Monday 25 March 2024

THE BIRTH OF THE NATIONAL FILM & SOUND ARCHIVE - Cabinet Documents published by the Friends of the NFSA




To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), the Friends of the NFSA are publishing the original Cabinet documents recording the creation of the institution on 26 March 1984. Nine days later, on 5 April, Arts Minister Barry Cohen would announce this in Parliament.


The new NFSA took over the film and sound archiving responsibilities, collections and staff that had, until then, been part of the National Library of Australia. The film, television and sound communities had long advocated for separate institutional status and greater resources to protect the nation’s audiovisual heritage, matching the model more commonly followed overseas. Conversely, there were also strong voices favoring retention of the status quo. 


Ray Edmondson, then head of the Library’s Film Section, has never forgotten the fervid atmosphere of the time. “By mid-1983 the issue was looming large in the media and Parliament and moving towards a crisis point. I was among those who favoured creating a separate institution.” 


The new Hawke Government embraced the challenge and determined to establish the NFSA, despite dissenting arguments from the Departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Finance, the Public Service Board, the National Library and Australian Archives. These are all documented in the Cabinet submission, and make interesting reading today. 


Development of the submission over several months was led by the Prime Minister’s Senior Advisor, Bob Hogg, who recalled: “It was a rather instructive period for myself in observing at close hand the bureaucracy working to thwart the clear objective of the Government. Fortunately, in this case their efforts were not productive.” 


Forty years on, the NFSA’s global stature has amply vindicated that original vision.




The documents can be accessed on the Friends website:


Further information: 

Contact Friends’ President,  Ray Edmondson  Phone  0413 486 849  Email  

Sunday 24 March 2024


Just to let you know a few news updates about Cinema Reborn 2024.


First we can report that advance bookings are running ahead of 2023 and already a few audience favourites are emerging. Most notably the Saturday evening sessions of Days of Heaven and Le  Samourai are already, as far as we are concerned, in the ‘selling fast’ category. We always expected they would be the most popular films. 


In Melbourne the Saturday evening session Days of Heaven is going to be introduced by Jake Wilson the film critic for The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. In Sydney the Saturday evening screening will be introduced by critic and former director of the Sydney Film Festival Lynden Barber.


The Cinema Reborn 2024 trailer

Once again Organising Committee member and highly regarded young film-maker James Vaughan has produced the trailer for Cinema Reborn’s season. You should see it if you attend the Ritz or Lido Cinemas over the next month or so but if you are curious we have uploaded it to YouTube Click on the link to see what James has done. It’s quite a show in 1 minute and 12 seconds.

The Golden Coach

Italy at Cinema Reborn 2024

Way back in 2021 we had our biggest crowd ever come out to see Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard. Since that time Cinema Reborn has been grateful for the support we’ve received from the Italian Institute of Culture to screen our Italian selections. This year is no different and we are pleased to have two superb films from Italy. One is a remarkable co-production with France La carrozza d’oro/Le carosse d’or/The Golden Coach starring the great Anna Magnani (above) and directed by Jean Renoir. The other is Il Grido/The Cry directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. This year our Melbourne screenings of these two great films are being supported by the Melbourne office of The Italian Institute of Culture


Renoir’s film, a story of a troupe of travelling players in 17th century South America and the mayhem caused when the local Viceroy, the local bullfighter and one of the actors all fall for Anna Magnani’s leading lady Camilla, has been called by Francois Truffaut “the noblest, most refined film ever made…maybe Renoir’s masterpiece.”


Il Grido

Il Grido, made in 1957, was the first of the master’s films to demonstrate the distinctive style and content that would become the signature of his illustrious career. It was the Antonioni film made immediately before he became an overnight sensation with his famous trilogy. Some say that on reviewing today it’s just as good as any of them.  


By some coincidence this will be the second time that both Renoir and Antonioni have had their restored works screened at Cinema Reborn. In our first season we screened Renoir’s The Crime of M.Lange and in 2021 we screened Antonioni’s Le amiche/The Girlfriends.


…and don’t take our word for it

To read a report on Cinema Reborn, here’s what critic Silvi Vann-Wall published about us in  Screen Hub


Charitable Donations

And as always… Cinema Reborn’s work over the years has long been sustained by the generosity of our donors who help us make up the shortfall between our income and the costs of obtaining and screening our program. The Cinema Reborn 2024 page on the website of the Australian Cultural Fund enables our supporters to make a tax-deductible donation. All donations great and small are very welcome. The Australian Cultural Fund page can be found If You Click Here



Friday 22 March 2024

"So Frenchy, so chic, so so, so far..." Barrie Pattison is at the Alliance Francaise FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL 2024

Vincent Elbaz, Laure Calamy, Iris et les hommes/It's Raining Men

The French Film Festival, the 35th we are told, is a mixed bag but not quite a dog’s breakfast,  if you are looking for a suitable cliché. Misjudged star vehicles share with accomplished professionalism and at least one spectacular blockbuster that can expect to find a place in movie history. 

Caroline Vignal’s Iris et les hommes/It's Raining Men has the Antoinette dans les Cévennes team try to repeat that feel-good success while being cutting edge and confronting at the same time but poor Laure Calamy’s genuine forty something charms have to carry a heavy load.

She comes on as a successful Parisian dentist with a so nice apartment, husband Vincent Elbaz and a couple of teenage daughters, however all is not well at bed time. Another mum at the daughter’s school alerts her to the Tinder site where married people, who want to play about, can hook up. Cell ‘phone jokes with Laure trying to photograph her butt or select from the awful head shots her dental nurse Suzanne De Baecque has made of her. The Metro carriage ride, where Laure imagines the fellow passengers speaking the texts her listing attracts works better than her getting erotic messages while she has a patient in the chair. The film can’t manage to keep these routines coming.

The bulk is her encounters with a variety of takers, meant to be funny – nervous Sylvain Katan proves a problem, Laurent Poitrenaux & Ismaël Sy Savané & Nicolas Godart make suitable partners but she didn’t pick up on the coded information from bondage enthusiast Alexandre Steiger and opts out as he’s fitting her leather gag. We get dental work timed to the “Man & a Woman” theme and, to tell us Laure is having a good time, they break out in a choreographed “It’s Raining Men” number with pedestrians joining in. That worked better first time round in the Bridget Jones movie.

Discussion of the polyamorous life style is would-be daring but we still end up hearing about the only game in town. Coming close on Drive-away Dolls embracing its own kinky morality, this is all on the sedate side. There’s a hint of the risks involved for Laure’s comfortable domestic life, in the way friends react to her new liberated personality and the humiliation to which she subjects her reserved daughter, but this is disturbingly marginal. We’ve done better in Sophie Marceau land.

What we get is really like a glossy sixties sex comedy, except the leads replace Doris Day and Rock Hudson, it’s Paris locations and not Hollywood sound stage, instead of gleaming Eastmancolor we have the current dim digital imaging and people do actually take their clothes off. I got bored with the prototype sixty years back and I got bored with this one.


John Malkovich, Fanny Ardant,
Complètement cramé/Well Done! /Mr. Blake at Your Service

Gilles Legardinier’s Complètement cramé/Well Done! Mr. Blake at Your Service is a problem. It’s a polished big budget A feature with name stars. … and it totally lacks conviction.

Listening to the opening commentary you suddenly realise that that’s being delivered in assured French by John Malkovich, quite eclipsing Erich Von Stroheim, Jean Seberg and the other Hollywood names who set up their tents there down the years. Malkovich is a British (!) businessman of the year, who embarrasses associate Al Ginter by not turning up to collect his award. Our hero treasures the memory of the chateau where he proposed to his one true love and the mother of his grown daughter. He jets off for a visitor stay he has booked there. However, things are not well in the so picturesque French countryside. Widowed chatelaine Fanny Ardent is not making a go of it and pins her hopes on striking it big on mail-in lottery coupons. Housekeeper Émilie Dequenne is taking guest bookings and advertising for staff to deal with them. Confusion lands John anonymous in the spot of butler, on a périod d’essaie trial.

Everyone has problems. Final demands litter Fanny’s desk. Emilie is hiding from a failed liaison with a Michelin-star chef and talking to her cat. Maid Eugénie Anselin is sleeping in the stables rather than tell her family the awful truth. Chess-playing gardener Philippe Bas, who takes a shot at John when he thinks he’s a burglar, pines for Émilie and has a curious relationship with the estate’s hedgehogs. He treats the videophone he and John repair as a confessionel.

It’s actually quite touching when they all sit down together to one of Émilie’s epicure meals, that we never get a good look at. John’s interventions have improved all their lives. I can’t help making an adverse comparison with the much funnier The Devil and Miss Jones, where their incognito rich guy Charles Coburn screws up all his attempts to help.

Then John falls off a ladder … and there’s a surreal robbery.

The revelation comes at the end when they run up a Xmas tree on the lawn and we realise that what we are watching is a ritzy version of one of those feel-good pieces that TV engulfs us with in the holiday season each year. By March its shortcomings are too obvious. The fact that the whole thing has been re-voiced in studio interior-sound French, though they all lip synch. impeccably, undermines any ambitions. 


Vincent Macaigne, Cecile De France, Bonnard: Pierre & Marthe

Art bio films – particularly the French examples - try to look like glossy paper coffee table books.  Martin Provost's Bonnard: Pierre & Marthe runs to some great images styled after post-impressionist art. An abandoned almond tree blooms and of course they get to devour a tempting roast fowl in the open air, even if the meal does end in a tantrum and the female leads shouting, up to their waists in the river, that contributes some of the film’s most appealing scenic elements. 


The times being what they are we concentrate on an overlooked female muse, think Isabelle Adjani as Camille Claudel or Christa Théret in Renoir. Prévost has been here before with his Seraphine. This one centers in an imposing performance from Cecile de France in big hats - skinny dipping, ageing decades, surviving the doctor’s prediction of her demise, getting to do a threesome with Vincent Macaigne’s Pierre Bonnard & Stacy Martin (Vox Lux) before she finds her own artistic vision. The always imposing De France gets our attention, if not all that much sympathy.

Macaigne’s Pierre Bonnard has more to work with making the artist a buffoonish juvenile who at least generates our curiosity – will he do the right thing? The plot asserts, with his involvement with fetching Martin, who figures as one of the film’s most striking images – the spectre in the bridal gown. The always admirable Anouk Grinberg gets some attention too. Otherwise it’s a parade of indistinct performers name dropping as characters are rowed to the leafy Bonnard home - Claude Monet, Maurice Ravel, José María Sert, Edouard Vuillard, Diaghilev, the cubists, les nabis. Idyllic rural life challenges the stimulation of the city. Though the film gives us close-ups of brush work and canvases shape in front of us, we learn perilously little about painting or the controversies of art. We do get to be reminded of the twentieth century with a glimpse of a developing photo or an authentic looking Edison cylinder to hint that there’s more going on.

This one manages to muster the shortcomings of its cycle in the usual unsatisfying manner, despite all the talent on show.

Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Ella Rumpf,
Le théorème de Marguerite/Marguerite's Theorem

I was beginning to think so Frenchy, so chic, so so so far. My luck however changed with Anna Novion’s Le théorème de Marguerite/Marguerite's Theorem. This one gets attention for its novelty even if we can find some familiar entertainment formulas lurking below the surface.

Severe twenty something Grad Student Ella Rumpf is on a fellowship at Paris’ prestigious École Normale Supérieure, tasked with solving the centuries-old math problem Szemerédi's theorem, under the unshaven supervision of Jean-Pierre Darroussin. Nice to know he’s still about. She feels threatened when Darroussin takes on another student, who turns out to be hunky Julien Frison. We know what to expect. After an original antagonism they’re going to work out their differences and she’s going to take off her glasses. However, when Rumpf is in the lecture theatre expounding her progress to date, Frison points out a fault in her calculations which invalidates all her work. Shattered, she flees the hall and abandons her project despite Darroussin’s objections, meaning she will have to refund the hefty sum advanced for her fellowship.

At this point it looks as if we are going to get a more interesting film about someone, who has been sheltered within the academic cocoon, having to face the reality of outside life. Rumpf gets thrown out of a cosmetics sales seminar for pointing out the flaw in the survey they are supposed to administer, with black girl Sonia Bonny already a walk-out after Rumpf demolished the training. Rumpf uses her cash in hand to buy into Bonny’s flat share and they start clubbing together after the day job selling sneakers at Ultimate Sport. However, Bonny uses the rent money to bankroll a dance course and it looks like Chinese landlord Xiaoxing Maurice Cheng will have them out on the street, until Rumpf proposes using her last three hundred and fifty francs to join the back room mahjong game she noticed, prompting her to study the game on her iPhone. Applying her maths know-how, she cleans up and Cheng sets her up as a pro gambler, solving her finance problems. We’ve been here with Robert Luketic’s 21 or even Donald O’Conor in Are You With It? Come to think of it, all this blackboard stuff (no computers and overhead projectors here) recalls the spacemen dazzling the academics in the versions of The Day the Earth Stood Still.

At this point, the film fleshes out the characters with Rumpf’s clumsy pick up of club patron Idir Azougli, background with her single-parent school teacher mother Clotilde Courau, Darroussin’s defence of pure mathematics, pointing out the research, that disclosed the world was round, changed human history, though we suspect his interest in Rumpf is to advance his own academic career, and the re-appearance of Frison, whose varsity brass band trombone is soon left outside Rumpf’s bedroom - about the time they start painting the flat walls black to do calculations.

Comes the major Lausanne conference, where Darroussin was to present their findings and Rumpf bowls up with the revelation of her turning the pyramid diagram upside down. Academics gather in the hall where the blackboard slides away to reveal another one underneath and she finally puts the square symbol at the end of her calculations to all round applause - nice ending where all the characters come good.

Novion, is an ex film student (Thesis “Anguish, Guilt and Despair in Bergman's oeuvre"), who is a couple of features into a career where she’s worked regularly with Darroussin. She creates a lively, populated ambience and gets strong performances. Newcomer Bonny in particular registers as a complex, sensual character. Novion even manages a couple of showy pieces of filmcraft – bafflement is Rupf’s face dissolving through the chalk board calculations to a white screen or the running figure left distant in the final scene, as the camera follows Frison.


Can’t help wondering how many more intriguing films like this play in European neighbourhood cinemas without us hearing about them.

Wednesday 20 March 2024

2023 Film Critics Circle of Australia Award Winners Announced (+ some pictures)

The Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA) has celebrated its annual FCCA Awards for Australian Films of 2023– features and feature documentaries at a ceremony in Paddington, Sydney. The prestigious awards recognise the creative inputs of the Australian film industry and are supported by different areas of the film industry and culture sector. 


Limbo was the big winner of the 2024 FCCA awards, taking home six out of nine total awards, including Best Film. Ivan Sen took to the stage to accept Best Film, Best Director and Best Cinematography. 


Simon Baker won Best Actor for his role in Limbo. He was unable to attend the awards as he is representing Limbo at the Australian International Screen Forum. 


Zar Amir Ebrahimi won Best Actress for Shayda, with the film also winning Best Screenplay for Noora Niasari


Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress were awarded to Rob Collins and Natasha Wanganeen for their performances in Limbo


Rachel Ward took home Best Documentary Feature for Rachel’s Farm, which she directed and starred in.


The night was hosted by comedian Rodney Marks, and featured special guest presenters Tina Bursill, Belinda Giblin and Lasarus Ratuere.


Highly respected for recognising and rewarding originality and excellence, the FCCA Awards are Australia’s truly independent film awards voted on solely by film critic members and constitute a significant indicator of a film’s success. 


For more information visit



MEDIA ENQUIRIES | NIXCO | P: 02 8399 0626 | E:


The full list of 2024 FCCA Award winners include: 


Best Film 

- Limbo (Prod. Ivan Sen, David Jowsey, Rachel Higgins, Greer Simpkin)


Best Director 

 Ivan Sen – Limbo


Best Actress 

- Zar Amir Ebrahimi – Shayda 


Best Actor 

- Simon Baker – Limbo


Best Actress Supporting Role 

- Natasha Wanganeen – Limbo 


Best Actor Supporting Role 

- Rob Collins – Limbo


Best Cinematography 

- Ivan Sen – Limbo


Best Screenplay 

- Noora Niasari – Shayda


Best Documentary Feature 

- Rachel’s Farm (Dir. Rachel Ward, Prod. Bettina Dalton p.g.a.)



The FCCA exists to add support to Australian film culture, to provide a forum for issues affecting film and filmgoers (such as film classification and censorship), to participate in international critics juries, and assist Australian film festivals with international jury representation, and to provide professional support for critics. Visit for more.

Tuesday 12 March 2024



For its sixth edition, Cinema Reborn will screen 17 classics on the big screen at Ritz Cinemas in Randwick (1-7 May) and Lido Cinemas in Hawthorn (9-14 May). It will be the first time that Cinema Reborn’s program will be presented in Melbourne after five seasons in Sydney, where its audience has grown every year. 


Since 2019, when Cinema Reborn was first presented at the Ritz Cinemas Randwick, a tremendously supportive relationship has developed between the Ritz Cinema’s management and staff and the remarkable team of film-makers, critics, archivists, scholars and cinephiles who devote themselves to presenting Sydney’s annual season of restored classics. The expansion to the Ritz’s sister cinema in Melbourne, the Hawthorn Lido, is a natural outcome of the audience growth in Sydney and the clear interest to bring Cinema Reborn’s program to a new audience in Australia’s second largest city.


On behalf of Lido and Ritz Cinemas, Head of Marketing Jaymes Durante said, “It has been a privilege to help present Cinema Reborn at the Ritz over the years, and it brings us immense pride to bring the festival to Melbourne for the first time in 2024. Through Cinema Reborn, our audiences will be treated to a world-class offering of important restorations and rarely screened cinema treasures which will enrich our city’s cultural offering and will surely become a milestone event in the annual film calendar.”


The vast majority of Cinema Reborn’s films are restored in 4K Ultra High Definition, the current pinnacle for film restoration. This year’s selection comes from Italy, France, the UK, USA, Mali, India, Syria, South Korea, Belgium and Australia.

Le Samouraï (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967)

International classics include Le Samouraï (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967); The Golden Coach (Jean Renoir, 1952); La Captive (Chantal Akerman, 2000); I Know Where I’m Going! (Powell/Pressburger, 1947) and Il Grido (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1957).


From Hollywood, Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959); Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978); and The Suspect (Robert Siodmak, 1944).


There are two World Premiere restorations at Cinema Reborn 2024: Midnight (Mitchell Leisen, 1939),and Australia’s own Three to Go (Brian Hannant, Oliver Howes, Peter Weir, 1971).


Also from Australia, Body Melt (Philip Brophy, 1993); Journey to the End of Night (Peter Tammer, 1982) and Light Years (Kathryn Millard, 1991).



Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)

From South Korea, Sopyonje (Im Kwon-taek, 1993); from Syria, The Dupes (Tewfik Saleh, 1972); from Mali, Yeelen (Souleymane Cissé, 1987); and from India, Ishanou (Aribam Syam Sharma, 1991).

Yeelen (Souleymane Cissé, 1987)

For more information 

Cinema Reborn's website already contains a set of pungent and insightful short notes on the entire program. Over the next few weeks, the website will publish essays on each of our 2024 titles, written by some of Australia’s best known film scholars, critics and cinephiles. As well, a number have been written by highly regarded international critics and commentators. Bookmark and keep checking for newly-posted pages on each of our titles. Regular news updates will be posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram


Information about Cinema Reborn’s program is also now available in a 16-page booklet free on the shelves of the Ritz Cinemas Randwick and the Lido Cinemas Hawthorn. 



The Ritz Cinemas’ and Lido Cinemas’ websites each contain pages devoted to Cinema Reborn, with comprehensive notes on each film we are screening and ticketing links. 


Admission Prices

Cinema Reborn charges standard cinema ticket prices for all sessions, including opening and closing night selections. Ritz and Lido Movie Club Members are eligible for member’s discount. Details of Club membership and the concessions on offer are at the Ritz Club Membership Page and at the Lido Club Membership Page


Bookings Now Open

To make a booking at the Ritz Click here and to make a booking at the Lido Click here.



Cinema Reborn’s work over the years has long been sustained by the generosity of our donors who help us make up the shortfall between our income and the costs of obtaining and screening our program. The Cinema Reborn 2024 page on the website of the Australian Cultural Fund enables our supporters to make a tax-deductible donation. All donations great and small are very welcome. The Australian Cultural Fund page can be found If You Click Here

Vale Micheline Presle - Barrie Pattison shares some fond memories of the great French star MICHELINE PRESLE

Micheline Presle, Le Diable au Corps

With the death at 102 of Micheline Presle, we have severed what must be the last link with classic cinema. Who else starred in films by Pabst, Lang and Dieterle, Marcel L’Herbier and Jean Negulesco, Sacha Guitry, Jacques Demy and Sam Fuller, opposite Ramon Novarro, Gérard Philipe, Tyrone Power, John Garfield, Paul Newman and Errol Flynn? Her performances were a dominant element in the best work of several heavyweight film makers – Jean Delannoy’s Les jeux sont faits, Joseph Losey’s Blind Date/ Chance Meeting and particularly Claude Autant-Lara’s imposing Le diable au corps. That trio alone make her a major figure. 

Establishing herself as a lively juvenile in French films before WW2, Presle became de facto the leading female star of their Occupation Era film industry, with Danielle Darieux, Michele Morgan and Simone Simon off in Hollywood for the duration. 


A post-war Hollywood stint of her own proved a disappointment, ending with the dreadful Adventures of Captain Fabian directed by her husband William Marshall for Republic from a script by Errol Flynn, and she never really regained her dominant status but that didn’t prevent her ploughing on through whatever came her way. 


Micheline Presle, Hardy Kruger, Blind Date/Chance Meeting

She never stopped working.  She even outlived her talented daughter-director Toni Marshall, who had cast her in several of her films. I once had the audacity to try to recruit the star of Le diable au corps for a horror film I planned shooting in Australia and the Movie Divinities were on my side. She’d just seen Food of the Gods where Ida Lupino, who she regarded as a member of her peer group, had taken on a similar role. I explained that I’d seen Presle do just what I wanted, animating the exposition with her Banditi Italiani and The Prize performances. She could see that, was charming, read the script and gave me a letter of intention to appear. It is one of my great regrets that I never had the chance to watch Micheline Presle through the view finder performing in my work, when the project fell by the wayside after I scaled down the ambition on the production we finally shot. 


At least we still have her films. I’ve been on Micheline Presle’s case for a lifetime and there’s still a long list of promising titles that I haven’t been able to watch.  It’s always a pleasure when one comes my way, though now that will be shaded with regret.                                                                                                                                  


It is unsurprising that no mention of her death has been made in the Australian media I've seen.

Tuesday 5 March 2024

For Silent Film aficionados in Brisbane - Joel Archer brings back THE ROARING TWENTIES featuring first up GIRL SHY (1924) starring Harold Lloyd

 Good Evening All,

We are so excited to announce that Roaring Twenties Cinema Brisbane will be returning and our new home will be the Arcana Arts Centre in the Garden Bar. 

This stunning private area will include the options for a terrific Menu of Food cooked on site and a Bar that has cocktails and drinks available throughout the film. So you not only get Amazing Films and Live Music now there are some terrific food and drinks options on site.

For our opening night on Thursday 18th of April 2024 at 6:30pm we will be screening Harold Lloyd's Girl Shy 1924 which is celebrating its 100th Birthday plus a mystery comedy short. 

Bri and I look forward to meeting you again for Brisbane's Cheapest Form of Time Travel! Thanks so much for all your support and enthusiasm over the years. We can't wait to bring you such a unique cinema experience. 

Tickets are on sale now: 

Kind Regards...

Joel Archer (Director of Roaring Twenties Cinema Brisbane)

0409 620 670

Monday 4 March 2024

The Current Cinema - Barrie Pattison reports falling about watching DRIVE-AWAY DOLLS (Ethan Coen, USA, 2023)

Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan, Drive-Away Dolls

I’ve been wondering about Drive-Away Dolls, the movie from the Coen brother who didn’t want to make a black and white Macbeth with Denzel Washington. I noticed a reference to it quite a while back (its credits say 2023) but pretty much the only promotion I’ve seen for its local run is a teaser on the front of a trailer for another movie. That all worked up my curiosity.

What I got was the kind of ferocious bad taste movie you’d expect if someone hired Oliver Stone to re-make The Rocky Horror Picture Show. After an uneasy start, I found myself falling about.

This one is kind of a family affair, one Coen brother writing with his editor wife and directing Andie McDowell’s daughter and Jonah Hill’s sister, to showcase a young woman from Newcastle, New South Wales, called Geraldine Viswanathan who makes a memorably straight faced contribution to all the anarchic stuff. Think Aubrey Plaza without the attitude. She is the required contrast to hard charging Margaret Qualley, teetering on the edge of her stardom. Qualley would have fit right in as a Howard Hawks woman.

It starts off uneasily with Pedro Pascal meeting a grotesque fate in an alley. Attention shifts to girl buddies Qualley and Viswanathan finding themselves at a loose end. Qualley has broken up with her police officer lover Beanie Feldstein, complete with an argument about who gets their wall dildo, while Viswanathan, fresh from her job with Ralph Nader, isn’t all that interested in the Sapphic club scene and plans on joining a birding expedition in Tallahassee, reading her Henry James novels along the way. 

Matt Damon

The ideal mode of transport would be a Driveaway where they take a car to its owner in another city. Turns out that grouchy Bill Camp’s office has a vehicle waiting to be shifted just there – exercise in comic probability. Nobody checks the boot, which turns out to have two suspicious items where the spare tire should be. Eyes widen when that’s unlocked.

Things liven up for Margaret when they stay at the motel where a lesbian soccer team are relaxing with the captain blowing a change partners whistle at half time. Turning down a threesome, Geraldine finds herself spending the night sitting in the office.

Geraldine Viswanathan

Meanwhile comic goons Joey Slotnick and C.J. Wilson discover that their car has been mistakenly dispatched because how likely is it that two sets of customers would want to go to Tallahassee? This sends those rightful owners off in pursuit, which gets one beaten up by Feldstein because he’s old school and doesn’t want to hit a woman and his mate is blindsided when the address the soccer girls he’s charming gives them turns out to be a rough black music barn.

The girls meanwhile are coasting on a suspect credit card and the luxury El Conquistador hotel’s policy of inclusivity - steamy shower scene. Of course paths converge.

Not the least of the delights is the film’s maliciously misapplied film form. Scene transitions come up as the Henry James pages fluttering, contrasting to a psychedelic montage of fluoro coloured pizza fillings. Miley Cyrus gets a psychedelic number and there’s a glimpse of Senator Matt Damon’s mis-spent college days.

Beanie Feldstein

Drive-Away Dolls
 keeps on playing off audience expectation. It’s an exploitatively sexy film (“at least take off your shirt”) where the only full frontal is a sunbathing bit player. It comes with my all time favourite McGuffin (include monologue about the possibility of an E-Bay sales promotion). They telegraph the introduction of ego-free star Matt Damon with a hoarding of him as the local family values politician. Boy is he going to get it! When the girls confront him, they announce themselves as Democrats.

The pace never slacks with the lesbian frame of reference twisting the familiar situations into something grotesquely fresh. Everyone comes out of it well though it’s not a big budget offering.

I’m sorry they didn’t get about to making this in the nineties the way they planned, when it could conveniently have slid in with the drive-In fare that it burlesques. I would have re-visited it at intervals quite a few times by now. That I would have enjoyed. It’s the highlight of my current viewing.