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Saturday, 22 September 2018

The AFI/AACTA Awards - a few notes, a few questions

The Pretend One (Poster)
“Are you OK?” Without question that is the line uttered most frequently across the totality of the entries in the 2018 AFI/AACTA Awards. Just saying. …

There are 38 films nominated for Best Film in the Competition for Best Australian Feature Film. 18 of these films are also nominated for “Best Indie Film” a category which requires that the film be made for a budget of under $2 million. The under $2 mill movies were often made for a lot under $2 mill.  A lot of heart and soul or as one writer/lead actor advised. “This film was made with a lot of love because we had no money.” 

All 38 films will, by the time the screening schedule is complete, have been screened once in Sydney Melbourne and Brisbane at AFI/AACTA screenings either through the year or at the AACTA Festival. Attendances vary. For some, including where some of the film-makers were present, less than a couple of dozen spectators were on hand. The screenings of course get no favours. The Sydney Underground Film Festival, increasing in popularity is the word, and the behemoth Italian Film Festival with dozens of screenings at all the Palace Cinemas were on at some or all of the same time.

Included in the 38 titles are the films Gringo (Nash Edgerton) and Boy Erased (Joel Edgerton), both made in the USA, the former produced or acquired by industry megalith Amazon and the latter produced by Focus and by Anonymous Content and acquired by Universal for local distribution. 

In the case of Gringo the booklet states that it has been ‘deemed eligible to compete in the listed categories as it received the Department of Communications and the Arts’ PDV Offset and features Australians in key creative roles.’ The same is said in regard to The Lego Ninjago Movie (?, No director credit is included in the AFI/AACTA booklet).

Nor is there anything in the  booklet which explains how Boy Erased  came to be entered or accepted for entry. Maybe it’s because Edgerton also acts in the film along with Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman in supporting parts. Whatever. The audience gave it a good clap but nowhere near as good a clap as that received by Survive or Die (Daniel Okoduwa & Mike Kang) or even Indigo Lake (Martin Simpson). The applause for the two latter could possibly be explained by the fact that both audiences were significantly enlarged by many of the cast and crew being in attendance and thoroughly enjoying themselves.

You do however have to wonder how it is that Boy Erased, a film made in America, about Americans and American issues, from a memoir by an American, financed by an American company, distributed by an American company and whose credits list no significant Australian contribution beyond the presence of Joel Edgerton in front of and behind the camera, Nash Edgerton on stunts and the roles for Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman, gets deemed to be eligible for the AFI/AACTA Awards.  Of course I don’t know whether all of the more than a dozen people listed in the booklet are in fact Australians. Maybe all of them are.

But if not, you also have to wonder how it is that all the various guilds and professional associations haven’t hit the roof at having to compete with an American movie in the local awards.  ....Whatever. Maybe I missed it.

Actually, the credits in the booklet are quite interesting and indeed varied. For some titles, most notably the abovementioned Survive or Die, only a couple of names are listed. For others a quite extensive list is provided and on 26 of the titles the Casting Director is listed. Is there a casting award? What have I missed here? Whatever.

One thing the booklet doesn’t specify is the form of any government assistance provided to the production. If you sit through the end credits its sometimes possible to work out which films had taxpayer funded largesse and which didn’t. You shouldn’t assume that the eighteen films eligible for “Best Indie Film” have all been made without taxpayer assistance but you should assume that some of them have.

The Pretend One
So, among the “Indies” I have already passed some comments on West of Sunshine and The SecondStrange Colors and on Brothers' Nest.  Barrie Pattison has reviewed Jirga.  I haven't seen all eighteen of the entries but did write earlier about Angie Black's  The FIVE Provocations.  

Geraldine Hakewill, The Pretend One

The story of The Pretend  One  is a delight, smart, funny, something imaginative to set it apart from many of the others which are derivative and reliant on the tropes of far better models and predecessors. A young woman, living with her bitter, solitary father on a cotton farm, keeps her imaginary friend until well into womanhood. He's very much alive and present, at least for her. It drives dad nuts but the imaginary friend, increasingly mean and bitter himself as the arc of the story takes her away from him, provides much of the humour. People are going to work out their lives and priorities in a quite detailed environment whose peace is disturbed by the arrival by the arrival of a handsome young journalist who wants to get the town story down. This meeting in the pub isn’t like TV and Heather Ewart’s Backroads  by the way. The almost entirely male denizens of the pub are a mostly ignorant bunch full of beer, bile and grumpiness, not at all saintly, generous, tolerant outback folks of legend. It all works out mostly for the best and there’s more than a smidgin of sentimentality but the treatment of the imaginary friend, of peoples’ lives changing for the better and the bit of suffering that has to be borne is really well done, filled with imaginative turns.

I fear for the film of course. It's got a 2017 date on it so its been around awhile already. It's unlikely that it will win anything. It seems unlikely it will ever get any reviews. It may not even get shown anywhere else. Them’s the breaks, but if writer James Raue, director Prescott and producer Dinusha Ratnaweera come knocking then somebody doling out taxpayer-funded largesse should hear them out and give them enough money to make another modest movie. 

With this film, and with Strange Colors (Alena Lodkina) and The Five Provocations (Angie Black) mentioned above, we have some films this year that actually make you think there is some talent out there to nurture.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Canberra International Film Festival 2018 - Homage to the great Australian Cinematographer Robert Krasker

The forthcoming Canberra International Film Festival will have a special focus on the work of Robert Krasker the first Australian cinematographer to win an Oscar. Three films have been selected to represent the diversity of his work and the quite extraordinary skill he displayed in creating images on both large and small scales.

For more details and tickets on this and the whole program go to

Friday 26 OCTOBER at 7.30pm 
Director: Carol Reed1949, UK 104 mins B&W Classification: PG 
With Joseph Cotton, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard 
Reed’s masterpiece, and a deservedly celebrated British thriller,THE THIRD MAN won Australian Robert Krasker an Oscar forBest Cinematography. Krasker’s experience in Germanystudying the lighting and photography of the expressionistperiod, allowed him to apply an unforgettably dark andbrooding atmosphere to the shadows, cobble-stone alley-waysand damaged grandeur of war-torn Vienna. The story followsa naïve American pulp-fiction novelist (Joseph Cotton) in his attempts to find an old friend who is now deeply embroiled in the post-war black-market and drug-dealing. Orson Welles revels in his scenes as the menacing Harry Lime, and the entire cast is perfect. With an original screenplay by Graham Greene, and electrifying music on the zither by Anton Karas, the whole film is “a tender/tough classic” (Time Out), which can be re-visited endlessly, especially in this new 4k restoration.
Saturday 27 OCTOBER at 1.30pm
Director: Joseph Losey1960, UK 86 mins B&WClassification: unclassified (CIFF recommends M) 
With Stanley Baker, Sam Wanamaker, Margit Saad, Patrick Magee 
Re-building his career after being blacklisted in Hollywoodduring the McCarthy witch-hunts, Joseph Losey found a wealthof support in England. Loser took a commission to make a crime movie
 about an old-fashioned lone-wolf criminal trying to outwit alarge crime syndicate. Losey transformed the project into an
 exercise in existential angst, with the best of collaborators:actor Stanley Baker, hiding his anguish beneath a severe,
 tight-lipped exterior; emerging playwright Alun Owen (his first feature, soon to be followed by A HARD DAY’S NIGHT) who crafted terse, percussive dialogues; and above all, Robert Krasker, whose willingness to play with light and camera angles gave Losey perfect expression for his intense, baroque vision. John Dankworth’s moody jazz score adds to the mix, especially with Cleo Laine singing the haunting, recurring, theme song. 

Sunday 28 OCTOBER at 4.00pm
Director: Anthony Mann1963, USA/Spain 182 mins Colour Classification G 
With Charlton Heston, Sophia Loren, Raf Vallone, Genevieve Page and Australia’s own Frank Thring 
Described by Martin Scorsese as "one of the greatest epic films
 ever made" this cast-of-thousands big-screen movie depicted
 episodes in the life of the 11th century Spanish hero who fought to defend his country from invading Moors. Krasker shifts effortlessly from his dark b&w thrillers to a rich palette of bold colours, magnificent wide-screen compositions, and a camera that swoops and glides and encircles the characters. The climactic siege of Valencia is one of Krasker’s finest hours, and he thoroughly deserved an award from the British Society of Cinematographers. Director Anthony Mann was best known for his tough gutsy Westerns and is in top form, as is Miklos Rozsa with a full-blooded music score. Of all the epics that Samuel Bronston produced in the 1960s, this one, according to Geoff Andrew in Time Out, was “one of the very finest ... genuinely stirring ... and equally impressive in terms of script (by Philip Yordan) and spectacle.” 

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

On Region-free US Blu-ray - A new restored edition of Phillip Brophy's BODY MELT (Australia, 1998)

Phillip Brophy
Watching this year’s crop of AFI/AACTA nominated films this year gives the distinct impression that as a nation of film-makers our main trope is derivation. Watching them at a moment when smallminds and idiots everywhere are sticking needles in the fruit crop, you realise that one of our national default modes is mindlessly copying others. Yet one film in our past leapt out of those circumstances to make something quite unique, something which at the time in fact drew some praise from the cognoscenti but which has now developed a two-decade long and quite formidable international reputation for its unique combination of genre subversion, dirty black humour, gross-out special effects and satirical dismembering of many Oz icons.

Phillip Brophy’s Body Melt became our own outlier movie. It exists almost as Australia’s, singular, film maudit, its aesthetic being such that, despite the praise referred to it caused noses to be turned up from the moment of its first appearance. It both began and ended Brophy’s career as a commercial film-maker. Brophy himself has written somewhat philosophically about his fate and that of the film. 

Among its public champions. Adrian Martin has continually, even doggedly, championed the film, most recently here on Film Alert when another local Blu-ray edition was released. You can also read more of Adrian’s views on his Film Critic website. Quentin Tarantino has also been most supportive.

Now, the film’s producer, and regular Film Alert contributor Rod Bishop, has drawn attention to the reception of the film on the invaluable DVD Beaver website. There is much technical analysis devoted here to a new US edition of the film which producer Bishop and others claim show the film off to its best extent ever. Go to the link for some very detailed commentary. 

You can buy the Region-free disc if you go to this link. Here below is the cover of the edition, one of many on offer, you should be looking for.

The Road to Pordenone - Barrie Pattison stops over in Paris to check out old haunts

Back in Paris you can see the movie enthusiast thing losing traction. They have closed "Le Clef". But  they renamed "Le Desperado" (below) and the same policy persists there. I find myself at midnight with three people watching Dario Argento's worst movie (Opera, Italy, 1987). The feeling of having come home persists.

For the city never stops providing agreeable surprises. I'm sitting in a terrace cafe as a couple in Spiderman suits pass. Late night the Rue Monge fills with a hundred roller skaters. The walls of the houses have been decorated with cartoon characters, I find my way home referencing a six foot digitised Daffy Duck.

Edmond T Greville
The Cinémathèque is going full blast. I meet friends from other locations who come to see the vintage French films they have resurrected (Edmond T Greville's POUR UNE NUIT D'AMOUR from 1946, is a particularly welcome surprise, covering the same ground as DOUCE and DIABLE AU CORPS and giving Sylvie a particularly strong outing) and we agree that this is a world beating location. Anyone who turned up here every night for three years would have as strong a grip on what has been done with film as I have after a life time. They manage to muster fifty people a session for the most unlikely material.

I can't help feeling that it's an abuse of process to focus this activity on Leo McCarey. When I met him sixty years back McCarey struck me as a right wing windbag given to making statements like "My old father on his death bed told me never to bore the people." MY SON JOHN (1952) rates with the worst films of all time. We are talking Tony Ginnane bad there. Even his THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937) is so inferior to the comparable films of George Stevens and Frank Capra. 

Max Davidson
It was a great surprise to find McCarey had done the great silent two reel comedies of Max Davidson and Charlie Chase which are included here, with an hour long Charlie Chase from the transition to sound having the cast speak French plausibly. That one was directed by Edgar Kennedy.

However old habits die hard. I can't bring myself to miss rare 35mm. copies of the early McCarey sound films. It is striking to find how much less rewarding this is than doing the comparable films of George Abbott or, as I did recently, Sam Wood. The Paramount comedies like LET'S GO NATIVE (1930) are uniform in the studio style and intermittently entertaining but the surprise is McCarey's Fox films like WILD COMPANY (1930) which is totally serious and an indictment of parents who let their children fall in with a bad lot.
The judge goes heavy on H.B. Warner, paroling errant son Frank Albertson into his custody for five years, when the kid didn't actually do anything. No sympathy with flaming youth here. 

These are shot largely in sustained 1.2 two shot with no music. The sound editing is remarkably crude with unwanted cue lines-off discernable on the track at the edits.


Really the range of new material would be a better way to spend my time. The Moroccan film SOFIA (Meryem Benm’Barek, 2018) where they explain that sex between people who are not married is a five year jailable offence. The central character is your classic innocent unprotected finding herself pregnant and friendless despite the efforts of her more sophisticated colleague. This gets to be pretty harrowingThe character who becomes involving is the husband they find her - a single tear running down his face as he faces a life of trucking crates of green apples and  a domineering ingenue. He spits on her.

Films like this or the Iranian/Danish THE CHARMER (Milad Alami, 2017) which shares some of the same preoccupations are more probing than almost all of that which makes it way to Australia.
Le Desperado Cinema, Paris
(formerly Le Clef)

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

An Oz Classic on show - THE SENTIMENTAL BLOKE centenary screening in Adelaide - November 18

The indefatigable David Donaldson has arranged for an Adelaide screening to celebrate the centenary of the premiere of Raymond Longford's classic The Sentimental Bloke. David writes:

Arthur Tauchert, Gilbert Emery, Lottie Lyell,
The Sentimental Bloke

Doreen and The Bloke
The Sentimental Bloke was produced by the Adelaide company, Southern Cross Feature Film Co.  As reported with enthusiasm by the Adelaide press the next day (click on the link below), at the Wondergraph private show on 26 November 1918 were C.J. Dennis, Raymond Longford, Arthur Tauchert, Lottie Lyell and the cinematographer Arthur Higgins, 

The South Australia State Library will commemorate that show on Monday 26 November 2018 in the Hetzel Room. The legendary Adelaide musician Tom King had played for the film in 1919 and in 1961 the National Library recorded his piano accompaniment.

Watch for announcements from the State Library!
The show will be free but limited to 120 seats. 
Early inquiry to

Monday, 17 September 2018

Canberra International Film Festival - First news of a quality program mostly devoted to classics of the cinema

A highlight of CIFF 2019
The greatest film ever made
click here for more
CIFF proudly returns in 2018 with a special 3-day retrospective film event featuring gems from the past, with special guests, Q&As and panels, and an emphasis
 on Australian cinema. In addition, CIFF presents the Australian premiere
 of two outstanding new films exploring cinema history. 
26 - 28 OCTOBER 
and from Reception at the National Film and Sound Archive 
Enquiries: Contact the Festival office on: 02 6248 0851 in office hours, or email: 
Margarethe Von Trotta, whose documentary on Ingmar Bergman is a highlight of
CIFF 2019

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Talkie Talk #29 - Adam Bowen alerts to the Italian Film Festival, the week's new releases and a rare TV sighting of an early Ken Loach POOR COW

The ITALIAN FILM FESTIVAL is in full swing across Australia. Check it out  by clicking here

Talkie Talk has seen: Boys Cry/La Terra d’Abastanza (Damiano & Fabio D'Innocenzo)  – about teenage youths from a dreary Rome suburb, who turn to crime. It’s okay, but you may have seen it done better in Gomorrah(2014). If you like elongated sequences of close-up noses and eyes, dull wide-shot discussions, and highly-strung biff; this is for you.

Sergio Leone
There’s also a 4k restoration of Sergio Leone’s horse opera A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

Rachael Taylor, Angourie Rice, Julia Ormond, Alison McGirr
Ladies in Black
Ladies in Black– Beresford’s back with a comedy-drama set in a Sydney department store, circa 1959. Rachael Taylor, Angourie Rice and Susie Porter. Score by maestro, Christopher the trailer here

Ghosthunter – Aussie doco about “a real-life ghost hunter”.

A House with a Clock in its Walls– our Cate stars with Jack Black in a family fantasy about an orphan and a clock, which can end the world.

Johnny English Strikes Again – unfortunately.

I Am Paul Walker– doco about the short life of the fast-living actor of the title.

Smallfoot – an animated adventure from a Yeti’s point of view.

Qismat – a new Punjabi romantic comedy. Click on this YouTube link. Presenting the first video song for Kaun Hoyega from the upcoming Punjabi film 'Qismat'

Mandy – Nicholas Cage tries to keep his hair on after a religious sect executes his beloved.

Golden Job – Hong Kong heist by the young and dangerous. 

Tuesday 18th 10am Fox Classics: The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) – noir melodrama in which the sins of Barbara Stanwyck’s past return to haunt her. Also starring Van Heflin, Kirk Douglas, Lizabeth Scott and Aussie Judith Anderson. Wild score by Miklos Rozsa.

Tuesday 1210pm 9 GemPoor Cow: Ken Loach’s first feature film about a misguided, single mum (Carol White). Shot in Eastmancolour, doco-style, by Tony Imi; it was a landmark for “alternative” cinema, in that it was released in mainstream cinemas (mainly due to its “controversial” subject matter.)

Vale Frances Calvert - Andrew Pike and Yangon Film School of Myanmar remember a major documentary film-maker of our time (from Facebook).

Andrew Pike writes: A dear friend, dedicated documentary filmmaker and teacher, Frances Calvert (above), died unexpectedly in Sydney on 2 September. She was visiting Australia from her home in Berlin, and had just finished an annual teaching commitment at the Yangon Film School in Myanmar. 

Frances’s work is much-loved and respected, especially three films that she made in the Torres Strait islands – Talking Broken(1990), Cracks in the Mask (1997) and The Tombstone Opening (2012) – all popular on NITV and in the TSI community, and all have on-going use in education world-wide. 

In recent times, she had developed her most ambitious project, Buena Vista Australia, about Luis Váez de Torres, the first European to navigate the Torres Strait in the early 1600s. Frances had secured Spanish backing for the film but finance in Australia was still being sought. 

She will be deeply missed by many. 

The funeral service will be held on Saturday 22 September at 2pm in Sydney: please message me or email me at details.
Cracks in the Mask
A Message from Yangon Film School, Myanmar
FAREWELL to Frances Calvert – YFS Film History Tutor
YFS is deeply saddened to receive the news of the unexpected passing in Sydney, Australia of Frances Calvert, long-standing YFS tutor of the course “Ways of Seeing: A History of Film Form”.
In her own documentaries, Frances chose to shine a light on the colonial past and ambivalent present of the Torres Strait Islanders in Australia’s far north, but she had an encyclopaedic knowledge of many different film genres and forms from all around the world. Her passion for the art of film knew no bounds. 
As anyone who attended her classes at YFS or at the Goethe Institute in Yangon will know, Frances was not only an exceptionally knowledgeable teacher but someone who exuded genuine warmth and a natural ability to inform her teaching with a unique sense of humour and love of life.
Farewell, dear Frances, you will be sorely missed!

Saturday, 15 September 2018

On YouTube - Peter Hourigan delves into Pawel Pawlikowski before the ‘COLD WAR’.

Including, a Long Train Journey into the DTs 
(Click on the underlined links where applicable. Click on the pictures to enlarge them or see them in a slideshow.) 
OK – my enthusiasm for Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War may have been coloured because I saw it in Poland in the first week of its release.  But it’s undeniably a fine film – and my enthusiasm sent me into Pawlikowski’s back catalogue. Ida (2013) certainly solidified his reputation in the awareness of many art-house goers.  But what came before?  Films and television in England and France.
Pawel Pawlikowski
Pawlikowski was born in Poland in 1957. When he was 14 Pawel went with his mother on what he thought was to be a holiday in England. Instead, he didn’t really return until he was an adult.  He lived for some time in Germany before returning to England, where he studied Literature and Philosophy at Oxford University. He has taught film direction and screenwriting both in England and Poland.  And he started a career in filmmaking with several documentaries in the late 1980s and early 1990s, around the time that Communism was collapsing in Russia and the Soviet Satellites.
 Several of his early pieces made for British Television (and signed Paul Pawlikowski) are viewable in reasonably copies on YouTube. In my post Cold War euphoria I sought them out.  They reflect his background as an East European and his studies in Literature.  (They are each 40-50 minutes long.)
Venedikt Yerofeev, the subject of
Pawlikowski's FROM
Venedikt Yerofeev was a Russian writer, and his Moscow Stations was written in 1969. Certainly not the kind of writing approved of by Soviet authorities, it existed first in samizdat copies, passed from hand to hand as a typewritten manuscript until it was eventually published in an official magazine Sobriety and Culture in 1989. Yerofeev died of throat cancer the next year. 

The book is a record of our narrator’s train journey from Moscow to Pietushki about 125 kms east of Moscow. The chapter divisions mark the stations along the way, as our alcoholic-intellectual narrator gets more and more inebriated, sharing with us thoughts on society, recipes for some lethal sounding concoctions for keeping up your alcohol intake and his growing delusions and nightmares. The observations are perceptive, and often also very funny.  Perhaps comparisons can be made with William Burroughs, or Charles Bukowski, or a number of other writers whose addictions to drugs or alcohol seeped into, structured their prose. 
Pawlikowski’s documentary is a fitting memory of this writer, made just before his death.  Yerofeev’s contributions are made via an electro-larynx.  He is a fascinating character, and Pawlikowski’s film captures this in a seemingly loosely structured way, one which explores his writing, his niche in Soviet Russia at the end of the Communist era, and in world literature in general.  This is one of those documentaries that sent me to read the book (published in English by Faber) and then to sink myself into the documentary again.  
Dmitri Dostoevsky, Leningrad tramdriver,
the subject of Pawlikowski's
This is one of those enjoyable little diversions.  Yes, it’s true to title. But our traveler is not Fyodor of Crime and Punishment fame, but Dmitri his great-grandson and only living survivor. Dmitri is a tram driver in Leningrad (yes, we’re still in the Soviet era) but what’s in a name for him is that he gets invitations from literary societies in the West to come and address them.  Dmitri really doesn’t seem to have much interest in literature, but he’d love to be able to take a car back to Russia. So we follow him from some of the stuffy literary soirees to used car yards where he hopes to buy something that is least working, giving that he only has a Soviet income. 

Now, this one is something else. The passage of years has given it a bizarre taste. Here the protagonist is Radavan Karadzic, now a convicted war criminal.  But that notoriety was in the future when this was made.  Instead we have what could almost be a PR piece commissioned by Karadzic himself. Yet, it’s really not quite that.  Some of the background to the making of the film can be seen ten minute excerpt from a Q&A with Pawlikowski. This is shot with a phone, and the visuals and sound are poor, but this is worth putting up with. 

Pawlikowski reveals that he got funding from one of the Arts programs, not Current Affairs. So there is more discussion about some the treasures of Serbian literature. This summary is, I feel, fair.
‘Women don’t wage wars’, Radovan Karadzic’s mother says when her son comes to visit her and tells her about the military situation in Bosnia. A little later, SERBIAN EPICS shows a meeting of the Bosnian-Serbian war cabinet, in which the now notorious Ratko Mladic and Biljana Plavcic are seated. Initially, the tone of this portrait of Karadzic - psychiatrist, poet, businessman and leader of the Bosnian Serbs - is light-hearted, but gradually a shady world of power and delusion emerges. Without comment, with an almost anthropological eye, director Pawel Pawlikowski observes the besiegers of Sarajevo. The Serbian cultural heritage - centuries-old songs and poems - is used to justify the new ethnic struggle, and Karadzic loves to recite poetry.
Time has given this a weird feeling.  It also makes a pair with his next piece.
Tripping with Zhirinovsky
Zhirinovsky is introduced by Wikipedia thus: Vladimir Volfovich Zhirinovsky is a Russian ultranationalist politician and leader of the LDPR party. He is fiercely nationalist and has been described as "a showman of Russian politics, blending populist and nationalist rhetoric, anti-Western invective and a brash, confrontational style"

Here we join Zhirinovsky as he goes out among the people and it’s a compelling, scary pageant. Pawlikowski doesn’t really editorialise, he just lets Zhirinovsky expose his ignorance and banalities. Though the frightening thing is that Zhirinovsky (a Trump before his time) is too self-centred to realise this. 

His next major project seems to have been a work called Twockers (1998) but what is on YouTube, in these two parts one and two, doesn’t seem to be the whole piece. The same year he made a film called The Stringerfor the BBC. There is very little information about this, except it is about a young man with a (video) camera drifting around Moscow looking for material he hopes will interest Western News Agencies. 

He was now moving into feature films, with Last Resort (2000) and My Summer of Love (2004) in the UK. His next film was made in France in 2011 Woman in the Fifth with Ethan Hawke and Kristin Scott Thomas. It is a solid thriller, entertaining but not really warning us that his next films, to be made in Poland, would be Ida and Cold War.

Cold War

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Adelaide Film Festival - An open letter to Bill Mousoulis about Angie Black's THE FIVE PROVOCATIONS

Dear Bill Mousoulis

I’ve just got back from the Sydney AFI/AACTA screening of one of your Adelaide Film Festival choices, Angie Black’s  The FIVE Provocations . I thought it might have been the first time the film was screened in Sydney but the record shows there was apparently a festival screening in April. Who knew.

I can see why you like this film and chose it to show off indy film-making. In many ways it’s like one of your own movies – very natural characters, the quotidian experience of going to work, facing problems, running into the odd eccentric, some joyful moments, some sad feelings. Real people, awkward interaction.
Above all it’s a movie filled with characters who talk in natural voices and the frequently stuttering cadences of the everyday, not the voices of actors with pauses and emphasis and modulation. Its raw and its funny and its real because of that.
It’s also funny because those five provocations of the title come out of nowhere, surreal moments that give the narrative a real jolt. There’s no way you can predict just what they might be and what they might mean but each is a bit of visual ravishment.
The audience at the AFI/AACTA screening seemed to love it and they might just have left with a wonderful memory of that drag queen version of "Lili Marlene". Very smart, very funny.
A fabulous choice to show off what can be done with  modest means but lots of heart and soul to back up a commitment to a kind of film-making that Australian cinema mostly steers clear of. 

There’s also some fine technical work. The photography and especially the lighting are superb. I’m constantly astonished at how good low-budget movies can look now that digital cameras have liberated the image from the stodge of cheap 16mm.
I just hope that the audience comes out to see it at the AFF and justifies your bold piece of programming.
Best of luck


On Blu-ray - David Hare discovers the work of Derek Jarman and Andrew Haigh

After Lindsay Kemp's death, reported here a couple of weeks ago, my mind kept wandering back to that whole punk/post punk era of New Brit anti-establishment 70s and 80s protest. 
I guess the greatest exponents of the Costume/High Aesthetic/Romance/ Glam branch of gay punk were Lindsay, and of course Derek Jarman. The very best gay movie ever made in my opinion is Jarman's masterpiece, Edward II (1991) adapted from the greatest Shakespeare history/tragedy the old man never actually wrote. It was written by Christopher Marlowe. 
More recently I finally caught up with the new Lionsgate disc of Andrew Haigh's superb, completely non-gay Lean on Pete, which is however a product of the most refined gay sensibility currently working in movies. 
The Jarman hits one of its many, many peaks and my own heart breaking favorite, Annie Lennox (above) singing Cole  Porter's  “Every Time We say Goodbye” for the 1990 memorial anthem AIDS CD and video of Cole Porter covers called “Red Hot and Blue” while Edward and Gaveston clinch for what will be the last time. It’s on Youtube if you click on this link Every Time We Say Goodbye. The song was previously a track directed by Jarman. It’s a song that Jarman stages, dressed with minimal glam and heartfelt romance as a hymn to those of us who were dying during the plague. 
It is, needless to say a cue to floods of tears from every gay man who ever drew breath, and I proudly confess to such abasement. I have to say I have an uneasy relationship with Jarman's work. Indeed, the last time I tackled his Wittgenstein, with the grand company of Jennifer Sabine we both gave up after thirty minutes (no dibs Jen.) Maybe it's just that I find his work uneasy as a personal classicist. 
I often find Jarman's execution more inadequate than necessary for his conceptions. The didacticism and fourth wall elements of Wittgenstein and other movies have seemed to me fragmentarily incoherent. The late abstract films, when he went blind, are very moving, but as much for meta-cinematic reasons as anything. But the two majestic exceptions are his The Tempest and especially the Marlowe which is one of the first, and the greatest gay works of art in the English (or anyone's) language. 
It does take someone as completely immersed in gay sensibility as Jarman to actually come anywhere near queering the play up to the temperament and florid violence it requires in presentation. The accumulations of detail, like a male nude clusterfuck ballet (above), and La Tilda (below) swinging a 3500 quid Hermes bag in her first entrance, and then Annie Lennox singing Cole at the high point is where Marlowe's work needed to be taken. Only Jarman could do and he did it. 
From 90s glimmer punk to the new bucolic simplicity from Andrew Haigh in Lean on Pete, a devastating portrayal of a boy growing into a man which proudly belongs in the company of Mackendrick's Sammy Going South.
Haigh completely redeems his cred for me here after the disappointment of 45 Years. The latter was buried by ole dead eyes Rampling who, while she may be nice for BO and video sales, puts a really dampening pedal on the delicate psychology and nuanced mood of that screenplay. 
Pete is a wonder, with an 18 year-old Charlie Plummer (above) in an astonishing feature debut performance leading the movie in a moving narrative road journey with an old dying racehorse (below)whom he loves, who goes and dies in the middle of the story, leaving Plummer to work his way through the nightmare of growing up alone, on the road. I have no idea how much critical consensus played on this picture, but I celebrate it as joyously as his debut feature, Weekend in 2011. 
Haigh has the insight not to overwrite or over-direct either incident or performance, and leaves the space for action and pause to the intuitions of his actors. Despite that his players never seem improvisatory but always spontaneous. The narrative discovery travels with them and comes to us at much the same time. I am inclined to rate him formally with Kelly Reichardt, although they have quite unique personalities as directors The movie also looks drop dead gorgeous. And the new US Lionsgate Blu-ray is absolutely perfect. The Jarman comes from a recent Japanese Film Movement Classics Blu-ray which, if you can get it, is highly desirable.