Thursday 4 June 2015

Sydney Film Festival (4) - Barrie Pattison reviews The Postman's White Nights and The Price of Fame

THE POSTMAN'S WHITE NIGHTS (Andrei Konchalovsky, Russia, 2014)

Let's add this one to a going the rounds movies list with the Dardennes Deux jours, une nuit, Maurice Elvey’s Wishing Well and that great Brit. seventies TV play about getting the neighbors to protest demolition that I wish I could remember the name of.

Postman Tryapitsyn is locked into the same cycle of drinking and TV watching as the
other inhabitatnts of the isolated lake community, for whom his mail launch visits are the only source of brown bread and light bulbs. At least he gets to put moves on the blonde fishing inspector and take her young son riding in his boat until someone steals the motor.

A bus ride gets him to the rail connection and the army base with the rocket launch pad. If he quits will that make the spectre of the spooky grey cat go away?

It’s the same indignation against change found in the director’s Gloss (Glyanets, 2007) and an interesting comparison with the vicious isolated community in his Siberiade(1979)  and maybe not as good as those but this one has a quiet conviction of it’s own. Top points for atmosphere.

PRICE OF FAME (Le rancon de la gloire, Xavier Beauvois, France, Switzerland, Belgium, 2014)

Benoît Poelvoorde & Roschdy Zem are two of the most interesting performers making films right now but they don’t seem to inhabit the same universe and having emerging director Beauvois, from Des hommes et des dieux, steer them though a film about ransoming Charlie Chaplin’s body could have gone in any direction. For most of La rançon de la gloire the film ‘s tone is uneasy - a few giggles, a few surreal touches like Poelvoorde finding hiself in the middle of a circus, lots of character development and a bit (not enough) of suspense.
Comes the trial climax and the defence convincing us that the lead duo are Chaplin characters pulls it all together. Nice touches - Michel Legrand on the ‘phone to go with the clip of a TV Demoiselles de Rochefort, the car snaking along the highway at night to the Limelight theme, Zem and Mastroianni from Beauvois's first movie, Nour from Caramel, Peter Coyote singing and speaking French, the beautiful quality Chaplin clips, his great looking grand-daughter and Benoit and Noirjean doing the circus clown act I remember from the fifties, not to mention the snappy post end titles gag.

Great cast on form and smooth production.

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