All posts by Richard Cotter

As a child, Richard loved going to the pictures. He is still getting over the advent of the talkie which set cinema back a century but still sounds off on radio ABC, 2GB and 2UE etc about the state of cinema whenever invited. As well, Richard has been a theatre practitioner for the past 35 years and has been resident director for Big Splash Productions for the past 10 years.

PERFECTLY ORDINARY : SINGING THE MIND ELECTRIC

The patients of of the Lilac ward, the psychiatric facility of Saint Jude’s hospital, don’t fly over the cuckoo’s nest, they nest there.

And in the Matthew Rankcom and Joe Wilson musical, PERFECTLY ORDINARY, they sing about their psychosis, make music of their mental illness.

Thankfully, the cast sing like nightingales rather than cuckoos, and the music and lyrics lift the otherwise bland and sombre book with a series of hope songs.

There’s no Nurse Ratchett here, but a mental health nurse called Pinky, (Josephine Emmett) nomenclatured perhaps for her pink uniform, a den mother of the ward, her wards physical and emotional needs taking their toll on her own and her family’s emotional health. Continue reading PERFECTLY ORDINARY : SINGING THE MIND ELECTRIC

PERFECTLY ORDINARY: NEITHER PERFECT OR ORDINARY

The patients of of the Lilac ward, the psychiatric facility of Saint Jude’s hospital, don’t fly over the cuckoo’s nest, they nest there.

And in the Matthew Rankcom and Joe Wilson musical, PERFECTLY ORDINARY, they sing about their psychosis, make music of their mental illness.

Thankfully, the cast sing like nightingales rather than cuckoos, and the music and lyrics lift the otherwise bland and sombre book with a series of hope songs.

There’s no Nurse Ratched here, but a mental health nurse called Pinky, (Josephine Emmett) nomenclatured perhaps for her pink uniform, a den mother of the ward, her wards physical and emotional needs taking their toll on her own and her family’s emotional health.

The patients are a rag tag group of nutters and crazies.

Eileen,(Kathryn Peterson) an older woman suffering dementia, wandering the house and wondering where her spouse is. The dementia has erased his death and she is left with a feeling of abandonment.

A mysterious girl (Jessica King) – not so much dealing with demons as with dragons – takes up with new inductee, James,( Finn Gough) a writer who hallucinates hell fire.

There’s George,(Joseph P. Issa) a big bear divorcee with bipolar, and Suzie, (Jessica Curtis) a post natally depressed woman focusing her maternal instincts on Noah, (Matthew Geddes) a paranoid schizophrenic.

More confident in their musical presentation than the straight acting interludes between songs, this ensemble from Central Coast crowd, Create +Co Theatre are forging their craft during the Sydney Fringe Festival at Fringe HQ, Bayswater Road, Kings Cross, Wednesday, 11 September 8:30 pm
Sunday, 15 September 9:30 pm

This production will be raising funds for Everymind. For more information visit https://everymind.org.au/
Duration:120 minutes
Presenter:Create + Co Theatre
Rating: PG
Website: www.createtheatre.com.au

DOWN AND OUT IN PARADISE: EAST WEST SEX DEATH

Gonzo journalism is alive and well in Luke Williams’ DOWN AND OUT IN PARADISE.

Escaping a harrowing head space as much as the homophobic hometown of Bundaberg, Williams first flees to the putrid Grandma-burnt-her-filtyhy-eggs-again halfway house in Melbourne then escapes Australia, Australians, an Australian Community Service Order, his sister, his former psychology clinic which was trying to sue him, and the high culture of lumpen koalas for Kuala Lumpur.

And so begins three year labyrinthine libertine thoroughfare through Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Vietnam and the Philippines, where he meets and mingles with sex addicts, opium smokers, money boys, lady boys, ghost whisperers and tarot readers.

Here are morally lapsed ex pats that went east to break taboos or break the law, to get rich, feel rich, work less, spread their cheeks, spread Christ, turn the other, free slaves or find one, DOWN AND OUT IN PARADISE examines the empowerment of the pathetic.

Luke Williams puts the mad into nomad with hereditary mental illness his travelling companion as he traverses geographical and emotional terrain that is humid, fetid and fecund.

Dreams and disappointments, agonies and ecstasies, all enthrallingly and appallingly enlarged and magnified by the acid tripped, acquisitive addictive personality, a schizoid affective with meth in his madness.

More or less, more is less on a mind altered quest for less is more with a moral compass constantly pointing due south to a dark as molasses destination.

Three years later, back in Bundaberg, Luke starts seeing someone with the curiously titled job position: Suicide Aftercare Worker.

DOWN AND OUT IN PARADISE is a homage to vagabondia an experimental, innovative, fast-paced and ever-surprising travel-guide, a complex mix of memoir and reportage, a rag tag assortment of crazy characters and nutty situations.
DOWN AND OUT IN PARADISE by Luke Williams is published by Echo

FINDING STEVE McQUEEN

A kind of second cousin twice removed from Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, FINDING STEVE McQUEEN is wickedly entertaining romp that pays out the adage truth can be stranger than fiction.

Set some eight years before Steve McQueen carked it, nevertheless, the king of cool does not make an appearance in FINDING STEVE McQUEEN.                           Continue reading FINDING STEVE McQUEEN

MATRIARCH: SPELL BINDING STORY TELLING

Simple, pure, crystalline, charming and clear, MATRIARCH sets the bar high for the Sydney Fringe Festival.

MATRIARCH is story telling at its most compelling with actor writer Sandy Greenwood sharing the story of the matriarchal line of her family from her great grandmother to herself.

MATRIARCH begins with Greenwood’s depiction of a child, wide eyed and wonder awed by the wildlife of the bush and the creek that runs through her idyllic wonderland. It’s a world of willy wagtails, abundant fish and bush tucker and clean water, an enchanting environment, a safe place, a peaceful place, an Eden.

The serpent usurper of this paradise comes in the form of white government sanctioned assimilation bringing dispossession, displacement, dislocation, dispersion, despair.

“For their own good”, families were ripped apart, separated, a generation stolen. A perverted paternalism from an insensitive colonialism.

MATRIARCH examines the dormant inter-generational trauma visited on her mob as she plays her great grandmother, her grandmother, her mother and finally herself. It’s a seamless narrative, not at all episodic, that threads through this life and family affirming story

Fermented in anger, decanted in hope, this brew of broad history and personal story is presented with poise, pride and palpable vibrancy and vivacity. As a performer, Sandy Greenwood is spell binding in lithe movement and lyrical vocal characterisation.

Set designer Sean Ryan beautifully evokes the bush-land setting with fauna, wood and rock, orchestrated with birdsong. Ryan also provides live accompaniment on didgeridoo.

Directed by Jasmin Sheppard, MATRIARCH is the winner of this year’s Green Room Award, a totally deserving honour for this inspiring and coruscating story telling experience.

As a nation we are the poorer for policies implemented against our First Nation people. As a nation we are the richer for the repair offered by Sandy Greenwood’s statement from the heart.

Jinda Productions presents
Matriarch
$27 Adults / $22 Concession
Tuesday – Saturday 6pm 3–7 September 2019

THE RICH MAN’S HOUSE: ANDREW McGAHAN’S FAREWELL NOVEL

Monoliths and mansions, Andrew McGahan’s posthumously published novel, THE RICH MAN’S HOUSE, features both, and in its size and complexity, mirrors both.

A mountain of a book, THE RICH MAN’S HOUSE is a mansion of rooms – geographical, geological, psychological, architectural, historical and supernatural – with mantles of mystery and thresholds of suspense.

The novel begins with a couple of prologues of faux fact, giving an historical preface to the multi storied edifice of the narrative. Then the first line of the narrative proper -, “Death is the great invigorator” hits us “like the slap across the face of the sleeper.”

The death that invigorates this opening chapter and that of the ensuing six hundred pages is that of architect, Richard Gausse, found deceased at age 78 in the newly completed home of billionaire Walter Richman.

Gausse designed Richman’s remarkable residence, The Observatory, on Theodolite Isle, in the cold Antarctic waters south of Tasmania. Gausse is famous for his so called “buried” style of design and McGahan has fun exhuming, excavating and uncovering much of what lies beneath his death in this strange monolithic and mythic geographical and geological anomaly.

A daughter from Richard’s first marriage, Rita Gausse, is surprised, upon herfather’s death, to be invited to the Observatory to meet the famous Richman in person. Turns out that her practice as a paranormal medium is the reason, as Richman is convinced a presence from the peak is pitted against him.

Secluded location, ulterior motives at high altitude, THE RICH MAN’S HOUSE at times reads like Agatha Christie on crystal meth with a touch of Lovecraft. It’s not an easy journey to the summit, an avalanche of verbiage detours the ascent, and when the top is reached, you don’t really get to the bottom of the story.

As in keeping with the two prologues, THE RICH MAN’S HOUSE is braced and book-ended by two epilogues, projected histories and anniversaries of the events depicted in the main body of the narrative and supply conjecture and rumour rather than conclusion.

In his author’s note, McGahan insists that THE RICH MAN’S HOUSE is a finished novel but can’t deny that his abrupt decline in health hastened the rewriting and editing process extremely and that it’s not quite the book it would have been had cancer not intervened.

THE RICHMAN’S HOUSE by Andrew McGahan is published by Allen & Unwin

DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE: EPIC CRIME SAGA

Things go bad “like lasagne in a can” in S. Craig Zahler’s DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE.

Imagine if you will, Mad Max and Martin Riggs at 60 and you get an inkling of Mel Gibson’s character, Brett Ridgeman, a cop who hasn’t made promotion in a quarter century, but has a prodigious amount of busts to his name. The reason for not rising through the ranks being, he is not politik. Certainly not politically correct.He’s old school and gets results but he also attracts reprimands.

DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE begins with Ridgeman and his partner, Tony Lurasetti, a loquacious Vince Vaughn, on a drug bust where Ridgeman is videoed standing on the alleged dealer’s head and chaining him to a wrought iron fire escape while he and his partner enter the premises to secure the space and ascertain where the prohibited substances are.
After some not strictly by the book persuasion of another felon inside the premises, they locate the contraband and make a successful collar.

The victory is pyrrhic because passer by footage of the rough handling arrest finds its way onto TV and the two cops are carpeted and suspended without pay.

Ridgeman has a wife with MS and a teenage daughter living at home in a not too salubrious neighbourhood. Tony has just forked out a fortune on an engagement ring for the love of his life, Denise.

Neither cop is corrupt but this latest punitive chastisement is a catalyst for some overdue compensation they believe they deserve for keeping a lid on the imbeciles, Ridgeman’s terms for all form of crook, criminal and miscreant.

Ridgeman’s plan is to capitalise on a criminal enterprise, by robbing the robbers, making the perpetrators pay for their crimes direct to him and his partner. A sort of justifiable Robin Hood scenario.

Like all best laid plans dealing with rotten apples things go pear shaped.

Though Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn are the central characters in DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE there are no minor characters in the film. Each dented soul, no matter how much screen time they exact, is a complete and rounded character, noble or disturbed, freakishly flawed or just plain human.

Notable cameos come from Don Johnson as the police chief, Udo Kier as an urbane crime kingpin.

Zahler’s script is redolent of the cadent callisthenics of the Coen Brothers, the pallet of palate pleasing patter of Tarantino and the prosaic pyrotechnics of Patrick De Witt, crafting dialogue with language that is exacting and persuasive and funny.

DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE features a wicked score with songs bearing emblematic titles like Shotgun Safari and Street Corner Lions. It’s a jungle out there, a concrete jungle, be prepared to be dragged across it.

But be warned: DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE is not an action movie and takes it sweet time to cogitate and marinate. And that’s its sweet and savoury surprise.

THE AUSTRALIAN DREAM: IT’S THE GOODES

Scoring a goal with every frame, THE AUSTRALIAN DREAM is a documentary that uses the remarkable and inspirational story of Indigenous AFL legend Adam Goodes as the prism through which to tell a deep and powerful story about race, identity and belonging.

THE AUSTRALIAN DREAM is about the Australian nightmare of rampant or casual racism inherent in our national fibre, a recurring nightmare over 85,000 nights for Australia’s First People that we need wake up to, and wake up from.

Adam Goodes is one of the most decorated & celebrated players in AFL history, double Brownlow Medal Winner, star player in Sydney Swans premiership sides, and Australian of the Year, the very epitome of resilience and survival.

When he called out a thirteen year old girl for making a racist slur slung at him from the front row of the bleachers it was perceived by many as to be stepping over the mark. How dare he single out a white female thirteen year old. That, it would seem, is more offensive than calling an Aboriginal man an ape.

Critics of his behavior suggested he should suck it up. She was only thirteen.
Perhaps those commentators should tell the police and the public when a thirteen year old Aboriginal might do something offensive to suck it up instead of incarcerating them.

The idea of reprimanding a thirteen year old is to curb bad behavior, isn’t it, and unbridled racism is truly bad behavior to be eradicated with extreme urgency.

Interviewed over the incident, Goodes was sensitive to the girl’s plight and was eloquent, calm and measured. A proportion of the public and the media reacted like a rabid pack, baying for blood and booing the presence of this champion athlete every time he stepped onto the ground from then on.

The scriptwriter of THE AUSTRALIAN DREAM, respected journalist Stan Grant says “I can’t speak for what lay in the hearts of the people who booed Adam Goodes. But I can tell you what we heard when we heard those boos.
“We heard a sound that was very familiar to us. We heard a howl. We heard a howl of humiliation that echoes across two centuries of dispossession, injustice, suffering and survival. We heard the howl of the Australian dream and it said to us again, you’re not welcome.”

This anger of accumulated racial abuse is also commented on by past players, including Nicky Winmar who famously raised his guernsey in a declaration of the pride in the colour of his skin, a gesture re-enacted by Goodes years later as a mark of solidarity and respect.

These testimonials to camera reinforces the credence that Goodes’ action was a culmination of years of indignation against Indigenous Australians. For years Goodes’ focus was on the contest on the football field not confrontation with ignorant fans. This was a flash point that opened the floodgates to a torrent of taunt.

THE AUSTRALIAN DREAM reveals Adam Goodes profoundly emotional journey in his own words, and the words of Walkley Award winning journalist, Stan Grant, and asks fundamental questions about the nature of racism and discrimination in society today.

THE AUSTRALIAN DREAM is the second documentary about Goodes this year – after premiering at Sydney Film Festival, Ian Darling’s THE FINAL QUARTER aired on Channel 10 last month – and the two films complement one another, and both have been nominated for Best Documentary in the AFI/AACTA Awards this year.

MILES DAVIS: THE BIRTH OF THE COOL

Stanley Nelson’s sublime documentary, MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL, starts with a quote from Miles Davis – Music has always been like a curse with me. I have always felt driven to play it. It has always been the first thing in my life, go to bed thinking about it and wake up thinking about it. It’s always there. It comes before everything.

Like Davis’ music, the film is unique from the first note, a jazz riff collage of cultural snapshots, talking head interviews, studio and concert clips.

From his birth in 1926 to his death in 1991, the film shows how Miles continually reinvented himself, especially in the late 60s and early 80’s.

As one of the architects of modern jazz that began at the close of WWII, Miles new complexities replaced old naivities, and in the process, jazz grew up, became sophisticated and cool.

The film pulls no punches in showing the man Miles Davis as less dependably superb as the artist, Miles Davis. It proffers the theory that his abysmal treatment of women stemmed from his father, a dentist who was not above extracting teeth from his wife through domestic violence.

Frances Taylor, who was Miles’ spouse for a decade, is interviewed at length and says that the cocktail of jealousy and drug abuse fuelled a macho paranoia that ended their love affair. He demanded she give up her career to cook and clean for him.

There seems to have been a ferocious struggle between the better angels of his personality and the demons that plagued him – racism and chronic pain among the legion.

No such struggle though between his instinct towards evolution, eschewing adherence to tradition for progressive growth in playing and composition and other cultural influence – Spanish and Indian most particularly.

The Spanish word duende is evoked in the film, a term that conjures the quality of conquering the summit of one’s art. What this film shows is that Miles Davis had duende in spades.

MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL – see it, hear it, feel it.

MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL is screening from  Thursday August 22 – Sunday August 25 at:the Dendy Opera Quays and Dendy Newtown.

Session times: https://www.dendy.com.au/events/miles-davis-birth-of-the-cool

THE NIGHTINGALE: A BEAUTY OF THE BEASTLY

Photo by Matt Nettheim

Throughout settler-colonial history, the bodies of women both black and white have served as a battleground.

Australia’s ugly past swoops down like a vulture on carrion, a blowfly on effluent, in Jennifer Kent’s historical horror story, THE NIGHTINGALE.

Writer director Kent transports us to 1825 Van Diemen’s Land, where Clare, a 21-year-old Irish convict, had been transported as a 14 year old.

Having served her seven year sentence, she is hopeful to be free of her abusive master, the despicable Lieutenant Hawkins who refuses to release her from his charge, preferring to keep her “caged” as a nightingale where he can order her to sing and provide sexual servitude.

Clare’s freedom beckons with husband Aidan and their still breast feeding baby, Brigid, but Hawkins’ hideous jealousy manifests in a heinous and harrowing crime at the hands of this monstrous misogynist and his cronies.

Unable to secure justice from the British authorities, Clare decides to pursue Hawkins, who leaves his post in arrogant blind ambition to secure a captaincy up north. She is forced to enlist the help of a young Aboriginal tracker Billy, who grudgingly takes her through Tasmania’s terrifying terrain, to track down Hawkins and his cohorts.

Clare, the sinned against songbird turned raptor and Billy, whose totem is Mangana, the blackbird, are hostile towards each other from the outset, both suffering their own traumas from the Colonial authorities and both openly racist, towards each other, and against the British, but as their journey leads them deeper into the wilderness an uneasy truce and eventual trust is forged.

The terrain and the prevailing hostilities are frightening, as fighting between the original inhabitants of the land and its colonisers plays out in genocidal conflict. The fate of Billy’s family becomes clear and so Clare and Billy now share a mutual hunger and thirst for revenge against the barbaric savagery of the predominantly English colonisers.

Aisling Franciosi makes a compelling Clare, righteous anger incarnate, a determined avenging angel against the male evil personified in the characterisations of Sam Claflin’s Hawkins and Damon Herriman’s scurrilous dung beetle subaltern, Ruse.

Baykali Ganambarr is brilliant as Billy, wily and benign to begin with, his journey with Clare making clear the extent of the catastrophe of colonisation to his people and turning him into a baleful warrior, also righteous anger incarnate.

THE NIGHTINGALE sings with supporting players, a particular standout is Alan Faulkner as probably the only depiction of a white man with any decency in the film.

Production values are meticulous and of the highest order with director of photography, Radek Ladczuk, production designer Alex Holmes and costume designer Margot Wilson each contributing textural excellence to the fine fabric of the film.

Compelling and confronting, THE NIGHTINGALE is a tough, uncompromising film about our painful and shameful past, and, just as shamefully, a picture of prevailing prejudice against women and indigenous peoples.

Jennifer Kent has created a haunting, harrowing film balancing brutality with bravery and beauty, a dark, poetic, visceral and provocative experience, an exhumation of the truth of historical violence to which we are summoned to witness.

KOREAN FILM FESTIVAL: ART & SEOUL

Celebrating 10 years of screening the very best in Korean cinema Down Under, The Korean Film Festival in Australia (KOFFIA), returns to Sydney i 22-31 Aug, with a program that features a whopping 22 films, 13 of which are Australian Premieres.

Presented by the Korean Cultural Centre Australia, KOFFIA showcases the very best of Korean culture through film. From big-budget blockbusters to intimate art-house flicks, the Festival presents a packed program of world-class cinema, plucked straight out of Korea’s booming film industry.

Headlining the festival is winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival and Sydney’s own Sydney Film Festival Prize, Parasite, a satire on income inequality by renowned director Bong Joon-ho.

A fully-fledged blockbuster in South Korea, Take Point is the second mainstream film for star Ha Jung-woo and centred on a CIA-backed plot to abduct North Korea’s supreme leader in the not too distant future.Shot in English, this action thriller is the perfect mix of multi national film making with cracking action choreography and a multi cultural cast.

The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil is an action thriller in which a South Korean gang lord teams up with a cocky young cop to find a killer. Slick, fun and action packed, the film has been such a hit that a U.S. remake, produced by Sylvester Stallone, is already in the works. So, please see the original whip smart piece before Sly screws with its mojo.

Based on the true story of a general in the 1990s who must win the trust of North Korea’s leaders and assess its nuclear weapons programme, The Spy Gone North, is a cold war story of espionage more akin to Le Carre than James Bond.

Another true story, The Great Battle, is a historical film about the siege of Ansi Fortress and the epic eighty-eight day battle that Yang Man-chun and his Goguryeo troops fought against 500,000 invading Tang dynasty men.

Opening night film A Resistance looks at actual events that took place when Korea was under the rule of Japan and a young girl’s resistance to her oppressors as she joins in the Korean independence movement.

For pure unadulterated fun from the studio behind the cult hit Train to Busan, Rampant is a period zombie thriller featuring incredible action sequences and stunning visuals.
Set in ancient Korea, Rampant sees the zombie genre meet political corruption in the Joseon dynasty.

A despotic ruler – “I will decide if we flourish or flounder!” – cankered with conspiracy paranoia and manipulated by an imperious puppet master minister makes one think of modern day North Korea. He turns a blind eye into total denial of a plague that is destroying his people, plagued himself with the madness of power and privilege.

Marshalling prodigious martial arts proficiency and wonderful wire work, director Sung-hoon Kim brings off a spectacle of great scale – a must see.

2019 KOFFIA screening dates and locations:
• Sydney: August 22 – 31 | Dendy Opera Quays
Website:www.koffia.com.au
Facebook:www.facebook.com/koreanfilmfestival
Instagram:www.instagram.com/koreanfilmfestival
Twitter: www.twitter.com/koffiafilmfest