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.

JAPANESE FILM FESTIVAL: SAINTS, SAMURAI AND SLEUTHS

Consider this.

Jesus and Buddha are flatmates in modern day Japan.

This is the conceit of SAINT YOUNG MEN 2nd CENTURY, one of the many little nuggets of cinematic gold to be found in this year’s Jpanese Film Festival.

A series of vignettes sew this fascinating sixty minute feature together as Jesus and Buddha go on an excellent adventure in uber-capitalist Japan, with bargain hunter Buddha leading the less frugal Jesus on a shopping expedition through the prodigiously consumptive city.

Simmeringly subversive without ever boiling over into gross out offensiveness SAINT YOUNG MEN 2nd CENTURY is quaintly, quietly contemplative about the catechisms of these two aesthetes and how they can reconcile in contemporary culture, with Jesus having a fixation on cosplay and Buddha in search of the perfect rice cooker.

These Nirvana nerds are endearingly enlightening, a con-celebration of inter faith conciliation presented in a lighthearted non soul searching manner.

Tickets are now on sale for JFF Sydney! From a glitzy murder mystery with an ensemble cast of Japanese screen stars, to a sun-drenched romance from the animation genius behind cult hit Night is Short, Walk on Girl, the Japanese Film Festival returns to Event Cinemas George Street (14-24 November) with a brand new program jam-packed with the very best in contemporary Japanese cinema.

The 2019 Festival will screen 29 feature films and one captivating documentary.

The Festival opens with glitzy murder mystery Masquerade Hotel, featuring iconic actor Takuya Kimura (Howl’s Moving Castle) and Japanese Academy Award-winner Masami Nagasawa (Your Name). Adapted from Keigo Higashino’s bestselling novel, the film follows a detective who must go undercover at a high-end Tokyo hotel to solve a series of seemingly unconnected murders.

Closing the festival in Sydney is A Girl Missing, a gripping psychological crime-drama about the mysterious disappearance of a family’s youngest granddaughter. The film reunites director Koji Fukada with actress Mariko Tsutsui after their Cannes Un Certain Regard Jury Prize-winning collaboration Harmonium.

The program also shines a light on up-and-coming Japanese filmmakers: from Harika Abe’s breathtaking slice-of-life directorial debut Moonless Dawn, featuring three existential youths who connect through music; to rising star Momoko Fukuda’s offbeat dramedy My Father, the Bride, about a woman who returns home and is shocked to find her father in a dress.

The full Festival program can be found at www.japanesefilmfestival.net

AILO’S JOURNEY: FOR DEER LIFE

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas so those sugary, saccharine, sweet movies are about to descend on our screens to dispense syrupy sentiment to our much more cynical kiddies.

AILO’S JOURNEY, on the face of it, sounds like such a confection, a film about the birth and early adulthood of a reindeer, a doe-eyed Disneyesque tale we’ve seen a dozen times before.

But no.

AILO’s JOURNEY is a startling surprise, a beautifully rendered reindeer saga, grabbing the antlers from Attenborough and delivering a very beautiful and very funny natural science narrative.

Narrated by Donald Sutherland, this is the incredible story of Ailo, the little reindeer who almost never survived his birth as his mother got separated from the herd when she went into labour.

The film makes the point that climate change has altered migratory fields and thus interferes with instinctual and intuitive behaviours in animals and clearly illustrates its impact on conception, birth, life and death.

AILO’S JOURNEY does not however dwell on the devastation climate change is causing, but persists in accentuating the positive in an infectiously uplifting tale that follows the journey of baby Ailo as he navigates his first year of life in the snowy landscapes of a picturesque Lapland.

Frail and vulnerable, Ailo must learn to walk, run, leap, swim and hide to ensure he survives the long, treacherous journey with the herd.
Set against the awesome Arctic wilderness, AILO’S JOURNEY evokes beauty out of the bleak, a film bustling with the comedy of life with speedy stoats, feverish foxes, rascally rabbits, and wily wolves and wolverines.

Wildlife film veteran Guillaume Maidatchevsky has made one of the funniest films of the year, spawned by the animal antics captured by his beautiful camera work and honed by the witty and oft times ironic narration.

AILO’S JOURNEY is a journey well worth taking, with or without the kids.

THE REPORT: NOT TO BE REDACTED

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What on paper probably looks like a dry as dust docudrama, THE REPORT is turned into a compelling thriller, akin to the mighty conspiracy pictures of yore like All The Presidents Men and The Parallax View.

THE REPORT is a riveting thriller based on actual events. Idealistic staffer Daniel J. Jones is tasked by his boss Senator Dianne Feinstein to lead an investigation of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, which was created in the aftermath of 9/11. Jones’ relentless pursuit of the truth leads to explosive findings that uncover the lengths to which the nation’s top intelligence agency went to destroy evidence, subvert the law, and hide a brutal secret from the American public.

Even the title of the film has been redacted, with the word torture being censored. As writer director Scott Z. Burns illustrates, the truth is not always welcomed by history — or by politics — and Jones finds that the American government would have preferred to keep this grim story hidden rather than confront it and inspect its lessons. And so, The Report is not just the story of brutal and ineffective policies that were pursued and then lied about, it is also the story of one public servant — a Senate staffer — who worked for years to expose the truth to the world.

THE REPORT is timely to Australia with the free speech debate raging and the government hostility towards journalists and whistle blowers.

THE REPORT is written and directed by Scott Z. Burns and the way he has fashioned the material on the page shows his mastery of action and intrigue, entertainment and authenticity. It bodes well for the next James Bond film that he is credited as one of its writers.

THE REPORT features outstanding performances by a powerful cast led by Adam Driver as Daniel J Jones and Annette Bening as Senator Dianne Feinstein, with a particularly chilling performance from Douglas Hodge as a quack psychologist who advised the government on torture techniques and charged the administration a pretty pack of cash for his services.

THE REPORT is gripping, controversial, contemporary cinema so thrillingly compulsive it ought to be compulsory. See it before it’s redacted from our screens.

TWO QUARTERS FULL: TICK BOXER NOT KICK BOXER

It is said that the optimist sees a glass half full where the pessimist sees the receptacle half empty.

Optimistically, Iley Jones’ play, TWO QUARTERS FULL, is a better script than the production, directed by Jones, currently playing at Marrickville’s Flight Path Theatre.

TWO QUARTERS FULL has a quartet of characters that are known to each other but feel strangely disconnected as if each was living in a bubble.

Christian is a young gay lawyer and former drug addict who has fled his family in England and set up solicitor shop in Sydney.

His legal practice is being investigated by Robin, who, coincidentally, is having a long distance cyber dalliance with Darren, Christian’s estranged, adopted brother.

Darren suddenly shows up in Sydney to consummate the relationship, take revenge on the perpetrator of a sexual assault against Robin, and berate his brother for not coming to his mother’s funeral.

Despite having a lover, Christian appears to be living with Sarah, a coroner with Parkinson’s disease. For some reason, all the characters in the play appear to shack up at Sarah’s, with her sofa attracting some major traffic.

The director’s choice for this production of TWO QUARTERS FULL is declamatory which tends to give every performance a flat, one note sensibility.

Add to this a poorly lit stage, it is difficult to decipher what exactly the writer director wants to illuminate in this muddied narrative.

It’s all a bit like fumbling anticlimactic foreplay, all tepid and turgid talk when their tongues should be yearning to be employed elsewhere.

Structurally, Jones seems to be preoccupied with ticking boxes – identity politics, law and justice, miscegeny, disability, sexual harassment, love and death- rather than kicking them and crushing the cliché from them.

https://www.flightpaththeatre.org/whats-on/two-quaters-full

EMU RUNNER: MOVE ASIDE MR.PERCIVAL

Right up there with Storm Boy, – indeed, pardon my pelican, but emus rule,- EMU RUNNER substitutes pelicans for emus as inspirational fine feathered friends.

Gemma is a nine year old living in Brewarrina with her parents and older sister and brother. Out of the blue, her mother drops dead and Gemma deals with her grief by adopting the emu as her totem.

She feeds and fusses over the flightless bird, stooping to theft to feed it and playing truant to be in its company.

This brings social services into her sphere with allegations of neglect by her family.

Following a cinema verite style, writer director Imogen Thomas, who wrote the film in consultation with Ngemba woman, Frayne Barker, cast many of her characters from the local community.

A major find is newcomer Rhae-Kye Waites who plays Gemma with rascally charm and considerable verve. Her real life grandmother, Mary Waites plays her character’ s grandma in the picture.

As her father, Jay Jay, Wayne Blair brings both the worry of a parent with a wayward child struggling to cope with personal grief and the very real concerns of cultural conflict between the indigenous community and White bureaucratic social services.

Georgia Blizzard is impressive as the well meaning social worker whose by the book approach clouds natural instinct and cultural sensitivity.

This nine year old girl, adrift by the loss of her mother, is anchored by deep cultural roots of her Ngemba people, country, and fauna. The emu was her mother’s totem and she instinctively adopts the bird as her spiritual mate.

Michael Gibbs cinematography beautifully captures the awesome beauty of this remote community, its delights and dangers.

An impressive debut feature for many concerned, EMU RUNNER outruns many of the silly, saccharine, overproduced and coy animalcentric films in the market. It’s a front runner.

MICHAEL CONNELLY : THE NIGHT FIRE

When his half brother, Mickey Haller, aka The Lincoln Lawyer, gets an acquittal for a man charged for the murder of a judge, Harry Bosch cops a dumpster of disdain from his former colleagues in the LAPD.

The displeasure he can deal with, what he can’t let go is that there is a guilty party walking the streets and he determines to apprehend the felon not only to assuage the contempt of his former colleagues, but to bring justice to the victim.

If this was the main narrative flow of Michael Connelly’s new novel, THE NIGHT FIRE, it would be heartily enough, but it is but a tributary of the great river of intrigue that makes up this outstanding police procedural.

THE NIGHT FIRE sees Bosch team up once again with Renee Ballard, the sleuth soulmate who works the Late Show, the Hollywood grave yard shift, and has become his unofficial partner in clearing cold cases.

Ballard is investigating a possible homicide arson when Bosch taps her to help delve into an unsolved case that had obviously been of interest to a recently deceased mentor of Bosch.

“Bosch knew there were always unanswered questions in every murder, every investigation. Those who were naive called them loose ends, but they were never loose. They stuck with him, clinging to him as he moved on, sometimes waking him up in the night. But they were never loose and he could never get free of them.”

Those so called loose ends become tighter and tighter as the narrative accelerates, myriad tendrils that draw the degrees of separation closer and closer till seemingly unrelated cases begin sharing a chilling commonality.

With more levels than an elite law firm’s office, THE NIGHT FIRE burns with conspiracy, suspense and coincidence bedfellowed to the incredible but never conjugal with the incredulous.

THE NIGHT FIRE is pure Ballard and Bosch with a dash of Prizzi’s Honour as a mob contract killer out of Las Vegas starts to tie up those loose ends and proving that the greatest identify theft of all is murder.

Connelly once again proves he is the master juggler of the police procedural, deftly and adroitly keeping many balls in the air, in a story that is beguiling in plotting and equally dexterous in characterisation. His teaming of Harry Bosch and Renee Ballard is brilliant.

THE NIGHT FIRE is dedicated to Titus Welliver, the actor who plays Harry Bosch in the television incarnation of the character. Hope it’s not too long before a novel is dedicated to the actress who takes on Ballard.

THE NIGHT FIRE by Michael Connelly is published by Allen & Unwin

PAIN AND GLORY: MORE GLORY THAN PAIN

Apparently, quite unintentionally, according to its creator, Pedro Almodovar, PAIN AND GLORY is the third part of a spontaneously created trilogy that has taken thirty two years to complete.

The first two parts are Law of Desire and Bad Education, and as in those previous films, this third installment, PAIN AND GLORY, the protagonists is a male film director.

PAIN AND GLORY’s protagonist is Salvador Mallo, a film maker plagued by ailments so severe that they have sapped him of creative impetus. His mobility is impaired, he has frightful headaches and he has trouble swallowing.

At seemingly the end of his career, and, indeed, his life, he is lost in reveries, and so half this luscious film is concerned with the past, flashback in cinematic parlance, and how the past, with all its pain and passion, fashioned the film maker, with all his pain and passion.

PAIN AND GLORY begins with a riotously colourful title design bordering on the psychedelic, then plunges us into an image of Salvador submerged in a pool.

From aquatic present we are transported into his liquid past to a joyous scene of his mother together with other women washing at a river bank and spreading their laundry on bushes and branches to dry while they sing. It is a scene of choral community, bathed in sunlight, awash with love and care.

PAIN AND GLORY is a meditation on creativity, how its impulse comes from experience and memory and the difficulty of separating fiction from a life lived, how memories inform artistic expression, and how time shifts perspectives of memory, the sands shifting, the meaning and feelings sifting. Recovering his past, Salvador finds the urgent need to recount it, and in that need he also finds his salvation.

PAIN AND GLORY revels in Almodovarianism. Melodrama, flamboyant art direction, buoyant performances. Lovely to look at, lovely to listen to.

Antonio Banderas is superb as Salvador, creatively constipated, physically incapacitated, open to new experiences that could kill or cure.

Penelope Cruz is peerless as his mother, tough, beautiful, stoic love.

PAIN AND GLORY – more glory than pain.

APATHETICAL SYDNEY: A PARODY

A is for Apathy – we give zero fucks, that we’re wrapped in red tape and a coffeee’s six bucks. you’d think we’d rise up since it’s all so unfair, but all that’s revolting is how little we care.

This is the opening stanza of APATHETICAL SYDNEY, an A- Z of revolting rhymes, cynical couplets cobbled together by Paul Chappel band Josh Whiteman, founders of the non advertising agency, Brand+Story.

Just in time for Guy Fawkes Day, APATHETICAL SYDNEY builds a bonfire to the vanities and inanities of the Emerald City, putting in verse the adverse aspects to the bastard child of Botany Bay and Farm Cove, lacing combustible cadence with contemptible commercialisation to burn the effigies of the smart arse ruling classes.

A doggerel’s breakfast, APATHETICAL SYDNEY makes a dinner of the lamentable and parlous state of the Harbour City, a city that harbours hubris and worships the land it stole from The Gadigal.

Like a blue tongue in a bum cheek, APATHETICAL SYDNEY is a lounge lizard’s lozenge that deep throats the pernicious underbelly of a town on permanent enema from ICAC.

By the time APATHETICAL SYDNEY gets to Z, the authors have done a three sixty, stopped their whingeing and whining from Wentworth to Warringah, and zealously dump shit on Melbourne.

As the verse gets worse, strained through a sieve that leaves a puree of puerile poetry, this Sydneycentric stocking filler offers a pictorial consolation courtesy of Will Vink.

Vink’s visuals are a combination of digital and hand drawn, an acute collage of images that lampoon landmarks, harpoon the Harbour, and cartoon the whole mortgage stressed metropolis.

APATHETICAL SYDNEY – A Parody by Paul Chappell and Josh Whitman, with illustrations by Will Vink is published by Penguin.

MINI BRITISH FILM FESTIVAL

Bugger Brexit, make an entry to the British Film Festival, now showing at the Palace – that’s the Palace Central, Palace Verona and Palace Norton Street, not Buckingham.

This princely fest is a right royal feast from FISHERMAN’S FRIENDS – a kind of Full Monty meets Brassed Off set on the Cornwall Coast – to FARMING, a frankly unbelievable story of racism raised from the incredulous because it is based on a true story.

You certainly wont want to miss Ken Loach’s new gem about couriers and the gig economy, SORRY WE MISSED YOU.

You’ll be sorry to miss any of these first release pictures, and what’s more there’s a chance to revisit some absolute classics.

In this year’s MINI British Film Festival, we screen a selection of highlights from Helen Mirren’s career and pay tribute to the remarkable and versatile talents of a captivating woman who embodies strength and grace no matter the character she plays. MIRROR ON MIRREN features some hidden gems from Helen Mirren’s back catalogue, including: THE AGE OF CONSENT (1969), SAVAGE MESSIAH (1972), O’LUCKY MAN (1973), THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE (1994), CALENDAR GIRLS (2003) and THE QUEEN (2006) for which Mirren won an Academy Award for her performance as Queen Elizabeth II.
Mirren stars in the closing night film, THE GOOD LIAR, co-starring Ian McKellen.

Other retrospective titles in the programme include the newly restored version of Nicolas Roeg’s eerie 1973 masterpiece DON’T LOOK NOW, adapted from the short story by Daphne du Maurier and starring a gorgeous Julie Christie and handsome Donald Sutherland; and the 1949 British black comedy KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS in restored 4K to celebrate its 70th anniversary.

For more information, visit www.britishfilmfestival.com.au

PROMISED: OZ ICONS LEAD RETRO ROM COM

Australian icons Tina Arena and Paul Murcurio play husband and wife, mother and father, Rosalba and Sal Cavelli , in PROMISED, a sweet retro rom com centred around an arranged marriage in 1970s Australia.

Rosalba and Sal are parents to Angela and they have promised her in marriage to Joe and Maria Prima’s eldest son, Robert.

This arrangement was settled when five-year old Robert comforted newborn Angela, showing the two dinosaur fathers that this bloke could shut up an unruly female.

Fast forward to 1974 – Angela, now 21 is beautiful, intelligent and a modern young lady, studying English literature at University, with aspirations beyond the family pastry shop; Robert, now 25, has just returned home after five years abroad, studying law at Oxford. His return reignites both family’s passion to honour the 20 year old ‘promise.’

Problem: Angela has a boyfriend, a muso named Tom. Modern woman that she is, she nonetheless harbours romantic notions of being swept of her feet by the man of her dreams, not being sold off in a deal brokered by her dad and intended father in law.

Angela’s fury quickly turns to fear for Tom’s safety, at the hands of Robert’s connected family and reluctantly agrees to marry him. Once married, a considerate Robert begins to charm Angela, wooing her into honeymoon mode. But before consummation, there is a collision of events that undermine a fairy tale ending.

Princes turn into toads, charming becomes antonymous and green eyed monsters prowl the realm threatening happy ever after land.

Antoniette Iesue and Daniel Berini play the bewitched, bothered and bewildered betrothed with an easy chemistry, an acting alchemy that probably comes from being contemporaries at Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts.

Written and Directed by Nick Conidi, PROMISED delivers on its promise to illustrate love, like life, is never perfectly arranged.

JEWISH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: TWO GOOD REASONS WHY

Want two excellent reasons to attend this year’s Jewish International Film Festival? Here you go…..

Stranger than fiction, AVENGING EVIL is the astonishing true story of a stupendous plot for revenge in the aftermath of World War II.

Long before the Marvel comic book Avengers, there was a secret organisation of Holocaust survivors who based their extremism on an eye for an eye, in retaliation for another extremism – the death of six million Jews and the humiliation of countless more.

This unit plotted the extermination of six million Germans, a revenge possibly unparalleled in modern history.

This amazing documentary is a journey of discovery, unearthing hitherto publicly unknown facts with interviews with surviving agents, now geriatrics, some still seething with righteous fury and disappointment that the plan did not succeed.

Even more astonishing, as the initial plot failed, a Plan B was put in place, and came within a whisker of success. The term Judgement at Nuremberg would have taken on a completely different complexion, irony heaped on irony.

What is justice, what is revenge, is there a difference? AVENGING ANGEL is an important film, not only for disclosing unknown or little known history, but for giving oxygen to profound questions about dealing with evil, what is right and fitting punishment, and the rule of law.

David Niven’s second book of memoirs goes by the title, Bring On The Empty Horses, reputedly the command uttered on the set of The Charge of the Light Brigade by director, Michael Curtiz, to release a hundred riderless chargers.

Curtiz’s Hungarian orientated tainted English is at show in Tamas Yvan Topolanszky’s stylish and elegant film, CURTIZ, when a props man mistakenly hears a request for more puddles as a command for a bunch of poodles.

Set during the making of Casablanca, this gorgeously art directed and beautifully shot film delves into the make up of the man and the fraught construction of what has become one of the most loved and iconic motion pictures in history.

Ferenc Lengyel eerily takes on the Curtiz look and persona, a man spurred by ambition and success who spurns his past and is troubled by his failure to help free his relatives from war torn Europe.

CURTIZ ingeniously and effortlessly runs the parallel tale of personal and professional life, each feeding into one another, real life finding expression in reel life.

The behind the scenes story of the making of Casablanca is intriguing with studio boss, Jack Warner, producer Hal Wallis and a cold blooded government man, Johnson, all running interference to Curtiz’s vision.

The world was in turmoil – the Nazis were overrunning Europe and the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbour, bringing America into World War II. Time was of the essence to make an admonitory picture that would foster popular support of American involvement in the liberation of Europe. It was to prove an admirable exercise in admonition but not without an arduous journey.

In CURTIZ, the director is concerned that the propaganda propagated will capsize the art and truth of the matter. He encouraged the writers, the Epstein brothers, to eschew the trite and repetitive stresses, or any embittered or sentimental fulsomeness.

The screenplay for CURTIZ is similarly illustrative of the man’s power of narrative invention. Observe a small scene with Christopher Krieg as Conrad Veidt who played the SS Officer Strasser in Casablanca. In a break in shooting, there he is, between takes, in full Nazi uniform but wearing a yarmulke.

2019 Jewish International Film Festival screening dates:
SYDNEY 23 October – 21 November Ritz Cinema, Randwick
2 November – 20 November Roseville Cinemas, Roseville
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