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Monday, 30 April 2018

On Limited Release - A new Australian documentary by Les McLaren & Annie Stiven LIFE IS A VERY STRANGE THING (2017)

Annie Stiven and Les McLaren spent 15 years in Papua New Guinea since the early 1970s working at various cultural institutions in Papua New Guinea and in Australian screen production across many genres.
Their five previous films made in Papua New Guinea observed cultural practice and cultural change and have featured in international festivals including in Paris, Amsterdam, Florence, New York and Rio de Janeiro: Pikizjaa, Kama Wosi, Namekas, Cowboy & Maria in Town(Winner Best Documentary, Sydney Film Festival), and Taking Pictures.

They produced the website Pacific Stories, Les wrote and directed the 3-part documentary series Viva Timor Leste!and Annie has recently completed a novel set in Oceania.

Their latest film focuses on one of their acquaintances from those days. They write: When we first met Frédéric, he was an ebullient teenager recording traditional music in remote villages of Papua New Guinea.  Nearly 40 years later we met him again in France: returned home, retired, divorced and with an ancient hunch-backed dog as his constant companion. 

Frederic (l) in Paris, Life is a Very Strange Thing
He’d lost none of his keenness or wit, and as he recounted his unlikely story we started shooting.  Over 2 years we followed his daily activities and encounters: in cafes, brocante shops and at lunch with neighbours, and we met three generations of the remarkable Duvelle family.
As filmmakers we are interested in how threads of history and culture, the personal and the political intersect.  With Frédéric and his family we found a unique prism for viewing these threads at a time of profound change.

The resulting film Life is a Very Strange Thing had its premiere at the 2017 Brisbane International Film Festival and is now starting a national tour of limited screenings at select venues. 

First up is Sydney on 17 May Palace Norton Street, Leichhardt, and on 23 May at the Roseville Cinema. 


 There is more information on the film’s website if you click here

 and you can watch a trailer of the film   if you click here

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Vale Phil D'Antoni - John Snadden remembers the producer of three great action movies.

Phil D'Antoni
I've just seen where Hollywood producer Phil D'Antoni has died. He was responsible for producing three rolled gold crime-action classics from the late 1960s and early 70s, namely BULLIT(1968), THE FRENCH CONNECTION(1971) and THE SEVEN-UPS(1973) (which he also directed). Peter Yates and William Friedkin were then outsiders whose take on the gangster movie was something special. Each film was also highlighted by a tremendous car chase sequence, and it's nearly impossible to pick which one could be classed as the best. Personally, I think the slam-bang ending to the pursuit in THE SEVEN-UPS is nearly impossible to top.


Japanese Poster, The Seven -Ups


Saturday, 28 April 2018

CINEMA REBORN - DW Griffith via Jean- Luc Godard leads to WOMAN ON THE RUN (Norman Foster, USA, 1950)



I thought it was Jean-Luc Godard who asked what do filmgoer's want? and answered "A girl and a gun." But I stand corrected. Here is the definitive explanation from a website named  the Cine Tourist.  

All over the internet and in scholarly works, the phrase 'all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun' is  attributed to Jean-Luc Godard, and that despite his insistence that 'c'est Griffith qui a dit ça, ce n'est pas moi' ('it was Griffith who said that, not me').

Godard seems to have first attributed the phrase to Griffith in 1964, in the trade-press spread announcing his forthcoming film Bande à part:
'What do filmgoers want?' Griffith asked. 'A girl and a gun'. 
It's to meet their wishes that I have made, and that Columbia 
will distribute, Bande à part, a sure-fire story that will 
sell a lot of tickets.

Now you all know.

CINEMA REBORN’S girl and a gun can be found in 
Norman Foster’s Woman on the Run  Click on the link to go 
to the Cinema Reborn website for the program notes by Eddie 
Cockrell

Restored by the Film Noir Foundation with financial support 
from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association



Spanish Film Festival - Barrie Pattison enjoys THE TRIBE (Fernando Colomo)

Most of what I see in the Spanish Film Festival has the Film Factory logo on the front and proves to be aimed at a none too sophisticated audience with a taste for bawdy gags. This is OK until the pattern becomes obvious.

I miss last year's sharper films, most of which came from Argentina . They also seem have given Penelope Cruz and Luis Tosar a bye for this event, which is a pity.

The Festival's much touted La tribu/The Tribe, from Fernando Colomo, has a precision tooled opening where in no time we’ve seen Paco León as the ruthless Omnicron Company human resources executive become a viral video sensation for being stretchered out of the office as "hombre lapa", trapped inside his intern when someone fires a shot at his window while they are having sex. A year later the reunion with his unknown birth mother Carmen Machi at the hotel where she is a cleaner (a whole floor in half a shift) doesn’t go too well and he all but throws himself under a bus, being rushed into casualty where he reveals amnesia and has trouble forming sentences - this is all in the first few minutes.

One of the dismissed workers has made off with the bag with his papers and keys. The bulk of the film is her taking care of him when he has lost his identity. 

Starting with a nice montage of traveling through a Madrid totally strange to León, onto life in Machi's crowded, flat (“it smells like feet”). Her layabout sons Artur Busquets and Manuel Huedo reject their new brother. Things take shape when they turn him out and he makes his way to her class with "Las Momis" - the mothers who used to hang around outside the dance studio waiting for their kids until they formed their own troop.

The numbers performed by the plain, middle aged working class women are the film’s high points and its reason for being. It must have been rough finding a plausible group who could handle the dance moves and they are a great collection. When Léon shows up, glamorous instructor Maribel del Pino enthuses “A man at last!” and things liven up when one of the team watches Paco nail the steps and tells him that before he lost his memory, he must have been a dancer or a “maricon” - no political correctness here.

Agreeable complication from the presence of his real father, supermarket proprietor Luis Bermejo whom he has never met. Léon practicing his moves while putting the disorganised bodega in shape is a nice scene. As this is going on, our hero is surrounded by the hundreds of agro Omnicron workers he put on the streets who don’t recognise him.

A talent scout for Spain’s Got Talent spots him working with the women and senses a sensational hombre lapa item for the show and our hero gets a shock that makes him snap back (“Soy un mostro”) just before the performance, setting up an agreeable, unlikely ending. Somewhere in the Nightanybody?

This one is nicely put together and is a triumph for Léon, surprisingly so after his own so so Kiki, el amor se hacelast year, which used some of the same people and tried for a similar blue comedy style - more scatology this time. He even manages to shade Machi who is so good in the event’sLa Puerta abierta/The Open Door- no small accomplishment.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Melbourne film-maker Nigel Buesst turns 80 - Tributes from Friends and Colleagues

Thanks to Bill Mousoulis for putting in the hard yards and assembling a terrific tribute to Melbourne indie film-maker, teacher, photographer and gadfly Nigel Buesst.

You can read it if you click on this link

Happy Birthday Nigel!!!

Memories of Bonjour Balwyn especially come flooding back!!!


Wednesday, 25 April 2018

In Print - Max Berghouse reads David Bordwell's "Reinventing Hollywood: How the 1940's Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling"

David Bordwell (with Kristin Thompson)
Mr Bordwell is a most interesting writer. He has an easy and approachable writing style that could be considered by some as no more than upper-class journalese but I think in fact is a deliberate style so that the words don't get in the way of the meaning. This, meaning rather than form, after all is the singular import of his filmic interest whereby a whole gamut of reasons create "meaning" in films. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the industrial/profit motive of all cinema and especially Hollywood and his cultural and historical knowledge and sensibility seems to me unrivalled. Until now I have known him most in terms of his knowledge of the Hollywood studio system and the way in which he is able to make very balanced judgements about it.

It's a very big ask to accept the author's claim in this his latest work that storytelling in the 1940's, especially Hollywood but also elsewhere "changed". His basic thesis is that studios and directors constantly tried to expand novelty in films, purely as a lure for audiences. He is not concerned with the audience or the public as such. By way of example, film noir is to some extent a response by the studios to the unease of the immediately post-Second World War period, particularly in men returning to a very changed world from their years of service overseas. Mr Bordwell acknowledges this but it is not central to his thesis.

Ultimately I don't think this thesis is made out at all but the book is splendidly entertaining and the author collects an extraordinary wide number of examples. I particularly enjoyed his study of British films from the early part of the period and of the effect of a new generation of writers, directors and producers, all in competition.

Quite the best part of this for me is that the author has collected many examples, basically clips from films but also commentary so that one can turn from the written word, almost immediately to a clip to make judgement.

I truly enjoyed this book which like most published literature is considerably more expensive than I think it ought to be, but which, in reality is cheap for the knowledge and entertainment it gives.

David Bordwell, Reinventing Hollywood: How the 1940's Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling 
ISBN – 13:978 – 0 – 226 – 48775 – 5, University Of Chicago Press, 2017.

WAKE IN FRIGHT - Author, critic, teacher and scholar Peter Galvin seeks help with his research


Hello Friends

Please find details here re my forthcoming book about Wake in Fright (1971) and my crowdfunding campaign - which is now live at the Australian Cultural Fund

I'm seeking funds to complete my research and deliver the book by year's end.

Please forward to anyone who you think might help in any way (ie donations or getting the word out!)

Thank you all for your help already!


“Wake in Fright is a masterpiece and certainly one of the best films ever made in Australia.”
David Stratton, Critic and Author

A LONG WAY FROM ANYWHERE

PETER GALVIN’s FORTHCOMING BOOK

THAT TELLS THE DEFINITIVE UNTOLD STORY BEHIND THE MAKING OF THE CLASSIC AUSTRALIAN FILM

WAKE IN FRIGHT

IS CROWDFUNDING NOW AT

THE AUSTRALIAN CULTURAL FUND WEBSITE here

ALL DONATIONS FOR AUSTRALIAN SUPPORTERS OVER $3 DOLLAR ARE TAX DEDUCTIBLE

“Continuing support for his project is important, for us and for future generations.”
Margaret Pomeranz, Critic

“Fitting that this extraordinary story should be brought to life by Peter Galvin, a fine writer and a devoted film scholar, whose unswerving erudition and thoroughness are a byword for compelling reading.”
Al Clark, producer
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

"I can't think of a better person to deliver this book than Peter Galvin - not only a diligent film historian but an insightful and thoughtful writer who helps us to think about films we think we know well in fresh and stimulating ways."
Lynden Barber, critic and former Sydney Film Festival Director

"Wake in Fright was a watershed moment in the recent history of Australian cinema.
When it was first released in 1971 it caused alarm and controversy before disappearing for decades. Its view of Australian outback life seemed for many audiences just too close to the bone.It had a profound effect on me and how I saw my newly adopted country.
Still, the story of how and why it was made - and the passionate and talented people behind it - needs telling.'
David Stratton, Critic and Author

AUTHOR’S STATEMENT

“After years of work I am close to delivering A Long Way from Anywhere.
Right now, I need funds to complete research found in archives in the USA, England, and here at the ABC.
This material is rare, invaluable and crucial to my story.My book is a cultural and social history, a vivid portrait of Australian showbiz life in film and TV in the 1960s a time when Australia was shaking itself free of the Cultural Cringe, a time when it was re-inventing a new vision of itself thru the Arts…especially in film and TV.

Your support will be credited and all donors will be able to take advantage of special offers on publication.”

ABOUT THE BOOK

You can contact the author E petergalvi@gmail.com    | Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/alongwayfromanywherethestoryofwakeinfright/

CINEMA REBORN - A Picture Gallery selected from the 16 features and two shorts to be shown between 3-7 May

The American Poet's Visit, Michael Thornhill, Australia, 1969
Between Wars, Michael Thornhill, Australia, 1974
Yackety Yack, Dave Jones, Australia, 1973
One from the Heart, Francis Coppola, USA, 1982

The Treasure, Lester James Peries,
Sri Lanka, 1970
2 Friends, Jane Campion, Australia, 1986

Ian Dunlop on location for People of the Australian Western Desert
Australia, 1966/1969
The Crime of M. Lange,Jean Renoir, France, 1936
The Night of Counting the Years, Shadi Abdel Salam, Egypt, 1969
Woman on the Run, Norman Foster, USA, 1950
Tokyo Twilight, Yasujiro Ozu, Japan, 1957
Sans Lendemain, Max Ophuls, France, 1939



Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Spanish Film Festival - Barrie Pattison grapples with THE MIST AND THE MAIDEN (Andrés M. Koppel) and BIGAS X BIGAS (Bigas Luna, Santiago Garrido Rua)

In the current Spanish film season, Andrés M. Koppel’s La niebla y la doncella/The Mist and the Maiden looked promising - a cop film in the, to us, exotic location of La Gomera,  one of the smaller Canary Islands and with  a great cast to carry it.

After a police chase through island road tunnels filling with fog, Guardia Civil team Verónica Echegui and Robert Alamo find the van whose seat  back is soaked in blood. Echegui has been on our radar since Bigas Luna’s 2006 Yo soy la Juani/My Name Is Juani and has gotten even more gorgeous. Her island cop character becomes the centre of the piece though the original story is part of a series featuring the Quim Gutierrez & Aura Garrido characters, here Madrid head office fuzz brought in to re-open the murder investigation in which a local politico was found not proven guilty three years back. 

The cell phone image of the politico’s fourteen year old daughter having rough sex with the victim is part of the inquiry.  Teniente Roberto Alamo (Que Dios nos perdone) takes a dim view of the suggestion that his old case wasn’t properly handled.  

Sergeant Gutiérrez gets sea sick on the ferry.  The mother of the boy found with his throat cut asks for Echegui to be recalled because she was the one to show sympathy for the family. Echegui’s meeting with Alamo’s hostile, pregnant wife kicks off with her telling the woman she isn’t there to screw her husband again. Gutiérrez’s interview with the victim’s mother leaves him conflicted. “If I have to tell Margarethe her son was killed because he was an idiot and a dealer, I want to be sure.” 

The setting generates striking locations - clammy forests, the long cement pier and the homes and businesses in a community where everyone knows things they shouldn’t about their neighbors, a group so small that they have to send to Tenerife for their narcotics. We are already into a twisty atmosphere that comes close to Marshland.    

The city team peel layer after layer off the accepted facts until the late occurring black screen over which Gutiérrez gets a ‘phone call that turns the case round. This is a game changer but the film can’t meet the higher expectations it generates and we are left with an unsettling whodunit notable for its pessimistic view, where family is as toxic as drug dealing and vice. It’s not quite as convincing or ingenious as it needs to be but it’s still a good work out for the thriller form.

        *          *          *          *          *          *          *          
The Spanish Film Festival has decided to single out Bigas Luna for a half-hearted tribute. Well we can be grateful it’s not Kaurismaki or freaking Fassbinder.

We get three films from the nineties which SBS long ago beat into submission and the video diary compilation Bigas X Bigas. This one is not something that supports being shown in a theatre. It’s the kind of item that you would expect the participants to play on the wall at wrap parties. Jonas Mekas used to make them with Warhol and John & Yoko in the nineties.

The Bigas film is gummed together from home movies, illustrated graphics and audition material from his features. This does give us glimpses of Javier Bardem, Leonor Watling, Candela Peña and Jorge Perugorría whose story about the Cubans who became fond of the pig they raised to eat on December 31st in the poverty-stricken family celebration is the most coherent part. We are more likely to see the Bigas family meals or Pirata their dog. 

There is a scene of Bigas baking in the out of doors oven (the bread looks quite good). There’s also the clip of the early short where the character strings live flies into a necklace. The director appears to like the black and white clip of naked women squirting breast milk in the surf, running it at length and firing it up twice. 

Three people showed up for the session where I dozed off.

It is a pity the Luna La Femme De Chambre Du Titanic/The Chamber Maid from theTitanic is not on show. It is substantial and leaves one wondering about the unseen titles on his seventeen movie filmography. 

Then again that one is not Spanish and it’s not pornographic so I guess it doesn’t qualify.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Brisbane International Film Festival - Another management steps up to the plate

Editor's Note: This announcement was brought to attention today.

QAGOMA TO PRESENT BRISBANE INTERNATIONAL
FILM FESTIVAL 2018-2020

The Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) will present the Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF) over the next three years, from 2018 to 2020.

QAGOMA Director Chris Saines today announced BIFF in 2018 would be presented in October at the Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA, and a range of soon-to-be-announced supporting venues across the city.

Mr Saines said the festival, supported by the Queensland Government through Screen Queensland and in association with the Australian Federal Government through Screen Australia, would celebrate international and Australian contemporary screen culture.

‘BIFF 2018 will feature new release titles and film retrospectives, alongside screenings with live music, conversations, panel discussions, gala events and more,’ Mr Saines said.

‘I’m pleased to announce that QAGOMA’s acting Curatorial Manager of the Australian Cinémathèque, Amanda Slack-Smith will be Artistic Director for BIFF 2018.

‘GOMA’s Australian Cinémathèque, the only cinema facility of its kind in an Australian art museum, will be the home for this year’s BIFF, with the festival showcasing films not yet seen in Queensland or Australia and positioning the new work of local filmmakers in a global context.’

Mr Saines said the Gallery’s presentation of BIFF 2018 would draw on more than a decade of institutional expertise in developing programs of local and international cinema, and delivering major film-focused exhibitions such as ‘David Lynch: Between Two Worlds’ in 2015 and last year’s record-breaking ‘Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe’.

‘The opportunity to develop and present BIFF from 2018-2020 is an honour and an exciting challenge, and an opportunity for QAGOMA to welcome new audiences while further contributing to Queensland’s screen culture.

‘We appreciate the support of Screen Queensland and Screen Australia, and look forward to presenting a dynamic program for film-lovers of all ages and backgrounds.

‘QAGOMA will seek cinema and presenting partners to broaden the scope and capacity of the festival in 2018,’ he said.

Chief Executive of Screen Queensland, Tracey Vieira said the partnership with QAGOMA brings the much loved film festival to a new home that will take the event to new heights.

‘QAGOMA’s intricate understanding of art and culture and its place not just in Brisbane but in Australia and the Asia Pacific region will deliver an exciting program for cinefiles, industry and the wider community,’ said Ms Vieira.

‘The program that QAGOMA is developing for BIFF will continue to strengthen our position in Queensland as a leading screen destination.

‘It is ambitious and will enrich the community with diverse content that confirms Queensland’s growing reputation as a creative leader in the screen space,’ she said.

Alongside BIFF’s public program, industry workshops, events and panel discussions will be presented by Screen Queensland to support the growth of the state’s screen industry.

Screen Queensland is a government-owned company that invests in people and projects to grow a creative, innovative and successful screen industry with a focus on stories and global audiences, secures production to Queensland, and delivers an active screen culture across the state.

CINEMA REBORN - BETWEEN WARS a new essay by Quentin Turnour is posted on the festival website

Corin Redgrave, John Chance, Between Wars
Editor’s Note: Below the following paragraphs is the start of a longer version of a specially written piece by film scholar, programmer, archivist and member of the CINEMA REBORN Organising Committee  QUENTIN TURNOUR. The shorter version will appear in the festival catalogue on sale during the festival for $10 or free to subscribers. The essay focusses on the collaboration between director Michael Thornhill and writer Frank Moorhouse. 
A program of films which relates to their early work will be screened at CINEMA REBORN on Saturday 5 May at 2.30 pm. This is one of a number of key programs devoted to important Australian film-makers of the past. 
It is anticipated that Michael Thornhill and Frank Moorhouse will attend the screening and there will be a post-screening Q&A moderated by Mark Pierce
Here are the opening paragraphs of the essay. After that just click through to the website link below. You can also click through from that website to the Eventbrite site which is selling the festival tickets.
Michael Thornhill
Really? Really. Late next year, December 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of then Prime Minister John Gorton’s acceptance of the Australia Council’s recommendations for funding of the Australian film industry. It’s a clear indicator that the Australian cinema renaissance is well and truly film history. That its nationalist terms and conditionality is largely outmoded, its then bright young makers—for example, its under-honoured, but key creative producer/director/administrator force, Gil Brealey—are now increasingly leaving us, and that it is another country to anything but late middle-age Australian cinephiles. Time also for a rethink about its canon and canonicality.
Frank Moorhouse
For some of these reasons Cinema Reborn chooses in its first edition to present director Mike Thornhill and writer Frank Moorhouse’s Between Wars—one of the sorest cases for re-evaluation amongst the new wave films of the 1970s. We have a few ‘why sos’ for this programming as ‘argument programming’. 
Between Wars page on the Cinema Reborn website








Saturday, 21 April 2018

The Current Cinema - John Snadden gives short shrift to READY PLAYER ONE (Steven Spielberg, USA, 2018)


I didn't think much of Ready Player One
Apart from a great opening sequence, it's your typical bloodless and sexless Steven Spielberg movie where the kids are all right and the adults all corrupt. 
The film mainly takes place in a video game universe named Oasis and is based on the bestselling novel of the same title by Ernest Cline. Strangely, with its deluge of 1980s pop culture references, I'm wondering who the target audience is for this big budget commercial flick.
Ben Mendelsohn is good value as the corporate bad guy however the role is so clichéd and predictable he wears out his welcome quite quickly. But he is in sharp contrast to the film's mythical figure, Halliday, a legendary games programmer who holds the keys to the kingdom, though, he is depicted physically and personally as an uncomfortable mix of an aged Woody Allen and Dana Carvey. 
Maybe that says more about the film than anything else. Oh well...

Friday, 20 April 2018

Spanish Film Festival - supercinephile Barrie Pattison samples a popular comedy SIN RODEOS/WITHOUT FILTER (Santiago Segura, 2018)

Spanish Film Festival Again. Last year, as I commented then, was phenomenal so it’s a bit much to expect them to do that again. However it’s so far so good with some promising trailers and Santiago Segura’s Sin rodeos/Without filter.

Segura is Spain’s leading low comic, occasionally acting in substantial pictures like Hellboyor Ballad of a Sad Trumpet. His Torrente series was getting a bit thin at number five so he’s come up with what proved a daring enough choice, a comedy vehicle for the great Maribel Verdú (E tu mama tambien, Pan’s Labyrinth) an undisputed beacon in Hispanic film. She can be funny, which Meryl Streep can’t, or glamorous which Elizabeth Moss can’t, and she can do character which Ann Hathaway can’t. There should be three of her.

Segura wouldn’t be able to handle this remake of a two-year old Chilean hit without Maribel who registers gangbusters as a put upon thirty nine year old (“Forty is the new thirty. Thirty nine is nothing”) in a messy hair style and bad wardrobe. Her life is in the can. She can’t sleep for the music upstairs. The custodian is so blasted on the party dope he is sitting there with the elevator door slamming on him. Her snoring action painter artist boyfriend Rafael Spregelburd has moved his obnoxious son in with them. It’s cold showers because Rafael hasn’t paid the electricity and he’s used all her shampoo anyway.  He never gets to the super market so the fridge is empty and there’s no breakfast. It’s a drive to the office interrupted by texts with emojis from her needy friends.

Maribel Verdú, Sin Rodeos
When Maribel does get through the traffic to the ad. agency, the lecherous junior boss has given her parking spot to his new girl Instagram star who is continually recording their encounters with a selfie stick and is applauded at the campaign strategy meeting for dismissing infomercials and contributing the concept that definite ideas are just not 2018. She ignores the boss’s now out dated high five.

Maribel’s encouraging ex-husband Diego Martín is cowered by his fiancée. The pills Maribel bolts have lost their charge and the sympathy her doctor seems to be offering is just him searching for a crossword clue. Her set also concludes a workout friend who is texting to the ex who has barred her from his line while they talk and a sister who throws parties for her cat.

Maribel’s last hope lies with guru Segura whose advertising she sees everywhere. Along with his feel good pitch, he gives her a bottle of calming medicine to sip which she’s gulped before she gets a couple of blocks.

At this point she punches out the abusive woman driver blocking her way, throws out the boyfriend when he won’t answer the door for the internet service man or talk to the son who is busily making porn in their bed room. 

Maribel takes her revenge on all her tormentors climaxed by setting fire to the non-stop party host’s gleaming red sports car, getting the applause of his stoned guests on the balcony above.

Finally she’s got peace but by this time she’s forgotten to give the medicine to her sister’s now deceased cat. There’s more, with a final rather splendid scene where she’s lured by the ex-husband’s fiancée using his stolen cell phone’s texts while still snacking on her baby food puré diet. The three thrash out the details of the fiancées success with blow jobs to the delight of the stoners. This is pure Segura gross out. 

Lots of “puta madre” and a bit of “Io te odio.” It all drives on the strength of Verdú’s great performance but the mounting is excellent and the here unfamiliar face cast are great, something that only becomes obvious when they go out of character to join in dancing to the play out music - everyone a mover.

We’re not too far from Nothing But the Truth. Not great art or even a significant comment on the issues it works through but this one is a fun night at the movies and a nice contribution to the credits of its star and writer-director.

Adrian Danks Facebook Post on CINEMA REBORN

Meant to post about this earlier, but now that it is fast approaching I'd like to highlight the absolutely fabulous looking Cinema Reborn festival being held in Sydney for the first time from May 3-7. This is a truly wonderful initiative that all cinephiles in Sydney (and Australia) should embrace - as we need many more events like this. I'll be there, making the trip up from Melbourne (not suggesting that's an incentive for anyone but just to illustrate my commitment), and looking forward to seeing a great array of recent restorations within a truly eclectic but outstanding program (thanks to all involved, Geoffrey Gardner in particular). 
Max Ophuls
Particular highlights, programmed alongside the likes of Renoir, Ophuls (& I've waited years to see SANS LENDEMAIN in a decent print/copy), Fassbinder, Hondo and Ozu, are a rich array of Australian films including such seminal works as YACKETY YACK & Corinne Cantrill's IN THIS LIFE'S BODY. Each program will also be introduced by a great array of speakers ranging from Margot Nash, David Stratton and Peter Hourigan to Phillip Adams and Jane Mills. 
Hope to see you there. 


Wednesday, 18 April 2018

In New Orleans - Rod Bishop uncovers a superb documentary about New Orleans music THE WHOLE GRITTY CITY (Richard Barber and Andre Lambertson, 2013)

Class Got Brass competition, New Orleans, March 2018
(phot: Rod Bishop)
Last month, the Landry-Walker High School from Algiers in New Orleans won the top prize at the annual Class Got Brass. It’s a contest held every year in Congo Square at Louis Armstrong Park and offers $US40,000 in prize money for school instruments. The size of the bands is restricted to 12 with only one bass, one snare and one tuba, but in New Orleans tradition, woodwinds are allowed and “steppers” or dancers encouraged. The contest takes the form of a traditional second-line parade.

Class Got Brass competition, New Orleans, March 2018
(phot: Rod Bishop)
It’s a community event, parents and relatives give loud vocal support and the bands warm up before the contest with impromptu performances designed to out-psych the opposition.

The Whole Gritty City
But compared to the sophistication of the high school marching bands in The Whole Gritty City,Class Got Brass is a very benign event. This 2013 documentary, apparently ignored by all outlets in this country, shows three enormous high school bands – the Rabouin High School Falcons, the O. Perry Walker Chargers and the Roots of Music Marching Crusaders. Extravagantly costumed, rigorously rehearsed and fronted by outstanding steppers, we see their preparations for the fortnight-long Mardi Gras season parades. 

Half the students live in poverty and many are regarded as at-risk. When not at school or in overcrowded homes, they negotiate dangerous lives on the streets. Band rehearsals on a football field are abandoned when a gunfight breaks out. Rival bands abuse each other after parades and drunken spectators try to physically disrupt parades. Band leader Wilbert Rawlins Jr talks about the seven friends he once had – four shot dead and the remaining three overdosed.

Rawlins also talks about the transformative effect of the bands on the students: “I don’t care if you just had something very tragic happen to you in your life. Once that band gives you that downbeat, and the music is right…just for that brief two or three minutes you forget everything, every problem you had.”

The Whole Gritty City
Two members of the Roots of Music Band, 10-year-old Jaron “Bear” Williams and 13-year-old Jazz Henry play the trumpeters Robert and Jennifer in Antoine Batiste’s high school band in Treme. Jaron’s 19-year-old brother was shot and killed “I cried the whole day, I can’t get him out of my head”. After joining the band his life has been transformed, music has become “25% of me” and after the parade “I feel like I’m the best thing in the world and can’t be stopped”.

The deaths of two band leaders haunt The Whole Gritty City. Dinerra Shavers was a member of the Hot 8 Brass Bandand band leader at Rabouin and the widely beloved Brandon Franklin was assistant to Rawlins at O. Perry Walker. The Times-Picayune tribute to Franklin described him as a “charismatic, out-going band leader, but also a quiet counselor.” His popularity was evident at his funeral, when 300 high school band musicians (including 15 tubas) perform outside the church under Rawlins’s direction.

The sound of the music is simply astounding as the 300 segue through Richard Smallwood’s Total Praise, Sting’s I'll be Watching You (Every Breath You Take) and, in a fitting end to the memorial and the film, finish with I’ll Fly Away,the great New Orleans hymn composed by Albert E Brumley in 1929