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


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 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.