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Sunday, 19 February 2017

Film No. 10 (2017) Silence February 6th.

Film No. 10 (2017) February 6th.  6.30 PM Greater Union Event Cinema, Innaloo.

"Ferreira is lost, he denounced god and surrendered his faith" (Father Valignano impresses upon Rodrigues and Garupe the reason their mentor has gone missing).

If there was any question over Martin Scorsese's devotion to Catholicism then let it cease. Scorsese takes us on an epic journey over 162 minutes of what it was to be a priest in the 17th century, dedicated to serving god and others then spreading the word of the saviour in enemy territory, Japan in the case of Silence.

The back story behind Scorsese taking two decades to make the film could very well be the topic of a film itself, much like Hearts of Darkness was for Coppola's Apocalypse Now. 

So how does one recommend a film so emotionally draining as Silence? One doesn't really. I can however reflect on the gruelling journey Scorsese inflicted upon me in firstly re-telling Shusaku Endo's novel and secondly giving an insight into why the forces of religious division continue to create havoc in our modern world even after the numerous lessons etched in history.

Two Catholic missionaries (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) gain permission to seek out their mentor Ferreira (Liam Neeson) who has gone missing in 17th century Japan. Their trek through a country cleansing itself of Catholicism is brutally enlightening. Garfield is the mainstay of our epic journey. His strength of will exasperates, particularly late in the film, it's why he's good. Pure film lovers who thrive on being tested in the darkness of a cinema shouldn't miss Silence. Film goers who love nothing more than to while away 100 minutes for entertainment's sake may find Silence a trial. 10GUMS.         

Monday, 13 February 2017

Film No. 9 (2017) A Street Cat Named Bob February 4th.

Film No. 9 (2017) February 4th.  10.45 PM LUNA PALACE, Leederville. 

"How many lives have you got? Apparently I'm on my ninth" (James discusses his predicament with his new co-pilot, Bob the Cat). 

Let me say from the outset, I have not read the International Best Selling book of the same name. As the closing titles suggest, the book has turned into books (My Name is Bob and Bob to the Rescue) so the whole Bob phenomenon is bigger than big. This neatly packaged, feelgood film tells the story behind the phenomenon so much so that Bob plays himself. That's right, the actual cat who is credited with changing one man's life from drug addict to best-selling author.

James Bowen (Luke Treadaway) is an intelligent youngish man battling drug addiction. We meet him while he is on the methadone program so he's got folk who care for him, namely his GP Val (Joanne Froggatt) who both prescribes him medication and "batters down doors" to get him off the street and into a government subsidised flat. So while there's tension on our part, early on, as we will James away from temptation, Bob (Bob the Cat) appears on the kitchen window sill one morning and things start to change. Bob is the distraction which truly leads James from temptation, well Bob and Betty, (Ruta Gedmintas) his new neighbour.

If you are a cat lover then Bob is going to be worth the price of a ticket. Director Roger Spottiswoode even gives us Bob POV shots which I found distracting but let's face it,  the film's star is a Ginger tabby so it wasn't surprising. In fact there is nothing very surprising about this feature. It is simply a feel-good bio. Author Bowen assisted with the script and the real-life Bob got the lead gig.  

So why am I so luke-warm in my praise for A S C N B. Maybe it's because I love film more than I like plodding re-tells of interesting life changing events based on a book I've not read. The Lady in the Van was from the same cinematic stable with a whole lot less related youtube clips but it had a tone and quality I could better relate to. It's all about taste I suppose, but hey, I'm a dog lover. 7GUMS.          

Monday, 6 February 2017

Film No. 8 (2017) Moonlight January 29th.

Film No. 8 (2017) January 28th.  7.00 PM LUNA PALACE, Leederville. 

"At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who your're gonna be. Can't let nobody make that decision for you" (Juan gives 9 year old Chiron one of the film's most profound moments).


The best films often depict a good person, battling the complications of the world with courage and great legitimacy. Moonlight is one such film. Touted by many as the best drama in 2016/17 (Golden Globe; Best Drama) Moonlight could very easily win the Best Film Oscar. Little (Alex Hibbert), Chiron (Ashton Sanders) and Black (Trevante Rhodes) depict three chapters in the life of a black boy/teenager/man coming to terms with who he is.  It's  a wonderful coming of age flick.

The legitimacy of the film is underlined by 3 actors who seamlessly bring us to understand what is really meant by the term "the lottery of life". We first meet Chiron as a nine year old known as Little. Paula (Naomi Harris) loves him but battles drug addiction. He's quiet, wide-eyed, different and bullied. In his haste to escape a pack of bullies he is noticed and gets a break. He is rescued by Juan (Mahershala Ali) who along with girlfriend Teresa (Jangle Monae) gives him a second home.

Barry Jenkins treats his audience with the same gentle care he affords Chiron. Known as Little in this early phase Chiron experiences what it is to be loved as Juan teaches him to float on his back in the ocean. Teresa feeds him with food to grow on. They are simple life lessons, a symbol of how legitimate love (there I go with that word again) is returned to a boy who deserves it. Next Jenkins folds the fact that teenage Chiron (Black) is gay and there are new challenges in his life. Changes not just confined to his one physical self.

Moonlight is as profoundly subtle as it is gentle. During Chiron's teenage phase of life he experiences a sexual transition. His friend Kevin is a friend turned lover who become a vital cog in Chiron's final stanza. If Jenkins was a carpenter and I was lucky enough to own a sideboard crafted by him it would be a piece to be admired daily because there would always be something new in the timber work that I hadn't noticed before. Moonlight is a film to be contemplated and admired in the same way.  10GUMS.      


Sunday, 5 February 2017

Film No. 7 (2017) Neruda January 27th.

Film No. 7 (2017) January 27th.  8.00 PM THE PINES Outdoor Cinema Joondalup.

"They say that Neruda is the most important communist in the world" (A comment made in the Chilean parliament).

Pablo Neruda was a larger than life human being. He'll be remembered by most as a great Chilean for his poetry, his intellect, his socialist values and for his many legendary feats. It's the legend that gives this surrealist film, simply called Neruda, it's legs. Another Pablo, Pablo Larrain, fresh from the stunning Jackie, put's his spin on the legend of Neruda. More specifically the months in 1948 after his government issued a warrant for his arrest due to his communist views.

So while Neruda (Luis Gnekko) existed and became a wanted man, Larrain devised a fictional detective Oscar (Gael Garcia Bernal)to seek Pablo out after he went into hiding. Oscar is up against it. Most of the population of Chile revered Neruda so they went out of their way to conceal him. Oscar becomes the fall guy for all of the antics Neruda can muster. 

Oscar is the cat and Neruda the mouse. The idea is clever and while it is definitely a mood piece, one also needs to be in the mood for Neruda. In the same way Larrain infused Jackie with a veil of poetic licence Neruda is laced with unique interpretations. The comic bordello scene as Neruda is camouflaged amongst scantly clad women is a typical example. Larrain is renowned for the research he puts into his projects; it's the colour he then splashes across his interpretation of those facts which makes him unique.

For those who have studied Chilean history and are aware of Neruda's influence - don't miss Neruda. Likewise for those who are fascinated with Larrain's style or especially those who loved Jackie and his interpretation of her grief. Otherwise take a mood check. You'll need to be in the mood for Neruda.   8GUMS.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Film No. 6 (2017) Manchester by the Sea January 21.

Film No. 6 (2017) January 21st.  10.45 PM LUNA PALACE, Leederville. 

"I can't beat it. I just can't beat it. I'm sorry". (Lee tries to explain to nephew Patrick the reason for his predicament). 

In any other year Manchester by the Sea would have won Best Picture from The Academy, surely. Moonlight and La La Land just seem to be stealing its thunder this cinematic year. Manchester is such a brilliantly made film that I feel it deserves to win the ultimate accolade. Casey Affleck and Ken Lonergan (Director) may still receive respective oscars for their efforts.

Under Lonergan's spell we are taken on Lee Chandler's (Affleck) journey as a man dealing with emotional scars of the nightmarish kind. It's the way Lonergan layers that journey using silences, subtle close-ups and flashbacks which builds the real story behind this troubled brooding Boston janitor who we meet in the opening scenes that stamps Manchester by the Sea as a great film.

While the unravelling of Chandler's predicament is heart wrenchingly painful the present tense in the film depicts the point in his life where changes are forced upon him. He returns to Manchester after the tragic death of brother Joe (Kyle Chandler). He has to take responsibility for his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) a sixteen year old free spirit who's baggage free approach to life releases some of Lee's torment. The humour is sometimes dark but for every exchange there is a new subtle dimension layered into their relationship.

Then come the key moments in the final stanza of Manchester. Patrick walks into Lee's room to look at displayed photographs, we don't see what they depict but know in the silence that Patrick better understands why his uncle Lee "can't beat it". And then there is Williams as Lee's ex-wife, perfectly cast, who brings us to our knees in a scene that sums up the subtlety of Lonergan's masterclass in film making. Soundtrack aside, this film comes very close to perfection. It does come with a warning however, there are moments of sheer heartbreak.  11GUMS.  


Thursday, 19 January 2017

Film No. 5 (2017) Split January 16th.

Film No. 5 (2017) January 16th.  7.00 PM HOYTS Garden City Booragoon.

"You've emailed me for an emergency appointment two days in a row, tell me what's going on?" (Dr Karen Fletcher asks Barry the reason for his change of behaviour).

M Night Shyamalan seemed to have lost his touch after the success of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, so much so he received a major raspberry for The Happening ten years ago. Well this talented director is back, the highly taut and entertaining Split places him back in the box office spotlight.

The film's title relates to the many personalities of Kevin,(James McAvoy)including Dennis, Kevin, Hedwig and many more . Some of those personalities are in therapy with Dr Fletcher (Betty Buckley) who gives us the impression she may unknowingly hold the key to assisting three girls who have been taken hostage by Dennis in a brazen carpark kidnapping. 

It's here I must cease my plot summary other than to say McAvoy is brilliant as the lead performer as is Anya Taylor-Joy as the mysterious Casey. I say M Night is back to his best because he layers Split with handsome images and unpredictable turns. More importantly however he concludes with a twist which had the crowd at my preview reaching for their phones for further research and thought.

I forgot to mention there is a 24th personality introduced to Kevin's closet of personas late in the film. I'm pretty sure it's a key to M Night's twist which draw's the curtain on Split but I'm still thinking about that.  9GUMS. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Film No. 4 (2017) Paterson January 15th.

Film No. 4 (2017) January 15th.  8.00 PM THE PINES Outdoor Cinema Joondalup.

"I had a beautiful dream, we had twins" (Paterson's partner, Laura wakes and answers Paterson's query about how well she slept).

Along with Richard Linklater and Hal Hartley, Jim Jarmusch is a film artist of the unique kind. I still fleetingly think about the originality of scenes from Mystery Train and Night on Earth. Jarmusch is not to everyone's taste because of the reflective, often quiet pacing he adopts. His films usually depict gentle, warm, good people ... I can sense Jarmusch devotees salivating already; Paterson is everything you'd expect of a Jarmusch film.

Paterson (Adam Driver) lives in Paterson New Jersey, the largest city in NJ and home to comedian Lou Costello where a statue and park commemorate it's most famous resident. We track a week in Paterson's life and while on the surface his daily routine is mundane and uneventful the machinations of his observations, his interactions and his insightful poetry leave a warm glow. And it wouldn't be a Jarmusch film with out a visual puzzle or two along the way.

There is no forward story, except for two cut away shots of Paterson in uniform on his bedside table. He has a sweet, loving relationship with his partner Laura, beautifully played by Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani; they encourage one another to fulfil their dreams. The legitimate gentleness of their relationship is captivating. Laura tells Paterson about her dream that they had twins, and so Jarmusch plants twins of varying ages in random scenes from then on. Could it be Paterson notices twins more readily or is it a reminder to duplicate his notebook of poems?

Then there is Marvin, their British bulldog. Marvin is the catalyst for a few of Patersons other small pleasures. Each weekday evening Paterson walks Marvin to his local bar. Marvin waits patiently outside while Paterson "chews the fat" with owner Doc and others. Marvin sits, waits and contemplates acts of naughtiness (look out for the mailbox mystery) he may unleash on Paterson. It's all part of the spell Jarmusch puts us under. Fan's will luxuriate in Paterson, my hope is that others will love the experience, then seek out other films from his catalogue.  11GUMS.