Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Testament of Youth


If I were to attach a single descriptive word to the cinematic style of a country, for French cinema it would be realism, for American cinema innovation, Italian cinema extravagance and for British cinema tradition. The simple elegance of British film is matchless, its storytelling whilst rarely novel is consistently poised, impeccable and boasts flawless sophistication. This is the simplest way in which I can illustrate the astonishing potency of the poetic war feature Testament of Youth. The film is richly character-based, the development of each individual character is patiently, even artfully crafted with leading light Alicia Vikander a visionary figure. The young actress can only be described as a vessel of high calibre cinema, slowly coming into full form. She is continuously expressive, poignant and marvellously composed. The cinematography adopts an elementary beauty, each shot intricate and detailed but always naturally constructed. Ultimately, Testament of Youth proves a worthy, moving tribute to a lost generation and tells a compelling story of the struggles of those the soldiers left back home.

Testament of Youth captures the life of writer Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander) at a pivotal point not only in her own existence, but in world history. The sweet balance of her somewhat privileged life is lost when warfare triggers the passion, patriotism and vigour of the young generation. Suddenly, every young man in the life of Brittain is dropped into immediate danger as dreams of honour and idealism drive them to enlistment. Her brother (Taron Egerton), her lover (Kit Harington) and her friend (Colin Morgan) are all pulled into the destructive force of the First World War, and whether they emerge at its end is anyone's guess and everyone's most desperate hope. 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Visual & Sound Diary: Three Colours: Blue (1993)


Visual & Sound Diary is a weekly feature where I explore a chosen film of distinctive cinematography and musical composition via the score, soundtrack and stills. This is how it works: click play on the link supplied of the selected music and scroll through the images. Be reminded and inspired of the cinematic splendour. 
Note: the last shot is my pick for the best shot.

Arguably the greatest trilogy of film history, Krzysztof Kieślowski's spectacular Three Colour series is a fine landmark of French cinema. The first instalment, Blue, is a sweeping look at grief as an aggressor of the human condition, carried by the sheer skill and veracity of ferocious talent Juliette Binoche. The film is patient and slow-moving, the story progresses in a wonderfully natural manner. The late Kieslowski's storytelling abilities can only be described as intuitive, wonderfully nuanced and rewarding throughout. The feature is also clearly distinguished by its innovative use of cinematography and music. A strange correlation exists between the visuals and the sounds for whilst the imagery is primarily mundane, the soundtrack is continuously dramatic and pronounced. Unlike the compositions I have selected previously which have been serene, tranquil and all primarily piano pieces, The Unification of France is extravagant and imposing.

Kieślowski''s trilogy is fundamentally based on the French Revolution ideals, represented by the three colours, Blue (liberty), White (equality) and Red (fraternity) as on the national flag. It is a retrospective, subtly patriotic look at the application of these values on France's modern society. The trilogy is a goldmine of material for a liberal arts student - it is continuously compelling, mysterious and philosophical - provoking endless discussion created of an ambiguity which cuts straight into poetry. Blue serves as the introduction to the series, presented as a melancholias tribute to the classic concept of "triumph over adversity". For Blue, the aesthetics are simple yet striking and ethereal, the story spirited, the central performance by Binoche transcendent and the payoff great.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Interstellar


An exhilarating 
synthesis of motion and melody, Interstellar falls just shy of  greatness. Save for some far-fetched sequences, thinly developed characters and unnecessary sentimentality, Interstellar still manages to come through as an artful wonder. Powered by a phenomenal score, courtesy of musical mastermind Hans Zimmer, and the transcendent cinematography of Hoyte van Hoytema, the entertainment meets the typical Nolan standard. The feature boasts the innovation of Inception, the smooth confidence and grace of The Dark Knight series and the fascination of Memento. The film, however, still leaves much to be desired, its intellectual stamina drawn more from fantasy notions than science, its improbability and fanciful concepts distracting from its true potential and insight. It's sheer scale and ambition is to be admired, aesthetically the film reaches new heights and whilst some will view the Interstellar odyssey as one absurdly constructed, others will revel in its compelling nature.  

Interstellar tells of an unspecified future where the earth has deteriorated and innovation is at a standstill. NASA physicist, Professor Brand (Michael Caine), recruits a team, including his own daughter, Amelia (Anne Hathaway), and former pilot, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), in a mission to salvage the human race by locating a new inhabitable planet via a worm hole. It is Cooper who must determine whether to remain on earth with his family, including his young daughter Cooper (Mackenzie Foy), or to risk his life in hopes of keeping their future alive. 

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Visual & Sound Diary: Pan's Labyrinth (2006)


Visual & Sound Diary is a weekly feature where I explore a chosen film of distinctive cinematography and musical composition via the score, soundtrack and stills. This is how it works: click play on the link supplied of the selected music and scroll through the images. Be reminded and inspired of the cinematic splendour. 
Note: the last shot is my pick for the best shot.

The twisted fantasy world of Pan's Labryinth is one widely admired: its darkness and complexity is portrayed as a haven against the horror and cold of the real world. Accompanied by startling imagery, original monsters of spectacular horror and an interesting premise, Pan's Labryinth is an icon of Spanish cinema. Director Guillermo del Toro, endeavoured to create a rich and compelling storyworld and in that he has succeeded. Set in rural Spain of 1944 during the civil war, the film tells the story of a young girl who is sent along with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather, a sadistic army captain. She escapes the violent and brutal reality and into a sinister, fantastical world co-existent with her own. There she meets an old faun who tells her of her origins as a lost princess but must prove her royalty by completing three challenges. 

Pan's Labryinth is the elaborate showcase of cinematographer Guillermo Navarro's formidable talent and is easily his best work. The film transcends a subtle, supernatural beauty and makes full use of its stunning art direction. The feature is a sublime collision of war story and fairytale, its diverse and strange fusion of characters is a awe-inspiring attraction of the feature. Rarely will you find fascist army captain, fairy and grotesque child-eating monster of one film. The original score crafted by notable film composer Javier Navarette is a worthy accompaniment of the stunning visuals. The chilling, classical Long, Long Time Ago is a potent lullaby, evoking the mystic quality so singular to Pan's Labyrinth.  

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Visual & Sound Diary: Amélie (2001)


Visual & Sound Diary is a weekly feature where I explore a chosen film of distinctive cinematography and musical composition via the score, soundtrack and stills. This is how it works: click play on the link supplied of the selected music and scroll through the images. Be reminded and inspired of the cinematic splendour. 
Note: the last shot is my pick for the best shot.

Easily one of the greatest French films of the 21st century, Amelié is a whimsical wonder, an intrigue of the cinema. The feature is rich in detail and stock full of peculiar characters with beautiful eccentricities. It's narrative arc is distinguished early on as an unusual one and its visuals are appropriately imposing and phenomenally creative. The film is accompanied by an easily memorably sweet, simple score. Each frame of Amelié is an explosion of colour and the shots are often off kilter, the camera moving in smooth but unexpected ways. In the technical sense, Amélie is of masterpiece standard. The lurid singularity of its style must be recognised. The film tells of a young Parisian girl, impossibly naïve, quirky and sweet, whom manages to look at the world in a wonderful and simple way. She relishes not in pursuits of success or wealth but in the simple pleasures of small justices and satisfying curiosities. 

The distinct work of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is often compared to that of Wes Anderson. Both film-makers are fond of voice-over narration, organised, symmetrical set designs and unconventional, detailed characterisations. However, Jeunet is evidently more ardent on establishing his characters - his creations may be aesthetically pleasing but they are anything but superficial. A certain poignancy and fervent passion afflicts his films, where Anderson often presents dead-pen, shallow characters (although this is completely intended). Jeunet also strives to establish his flawless shots in a more natural passage, as if such an image could really be seen by the naked eye in a Parisian street. As showcase for the musical magic of Amélie, I have selected the tantalising "Comptine d'un Autre Été" by composer Yann Tiersen.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A Week in Spring


A calm spring week suddenly spiralled out of control. I'm entering into exam period and I have an assignment worth almost half of my unit due too soon. But what really knocked my schedule completely off kilter is my new job. I'm finally waving goodbye to four years of wrist-breaking waitressing! My new gig is considerably more stressful although perhaps less strenuous (in terms of physical activity). It's receptionist work at a medical clinic and it's looking pretty sweet so far. This shouldn't stop me from applying to a few independent cinemas (my dream part-time job) this summer however. I've also almost completely recovered from surgery and can walk like a normal functioning human being! But I still need all the empathy and pity I can get because working 32 hours a fortnight and trying desperately to study for 3 exams on top of an assignment means zilch time for movies. So below is an ode to my last week, my final week of cinematic wonder for a month...

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Son of a Gun


From the go, we are engrossed by action. Son of a Gun provides high-quality, stimulating entertainment and encapsulates everything that a decent thriller should be. The film is loaded with enigmatic characters, a wonderfully constant state of anarchy and compelling power play between its key antagonists in an Australian Michael-Mann-style confrontation. The film also chronicles a poignant love story which steers clear of overcomplexity. All of this is finished off with some astounding sound-mixing and a strangely affecting soundtrack of exquisite entries such as a masterly remixed track of Bon Iver's "Perth" and the moving "Enter One" by Sol Seppy. Whilst not a distinct departure from classic crime flicks, the feature demonstrates competence on every scale from its consistently absorbing narrative arc to the effortless execution of every role. Son of a Gun is a confident debut feature by director Julius Avery who does well to avoid the trappings of the archetypal Aussie thriller.

Son of a Gun's leading light is the young 19-year-old delinquent JR (Brenton Thwaites) of an ambiguous, unconfirmed history. As he arrives at a high-security prison for the first time, he comes in contact with Australia's public enemy No. 1, Brendan Lynch (Ewan McGregor). Soon enough, in desperate need of protection within the walls of brutal confinement, he becomes Brendan's protégé. When JR is released is six months later, he begins to pay his extensive debts and is quickly involved with organised crime of the highest order, from heists to prison breaks. 

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Visual & Sound Diary: The Great Beauty (2013)


Visual & Sound Diary is a weekly feature where I explore a chosen film of distinctive cinematography and musical composition via the score, soundtrack and stills. This is how it works: click play on the link supplied of the selected music and scroll through the images. Be reminded and inspired of the cinematic splendour. 
Note: the last shot is my pick for the best shot.

Artistically indulgent and philosophically grounded, The Great Beauty or Le Grande Bellazza, was the most distinguished foreign language film of 2014. The Italian Fellini-esque feature swept up nearly every imaginable foreign language film nomination, from the Oscars to the Golden Globes (albeit the Palme d'Or loss). And with good reason. The sights and sounds of this film are simply revelatory, innovations of cinema. At large, The Great Beauty is an exposition of the cityscape, a love letter to Rome. It is extravagant and melancholias, the film feels as though it is in a constant state of mourning. It even seeks to question the quality of modern art with pragmatism and humour. 

The most distinct merit of The Great Beauty is the achingly nostalgia of its narrator, an ageing writer and socialite of the Roman high life. His wistful reminiscence of a distant youth is told via spectacular cinematography and a soul-stirring, time-honoured soundtrack - a compilation of aged symphonic compositions. The film makes use of many tracking shots to capture the sheer architectural magnificence of the city. It features Rome to be one of almost jarring combinations of the contemporary world and the ruins and preservations of the old. The contemplative temperate of The Great Beauty is not to be missed. Truthfully, the feature is no doubt loaded with vague notions and philosophical tangents but most simplistically it captures a beauty which is not forged but elaborately shown. 

Shooting Location: Rome, Italy - Lungo Tevere, Via Veneto, Parco Degli Acquedotti, Palazzo Spada


Thursday, 9 October 2014

Gone Girl


The artful, twisted mind of David Fincher can only be described as a cinematic minefield. His latest directorial effort, the cold, dark beauty Gone Girl, affirms this once and for all. In true Fincher style, the film is a cooly calculated vision - striking, confident and smoothly executed. Stylish and potent, this thriller is wrought with strategically arranged scares and has the audience feeling like the floor might fall through at any moment. There's a lethal, rather frightening proficiency and perfection to the structure and style. The film establishes Fincher as a truly prolific, engaging and creative storyteller. What he has crafted so meticulously is a pair of parallel realities, a battle of twisted perceptions equally rich and compelling. We are shown, in spectacular fashion, how from innocence, malevolence and neglect spawn and spread like spirited wildfire. Gone Girl is no typical "he said, she said" story. Fincher makes sure of that.  

At first glance, Gone Girl tells but a simple tale. On the fifth anniversary of their marriage, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) reports the disappearance of his wife, Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike). The film depicts how gradually, under the pressures of investigation and the media torrent, the image of their marriage, once of glowingly perfection, begins to crumble and crack. The union is revealed to be one painted with fear, infidelity, guilt, insecurities, violence and blackmail. But then whose story is this? And does it bear any resemblance to the truth? 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Visual & Sound Diary: The Piano (1993)


Visual & Sound Diary is a weekly feature where I explore a chosen film of distinctive cinematography and musical composition via the score, soundtrack and stills. This is how it works: click play on the link supplied of the selected music and scroll through the images. Be reminded and inspired of the cinematic splendour. 
Note: the last shot is my pick for the best shot.

Set in the stunning, picturesque, unruly territory of New Zealand, The Piano is one of the most visually spectacular films ever created. The images and sounds are endlessly complementing and succinct, the music raw and simple - engaging seamlessly with movements on screen. The Piano chronicles a strangely unconventional love story that is both darkly erotic and emotionally potent. It tells the story of a young mute woman sent to New Zealand with her daughter to wed a wealthy landowner by arranged marriage. Music is her solace and her piano, a yielder of true happiness. When it is sold, her endeavours to regain it land her in rather curious, perplexing circumstances. The powerhouse performances of Holly Hunter and the vibrant, young Anna Paquin are arguably the best female performances of the 90s. 

The score captures the eerie, somewhat spectral nature of the story, highly unusual in the hotly defined genre of 19th century romances. The emotive piano compositions are elegant as they are spirited. The work of English composer Michael Nyman is traditionally understated and although his contribution to film is sparse, the rare musical delights he does forward to the cinema are unforgettable. Cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh, in some contrast to Nyman, although harbours a lengthy filmography is not always consistent. His best work, however, is not doubt of The Piano: each shot of the feature is a stunning passage of storytelling triumph. 


Shooting Location: NZ - Karekare Beach, Auckland Region

Friday, 26 September 2014

Boyhood



Boyhood is a milestone in cinematic achievement. Director Richard Linklater has captured the simple, unadulterated poetry of mundane life. The feature achieves the spectacular. It provokes you to feel, appreciate, reminisce, yearn, understand, accept. Within a period of 166 minutes be prepared to feel overwhelming nostalgia, aching melancholy, simple elation and an inherent satisfaction that it all happened. Thought-provoking beyond measure, the feature is a cinematic revelation, an allusive celebration of life and family. Boyhood is perhaps the most personal, accessible film ever to grace to the cinemas this decade, hell this century. Emotional extortion and dramatic orchestration of events is entirely forgone. Instead Linklater has shown a modern audience that real life is already full and extraordinary and noteworthy as it is. Boyhood provides reflection, insight and simple showcase of the completely ordinary growth of one young boy. We can only watch in awe as we are touched with the familiarity, accuracy and honesty of its portrayal. 

As with most of Linklater's features, Boyhood is uncontrovertibly without plot. Instead, lives are lived, lessons are learned, hearts are broken, memories are created, forged, treasured, forgotten and nostalgia runs wild. We watch the steady, subtle, entirely natural progression of a young family and in particular Mason Evans, Jr (Ellar Coltrane). We witness the growth of one boy's skewed vision and the significant experiences of his young life which in collaborative magic produce a naïve yet ambitious and insightful young man. 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Visual & Sound Diary: Atonement (2007)


Visual & Sound Diary is a weekly feature where I explore a chosen film of distinctive cinematography and musical composition via the score, soundtrack and stills. This is how it works: click play on the link supplied of the selected music and scroll through the images. Be reminded and inspired of the cinematic splendour. 
Note: the last shot is my pick for the best shot.

Joe Wright is one of the finest, most understated contemporary directors currently working. Atonement is surely the prolific film-makers crowning achievement, among a rich (although short) resumé of flawless period dramas. The film boasts one of the most affecting scores of this decade by Italian composer Dario Marianelli. The ingenious masterstroke of the score is its symbolic correspondence with story elements - the integration of typewriter noises and the strong voices of an army chorus. The moving compositions of the war sequences are breathtakingly elegant. In particular is the streamlined 4-minute shot of the British invasion of Dunkirk. Presented in this shot is the greatest treasure of the score: the elaborate, melancholias Elegy for Dunkirk (featured below) - an epic and chilling musical arrangement. 

Each frame of the film is beautifully saturated without ever looking forged or synthetic - the colour contrasts are appropriately dazzling, the cinematography most distinct in its range. Many of the iconic images from the film, the fountain, the room, the lake and the typewriter are featured below. The film is structured in a most intriguing manner, the first half occurring in real time over the course of one day. The second half of the feature examines the resounding impact the events occurring on that one day have on the rest of their lives.  It's a story of a young girl's imagination, the thin line between realities and dreams, of consequences, remorse, of war, of lust and pride and above all, a desire for Atonement. 

Shooting Location: The UK - Redcar, Streatham Hill, south London, Stokesay Court & Grimsby 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Visual & Sound Diary: Days of Heaven (1978)


Visual & Sound Diary is a weekly feature where I explore a chosen film of distinctive cinematography and musical composition via the score, soundtrack and stills. This is how it works: click play on the link supplied of the selected music and scroll through the images. Be reminded and inspired of the cinematic splendour. 
Note: the last shot is my pick for the best shot.

Terence Malick's signature ambiguity is prevalent in his second 70s feature, Days of Heaven. The trademarks of his artistry are most apparent: the spareness of dialogue, focus on movement and sound, the eerie sets of montages and ultimately, that dreamy quality of which no other director seems to be able to capture quite as well. Days of Heaven boasts the stunning, raw cinematography of Néstor Alendros - a film artist whose love affair with natural light is blatantly obvious. Alendros' iconic shot of the storm of cicadas descending on the farm is, I dare say, imprinted in the minds of nearly every cinephile. The selection of Saint-Saëns' "The Carnival of Animals" is a masterstroke - it's appropriately sinister, spirited, haunting and disconnected from reality. 

The performances of Malick's films are never central to the feature itself. Take The Tree of Life for instance, Jessica Chaistain and Brad Pitt's performances were flawless, exceptional representations and facilitators of the film's subject matter but never important enough to warrant awards attention. It's Malick's craftsmanship and auteur vision which shines through and garners the most attention. Likewise, Days of Heaven leads Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard and Linda Manz provide sublime, understated representations but nonetheless it is Malick's collective reverie that becomes the real marvel. 

Shooting Location: The US - Whiskey Gap, Alberta & Heritage Park Historical Village, Calgary 

Monday, 15 September 2014

P.S. Begin Again


With Once, director John Carney graced us with a piece although technically raw, emotionally rich and refreshingly pure and simple. His latest film, a music flick from which many parallels can be drawn with Once, carries the same easy charm and it too stands as an invigorating departure from conventional rom-com standards. Begin Again is a look at the place and influence of music in the lives of two New-Yorkers: an uninspired executive record producer, Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo), and young songwriter, Gretta (Kiera Knightley), fresh off a break-up with her once musical partner and long-term boyfriend, David Kohl (Adam Levine), also a successful musician. One encounters the other and the result is the stellar production of music, by two people who need it most. Where Begin Again hits the spot is in identifying music for what it is - a wholesome escapism from ugly, compromising, disappointing realities. The feature is simply a wonderfully controlled piece with an understated New York setting, upheld by naturalistic characters, light prepossessing tunes and small touches of visual magic. Never is the feature cloyingly sentimental and whilst it falls somewhat short of the allure Once held, Begin Again is flagrantly original and well-meaning. This is light-hearted mainstream cinema at its best: absent is the standard oversimplification of plot, emotional exploitation and poorly placed romance. In its place we have a sweet flick which is, quite literally, music to our ears. 

76/100

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

P.S. The Two Faces of January


A tight, stylish Hitchockian thriller, The Two Faces of January relies heavily not on superficially staged action sequences but nuanced character studies and a consistently intriguing story. The two male leads, Viggo Mortensen and Oscar Isaac, made for a compelling duo - the dynamics of their relationship endlessly evolving, shifting, reaching into darker, more formidable depths. The trust between them thinning, then waning and then growing, pulled back-and-forth, confusing the audience but in a clever, intended fashion which is wholly realistic and competently portrayed. The characters are created so that empathy for them travels through the audience. Yes, our interests are securely invested - and then the director begins to toy with out emotions. However, Kirsten Dunst seemed unreasonably strained in her role. She provided criminally devout performances in Melancholia, The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette but her character in this feature was truly lost on me. I recognised her iconic traits and her representation of Colette was not without new material. Dunst possesses irrefutable flexibility and variety (usually) but she was without a doubt ill-fitted to the role. 
Beyond this however, the feature's setting is intensely attractive - you've got the ever-present green-grey waters of Greek terrain, the occasional ruin, a bleak European rural town. Cinematography reaches close vicinity of optimum use for the striking, natural beauty of the filming location. The opening shot is graceful and stunning and as the film progresses cinematographer Marcel Zyskind's artistry never falters. 


80/100

Saturday, 30 August 2014

P.S. Guardians of the Galaxy


Dazzling, oddly original and inherently witty Guardians of the Galaxy is a Marvel adaptation which is surprisingly hard to resist. As the congenial 70s and 80s pop songs blared during the action sequences and leading man Chris Pratt delivered joke after joke, I found myself utterly taken by the charm of this superhero feature. Its blatant and irreverent disregard for its plot holes only added to its appeal - its ironic, almost self-referential manner even infectious. The film's unabashed sentimentality is redeemed by amusing repartees of a smart-alec racoon, a humanoid tree of a three word vocabulary ("I am groot"), an orphan assassin, a conceited "star-lord" and a typical vengeance-fueled warrior. The unlikely group team up, escape from a high-security prison and fight a galaxy-wide war against "Ronan the Accuser". The feature is furthered by some unexpected, genuinely touching moments of emotional embrace and visual wonder.

73/100

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

P.S. The Kings of Summer (2013)


The darling of the 2013 Sundance film festival, the Kings of Summer, is the product of delicious slow-motion shots, a nuanced, witty tie-in script and some incredible sound mixing. The feature is intensely likeable, providing an intriguing balance of comedy and drama and a series of compelling, self-motivated characters. The film chronicles the summer of three boys who, in search of independence, build a house and live in the woods. What ensues are forest-deep rhythmic dancing and drumming, graceful leaps into the river, treks across sun-lit fields and drinks at sunset, every sunset. And most of all this is presented in true cinematic style: endless montages accompanied by impeccable sound editing. What makes The Kings of Summer so noteworthy is its many forms: it is an honest, endearing coming-of-age story, a love letter to nature and youth and a romance with a realistic slap. It borders on revelatory, never is it jarring and consistently it is quotable, euphoric and completely, of the moment. 

78/100

Thursday, 21 August 2014

P.S. Reviews

American Beauty. 

My first film review on Cinema 13 was an uncharacteristic one: the recent adaptation of a Stephen King horror novel, Carrie. Stripped temporarily bare of mundane academic aspirations having just finished high school, I become faced with a strange identity crisis: what was I beyond my education, my friends, my family and my love for odd things? Embracing my newfound freedom and its great confidant, boredom, I picked up my laptop and began to write. Initially named Gluey Feathers on a Flume, my first intention for this blog was not to write about film, but to create something of a personal memo, a published diary. Having just returned from a screening of Carrie, my first instinct was to publish my thoughts on it. I had more to say than I imagined I would. I kept writing. And so came Cinema 13. 

P.S. signals a new era for Cinema 13. It is an endeavour to document each and every film that I view in the cinemas as well as a selection out on DVD. Whilst I will continue to write comprehensive reviews on the most imposing, compelling of films, P.S. will entail a cast of short reviews, the length of just one paragraph. They will be concise considerations and hopefully, memorable persuasions.  

Thursday, 14 August 2014

A Week Sans Cinema


A combination of morphine, anaesthetic, Panadol and Nurofen meant I couldn't maintain my concentration for much longer than 15 minutes this past week. I spent a quiet night in the hospital following a knee construction surgery and struggled to watch the only film I could find on the hospital television: some bleary, mind-numblingly terrible Anna Faris rom-com. When I arrived home the next day, I was determined to make the best of my time and binge-watch anything I could get my hands on. However, for the first four days this did not come to pass: every time I tried I'd feel nauseous, dizzy and drowsy. So I devised a plan: I watched in 30 minute instalments - a film a day keeps the dizzy away. I haven't had the opportunity to visit the cinema in a whole week and I also missed many an event - a Broods concert, Melbourne International Film Festival screenings of Boyhood and The Immigrant and a ball. So yes, this is my first week in a long while which is very much sans the cinema. Scroll down to read 6 short DVD reviews. 


Sunday, 10 August 2014

Under the Skin


Under the Skin, in all its sinister grace, is most extraordinary in that it is capable of evoking physical responses from its audience. My skin prickled at many a moment, I was short of breath at other points and my fingernails dug deep into skin as I clenched my fists involuntarily from the sheer suspense. The piece is a refreshing, revolutionary, entirely bizarre take on on the tired alien science fiction genre. It burns the trademark disturbing images deep into our minds, not by force but by art. Under the Skin transcends a twisted, cold beauty, stepping deeply into a subversive Stanley-Kubrick-style vision. What director Jonathan Glazer crafts expertly with a clear aesthetic precision in each and every scene, is the eerie atmosphere. At many points, together with otherworldly high-pitched sound effects, the solemn heavy drum beat and sharp, shocking visuals the film borders on pure horror. 

An alien, in the form of a mysterious, attractive young woman, (Scarlett Johanson) roams through Scotland in search of vulnerable, isolated men. She entices them away where they are met with an ominous, perplexing fate: their bodies are absorbed into a thick black liquid where eventually they are sucked away into a strange red light leaving only their skin behind. However, the alien begins to become increasingly self-aware of the humanity of her disguise and seeks to understand it. 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Films of Sofia Coppola


From the start there was confidence. There was originality. There was ambition without the desperation, a debut feature without indication of an amateur's handiwork. The two trademarks of a true Sofia Coppola film are: sparse dialogue and a notably slow pace. Coppola's narratives are always loose, though-provoking stories with an absence of the standard story arc - dreamy in quality, poetic, open-ended conclusions. The aftermath of viewing a Coppola feature is like the maturing of red wine. It improves with time: the elements, the subtle themes and the bravado displays grow in one's conscience from the tiny seed planted when it first "exposed" to the viewer. Always open to interpretation, what must be appreciated about a Coppola film is that each audience's experience is unequivocally unique to another's. You take from it what you will. No director understands her audience more than Sofia Coppola - we are not blank canvases but individuals having approached a cinema with a mind of our own. Below are all of her films ranked according to my personal esteem. 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Charlie's Country


Like most countries, Australia is a nation tarnished by an ugly, compromising history. It takes true insight and a steady hand at subtly to produce a contemporary Australia piece which reflects the convoluted Aboriginal condition. Dutch Australian director Rolf de Heer is fast becoming identified as the go-to-guy for real, prepossessing Indigenous cinema. I adored the unrelenting patience within the film and the corresponding patience it demanded of its audience, forcing viewers to really look. A certain poetry afflicts the film, a stirring melancholic melody plays over and over (curtsey of Graham Tardif), and the shots linger for unusually lengthy times on David Gulpilil. An unyielding sorrow and despondency shadows the film despite an affectionate, tasteful humour gracing the feature at many a moment. It is ultimately Gulpilil's performance which remains the crowning achievement and attraction of the film:  a striking portrait of a man plagued by the darkness of our history and left directionless as a result.  The screening was followed by a Q&A session with Rolf de Heer, whom spoke freely about the process behind the collaborative creation with David Gulpilil which came to be Charlie's Country. 

Blackfella Charlie's community life is an odd one: he collects fortnightly government benefits only to give most away, he's in with the police, with drug dealers and squats on his own land because his house has no room for him.  Hungry, suppressed, indignant and desperate he despairs, ultimately deciding to "go bush", to live the old way. What proceeds is a ready exposition of the compromising, modern Aboriginal culture.  

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Against the Crowd Blogathon

Marie Antoinette: A queen against the crowd, a film against the crowd

Ingenious is the idea created by Wendell over at Dell on Movies for a film blogathon. It's concept allows for film bloggers to shed light on the much-loved films that we despised and the hated films we could not help but love. The notion of this blog is so core, so representative of the ideals of the film blogging community: our opinions are valued, they are equal and they are heard. 

The rules of the blogathon are as follows:

1. Pick one move that "everyone" loves (the more iconic, the better). That movie must have a score of at least 80% on rottentomatoes.com. Tell us why you hate it.

2. Pick one movie that "everyone" hates (the more notorious, the better). That movie must have a score of less than 30% on rottentomatoes.com. Tell us why you love it.

3. Include the tomato meter score of both movies 

Friday, 11 July 2014

Ida


Quietly profound, calculatingly beautiful - Ida is a technical masterpiece in every sense of the word. The entire piece is series of mesmeric images - each frame equates to a detailed, striking painting that we almost fall into. The absence of moving shots is a revolutionary concept: director Pawel Pawlikowsi rewrites the rules of filmmaking. The subjects are hardly ever to be found in the centre of the shot, but rather in a bottom corner - shadowed suitably by stunning surroundings. Our wandering eyes are drawn to each crevice, every shadow and shade in every still, waiting vision. The sublime, flawless creation of Ida haunts its audience. This Polish feature reminds us of the static obscuring the delights and power of simple filmmaking. It is a considerable adverse to contemporary cinema - shot entirely in black and white with a minimalist script, a 4:3 aspect ratio (forget widescreen, this is the return of black bars) and only one motion shot - the final sequence. 

Before taking her vows, Anna - a young novice nun brought up in a Polish convent in the 1960s is ordered to become acquainted with her aunt. Wanda is the young orphan's only living relative and the soul keeper of the secrets to Anna's origins. She and Wanda depart on a odyssey, a road trip of sorts where it becomes clear that whilst Anna hopes for knowledge - Wanda is searching only for confirmation to a dark and sinful truth. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The Fault In Our Stars


The Fault In Our Stars transpires hope - the script is quietly moving - evoking a sort of sleepy beauty that disarms you. The intellectual exchanges between the two leads, Angustus Waters and Hazel Grace Lancaster, are refreshingly clever and pleasant, wordy conundrums teenagers and adults alike can revel in. The glaringly unsentimental gaze of director Josh Boone serves the source novel right but what really has this film reaching far and beyond into something notable is Shailene Woodley's contribution. She's a steady performer, grasping the affections of the audience like a ambitious seductress - its skilful wordplay and smooth acquaintance. Leading man Ansel Elgort's performance pales in awkward comparison, utilising little more than his good looks and charming deliverance of lines to attain endearment and concern from the audience. All other aspects of the film are primarily basic from the cinematography to editing to the narrative structure save for a masterly soundtrack and notable other supporting performances.  

This is a teen love story with two significant modifications: 1. Hazel Grace and Augustus meet at a cancer support group: Hazel living with terminal thyroid cancer and Augustus, an amputee now in remission; and 2. Rather than sharing a simple desire to be loved, they bond over realistic concepts such as wanderlust, wit and literature. Friendship between the couple grows, Hazel at constant resistance of anything romantic but the inevitable comes to pass - they fall in love as one would fall asleep - "slowly and then all at once".

Monday, 7 July 2014

Seasonal Nostalgia Week


A tourist city was mine for a week. The wide expanse of Surfer's Paradise in the golden state of Queensland was explored by some curious soul, who struggled to walk but dreamt without limitations. For just four days I immersed myself in books, writing in old abandoned notebooks and long-loved music on a cheap, portable vibrate speaker. I picked up Clockwork Orange at the airport and had packed The Picture of Dorian Gray and Emma. I sat alone on beaches, at poolsides. Moving upstate meant cheating the season. And all I can say is - in the dead of winter you really forget the feeling of sun kissing your skin. I wrote drafts for several reviews and flipped through a few issues of Empire magazine: the August issue, an insightful revelation. "Guest-edited by the world's greatest directors" - including such contributions including email exchanges, photos, production notes/sketches by directors themselves. 
Upon my return I attended a wonderful screening of Charlie's Country with director Rolf de Heer in attendance. All I will say for now is Australian film for 2014 is looking good. And: my friend Beth is lending me a box set of Stanley Kubrick films - expect rants. 

Below are a list of features I viewed in the cinemas this past fortnight:

Friday, 4 July 2014

Maleficent


Maleficent is the typical product of contemporary cinema. It fits squarely and neatly into the category of fairytales re-imagined, recreated and "restored". A sympathetic angle on the traditional villain of a well-known story is no new concept. The animated classics have always told the most simplistic interpretation of the tale, leaving much room for filmmakers to modify, manipulate and revive. Without fail every year our cinemas are graced with at least one of such adaptations (e.g. Snow White and the Huntsman, Ever After, Beastly, Hoodwinked!). These features are often ambitious and aesthetically pleasing but also rather lethargic recreations; and Maleficent is no exception. Actually no, Maleficent is worse. The CGI, tacky, underwhelming green-screening actually horrified me at points. The lifeless script tied Angelina Jolie down but given the limitations, Jolie was truly remarkable. She supplied a mesmerising, consistent performance.

This is Maleficent when she is young and pure: she leads a sweet, simple life in a magical forest kingdom which shares borders with the a power-hungry, greedy land. Against custom, she befriends a young human boy, Stefan, from the neighbouring kingdom whose ambition eventually blinds all virtue.  Their friendship fades as the two grow older, Maleficent into a graceful, powerful protector of her realm and Stefan - in his frenzied pursuit for power. Betrayals, invasions and vengeance ensue. Maleficent's heart hardens as a desire for retribution consumes and becomes her.  As according to the traditional tale, Maleficent bestows an irreversible curse on baby Aurora, the daughter of King Stefan, at her christening. 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Edge of Tomorrow


Edge of Tomorrow is an ambitious feature: it is clever, succinct modern cinema. Confident execution, spectacular editing, lithe, smart dialogue held strong by the vibrant, monotonous beats of an ominous score - this Tom Cruise film promises and delivers. It risks a formulaic composition - that futuristic toned "defeat the enemy", apocalyptic mentality but is vindicated by a suave structure of the not-so-standard Groundhog Day-esque feature. It reminds us of the action, sci-fi thriller that is infectiously likeable but this time actually gives us legitimate reason to; a rare gem in film today. We may have the technology to create stunning visuals of a dystopian world, but believability and innovation is still up to the work of diligent craftsmanship. The laugh-out-loud humour, stellar performances and sublime, edgy editing surely provides a refreshing step away from the mindless action sequences of the standard Michael Bay production.

Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) carries title in an apocalyptic future where an alien race wrecks havoc and devastation. Warfare is commonplace and hope comes in the form of technological development - advanced weaponry. When William Cage objects to being placed in direct combat on the French coast against the known "mimics", he is stripped of his title and thrown into the mission. Cage is dropped in with the first wave where it appears the enemy anticipated the attack, the beach: a slaughterhouse. Upon slaughtering a large Alpha mimic using a mine, he becomes covered in its blood before the mine explodes. He awakens the morning before the attack, trapped in a time loop of death on repeat. 


Monday, 23 June 2014

Adore


A chilling, compelling arch narrative accompanied by transcendent cinematography and a haunting score Adore simply encapsulates so many things I adore about film. It's non-conclusive and conflicting, thought-provoking and treats its audience with endless intelligence. The script, some perceive as tame and lifeless, but I saw it as calculating and instrumental. I thought about this film days on end. French director, Anne Fontaine's, hold on the film is evident with European sensibilities at the backbone of the film. What themes would hardly be questioned in a French film mistakenly became its defining and most talked about features. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, the film was much better received internationally than in Australia. And its not hard to see why. 

Roz (Robin Wright) and Lil (Naomi Watts) are two true blue Aussie girls growing up as the closest of friends next door to each other, at the stunning coast of New South Wales. Their halcyon days of youth are spent on lazing around on a floating platform - a major fixture of the film itself. As time passes, the pair never leave their home even when both marry and have sons. Lil's husband passes away in a car accident and subsequently Lil is left to raise her son, Ian (Xavier Samuel) alone. Roz becomes something of a second mother to Ian and the two families grow up, side-by-side. At age 20, the two sons,  Ian and Tom's (James Frecheville) close friendship mirrors that of Roz and Lil's. When Roz's husband, Harold (Ben Mendelsohn) leaves for Sydney for a few months, attraction between Roz and Ian comes the beginning of something dark and real - a transgression which consumes them all.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Galore


Galore is a feature perpetuating life in its real form. It is a masterful, controlled piece of cinema which throws you in unexpected ways. You, as an audience member, delve so deep and convincingly into the lives of the characters that you feel somewhat affected by the swift turn of events - from sweet freedom to recluse circumstance. The careful and virtuoso craftsmanship of every character can truly be appreciated. You can actually feel their presence. The film is patient; it lets the light dance in front of the lens, it gives time for us to become familiar with places, season, routine and patterns, and it introduces us to every character as they come. 
Come a chilly Wednesday night, I find myself seated at a special screening of Galore at Cinema Nova on Lygon Street. It is always a different cinematic experience when you are prepared to come face-to-face with the very people who created the film you just saw. It was a strangely and uniquely intimate two hours. The director Rhys Graham, producer Philippa Campey and actors Toby Wallace, Lily Sullivan and Aliki Mantagi were in attendance and following the screening provided some insight into the work behind the magic.  

Galore tells the story of youth: that derelict, reckless time where in a narrow and singular vision, you are invincible. Billie (Ashleigh Cummings) is an indignant spirit who exists in a delicate balance, the prospect of eventual havoc looming quietly over her head. She loves and lives fiercely. Her summer days in the lazy town are spent working shifts at a local store, swimming and sunbathing by the river, long nights spent partying - all with the company of her best friend, Laura (Lily Sullivan). But the dynamics of the relationships Billie holds are far more complex. Billie and Laura's boyfriend, Danny (Toby Wallace), hide away for hours on end together, madly and indisputably crazy for each other.  

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Genre: Teen Culture in Film and Television


I've almost graduated out of the system. That is, out of the bewildering, all-consuming years they call adolescence. Being a teenager means everything, and then nothing. Your world is a thin strip of moonlight from a door cracked just slightly open. And what is beyond that? You don't know. So of course being young and curious, you are fucking obsessed with it. It's an ideal world where freedom runs wild, happiness is choice and you're free to dance with danger.
Representation of teen in media is tricky business. Naïve portrayals of teenagers are ridiculed yet sensationalised ones are criticised and dubbed "dangerous" and "inflammatory". It is the realistic ones which reign over these. They are masterpieces which portray the bittersweet experience with a brutal honesty, capturing the fragility of our worlds and enthusiasm for the forbidden. 
Below are my five favourite depictions of teen culture in media: 
(please note that I have excluded all Sofia Coppola works from this post as I intend to do write-up on her soon)

Thursday, 5 June 2014

A Week in Winter



This week I experienced new, more prominent forms of pain. I was let go, let down, put down, left behind. I gained insight into quiet absences, the fragility and condition of everything and the ready dark of this lying world. I was struck out into spaces alone and drifted about aimlessly, desperate to grasp something still, strong and constant. Experience destroys imagination. What dark things I use to paint with my mind with creativity, was ascertained yet cleanly eliminated by real events. Desolation and lunacy once romantic notions of justified angst were suddenly useless, meaningless and childish. Whims were scavenged in worlds away. Solace found form in the graceful words of John Green, the stark isolation of Sofia Coppola's visions and the ruthless escapades crafted by George R. R. Martin.


Tuesday, 3 June 2014

In Conversation with Jeffrey Katzenberg: CEO of DreamWorks


I live in a the cultural capital of Australia, Melbourne. The first ever feature-length film was filmed in Melbourne, The Story of Kelly Gang. Although, aside from this fact, Melbourne is not a city known for its contributions to the film industry. Recently, however, DreamWorks studio celebrated its 20th anniversary and the Australia Centre for Moving Image (ACMI) stepped in to help honour the occasion. Debuting on the 12th of April, ACMI opened a DreamWorks animation exhibition. The show itself is a lively archive of storyboards, props from the film sets, concept-drawings and interactive displays of the animated delights. On its opening night, a very special guest was invited to participate in a Q&A session: none another than CEO of DreamWorks, the man himself Jeffrey Katzenberg. And this is the legend I found myself seated before on that very night. 

Jeffrey Katzenberg is no mere businessman. He is the co-founder of DreamWorks, known for his tenure as co-chairman of the Walt Disney Studios during its Renaissance Period and his time as President of Production at of Paramount Pictures. But he is also a notable film producer, having conceived the early ideas for The Lion King, Kung Fu Panda, The Little Mermaid and Madagascar and served as executive producer for The Prince of Egypt, Shrek, Shark Tale and Chicken Run. The night was hosted by Channel 10's Executive General Manager and panellist of The Gruen Transfer, Russel Howcroft. 


Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Blogathon: Favourite Movie Titles


This is my first entry into a film blogathon. Brittani over at Rambling Film is hosting her first ever and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to make this my debut participation. The idea is brilliant yet simple: choose your favourite movie titles from A-Z. She also specified that it isn't necessary to like the film you have chosen. I thoroughly enjoyed putting this post together: I was reminded of some golden oldies, struggled to choose between some (so many good ones for letter "G" and "D") and realised that there are less than 20 films made that start with the letter "X", most of which are taken by X-Men. In identifying which film titles I deemed to be the best, I looked not only at originality and concise articulation, but humour, irony and at times, simple appropriateness. A perfect film title not only provides eloquent summation but can push intrigue across to a potential audience. 

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Trailer: Magic in the Moonlight + Clouds of Sils Maria


The last 24 hours have transpired two very promising promos of two highly anticipated films: Magic in the Moonlight - Woody Allen's film for 2014 and French director, Olivier Assayas' film Clouds of Sils Maria which is set to compete for the coveted Palm d'Or at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Both trailers exhibit the films to be simply sparkling with potential. 

Sunday, 18 May 2014

"The World Is Not A Wish Granting Factory"

Exams are fast approaching. A constant level of insanity is beginning to descend on everyone at uni. Manic stress is commonplace and people are scrambling for some form of solace. Of course rather than focusing on my massive contracts law textbooks I am doing anything but. I've had a pretty crazy week: I attended a benefit concert at my high school and a live show by legendary band Rüfüs. This week wasn't all hooray though: I got fired from one my jobs by text and had the opportunity to attend a preview screening of The Rover with director David Michôd (Animal Kingdom) in attendance but realised it was the night before one of my exams. Sanity, for me, was retrieved via an exciting and indulgent week in film. 




I managed to score tickets to an exclusive preview screening of The Fault In Our Stars. I feel that I need to explain the upending anticipation for the release of this film: 

John Green, the author of the source material, is easily one of the most eloquent writers we have today. As a movie buff, a cinephile I harbour a certain contempt towards sickly sentiment. But the novel - The Fault in Our Stars - is anything but. It's spiky, electric, ingenious and realistic emotion. The characters, so patently crafted are real creatures of this world. The film is directed by Josh Boone (remember his debut work Stuck in Love) and is adapted by the writers of The Spectacular Now and 500 Days of Summer. The cast is lead by Shailene Woodley whose naturalistic performances have garnered much praise and attention. And top this all off, the soundtrack is phenomenal - with tunes from the likes of M83, Grouplove, Lykke Li, Birdy, Jake Bugg and Kondaline. 

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Preview Screening: Healing




Soft and lightly paced, Healing takes it sweet time telling you its story. Its a cinematographers dream - Academy award winning cinemagician Andrew Leslie is given much artistic license in this film. The shots are never short and sharp but rather are quiet, lingering moments. We hear the wind, we absorb the august, illustrous views and we can almost feel the thick, cold smog kiss our skin as eagles soar through the blue of the wild morning. It's a refreshing piece of cinema which deviates away from generic storylines and whilst it is not exactly unpredictable, it is a clean, modern beautiful feature forwarding profound notions which are worth considering. It was once again a true privilege being able to meet the director, Craig Monahan and lead, Don Hany at the conclusion of the film.   

Healing introduces a small circle of prisoners who have just been transferred to minimum security prison in rural Victoria, Wron Wron. In particular, we have Viktor Kahdem (Don Hany), an Iranian man whom utters few words and is hard bent on remaining isolated. It is case worker Matt Perry (Hugo Weaving) who endeavours to incite some opportunities for rehabilitation via the introduction of an innovative new program. In collaboration with Healesville Sanctuary, Matt Perry brings injured raptors - proud creatures such as eagles, falcons and owls to the prison. Viktor Kahdem fronts the program, and we gradually come to see how it is actually a paradigm for his own Healing.