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Saturday, 16 February 2019

Vale Bruno Ganz - One of Europe's great actors has died

Bruno Ganz, Black and White Like Day and Night
Bruno Ganz had a prolific career as an actor, working in half a dozen countries and appearing in at least 120 films and television programs over almost sixty years. He is of course best known for Downfall, not just the film but the hundreds of parodies that dubbed new dialogue over the scene where Adolf Hitler rants in the Berlin bunker. Click on the link for one about Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. 

I’m not sure if I realised who he was or saw outstanding talent in Eric Rohmer’s 1976 Die Marquise von O but a couple of years later he did the first of three films for Wim Wenders, the director’s adaptation of Patricia HighsmithThe American Friend. His big hit for Wenders was Wings of Desire.  Before then Ronin Films had distributed a little telemovie in which Ganz played a paranoid chess player, Black and White Like Day and Night (Wolfgang Petersen). I think the company learned that films about paranoid chess players, no matter how ‘good’ are not big box office. A near pristine 35mm copy should be somewhere in the NFSA in Canberra.

Ganz, a Swiss-German, had one role in an Australian film, Gillian Armstrong’s The Last Days of Chez Nous in which he played a Frenchman, J P, who disrupted the lives of three sisters.  (Publicity still at left.)

I’ve never forgotten a moment at the Berlin Film Festival when a female film distributor tugged my sleeve and said “Now there goes one of the most handsome men in the world”. She was almost swooning. I turned and saw Bruno Ganz wandering past.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

The Current Cinema - John Snadden notices some of the big Chinese New Year movies THE WANDERING EARTH, MISSBEHAVIOUR and INTEGRITY

I thought I had better review this film as soon as I could, because the more I think about it, the more I dislike it.
THE WANDERING EARTH is the major film release from China for the big spending New Year holiday period. The Chinese government has poured money and resources into this big budget Sci-Fi feature. The movie is based on a short story from acclaimed writer Liu Cixin, who posits an idea which, to me, is nothing but tripe. The sun is disintegrating and the earth must be, literally, turbocharged to avoid the approaching disaster. A 2500 year plan of action(?!) is prepared by the world's powers to combat this threat - and is led by China (the plan, not the threat!). Visually, it's mainly an uninspired mix of READY PLAYER ONE and the MATRIX movies, with an occasional nod to GRAVITY and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. 
As in a Spielberg film, director Frant Gwo fills the screen with forgettable and combustible characters. Wu Jing (star of the WOLF WARRIOR movies) is the nominal star and central hero figure who isn't very heroic, but is good at following orders. Canto actor Ng Man Tat (SHAOLIN SOCCER) is one of the small pleasures of the film, but for that he pays a high price. From a silly premise the story-line never improves and I don't think even a psychic could explain the final 30 minutes.
It's worth mentioning that this film is currently number #1 at China's box-office. But with the CCP now solely collecting and distributing film industry data, there have been many people, inside and outside China, questioning the validity of such figures. THE WANDERING EARTH's rocky path to the top has been very suspect - to say the least!

THE WANDERING EARTH, might be getting all the publicity for this Chinese New Year, but it's well worth noting two Cantonese features that will also be screened during this festive period. MISSBEHAVIOR is a comedy from HK film-maker Pang Ho-Cheung (VULGARIA), and INTEGRITY is the latest crime pic from the talented Alan Mak (PROJECT GUTENBERG). Both directors have enjoyed critical and commercial success with their extensive filmographies.

Adam Bowen's Talkie Talk #46 - The week's new movies plus TV screenings of THE ANGRY SILENCE, SPARTACUS and BORN YESTERDAY plus a note remembering Albert Finney


At Eternity’s Gate– Willem Dafoe is Van Gogh in the latest biopic of the Dutch painter.

Alta: Battle Angel– a young woman’s struggle to find herself, and to change the world - with a spot of biff.

Scotch: A Golden Dream– doco on the history of Scotch whisky

Isn’t it Romantic? Not a re-tread of the 1948 Veronica Lake vehicle, but a comedy, starring Rebel Wilson

The Night is Short, Walk On Girl (2017) – animated adventures of a young girl.

Gully Boy - Mumbai street rappers come of age.

Instant Family– Rose Byrne & Mark Wahlberg foster three children. Hilarity, tears and hugs ensue.

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)drama, based on James Baldwin’s novel of African-American struggles in Harlem.


Tuesday 12 noon, 9Gem: The Comedy Man (1964) Kenneth More stars as an ageing repertory actor, trying his luck in the big city. Breezy, bittersweet, and affectionate portrayal of the daily rounds of a struggling thespian. Also features Angela Douglas, Billie Whitelaw and Cecil Parker.

Tuesday 8.30pm & Wednesday 11.45am, Fox Classics: The Deer Hunter (1978) – lengthy, slightly plodding but sincere portrait of the effect of the Vietnam war on a Pennsylvania steel-worker community. Robert de Niro, John Cazale, Meryl Streep.

Scroll down here to read the notes from a one off Cinema Reborn screening of the 40th anniversary 4K restoration

Wednesday 10.40pm & Thursday 1.45pm, Fox Classics: Born Yesterday (1950)– Judy Holliday shines as the girlfriend of a gangster (Broderick Crawford), who’s educated by William Holden.

Friday 8.30pm & Noon Saturday, Fox Classics: Spartacus (1960) – Earnest sword and sandal epic, starring Kirk Douglas as the leader of a slaves’ revolt against Roman tyrants. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, written by Dalton Trumbo, and photographed by Russell Metty. Also stars Jean Simmons and Laurence Olivier.

Saturday 11am, 9GemThe Angry Silence (1959) A factory worker, Richard Attenborough, falls foul of the unions when he refuses to join a strike. It’s a curious mixture of melodrama, union-bashing and character study; social realism and domestic drama. 

Sunday 4pm 9GemThe Big Country (1958) Epic, starry, slightly cool, but expertly made western about a feud over water rights. Gregory Peck unstiffens; Jean Simmons is loveable; Burl Ives is nasty; Franz Planer’s lensing is exquisite, and Jerome Moross’s score is splendid. Record it and speed through the abundance of seniors-centric commercials.

VALE: Albert Finney (left, born 1936, Salford, UK), working class lad, who created the stage roles of Luther and Billy Liar, and was unforgettable as the “hero” of Saturday Night and SundayMorning (1960). He became an international movie star as Tom Jones (1963), and went on to play scores of roles, including Churchill, Poirot, Scrooge and Daddy Warbucks

French Film Festival - Barrie Pattison has some early heads ups and a few questions....

Of the films in the French Film Festival, I've already enthused about Jacques Audiard's ferocious The Sister's Brothers- odd to find a film in English with Hollywood stars shot in Spain heading up frog Fest. 

The Franc Dubosc Tout le monde deboutis clever and funny. 

I'm going to put (too much) money where my mouth is and watch Michel Ocelot's animated Dilili À Paris, Gilles Lelouche'sLe Grand bain, another Deny's Arcand American Empire film (La Chute de...), l'Incroyable Histoire du Facteur Cheval from Nils Tavernier, Olivier Assayas' Doubles vieswith a well represented Juliette Binoche, Agnes Jaoui'sPlace Publique, Catherine Deneuve in Julie Bertuccelli's Claire Darling andthe Delépin & KervenI Feel Good (title in English) with Jean Dujardin -  also optimistically a few more.

François Ozon's Grâce á dieu is having censor troubles in France.

As for the Young At Heart event at Palace Cinemas I've already endorsed Diego Peretti and Santiago Segura in Casi leyendas and the ColombianAmalia la Seretaria,while Ricardo Darin in El amor menos pensado is anticipated in release…. and they have a Carlo di Palma documentary. 

Delphine Seyrig, Last Year at Marienbad
They're airing Belle de jour while the frogs have L'année dernière á Marienbad and a new Jean-Luc Godard. These are not the items I would choose to retrieve from obscurity.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Vale Dušan Makavejev and Václav Vorlíček - Cerise Howard remembers two major East European film-makers

In the last fortnight two singular filmmakers whose work I've programmed recently, and long been enamoured of (their '60s and '70s works especially), have passed away. 
Sure, both were well advanced into their eighties, with their halcyon filmmaking days long behind them, but I'm saddened nonetheless by the passings from this realm of both Dušan Makavejev (on Jan 25) and, on Tuesday just gone, Václav Vorlíček.
Dusan Makavejev (in Paris)
While I never had any contact with Dušan Makavejev directly - negotiations re licensing his films for the Melbourne Cinémathèque last year were handled at his end by his wife, Bojana - I did have the pleasure of meeting Vorlíček in 2017 to interview him for the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Festivalový deník. (Thanks once more, Veronika Bednarova, for arranging this!) 
Vorlíček's delight in being interviewed by a Westerner who knew and rated his work was evident; it was especially gratifying to let him know that when we screened WHO WANTS TO KILL JESSIE? at the Czech & Slovak Film Festival of Australia the year prior, it was followed by a discussion with Shaun Tan and Bernard Caleo about the many points of intersection between comic books and films, with JESSIE put forward as the most exemplary fusion of the two mediums then, and since.
The article that emerged from that interview can be found here on the Karlovy Vary festival website
And below is a lovely photo of me and Vorlíček who, very gamely at the age of 87, agreed to be interviewed stretched out on a lawn alongside a bustling arterial road in lieu of any more hospitable environment at our designated rendezvous, after the surly staff at the hospoda closest to his tram stop flatly refused to allow us to sit down in its empty, sun-kissed beer garden because it wasn't, strictly speaking, open for business yet that day, no matter that those same grinches probably watch his (remarkably feminist) THREE CHESTNUTS FOR CINDERELLA every single Xmas... No respect, some people!
Cerise Howard, Václav Vorlíček

Vale Albert Finney - and some memories of three of his lesser known but remarkable movies.

The death of Albert Finney is reported on by the BBC and  by the New York Times but there’s little attention paid to three of the better moments in Finney’s film career.

Plenty is made of Finney’s first star turn in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, the feature debut of director Karel Reisz. No mention seems to have been made of their second collaboration, Night Must Fall another film adaptation of Emlyn Williams play of the same name about a young man who murders ladies and keeps their heads in hatboxes. Genuinely good and a sign that both Reisz and Finney didn’t want their careers shackled to some images of a working class hero and down and dirty portrayals of the Brit class system

Some attention is paid to Charlie Bubbles, the only film Finney directed and one which was made for Finney and Michael Medwin’s Memorial Enterprises. Written by Shelagh Delaney  you got the distinct impression it was perhaps the most personal movie Finney ever made and you regret he never directed again. It’s one of the best one-shots of all time.

Three years later Finney and Medwin collaborated again on Gumshoe, Stephen Frears theatrical feature debut and one of the greatest British films ever made, a riff on private eye movies, set in Britain’s shabby north featuring Finney as a nightclub bingo caller who fantasises about becoming a private eye. Written by Neville Smith, a writer who had very few film credits, and featuring stellar performers Billie Whitelaw,  Janice Rule, Frank Finlay and especially, for one brilliant scene of banter with Finney worthy of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, the delectable Wendy Richard. This film crept quickly through the cinemas in its day but still has a loyal. 

Finney's contribution via the productions of Memorial Enterprises is also worthy of mention. The roster also included If..., O Lucky Man, Privilege, Law and Disorder, Loving Memory, Memoirs of a Survivor  and more. A retrospective somewhere would be nice.

Any other thoughts about films overlooked always welcome. Post them on Facebook.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Advance notice of a new Oz thriller CLAIR DE LUNE, shot in the Adelaide Hills on the interesting 9:16 ratio by young film-maker Mike Retter

Clair de Lune is a supernatural horror film about a young winemaker taking over from her father, during a time of industrial sabotage and harsh winter. 

A low-budget feature, shot vertically on real winery locations. Channeling real esoteric spiritualism of the Adelaide hills. 

Hebe Sayce, Clair de Lune (n..b. 9:16 ratio)
Clair de Lune stars Hebe Sayce, Aaron Broomhall, Robbie Greenwell, Tim Hawkins, Carmela Greco, and Peter Goers.

Rob Lawry speaks to director Mike Retter about shooting the film on Radio Adelaide's Onscreen Offscreen program.  

Listen to the Podcast if you click here