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Friday, 26 August 2016

Film No. 50 (2016) High-Rise August 13th.

Film No. 50 (2016) August 13th.  10.45 PM LUNA Leederville. 

"What is it about poor people and their obsession with money?" (The Architect's wife Jane (Sienna Guillory) bemoans the fact that her cleaner wishes to be paid).

High-Rise is a lavish comment on working class obsession as a repercussion of The Thatcher years. The multi-storey residential  housing complex of the title is a snapshot of class structure and the oppression which brings the lower middle and working class to breaking point.

  Whilst the first 45 minutes of High-Rise makes a promising "entrance" after that the set up fails and becomes a confusing and chaotic mess. This is unfortunate as the 70's could not have been captured better via wardrobe and motor-vehicle adjuncts.   

Tom Hiddleston gives another effective James Bond audition as Laing, a doctor who sides with the best looking young mums and the working class in general. Listen out for the soundtrack which uncovers a couple of unique versions of classic songs, in particular ABBA's SOS.

Ben Wheatley (Sightseers) has emerged as a director who won't appeal to all but he has his own style, a style not congruent with mainstream cinema. I enjoyed the dark humour and images of Sightseers, I can't say the same for High-Rise. 4GUMS.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Film No. 49 (2016) Indignation August 8.

Film No. 49 (2016) August 8th.  6.30 PM LUNA Paradiso, Northbridge.

"I want to hear all about your mother and your father the butcher and what it's like to work in a butcher's shop and what the girls are like in New York". (Olivia (Sarah Gadon) gushes with questions for Marcus (Logan Lerman) on their first date).

A Phillip Roth novel has never appeared to me as being an easy narrative to translate to the screen. Considering the pedigree of first time director James Schamus and his screen writing background with Ang Lee one needn't have worried. Indignation is a gem of a film. Anyone who loves film with simple but rich images, clever writing and an honest to the core premise shouldn't miss Indignation.

Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman) is a thoughtful, intelligent young man who is destined for a profession, perhaps a career in law, due to his propensity for study and his insightful conversation. When Marcus leaves his closed world as an only child to his homemaker mother Esther (Linda Emond) and kosher butcher father Max (Danny Burstein) there are bound to be coming of age pains. Especially when smart young man Marcus is inclined to become quite indignant about much that occurs around him.

Dean Caudwell (Tracy Letts) and Olivia (Sarah Gadon) strike up contrasting relationships with Marcus. Gabon is convincing as the girl Marcus dates and who unselfconsciously conducts herself in a manner Marcus finds puzzling. Marcus is not one to leave things be, there must be an answer to her behaviour. Their scenes together are excruciatingly honest. Then it's Caudwell as the college dean who tests Marcus to his moral and philosophical core in their film stealing scenes in the dean's office.

Topped and tailed with voice over by Marcus, Schamus starts us at the end. There is not a cliche in sight as Marcus discusses how a sliding door moment governs his current predicament. The early and late images unravel a clever puzzle. Indignation is a smart, intelligent film but not of the blockbuster variety. It's a film to luxuriate in; discussion with others will undoubtedly follow. 10GUMS.

Film No. 48 (2016) The Fencer July 31st.

Film No. 48 (2016) July 31st.  6.30 PM LUNA Paradiso, Northbridge.

"Your life is at stake and you worry about some kids?"


After 4 previous attempts to win best Foreign Language Oscar, the people of Finland felt they had a chance with The Fencer in 2015.
They were wrong. In fact they missed nomination and I can see why. 
However this takes nothing away from this rich and thorough human drama based on a real life story. The era of awards for this type of film has sadly passed.

There was an unabashed Walt Disney feel-good quality about Klaus Haro's feature film but in no way is this a criticism. The story of Endel Nelis (Mart Avandi) is a rich tale of a man, born into the Baltic state of Estonia, a country where the locals had no say when the Germans enslaved them into their army during occupation. The Estonians were then seen as traitors by the Russians as they marched into Estonia at the end of the war. Endel thus needs to escape and live his life incognito in the hope he'll not be noticed.

His problem is, the life he chooses as a teacher in the local school in backwater town Haapslu, has him teaching Fencing; a skill he mastered before the war and which gave him some fame. Like Mr Miagi of Karate Kid fame, Endel uses fencing as a metaphor for the disciplines of life. He is gentle, calm and becomes a saviour as he builds meaningful relationships in the intimate community. The drama expands when his students plead with him to accept an invitation to compete against other schools at a tournament in Leningrad.

What to do? His hard-nosed school principal has already smelled a rat and made enquiries about Endel's past. A visit to Leningrad could be his unravelling but his priory in life is his dedication to his students and Kadri (Ursula Ratasepp) a fellow teacher and lover. We hope for a von Trapp family like ending but the story is based on a real life Fencer and teacher. The story needed to remain true to history, and it does! 9GUMS.  

Friday, 12 August 2016

Film No. 47 (2016) Louder Than Bombs July 30th.

Film No. 47 (2016) July 30th.  11.00 PM LUNA Leederville.

"There's no story in a car accident, so people have to make one up." (Johna (Jesse Eisenberg) pleads with his father Gene (Gabriel Byrne) to see reason).

The introspective qualities of a film like Louder Than Bombs make it a difficult film to recommend. Reason being, there is hardly an entertaining moment but there are plenty of sharp close-ups and tight editing which exemplify the fractured lives of a family dealing with tragedy.

Jesse Eisenberg adds another immaculate performance to his CV as Jonah the elder son of the emotionally strained clan. If you are a fan then don't miss. Gabriel Byrne plays Gene, the matriarch, of the family who has never quite been "in-touch" with his sons and must begin a repair job. Byrne does what Byrne does best when it comes to serious, edgy drama, he's stoic and fragile all in one.

If I continue any longer I'll end up boring everyone as comprehensively as an elongated close-up of Isabelle Hubbert, the boy's deceased mother.  Why were there so many of those close-ups?  6GUMS   

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Film No. 46 (2016) Land of Mine July 24th.

Film No. 46 (2016) July 24th.  4.15 PM LUNA Paradiso, Northbridge. 

"I told you so, he may as well line us up and shoot us" (the words of a frightened young POW about to play his role as a sweeper on a Danish beach).

The fact that Denmark and more particularly its western coastline was such a strategic point, if somewhat misguidedly, for the German army during World War II is a fact often lost on many of we amateur historians. During Germany's 5 year occupation, 1.5 million land mines were set along the Danish beaches in anticipation of a D Day style allied invasion. Come wars end, 2,000 germans were rounded up to complete the dangerous chore of "cleaning up their mess". Over half of those ordered to disarm and remove the mines either died or were severely injured.

Many of those soldiers were boys of 17 to 19 years of age; a part of Hitler's youth rushed into battle when all was lost. Land of Mine tells a gripping human tale of a small battalion of these boys, under the command of their Sergeant, as they embark on the task of clearing a windswept beach of 45,000 disc and box mines. In the mold of Joyeux Noel a powerful human force glues us to our seats in a way only deeply affecting cinema can.

The boys have a charm from the very first time we meet them. Our empathy for the lads is given air early on. In a tense, crash course on mine disarmament, each boy disarms their canister with a style which becomes as unique as each personality we are about to take to heart. Enter sergeant Rasmussen (Rolan Moller) and his dog, Rasmussen is an iron fisted loner ordered to oversee these young unknowing "lions".

We are manipulated, if clumsily at times, however our compliance is whole hearted because technically the film is edited with precision. Sgt Rasmussen becomes a father figure of sorts to the boys as inevitable tragedy strikes, often suddenly and without warning. His mood swings confuse, especially as prior trust and loyalty scenes were seemingly set in stone. But the ending is brilliantly timed and never laboured. Land of Mine is a treat! 10GUMS.            


Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Film No. 45 (2016) Love & Friendship July 14th.

Film No. 45 (2016) July 14th.  6.30 PM LUNA WINDSOR Nedlands.

"No I've known him for years, I'd never speak to someone I didn't know like that" (Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) gives the reason for her caustic words to a passerby making an attempt to greet her).

I feel confident that if Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) was to comment on Love & Friendship she would describe it as a "delightful amusement". I dare say she would also have no hesitation in describing Lady Vernon herself a "wonderfully outstanding success". And while I'm rarely taken to reinforcing the comments of someone so self indulged, I'd have to agree with Lady Susan. Love & Friendship is an absolute delight.

This very slick film could easily have fallen flat given the checkered careers of Director Stillman and actor Beckinsale, however their talents are put on show in the very best of light here. The material, a Jane Austen novella titled Lady Susan, provided Stillman with the springboard for crafting the clever script, from which Beckinsale was the greatest benefactor. 

  The novella, Lady Susan, was written in 1871 as a series of letters between the characters each so richly etched into Austen's imagination. Stillman has interpreted the good Lady Susan perfectly as a confident, brash, unashamed, manipulative and yet likeable widow. The sharply brilliant writing reflects the meeting of a couple of brilliant minds, those of Austen and Stillman. Stillman continues his fascination with the classes (Metropolitan and The Last Days of Disco) while adapting his tone, this time a 19th century costume drama/comedy.

But as one luxuriates in this entertaining comedy of manners and high farce it's Beckinsale who commands our attention. She's Lady Bracknell but three times as clever. Our journey is dependent on her every move as she manipulates a couple of younger, naive men, smitten by her beauty and aura into "domestic bliss" which will suit her every need perfectly. Enjoy the high farce from Tom Bennett as Sir James Martin. He's got a touch of Ricky Gerveis as David Brent, in a series of funny scenes.  11GUMS. 


Friday, 22 July 2016

Film No. 44 (2016) Bridgend July 13th.

Film No. 44 (2016) July 13th.  9.00 PM LUNA Leederville. 

"We keep ourselves to ourselves round here" (Sara (Hannah Murray) receives this mysterious answer to a question she asks about the reason why so many young people were killing themselves).

It wasn't until I researched the facts surrounding this fictional tale about an actual region of Wales and the town at the centre of the region that I got a grasp of all that was shown on screen in this extremely grim tale. Bridgend was made in 2012 but only released in 2015, a mystery in itself perhaps. 

The facts are these. There have been 79 reported suicides in the region of Bridgend (pop over 100,000) since 2007. An alarming number considering the population of this depressed region. The ages of the victims range between 16 to 45 and research has never uncovered any answers to the epidemic of suicides which seems to have gripped this small area of the U.K.

Director Jeppe Ronde did his research on Bridgend and the strange and disturbing statistics. This film, Bridgend, is the fictionalised depiction of his discussions with the people most effected by the suicides. The shortcuts Ronde takes in his narrative suggest the suicides occurred only in a specific peer group in a village named Bridgend. This is not a criticism but it did effect the impact Bridgend had on me.

After the death of her mother, teenage Sara arrives in Bridgened with her dad Dave, to begin a new life. At first Sara is reclusive and shy soon however she accepts an invitation to hang out with others of her own age but there is something disturbing about the peer group chemistry. Sara becomes mesmerised by the antics of her new "friends" and gradually gains her own security by becoming an active participant herself. And so the grim mystery is given air to breathe. It's grim, but the background to all that is Bridgend is fascinating.  7GUMS.