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Monday, 29 December 2014

Film Alert Number 1, 2015 - Annual Roundup, Big end of town developments, Brisbane shows, TV movies + more


Happy New Year It’s time for annual roundups and very shortly the Senses of Cinema World Poll will be upon us and we can all pore over the 500 films to be listed by Olaf Moller alone as well as many others submitted by a wide range of enthusiasts. My own list contains twelve films including one seen at Bologna having its first screening outside Japan after 80 years of obscurity. My full list in alphabetical order and the places where I saw them is:  Adieu au langage3D/Goodbye to Language 3D (Jean-Luc Godard, France) (Vancouver International Film Festival), Charlie’s Country (Rolf De Heer, Australia), Verona Paddington, The Golden Era (Ann Hui, Hong Kong/China) Event Cinemas, George Street, Haider (Vishrag Bhadwahl, India) Hoyts Paris, Hill of Freedom (Hong Sang Soo, South Korea), VIFF, Nebraska (Alexander Payne, USA), Randwick Ritz, Night Moves (Kelly Reichardt, USA, Sydney Film Festival, Nuoc 2030 (Nguyen Vogh Nghiem Minh, Vietnam), VIFF, Revivre (Im Kwontaek, South Korea), VIFF, Wintersleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey), Sydney Film Festival, A Woman Crying in Spring (Hiroshi Shimizu, Japan, 1933), Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, The Wonders (Alice Rohrwacher, Italy), VIFF.

For a more extensive list of other things seen, many of them old indeed very old, you can go to the new blog. For those who share the enthusiasm for or are even curious about the amazing Godard late life masterpiece Adieu au langage 3D, I am indebted to Ben Cho for locating an interview with the master loaded onto Youtube. It can be found in two parts here and here.

Moving and Shaking Part One A Chinese billionaire has bought the Hoyts Cinema chain, placing  the company in overseas ownership for the first time since it was sold off by Twentieth Century Fox several decades ago. For a brief history, Wikipedia informs me that at the start of the 20th century dentist Dr Arthur Russell, who was, in his spare time, a cornet player and a magician, purchased a share in a small American travelling circus, known as Hoyts Circus, and travelled with them as the resident magician. After a financially disastrous run, Russell returned to his work as a dentist.

Undeterred, he leased the old St. Georges Hall in Bourke Street, Melbourne (later known as the Hoyts Esquire), and began showing short films on Saturday nights. Unlike his previous venture, it was successful, and as a result, he formed a new company called Hoyts Pictures Pty. Ltd. By the time he died at the end of World War I, Hoyts had expanded into the suburbs of Melbourne, and into Sydney. In 1926, Hoyts and two other companies, Electric Theatres Pty. Ltd. and Associated Theatres Pty. Ltd., merged to become Hoyts Theatres Limited. In 1932, the Fox Film Corporation (now Twentieth Century Fox) secured a major shareholding in the company. In August 1982, Twentieth Century Fox sold Hoyts to a group of four Melbourne businessmen. The Wikipedia entry  is quite a mine of information.

My memory tells me that for much of my misspent youth and beyond, the foreign ownership of our cinemas (Greater Union being owned by the UK Rank Organization) was regarded as a significant deterrent to getting Australian films made and on our screens. For those who might like a small taste of what local producers had to deal with to get their films shown you might like to read Philip Adams recent Hector Crawford Memorial Lecture. In 2012 Hoyts distribution arm was sold off to the French company Studio Canal.

Moving and Shaking Part Two Leth Maitland, Secretary of the WEA Film Group and serious cinephile, writes following the press announcements that a proposed tower, Sydney’s tallest, is to be built on what is now part of the Event Cinema 18 Screen multiplex in George Street Sydney: I have not had any email response from anyone to whom I have sent information about the likely demolition of what is the former Hoyts Entertainment Centre, gutting most of what is currently the George Street Event Cinemas complex. Apparently this pioneering multiplex is not yet seen to have heritage value. It will not be missed until it is gone. I do not know that what will be left will be viable -- too few screens, no room for "Gold Class" and "Vmax" etc.

On a previous occasion when it was suggested that the cinemas would be abandoned to realise real estate value, the town planning advice from the City of Sydney was that they wanted the cinemas to stay put. Now, apparently, an "iconic" residential tower on George Street is more important.

I think that there is a real possibility that the only cinemas in the Sydney CBD will be the four at Dendy Opera Quays and Hoyts Cinema on Broadway way past Central Station at the other end of town . This is a big turnaround from the situation where all the cinemas in Sydney's suburbs had disappeared, and cinema-goers had to come to the CBD to see movies on a screen. In the 21st century, most of Sydney's cinemas may be back in the suburbs, in multiplexes in Westfield and other shopping centres.

Town planning with regard to the State Theatre has ebbed and flowed. I think that recent rebuilding around the State Theatre has probably been directed towards enhancing backstage space for live shows. If long-running live theatre shows ever got going at the State, those shows would be unlikely to take a holiday for two weeks in June for the Sydney Film Festival.

Exact details of the George Street proposal have now been included in a City of Sydney planning document. Apparently what disappears is what was formerly the Hoyts Entertainment Centre before the two cinemas were linked together to form the one giant multiplex, often reported as the most lucrative cinema in the world. What would be left is the former Greater Union six- or seven-cinema multiplex.

The cinemas screens that would disappear include those that have been used as one of the major venues each year for the Sydney Film Festival. There will be much less space in which to accommodate the Sydney Film Festival in what will become a smaller than average multiplex, if in fact that smaller multiplex remains open on George Street.
The Sydney Film Festival has thrived to the extent that it has in recent years (increased ticket sales) on the basis of its home base at the State Theatre, plus other screenings, including at Event Cinemas 8 and 9, plus during rebuilding works around the State, Event Cinemas 4 during weekdays.  All of these venues may become unavailable once demolition and then building commences probably a couple of years hence.

Other screenings, of Chinese and Indian films for example, that have taken place at Event Cinemas George Street, will no longer appear at this venue if it is radically reduced in size, and certainly nothing will be screened if the site is totally closed down.

Brisbane gets its act together.... The last major film event of the year, the Brisbane based combo of the Asia-Pacific Screen Awards and the Brisbane Asia-Pacific Film Festival has been and gone, finishing in early December. I've looked for any media reports including from those whom you might expect to cover it as a matter of routine, Inside Film, Screen Hub and Urban Cinefile. But...near to nothing. The only news thus far is from stalwart supporter of BIFF and its strategies in the sadly ended Anne Demy-Geroe era, Julie Rigg.  You can find her fine report at http://www.abc.net.au/arts/stories/s4151557.htm 


And without letting the momentum drop, Brisbane’s GOMA has announced it will host a major exhibition of David Lynch’s work in 2016. 'David Lynch: Between Two Worlds' will feature a personal appearance by the critically acclaimed director in Brisbane on Saturday 14 March 2015. Featuring over 200 works, this exhibition explores David Lynch's practice as a visual artist for 50 years, including paintings, photography and works on paper. 'Between Two Worlds' also includes a complete retrospective of Lynch's film, video and works for television. The GOMA website informs us that “In this exclusive to Brisbane in conversation with David will share insight into his life, his work and his many passions – painting, film, music and meditation. This discussion on harnessing the power of ideas draws on his celebrated book about meditation and the creative process, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity (2006).  However, rightly so, the event is already sold out, notwithstanding its $55.20 price tag.

Meanwhile back in the big smoke The price to see and hear David Lynch seems cheap to me if you compare it with prices charged by the St George Bank Open Air Cinema taking place throughout the summer at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair down on Sydney Harbour. The 2015 program consists of 42 films, “including seven Premiere and 13 Preview screenings, along with a selection of this summer's major releases from multi-award winning directors.”  Included among the premieres are Oscar contenders The Theory of Everything and Inherent Vice. Prices start at $36.70, with a concession price of $34.70 if you pre-book, and $37 and a concession of $35 if you just roll up on the night. Like Claude Rains when he discovered that gambling was happening at Ricks in Casablanca. “I am shocked”. However, it is part of a pattern that has been developed most especially at Palace Cinemas’ many film festivals, whereby if you want to see something first you are going to pay a hefty premium to do so before normal prices kick in later. Takes you back to the era of two sessions a day so-called roadshows whereby you paid high prices to attend the one cinema showing Lawrence of Arabia or Bridge on the River Kwai or South Pacific. But back then that went for the first year or so of release.

And reviving a Film Alert tradition... the ABC, in a programming decision which one hopes can only become a regular part of its schedule, has programmed a couple of Australian films from long ago and I recommend you set the recorder at least if you have never previously managed to catch them.

Buddies (Arch Nicholson, Australia, 1983, 97 minutes)
Starring Colin Friels and Harold Hopkins, this is the story of a couple of miners working their own little operation who are threatened by the big boys. While it had its moments and its supporters it also serves as a reminder of the somewhat blighted career of the late Arch Nicholson. His career began with the anti-war doco Or Forever Hold Your Peace  way back in 1970, after which Nicholson went to work at Film Australia. While there, he was set to direct Film Australia’s feature adaptation of David Ireland’s The Unknown Industrial Prisoner until then Attorney-General Bob Ellicott, in an act of grotesque political censorship stepped in and forced the project to be abandoned.
Monday 5 January at 12.15 am on ABC1

Mad Dog Morgan (Philippe Mora, Australia, 1976, 102 minutes)
Dennis Hopper as a crazed Australian bushranger. Made at the time when Hopper could play crazed characters from the inside. High hopes were held for the film when it was made but it didn’t really click with either critics or public. The ambitions were for a high art action movie that would bring kudos to all involved and sell a lot of tickets. The cast, after Hopper included a panoply of Oz big names including Jack Thompson, Gulpilil, Frank Thring, Michael Pate, Wallas Eaton, Bill Hunter, John Hargreaves, Martin Harris, Robin Ramsay and Graeme Blundell playing someone called Italian Jack.
Wednesday 7 January at 11.55 pm on ABC1

A date for the Diary...The Film Critics Circle of Australia usually presents the happiest and undoubtedly the most raucous Awards night of the year.  The selection of winners among the Australian feature films and feature documentaries competing is often quite unpredictable. The 2015 edition has been set down for the evening of Tuesday March 10 in the lavish surroundings of the showroom at the Paddington RSL on Oxford Street. A very modest admission price is charged and food and drink may be purchased throughout the proceedings. Star presenters and award-winners are on hand throughout often saying things they wouldn’t say elsewhere. More details about prices and bookings later but in the meantime keep the evening free.

 

 

 

 

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