problem which he isn’t telling him about. Appropriately the scene is titled ‘No Problem’!

Jarmusch gave our own Cate a chance to shine with the vignette ‘Cousins’. Blanchett shows off her dramatic flair playing dual roles, movie star Cate and her envious cousin Shelly. They meet in the lounge room of a hotel as she is undertaking a press junket.
My favourite scene and the one that I feel was by far the most accomplished scene was called ‘Cousins?’ featuring Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan. Now this was sharp writing. Two well known actors meeting up over coffee and a powerplay takes place that by the end is dramatically reversed.

My verdict. ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’ was an entertaining, experimental work without being a masterpiece. A reflective work that requires a lot of audiences who might want something faster and punchier.

Tootsie

I recently saw this wonderful comedy again, and it still works so well.
For those who don’t know the story Dustin Hoffman plays Michael Dorsey, an out of work New York actor.
Dorsey is so desperate to get a job that he dresses up as a woman and auditions for the role of Dorothy Michaels in a popular soap opera. Much to his surprise he wins the role, and he takes to the part and to his now double life with gusto.

This is a film with so many riches. The screenwriters seem to have come up with every possible comic outcome/ spin-off/ complication and they are all paid off superbly.
Dorsey’s flatmate ribs him for getting dressed in women’s clothing.
His male co-star in the sit-com, an older playboy type, tries to sleaze on to him.
Dorsey himself falls for the show’s beautiful young nurse ( a stunning looking Jessica Lange) and tries to work out how he can satisfy his desire!

With each fresh complication the comedy gets sharper! As does the films’ tension, with things inevitably having to come to a head as Dorsey has to pick his moment when he will come clean, and reveal his trickery and true identity.
The performances are exemplary. What a fine film this is! When you’re in the need for a fillip, a pick me up, then this is the kind of film that will sort you out!

A TOUCH OF SPICE

A TOUCH OF SPICE

I loved the new Greek film ‘A Touch of Spice’ which is currrently playing at Dendy at the Quays. This is a charming, touching film. It is autobiographical in nature being loosely based on the life of its writer/director Tassos Boulmetic . Tassos’s story is told through the journey of its main character, Fanis. A take on Fanis’s journey is that it is a trip down memory lane story. As a young Greek boy , Fanis, a was forced to leave Constantinople, Istanbul and move to Greece because of a political dispute between Greece and Turkey. Now a successful and mature man, a 40 year old astrophysics professor, Fanis decides its time to revisit Istanbul to see his dying grandfather who he has not seen since he left.

For Fanis the trip down memory lane proves to be a deeply emotional experience. He connects with his grandfather…he catches up with a woman Saim, now married, who used to be his playmate cum girlffriend. But most of all it is the city of Constantinople that Fanis falls for, the city he never wanted to leave in the first place. It is certainly a time of reflection for Fanis as he comes to realise that though his life has been successful, he hasn’t really been adventurous enough in his life. He takes more liberties when he cooks than he does in general life.
One of the arching themes in ‘A Touch of Spice’ is of food and cooking, well to extend the metaphor ‘A Touch Of Spice’ is a movie to savour and enjoy.

(c) David Kary

Wimbledon

I enjoyed the movie ‘Wimbeldon ‘. If you don’t see it with expectations that are too high, you should too.

This is the story of an underdog. Paul Bettamy plays Peter Colt a veteran British tennis player who feels that he is at the end of his career. He is currently seeded at 119th in the world, and unexpectantly receives a wild card to play Wimbeldon. His hope is that he will get through the first few rounds. On the eve of the tournament he strikes up a friendship with the bad girl of American tennis, Lizzie Bradbury, played by Kirsten Dunst.
Their friendship leads to a romance that inspires Colt to perform at Wimbeldon at a level way beyond his expectations.

There were two main positives to come out of this tennis movie. They were the way the film captured the atmosphere of a big time tennis tournament, and that I enjoyed spending my time with the characters.
The tennis and crowd scenes were well staged. There was a distinctive feeling of being part of the tournament as one got inside the hotel, dressing, and press interview rooms. The cream on the top, and what made it even more authentic, was listening to the tennis commentary team, just as it would be at the supreme tennis event, with John McEnroe, Chris Evert and John Barrett. I do however have to admit to getting a bit peeved with McEnroe’s comments during matches. The smart alec comments were far too typical of the man to be amusing!

The film featured an interesting bunch of characters. Dunst’s character was impish and bratty and suffering from her over protective father, well played by Sam Neill. Bettamy played the nice older statesman of British tennis who has a renaissance.Colt’s best friend was a fellow player on the circuit, Dieter, who was a very sympathetic character. He gave Colt all his support through his ascendancy in the tournament even after he beats him on the way through. Colt’s family gave plenty of colour to the film. His parents were constantly fighting and at the time of Wimbeldon were living separately..that is, his father set up his living quarters in the treehouse, with his main obsession being how to organise a tv to work there to watch Wimbeldon!
Colt’s younger brother was a quirky, punky, disturbed character who was envious of his brother’s success and all through the tournament his favourite routine was to bet against his brother in his latest match.

I guess that’s enough of a preview. I hope that the taste I’ve given you of ‘Wimbeldon’ will make you want to venture out and see it!

Summer of ’42

It was definitely nostalgia country when I went into the video store and took out Robert Mulligan’s ‘Summer of ’42’. This was a film that I originally watched in its original cinema release in my final school year many years ago.

Some two decades later this film still holds up strongly. For its coming of age romance genre this 1971 film is quite simply a classic.

The film tells the story of Hermie, a young American teenager on summer vacation on Nantucket island in 1942 who falls in love with Dorothy, a young married woman whose husband has left on war duty and is never to return. The film is based on the autobiograhical reminiscences growing up of writer Hermann Raucher.

So how to describe the ‘Summer of ’42’ experience?!

Ok here goes for what it is worth! It features quite exquisitely direction by Robert
Mulligan. The famous Michele Legrand score gives the film its dreamy, other world feeling.

There’s a genuine authenticity about its characters. What it is really great at was in capturing was the young boys world of Hermie and his mates, Oscar and Benjie.

The film didn’t miss a beat in this regard…the boys mulling over their parents books on sex to try and work things out…the fighting with over protective parents…the constant wrestling and squabbling with each other…the differences between the boys with Oscar being so extroverted and macho and Benji being such a dumpy kid.

It all rang so true as did the comic but also angst ridden scene when Hermie tries to purchase a box of condoms from the straightlaced local chemist who gives him a terribly hard time before he relents and gives them to him.
As did the scene when the boys take some girls to the movies and try to make out with them with mixed results.

Yes, it would be a fair description of this film to say that it was very attuned to the male psyche! And with Jennifer O’Neill as the leading lady it works like a dream!
The seduction scene at the film’s climax still gives tingles up the spine and is one of the most tender, erotic scenes ever captured on celluloid.
It does justice to the lyricism of Legrand’s wonderful score.

Wrapping up, ‘Summer of ’42’ still has classic status atleast as far as this punter goes!

THE DOCTOR

Time for another visit to the video store! This time I picked up Randa Haines’s film ‘The Doctor’ starring William Hurt, Christine Lahiti and Elizabeth Perkins. It was another good choice.

‘The Doctor’ is an old film now, having been made in 1991.

The film is about a classic case of role reveral. William Hurt plays Dr Jack MacKee, a brilliant surgeon who maintains a terribly conscending manner to his patients. His life is dramatically turned around when he falls sick and is diagnosed with throat cancer. Literally from one day the next he has to take his line in the hospital that he has worked in as a patient. The film shows the journey of McKee having to learn to see the world with much more compassionate eyes.

What ‘The Doctor’ is is a very strong drama. McKee’s journey of self discovery engages from beginning to end. It is as if he has to relearn his humanity.

‘The Doctor’ is two love stories. McKee falls in love with a beautiful young patient June Ellis who is dying of cancer. They share a deep, spiritual understanding. At other times McKee is trying to salvage his long time marriage to Anne.

‘The Doctor’ features one awesome performance with Elizabeth Perkins playing June Ellis. She steals the screen in her portrayal of her beautiful, feisty character. One scene, in particular, stays in mind. This is the scene when she and Jack are talking in the hospital waiting room and June is annoyed by some of Jack’s comments. She snarls at him, ‘please don’t waste my time’. You know that for sure she means it! June is certainly not the kind of character to be messed around with!

I guess that’s enough of a preview. You won’t be disapointed choosing this film if this kind of drama appeals to you.

BEFORE SUNRISE

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy create magic in BEFORE SUNRISE

Richard Linklater’s ‘Before Sunrise’, simply put, is one of my favourite films.

The film tells such a simple, lyrical story. Two young travellers, french graduate student Celine (Julie Delpy) and American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) meet on a a Budapest-Vienna train. At Jesse’s instigation they get off the train at Vienna and spend the next 14 hours together.Their time together is broken when dawn breaks and Celine has to get back on the train and continue on her travels.

Its so hard to paint a picture of a what a film is like but here goes with ‘Before Sunrise’.
It is a quiet but intensely romantic film. There is a very youthful feeling to the film.
I am sure that this feeling is so strong because of the films’ travelogue nature. As the couple journey around Vienna their time is spent meeting quirky characters, checking out local landmarks, visiting cafes and drinking places, and sharing their thoughts and philisophies of life.It’s an intoxicating ‘recipe’.

Linklater’s production is so well realised. His direction is first class. He manages to give the film such an intimate feeling.
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s performances are exquisite. The quality that comes to mind are that their performances are so natural.
The film hardly feels acted or scripted at all, their relationship flows so well.
So, wrapping up, if qualities of intimacy and naturalness appeal to you in movies, then you are in for a unique, special treat with ‘Before Sunrise’.

(c) David Kary

Mr Bailey’s Minder

The Stables’s current production, Debra Oswald’s ‘Mr Bailey’s Minder’ was a journey worth the taking.
The journey starts when a young, rough as guts woman Therese (Kate Mulvany) takes on the job of being the carer of incorrigible artist, Leo Bailey (Martin Vaughan) in his dotage, after passing the scrutiny of his snobbish daughter, Margo (Victoria Longley). Journey’s end sees the passing of Bailey.
This was a strong production with good roles for all three main parts. Kate Mulvany gave a striking lead performance as Mr Bailey’s Minder, Therese. One of my favorite actresses Mulvany dominated the stage with a brash, confident performance.

She had a good meaty role to play. Therese played a young, woman from the wrong side of the tracks, who spent a lot of time before the courts. No angel, but with a good heart. And her tough kind of love with Bailey brings him out of his shell.
Veteran local actor Martin Vaughan had plenty to play for. How to describe his character?! Cantankerous old man….Enigmatic, famous, world weary, eccentric artist.
Another favorite actress Victoria Longley was kept busy although a little under-utilised as Bailey’s daughter Margo. How to describe her role? A sophisticated, well groomed career woman…A bit of a nose in the air, superior kind of person..a daughter who didn’t feel any real closeness with her father.
‘Mr Bailey’s Minder’ was well directed by Christopher Hurrell. The play had a good energy level though some of the intense scenes dragged a little. There was a good use of the stage and surrounds.
Stephen Hawker’s lighting design was effective with some good touches.
Jo Briscoe’s set design captured Leo Bailey’s world with its depiction of Bailey’s artistic living area, replete with paint stained floors.

The main theme of the night was the quality of family relationships, in particular father and daughter relationships. There is something of reconciliation between them by play’s end.
My favorite moment in the play…It was one of the turning points in the play and Kate Mulvany plays it superbly. Therese has had a jack of the way everyone, especially Lou was treating her. They don’t want to give her credit for the changes she is making. There is a scene where she decides she will backslide, and goes looking for a painting of Lou’s that she can steal and make lots of money from, and flee. She does snap out of it and realises that it would her into a lot of trouble.
Summing up, ‘Mr Bailey’s Minder’ was an entertaining night in the theatre. Nothing exceptional but a well put together well made play.

Bombshells

Caroline O’Connor received a deserved standing ovation on the opening night of her one woman show ‘Bombshells’ at the Seymour Centre.
‘Bombshells’, written by Joanna Murray-Smith, is a Melbourne Theatre Company production, directed by its Artistic Director Simon Phillips, which has brought up to Sydney by the Ensemble Theatre.
This was a special night at the theatre, combining the brilliance of a charismatic performer with some strong dramatic writing.
Caroline O’Connor played six different women ‘captured’ at very emotional times in their lives.
The strength and pleasure of this production lay in its immediacy; I had a sure handle on each character and what they were going through.

Caroline as Meryl Davenport, suburban mother of three… What a stunning portrait of a stressed out mother as she endeavors to survive the daily routine. Here was a picture of woman as puppet, whose strings were pulled in every direction. We hear her self talk unraveling at a huge rate of knots.

Caroline as Tiggy Entwhistle, abandoned wife and cactophile… Tiggy is lecturing to her gardening club about her passion for cactuses. Her slide show shows her expansive knowledge of the wide variety of cacti. It doesn’t take long to work out that Tiggy is an enormously lonely woman and that her passion for gardening is a poor substitute for good relationships.

Caroline as teenage entertainer Mary O’Donnell, preparing for her segment in a talent quest…My God this sure was a change of pace from Tiggy’s gardening show. Caroline captured Mary perfectly…the talented young entertainer living totally on adrenalin…determined to become a star and move over anyone in her way….resolved to put on the performance of her life.

Caroline as bride to be Theresa McTerry… This was a poignant vignette. Caroline portrayed the 360 degree range of feelings that Theresa was going through coming up to her momentous wedding day. There is a line which Caroline delivers that hangs permanently in the air, ‘its the dress that made me do it’.

Caroline as lonely widow, Winsome Webster…I saw this as the best written and most delicately performed of the six pieces. Winsome, a lonely middle-aged woman finds romance in the most unlikely of situations, after she has all but given up hope.

I loved this vignette’s theme, the role that chance, that mysterious element, can play in our lives.
Ironically, I found the final vignette, with Caroline playing spun-out diva Zoe Struthers, the least interesting and satisfying.

It was undoubtedly a showcase for Caroline to show off her musical rather than dramatic range, and as such it worked well. I simply felt that I have seen far too many versions of this particular story, of the drunk, doped out, has been performer, strutting the boards once too often.
Summing up, ‘Bombshells’ was a special night in the theatre, and for the next month is likely to be the hottest tickets in town.

Blasted

The late Sara Kane’s ‘Blasted’ is one of the most powerful anti war dramas that I have seen.
The scenario….Ian, a middle-aged journalist, and Cate, a friend twenty years younger, are having a torrid encounter in a hotel room where they are holed up.
They are holed up because they are living in the middle of a war zone. The war outside storms in to devastating effect when a young soldier breaks into the flat and dishes out some rough justice.

Belvoir Street theatre, care of Sheedy productions, performed this play as part of its B Sharp season.
This was a production that was relentless in its intensity.
The performances were strong with Kane’s well contrasted characters.
Terry Serio played journalist Ian, hard drinking, misogynistic, cynical as hell, with a dark, vicious streak.
Kate Mulvaney played Cate; young, naïve, childlike, immature, squealy, totally out of her depth in such a heated environment.
The anonymous soldier was played by Nichola Coghlan.

The defining scene…when the soldier spots ID that says Ian is a journalist. He tells Ian that he should tell ‘his story’ to the world, the horrifying experience of what it’s like to be a soldier in a war zone, how insane it is, how valueless human life becomes.
Paraphrasing, Ian replies that the world isn’t interested in real stories…he shuffles paperwork on the floor…the world is interested in trivia, mindlessness.

A final comment…with what’s happening presently in Iraq, it makes ‘Blasted’ more apt and relevant than even in 1995.

Mother

The British drama ‘The Mother’, directed by Roger Michell from a script by Hanif Kureishi and starring Anne Reid in the main role as May, really got to me.
‘The Mother’ had the perfect formula for drama. We have a meaty central character, a challenging journey, and some quirky and telling choices.
Talented British actress Reid must have felt over the moon when she landed the feature role. Female roles this strong don’t come up that often.
May is a woman in her sixties who finds herself suddenly widowed when her husband dies of heart failure. From the first scenes we see that May is very much her own person, willful and uncompromising.

Grandmother May chooses to get away from her marital home. May doesn’t stay at her son Bobby’s family home when she realizes that her presence is causing dislocation within his family.
She shacks up at her daughters Paula’s home and has to cope with her daughters’ decision to have it out with her over what she believes is the ill treatment she received as a child.
Paula runs a local writer’s group. It isn’t long before she is trying to match-make her mother with some of the older men in her group. What she doesn’t realise is that her mother finds these men boring and uninteresting. More to the point, she is unaware that her mum has her eye on her builder boyfriend, the phlegmatic Darren. May has felt her sexuality reawaken after being somewhat numbed by years of neglect in her marriage.

I guess that’s enough of a preview! For sure, ‘The Mother’ won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. For me it worked on an elemental level. This film was an original, gutsy survivor’s story.

Mean Girls

The scenario to the new American teen comedy, ‘Mean Girls’, directed by Mark S. Waters, is the period of transition that teenager Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) goes through when she starts at an average American school campus.
Cady has been brought up by her folks in the wilds of Africa and she has always been home tutored. It comes as a great shock for her to have to cope with real school life, and to try to fit in.
You can put ‘Mean Girls’ down as a safely mainstream, commercial American teenage comedy. The film’s best feature was that it had a deft hand at social commentary, in particular teenage social politics.

So… at the start we have Cady entering a new, exciting and dangerous world and at the end we have her finding peace and harmony in it. In between, and this is the stuff of the film, it is quite a ride!
Cady survives the anxiety of her parents, the pressures of different peer groups each wanting to claim her as their own, a school crush, her own immaturity and power plays, to make it to hollow ground.
Summing up, ‘Mean Girls’ was an entertaining satirical romp however a few rungs down from its more famous predecessor, ‘Clueless’.

BEFORE SUNSET

The magic-one more time!

I checked what was on. I was in the mood for a love story, to be more precise, an intelligent love story.
It was an easy choice. It has to be Richard Linklater’s ‘Before Sunset’!

I had seen ‘Before Sunrise’ and it is one of my all time favorite films.
Two young travelers, brash young American Jesse and delicate Parisian Celine, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, meet on a train going through Vienna. Jesse takes up the gauntlet and asks Celine if she’ll spend the night with him exploring Vienna. She takes up the offer and so starts one of the most beguiling romantic stories I’ve seen.

The pair say their tearful goodbyes around sunrise, as Celine reboards train, and agree to meet exactly one year later at he same spot.
We find out in the sequel ‘Before Sunset’ that the pair never met the following year.
It is some nine years later and Jesse is now a famous author doing a launch circuit. He is at a Paris bookstore fielding questions from the local
intelligentsia when Celine peers through the bookstore window. A local, Celine has seen a flyer featuring Jesse’s book launch around town and decided to catch up with her old flame.
The old flames spend the rest of the day together before Jesse gets his flight back to New York.

The bottom line is that ‘Before Sunset’ has the same magic recipe that graced the original. The film features deep, intimate conversations where no subject or feeling is off limits.
Little nuances of character reveal how the couple got on so well even though they are very different people.
How to describe them?! Jesse with his artistic temperament has his brooding intensity, Celine with her unpretentiousness, candid and easy going nature.

The film has a bonus seeing Julie Delpy perform her own ballad on guitar.
near the close of the film.
My verdict, this was a dreamy, very dreamy film. It was a shame that it had to end.

Bon Voyage

Jean-Paul Rappenau’s film ‘Bon Voyage’ was great entertainment. The film is about a group of French people coming to terms with the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1940.

Movie stars, spies, government ministers and jailbirds collide in a panoramic gridlock. The cast of characters include a stunning film actress (Isabella Adjani) who is trying to get out of being caught on a murder rap, a politician (Gerard Depardiu), a suspicious journalist (Peter Coyote), a pretty physics student (Virginia Ledoyan), and a young writer (Gregori Deranjere), all thrown together by the crisis.rrival of the German army and the city’s upper crust flee en masse to the Hotel Splendide in Bordeaux.

There was so much I loved about ‘Bon Voyage’. I loved its breakneck fast pace. There was never the slightest risk of being bored.
I loved the way the way that all the film elements were thrown together in a liberating, anarchic style…murder intrigue, a resistance plot, romances.
I loved the way the film was so tongue in cheek and impish. Everyone seemed to have fun being in it.

Bon Voyage’s characters were much larger than life, and made strong impressions. No-one more so than Isabella Adjani played an upper class lady with more front than the Harbour Bridge, manipulative as hell, totally charming, and full of feminine wiles. This was a classic femme fatale role and Adjani devoured it with relish

Catch ‘Bon Voyagé’. Its well worth a look.

Reviews of Screen, Stage, Performing Arts, Literary Arts, Visual Arts, Cinema + Theatre