Wednesday 16 November 2022

THE CURRENT CINEMA - A good word for ARMAGEDDON TIME (James Gray, USA, 2022)

 It has to be said that Armageddon Time didn’t exactly get the place throbbing at its opening Friday at the Ritz. My companions thought it ‘slow’ and a well-known Australian producer in the crowd mused about what it is that James Gray has on the Cannes selection panel that seems to get his films an automatic entrée even as they become ever more empty and ponderous.

But I was an enthusiast and part of the enthusiasm was in the way that Gray couldn’t resist what others might call a cheap shot at the Trump family. For, on the first day that Paul Graff enters his new private school, he is accosted by Fred Trump, Donald’s father, and given some quick advice. 


Banks Repeta as Paul Graff with Anthony Hopkins as Grandpa

Later that same day Donald Trump’s sister addresses the assembled school, an assembly marked by the schoolkids chanting “Reagan! Reagan!” It’s 1980 and we are in the run-up to the election and this collection of schoolkids comes from the Republican base. Except for Paul, whose family are nightly appalled by Reagan on the evening news and fearful of where he is going to take the country. The school in New Jersey is called Forest Manor (?), near enough to Donald’s secondary school Kew Forest in Queens.


In his 3 and half star review in the SMH Jake Wilson mentioned “Armageddon Time is also a political film, tying in with recent events in the US in a surprising way (I assume this is one of the parts of the story taken directly from life.” I guess so…but I think Gray was wanting to get his licks into Trump just for the fun of it.


Trump himself is the gift that keeps on giving and novelists, film-makers and everyone else are never going to leave him alone. And he’s going to be around for sometime yet as David Rowe in yesterday’s Australian Financial Review reminded us, via Stanley Kubrick. (Picture lifted from Twitter)


Armageddon Time is 'slow' if you think events unfolding gently, gracefully and mostly without outbursts of violence are 'slow', but it’s also about slow dawning discoveries, the greatest being Paul’s discovery of life’s pecking order. While his own family are sensitive to their place in a society where anti-semitism bubbles away, they are conscious that they are above the blacks and they aren’t going to do anything about that beyond be thankful.


Some people’s slow is other people’s engrossing.

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