Cinema

SPITFIRE: THE PLANE, THE PLANE

Its beginnings were as a race-winning seaplane in the 1920’s. In an era of wood and canvas biplanes, designer RJ Mitchell created a 400mph metal monoplane.

It was beautiful. A dream. But for all her good looks, it was a killing machine. And to opposing forces engaged in dogfight this dream was a nightmare of out manoeuvrability.

The elegant aerial assassin, the Spitfire, gives its name to an elegant aerodynamic documentary, SPITFIRE, an epic, sweeping, swooping, taunting tale of engineering genius, industrial espionage and determination distilled from desperation.

It is the story of an aircraft that was forged in competition, shaped as the war clouds gathered, with some design elements pilfered from Germany, ironically, and refined in the white heat of combat – going on to become the most famous fighter plane ever made.

With stunning aerial footage from arguably the world’s top aviation photographer, John Dibbs, the film also contains rare, digitally re-mastered, archive footage from the tumultuous days of the 1940’s when her power in the skies was unrivaled, spitting fire into Luftwaffe offenders.

Delivered to the Royal Air Force a year before war broke out, its moment of glory came in the summer of 1940 during the Battle of Britain. The young fighter pilots of the RAF fought a deadly aerial war with Hitler’s Luftwaffe in the skies over Southern England. If they failed, Britain would fall.

Apart from the stunning aerial cinematography, SPITFIRE features interviews from veterans Allan Scott, Geoffrey Welham, Joan Fanshawe, Joy Lofthouse, Ken Wilkinson, Mary Ellis, Nigel Rose, Paul Farnes, Tom ‘Ginger’ Neil and Tony Pickering.

It is interesting to hear the varying tones voiced – some fairly cavalier, others having experienced face to face combat, sombre over the waste, futility and bitter irony of war.

However, the fox was in the hen house in 1940 and needed to be routed. It has to be argued that Spitfire was, during the Battle of Britain at least, a defensive weapon against an offensive onslaught.

Spitfire, piloted by young, inexperienced men, picked and pecked and became the scorn of the corvine swerving Luftwaffe.

No Plain Jane this plane, Spitfire was angel of death and saviour all rolled into one.

Directed by David Fairhead and Anthony Palmer, narrated by Charles Dance, accompanied by a sweeping, soaring score by Chris Roe, SPITFIRE is documentary making of a high plane.

SHOPLIFTERS: A CHARM OFFENSIVE

Charming Japanese film about a family of charlatans, SHOPLIFTERS pilfers the heartstrings perpetrating a blind eye to the larceny of these light fingered larrikins.

The opening scene sees mischievous patriarch Osamu joined by a young boy, Shota, nimbly nicking merchandise from a grocery store, using a well rehearsed heist methodology.

On a happy high celebrating their successful sting, the pair spy an infant alone on a balcony in the freezing cold and decide to take the baby home with them.

Adding kidnapping to shoplifting doesn’t seem to faze them, especially when the napping kid appears to have been neglected and abused. The boys get home and the females of the family figure it’s not kidnapping if the parents don’t ask for a ransom.

The kid has been abused and emotionally abandoned, so the family of light-fingers abandon caution to the wind and unofficially adopt a new daughter into their rag tag tribe.

This family are fringe dwellers of Japanese society, eking out a pittance with menial jobs, topping up with petty larceny. But they are rich in love and that sense of commitment inundates the film.

SHOPLIFTERS is about making do, muddling through and basic binding of human relationships. It’s picture of cosy cohabitation that has its foundations in a shared complicity of doings not completely lawful.

It’s a study of cohesiveness in the face of economic slippery slide, of the precariousness of casual labour and the true meaning of family unfettered by mere biology.

SHOPLIFTERS boasts beautiful intuitive ensemble work that seamlessly capture the mundane joys of the domestic scene, especially the treasures of the table, the making and consuming of meals, the unquiet, ubiquitous noodle slurping and subsequent satiate contentment.

SHOPLIFTERS walked off with the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year and deservedly so. Written and directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, it is one of the surprisingly uplifting films of the year.

THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN: ROBBERY UNDER CHARMS

Sissy Spacek as “Jewel” and Robert Redford as “Forrest Tucker” in the film THE OLD MAN & THE GUN. Photo by Eric Zachanowich. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Robert Redford has career highlights playing lovable rogues – think Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting – and in THE OLD MAN AND A GUN he adds a final bow to this trend.

In THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN, Redford plays Forrest Tucker, a sprightly septuagenarian who only ever had one occupation, one he was unusually gifted at and pursued with unabashed joy. It just happened to be bank robbing.

In the early 1980s, after a lifetime of stick ups and prison escapes, Tucker embarked on a final legend-making spree of heists with the “Over-the-Hill Gang,” a trio of elderly bandits who employed smooth charm over aggression to make off with millions.

Tucker never stopped defying age, expectations, or rules – he made his twilight the pinnacle of his life of crime, honing every heist, perfecting the plan, and finding exhilaration in the execution.

THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN is a bit of a misnomer because the bandit never uses a firearm, using suggestion rather than a sawn off, a pleasant personality rather than a pistol, rakish charm over a chamber loaded revolver.

He may have been armed but he was disarming, nice rather than nasty in his larceny, apologetic before making his getaway.

Redford exudes that unruffled calm and charm that Forrest Tucker apparently had.

But, he was a criminal, and so he attracted a nemesis, Detective John Hunt played by Academy Award winner Casey Affleck. Affleck plays the policeman as a diligent but unambitious investigator who is invigorated by Tucker’s style and panache. There’s an admiration that sparks a determination to catch the old felon.

Another Academy Award winner Sissy Spacek plays Tucker’s paramour, Jewel, a woman who takes him for what he is without slavishly falling in with him.

Tucker’s accomplices Teddy, played by Danny Glover and Waller played by Tom Waits give terrific support, with Waller’s Christmas story soliloquy a little gem in asides.

Writer director David Lowery recent credits include A Ghost Story, Pete’s Dragon, and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints continues his run of surprising, character driven stories with THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN.

It’s a gentle, nostalgic film, helped along by a breezy jazz score by Daniel Hart, and a definite homage to it’s retiring star, Robert Redford, who has been making pictures for half a century, and now has stated this will be his last on screen appearance.

As usual, he steals it.

ROYAL OPERA HOUSE LIVE : THE ROYAL BALLET PRESENTS MAYERLING

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of its premiere, Royal Opera House (ROH) Live opens the current season of opera and ballet with a stunning performance by the Royal Ballet of Sir Kenneth Macmillan’s MAYERLING. Superb performances by the huge cast are led by Steven McRae and Sarah Lamb .The fiendishly difficult, almost impossibly acrobatic death defying choreography is dazzlingly danced.

It is a dark and disturbing work, based on the true story of Crown Prince Rudolf (Steven McRae) and his mistress Baroness Mary Vetsera (Sarah Lamb) set against the backdrop of the stuffy yet rigid Austrian-Hungarian royal court in 1889 and the world of fin de siecle  Vienna. There is also political turmoil bubbling underneath.

There are not many major ballet works that feature drug use, skulls and guns, especially to such a degree. And opera is also included in the party scene in Act 2. The staging is labyrinthine, the set designs looming and opulently lavish, the costumes incredibly detailed.  Under the baton of Koen Kessels the ROH Orchestra is in glowing, passionate form. Lizst’s music swirls, ebbs and crashes towards the tumultuous tragic end. Continue reading ROYAL OPERA HOUSE LIVE : THE ROYAL BALLET PRESENTS MAYERLING

UNPACKING YODA : THE JEDI MASTER ARRIVES!

An exhibition entitled Star Wars : Identity opens on Friday 16 November 2018 and should prove an irresistible magnet to Star War fans.

Perhaps the most revered character is Yoda the Jedi master. He teaches Jedi knights to nurture and channel an inner and outer strength known as the Force. It creates courage, endurance and strategic and tactical wisdom to become a Jedi knight (an exclusive band of warriors)

Yoda at critical times materialises to impart a prophetic wisdom to help the Jedi knights and their followers to fend off what is known as the Dark Side.  

In this exhibition this reverence has spilled over into the treatment of a Yodi figure. The media was called to the Powerhouse Museum to witness the uncrating of Yoda and the reverential treatment with which it was accorded as it was transported to its nearby exhibition case.

Interestingly enough the case is quite large emphasising Yoda’s diminutive stature.

In the earlier films he was played by dwarfs such as Warwick Davis but in more recent times Yoda has been digitised.

Unfortunately he died at the age of 900 in the most recent Star Wars film Return of the Jedi.

But he lives again in this exhibition!

MOONLIGHT CINEMA. STAND BY FOR SUMMER SEASON ANNOUNCEMENT

Australia’s favourite and biggest outdoor cinema, Moonlight Cinema returns to stunning inner city parklands in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.  In Sydney at Belvedere Amphitheatre in Centennial Park, Nov 29 – 31 Mar

A favourite amongst families, groups of friends , Moonlight Cinema is the quintessential summer experience. It’s more than a movie experience, it’s an opportunity to kick back in the outdoors and relish in the summer vibes.

The Dec/Jan Moonlight program goes live on Thursday 15th November, 2018.   See more at the website, Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.

‘AWAY’ FROM ANTLIVE. CAPTURED AND SHARED

Production Photos: Pia Johnson

4 weeks rehearsal, 6 week run, then if you’re lucky, repeat. Done it all my life really and as I left ANTLive’s preview of their film of the stage play of Michael Gow’s AWAY, there was a very strong nostalgia for all the plays lost yet a bright pleasure at all the brilliant performances, the conceptualisation and creativity that goes into a production like this, now preserved.  But more than this, shared.

As ANTLive Creative Director, Grand Dodwell said his intro to the screening “People get theatre … we must never lose the origins and essence.”  “No green screen, no 3 lines per scene and an Australian story in a US dominated market” and young people to engage.  To this end AWAY is being live-streamed into remote and regional NSW schools and with only 3 screenings in cinemas  it is one to seek out.  Continue reading ‘AWAY’ FROM ANTLIVE. CAPTURED AND SHARED

DARK AND DANGEROUS BALLET: ‘MAYERLING’. FILMED AT THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE

Steven McRae as Crown Prince Rudolf in Kenneth MacMillan’s production of Mayerling for The Royal Ballet. ©ROH 2017.
Photograph by Alice Pennefather

During 2018/19, the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden will exclusively present ten thrilling performances of world-class opera and ballet to cinemas across Australia. This forms part of the Royal Opera House’s celebrations of ten years of cinema broadcasting in 2018 and of selling more than one million cinema tickets worldwide during the 2017/18 Season.

The 2018/19 programme opens with Kenneth MacMillan’s dark and dangerous ballet MAYERLING . Based on true events in the life of Austria’s Crown Prince Rudolf (danced by Australia’s Steven McRae), the ballet tells the story of a politically volatile empire, and an illicit love affair between Rudolf and the young Baroness Mary Vetsera (Sarah Lamb) which ends in tragedy. Continue reading DARK AND DANGEROUS BALLET: ‘MAYERLING’. FILMED AT THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE

JOURNEY’S END: LEST WE FORGET

I can think of no better way to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the Armistice than to see director Saul Dibb’s poignant, powerful and perfectly rendered production of JOURNEY’S END.

Set in March, 1918, C-company arrives to take its turn in the front-line trenches in northern France led by the war-weary and whiskey-soaked Captain Stanhope.

A German offensive is imminent, and the officers Osborne, Hibbert, and Trotter, and their cook, Mason, distract themselves in their dugout with talk of food and their past lives.

It’s banter that belies the ticking time bomb just below the surface of their business as usual palaver. With no future to look forward to, food is the only present pleasure, and reminiscence the only real comfort. Continue reading JOURNEY’S END: LEST WE FORGET

EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE: START YOUR CONVERSATION EARLY. PREVIEW COMPETITION

EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE is the exuberant story of a 16-year-old schoolboy who harbours dreams of becoming a drag queen. Inspired by the 2011 BBC Three documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16. and with an incredible ensemble cast.

Jamie New is sixteen and lives on a council estate in Sheffield.  Jamie doesn’t quite fit in.  Jamie is terrified about the future.  Jamie is going to be a sensation. Continue reading EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE: START YOUR CONVERSATION EARLY. PREVIEW COMPETITION

‘AWAY’ FROM AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL THEATRE LIVE. PREVIEW GIVEAWAY.

Title: Natasha Herbert in Michael Gow’s AWAY
Production Photos: Pia Johnson

Australian National Theatre Live is  a unique arts initiative, transforming Australia’s best loved theatre into a film format.  Next up is AWAY , filmed at Melbourne’s famous Malthouse Theatre, this is a co-production with Sydney Theatre Company.

Michael Gow’s AWAY – an absolute Australian classic is initially releasing in Sydney at Dendy Opera Quays and Newtown and at 25 Independent cinemas nationwide.  This  digitised theatre will eventually be seen in regional and remote areas that generally have no access to theatre.  Continue reading ‘AWAY’ FROM AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL THEATRE LIVE. PREVIEW GIVEAWAY.