Crying in Cinema

There’s a part of me that feels even creating a top five for emoting is wrong. Perverse, in a way. A double standard. I’d be the first to say that the mark of a good actor has nothing to do with tears. In fact, I discourage actors from worrying about emotion altogether. It’s a trap. The desire to be thought well of too often leads actors to show their range of ‘feeling’, a bit like going to a funeral with the intention to feel sad. I guess tears for an actor are akin to sweat for the marathon runner – just run the damn race and they’ll be there! Or not.

So, what is this top five post all about? It’s a celebration. I don’t know how these actors get to where they get. But the results have left an indelible imprint on me. Why don’t acting schools study actors the way art schools study painters? And if not study, at the very least celebrate.

To reiterate, you’ll notice De Niro is not on this list. So the next time you’re thinking that crying is the be-all-and-end-all of great acting, just remember: De Niro can’t cry. In the meantime, watch these and weep.

Paul Newman, Cool Hand Luke

A classic moment in a classic film. Rent it. Own it.

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Basketball Diaries

I was a big fan of DiCaprio for three performances: This Boy’s Life, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and The Baskeball Diaries. I hope he returns to this form one day. The kid had a lot of potential. In this scene he doesn’t hold back.

Kathy Burke, Nil By Mouth

Another of my all-time favourite performances. You might be wondering why it’s on this list.

Keisha Castle-Hughes, Whale Rider

All about the courage to persevere through whatever is happening. I love the messiness. This is perfect acting. 50 years treading the boards won’t prepare you to act like this.

Juliet Stevenson, Truly Madly Deeply

This is my favourite performance by an actor or actress in film. There, I said it. Bless her. Nothing beats this for her nuance, warmth, tenderness, joy, sadness. This film has been close to my heart since I first saw it at 15 years old. I got to meet Juliet in London a few years back and tell her what her acting, particularly in this film, has meant to me. She held my hand for what must have been half a minute, and when she listens to you, she makes you feel like there is nothing else in the world. By the way, this is not the crying scene. The greatest crying moment in cinema I cannot find online. But this will do. Let me give it a context. Her lover died and she is grief-stricken. In this scene, he comes back.

Sorry, I didn’t put Toni Collette from The Sixth Sense, or Anthony Hopkins in The Elephant Man. It’s not a competition. Is it? I must give special mention to Sean Nelson in a little-known 1994 film called Fresh. I haven’t seen it since then, but I’ve never forgotten the ending. I can’t show it here. Some things don’t work out of context. Next… best drunk acting.

Reflections on the 2012 Sydney Film Festival

It’s been almost three weeks since the festival closed. Over the course of eleven days I took in twenty-seven movies. I’ve allowed the experience to distill. I miss it, like returning from a holiday. Of course, it was a holiday. The number of times I had to remind myself, “It’s okay, I’m on vacation!”

It feels like another life since I was lost in the rain, searching for Temperance Lane and Grasshopper Bar. In eleven days I immersed myself in stories of poverty, war, prostitution, rape, childhood, dance, pollution, philosophy, death, song, religion, crime, murder, infidelity, love, freedom, time travel. I laughed, cried, got bored, enthralled, frustrated, captivated, frightened, tickled, angry.

What was it all about – this crazy adventure? I think I did this primarily for my own education. This wasn’t conscious – I simply wanted to have fun, and more importantly, relax. The idea of sitting in the dark five hours a day for a couple of weeks, phone OFF, problems ignored – was absolutely the incentive. Yes, cinema is an escape. But what form of escape? To hide from my life? Or to wrap myself up in other people’s lives? And what is this thing called ‘entertainment’?

The films I saw, in order, were:

Whores’ Glory, Killing Anna, Utopia, Mabo, Just the Wind, Play it Like Godard, Where Do We Go Now?, Moonrise Kingdom, Before the Revolution, The Spider’s Strategem, Lore, Rampart, Last Tango in Paris, Valley of Saints, Crazy Horse, Woody Allen: A Documentary, Bachelor Mountain, Marley, On the Road, Barbara, Dead Europe, The Loneliest Planet, Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You…, The Last Emperor, The Sheltering Sky, Side By Side, Safety Not Guaranteed.

I began the adventure thinking I could handle three or four movies a day. And then of course I had my Saturday night meltdown during Rampart and thought it best to stick to perhaps two a day. A movie should be given an afterglow – time to allow it to linger in one’s spirit for hours after. Some captivated me more than others, but I can honestly say I saw nothing that I hated. And believe me, I can hate a film.

As I figure out now what to do with my life, and how to get the time off to devour the Melbourne Film Festival this month, let me leave you with the top five films that resonated for me at the Sydney Film Festival 2012.

5. Valley of Saints (India) Dir: Musa Syeed


Such a simple, beautiful and touching story. Sublime. And the stand-out lead performance of the entire festival from Gulzar Ahmed Bhat. This man had never acted before. Not only that – he has never seen a movie in a cinema! But his gentle, peaceful nature, and an underlying resolve shone through. This is testament to the director, Musa Syeed, with his background in documentaries, who clearly understands what acting on screen is about.

4. Barbara (Germany) Dir: Christian Petzold

This movie is textbook film-making. Pure, pure, pure. Every directing student should study this movie and learn from it. Every shot, every line of dialogue, every moment serves the story. I’m not saying all films should be made like this, but if you want to follow the rules before you break them, here they are, masterfully executed. And a cracking yarn to boot.

3. The Loneliest Planet (USA, Germany) Dir: Julia Loktev

Everything I said about the movie Barbara you can throw out the window here. This breaks all the rules. There’s no story for the first hour. Or should I say, no Robert McKee inciting incident. It looks like it’s shot on a handicam. There’s sequences of twenty minutes with no dialogue. People absolutely loathe this movie. But to say this is a bad movie is a mistake. To each his own, of course. But you have to ask yourself – why watch a sunset when you can watch TV? Is a sunset intrinsically boring? It can be a profound experience. Or if you can’t sit still for five minutes, sunsets suck. So what’s so good about this movie? It’s real. I can’t remember the last time I felt inside of a movie. I sat in the second row of the State Theatre (the screen couldn’t fit in my frame of vision) and I had no expectation of what was going to happen. I wanted to be there, on those mountains, camping, hiking, breathing in that air, being in love. What happens? An engaged couple go on a hiking trip and something goes wrong. The aesthetic of the film is in the natural behaviour of the acting – spontaneous, unselfconscious, banal at times. But faultless. Story must honour aesthetic and vice versa. When behaviour is depicted this authentically, any semblance of plot will smack of contrivance. It is refreshing when a filmmaker has the balls to be hated for the best possible reason – to put humanity and nature at its purest on the screen. Ignore the naysayers and decide for yourself.

2. The Sheltering Sky (UK) Dir: Bernardo Bertolucci

On the final day I took myself back to the Art Gallery for a morning screening of Bertolucci’s The Sheltering Sky. I think epics are meant to be seen in the daytime. I remember over the years taking in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Lawrence of Arabia on Sunday afternoons at the Cremorne Orpheum. Coffee in hand, there’s nothing better than to get out of the sun – or hopefully, the rain – and kick off three hours from 2 to 5pm. This is what epics were made for – a throwback to the matinees of the 1950s. But this was ten o’clock on a Sunday morning. There is a feeling in your body at this hour – a little hung over, maybe. It’s snuggle time. And so this is the state of mind and body I was in, looking forward to The Sheltering Sky, and concluding my Bertolucci retrospective. And how was it? Cinema fucking heaven.

OK, let me talk for a minute about The Sheltering Sky. I think it’s Bertolucci’s masterpiece. I had watched over the festival Before the Revolution, The Spider’s Strategem, Last Tango in Paris, and The Last Emperor. I found the early films a little disjointed or in places heavy-handed or self-conscious, but certainly fascinating, as I could see his experimentation and the evolution of his screen voice. The Sheltering Sky was the culmination. It’s the most conventional of his films. He seemed to have done with his experimenting, and was now the assured hand. I sat there transfixed as one perfect scene unfolded to the next. The acting was sublime, script tight, and funny! A delight also to see the young Malkovich. And Debra Winger is wonderful. Ah, Debra Winger, where are you? And then, just when I thought the movie was coming to a satisfying conclusion, it went all weird! We go off on an extra hour-long odyssey into the desert! It becomes The Loneliest Planet. Ha! Bertolucci, you crazy man – conventional mastery changes gears into experimental genius. But so right!

1. Where Do We Go Now? (Lebanon) Dir: Nadine Labaki

Where Do We Go Now

This was the film of the festival. A musical comedy that takes on religion and war.

A poor, small village is inhabited by Muslims and Christians. They live together in relative peace. But the men can tend to squabble. And beyond the village there is bloody conflict. The women have all lost either a husband or a son. And they are fed up. Fed up with all the suffering and madness. So they devise an elaborate, and perhaps foolhardy, scheme to deceive the men from fighting once and for all.

Men can be such fools. That is the message of this film. And I take delight in that. We are. Overgrown boys, grasping our pride and conceit, led by our penis and ego.

The whole time watching it, I wondered what country this was. It was pleasing to read later that, although shot and produced in Lebanon, the setting is fictional. There is a fantastical element to this movie. It presents this tone in the stunning opening sequence of the bereaved women engaged in a mesmerising ritualistic dance/march. This film does not denounce religion. Religion and culture and tradition give this movie (and life) such wonderful texture and meaning.

This is an anti-war film. Or rather, a pro-love, pro-life, pro-dance, pro-joy, pro-food, pro-song film. It is unashamedly brash. Its message is loud and clear. And it’s funny as hell. Humour is the biggest weapon there is. And I don’t mean jokes. This is not black comedy. This isn’t M*A*S*H, or Dr Strangelove, or Catch-22. It’s not trying to be ironic. It reminded me more of No Man’s Land and even Life is Beautiful. Black comedy tends to avoid pathos, relying on its wit and edginess. But this movie is all heart. It’s a feminine movie. It’s a scream for peace on earth.

I’m so impressed with what Nadine Labaki has achieved here. It’s brazenly ambitious – to take on such important themes and pull it off with such panache. Magnificent stuff.  Makes me cry with joy just thinking about it.

Where Do We Go Now? is in cinemas now.

What was it about these films? There is a human richness, there is a life. There was a zest and humour married to the worlds that they came out of. Almost an inevitability. Maybe this is why Australian films still so often flounder. We too often comment on our culture, and not express that which is born from it. We’ll get there. The rest of the world has a few centuries on us.


E40. That was the seat number. The Holy Grail. By now I am so baked I don’t know what is up. I’m in the mezzanine level of the State. The movie starts in five minutes. Please take your seats. I feel safe that this will be a gentle film. I am in disguise – beanie and spectacles. I am bent.

I thought it would be a good idea to see Marley stoned. This had always been the tentative plan. I was fortunate enough to procure a bit of weed and rolled myself a nice little spliff for the occasion. I decided not to take the train in. I didn’t think I could face Town Hall platform late at night. It was bad enough in my vulnerable state after my near meltdown during Rampart two nights earlier. So I drove in.

It was a Monday night, the public holiday. I figured parking would be easy in the CBD. Sure enough, I found a spot on Pitt Street, up from Market, a one-minute walk from the theatre. My plan was to arrive early, blaze up in the car so to minimise my public stonedness, walk straight through the foyer and take my seat and wait for the lights to dim. Quite aware of how painfully shy I get in the realm of the ganja, I wore a disguise. I donned a massive beanie, the closest thing I had in tribute to Rastafari headware, and some highly reflective non-prescriptive spectacles. If I can’t see them, they can’t see me.

The zone was still metred. Aware that marijuana wreaks havoc on my gross motor skills, I didn’t want to be reading street signs and negotiating coins and parking metres. OK, I’ll get out, pay the metre first, come back to my car, wind all windows up, and toke some reefer. A good plan. I reclined my seat a little, waited for an old couple to walk past, and surreptitiously lit my spliff. Within a few minutes I had myself a serious Dutch oven. Could people tell? Were the police gonna tap on my window? It was rather quiet that night on Pitt Street. I’d be alright.

I waited till about 9:20 and made a beeline to the State. The foyer was packed. Sheesh. I avoided eye contact. But I needed a beer. Yes, a beer. I joined the queue and breathed. Nobody see me. I’m here for Bob, that’s all. Sir, if you want to take your drink in, you’ll need a plastic cup. Hmm. I imagined my clumsy attempts to pour my Peroni into a plastic cup in that crowded cinema, dousing the lady beside me. Getting thrown out of the State. Nah, I’ll scull it in the foyer. It’s alright.

The theatre doors were yet to open. I stood in the middle of that foyer, people swarming around me. I reminded myself of that Dave Graney song Rock and Roll is Where I Hide. As I staved off an impending psychotic episode, the doors finally opened. I nodded to the usher as I flashed my iPhone ticket and with great determination found E40. I removed my coat and placed it in my lap, leant forward and waited. At last I was safe.

Marley was phenomenal. I had no idea what a warrior he was, that following an assassination attempt, he literally sang for his life. I had re-watched No Direction Home, Scorsese’s great film on Dylan, a week earlier. But this was something else. For Dylan, it really had been just about the music, the poetry. His mission was an exploration of creativity. He’d always denied his political agenda. “I’m just a song and dance man.” But Marley was almost the opposite, fighting for change, using song as a conscious means for peace. Both were outsiders, struggling with identity. But I had not realised the extent of this for Marley, that he was the child of a black mother and white father. I knew little of the Rastafari movement, and how integral it was to the use of cannabis and to the emergence of Reggae. There was no separating Bob Marley from the music, from the ganja, from the religion. He was all and more.

And I also got Reggae. It’s fucking sexy.

I had caught the Woody Allen doco that morning. I adore Woody Allen as a filmmaker, and it was a sheer pleasure to be immersed in the footage and excerpts of his films and interviews with his collaborators. It was a standard chronology of his life and career. But Marley was an enlightening and profound experience. I’ll attribute that to Kevin Macdonald. He’s assembled a fascinating story – faithful to its subject – the time, the man and the music – beautifully paced and filmed. And, yes, I can also attribute some of that to the ganja. The Rastas say it is a spiritual act, a sacrament that cleans the body and mind, heals the soul, exalts the consciousness and facilitates peacefulness. But most of all, and like the potential of cinema, it opens people’s minds to the truth.

Last Day

It’s a gorgeous morning – condensation on the window and sunshine. I’m soon to head in to see The Sheltering Sky at the Art Gallery. I vaguely recall seeing it back in the early nineties when I worked in a video store and was going through a massive Malkovich phase. I was about eighteen, nineteen, and I remember it being ‘slow’. I caught The Last Emperor yesterday. Finally. I remember as a child it winning Best Picture back in 1987 – its theme music imbedded in my head from that awards ceremony. It was a treat to see on the big screen.

So, last three movies today. I’ll be catching Side by Side - doco on the transition from film to digital. Very interested, particularly after my thoughts on Whores’ Glory. Then the closing night film at the State – Safety Not Guaranteed. I don’t know how I will feel after this is all over. I already feel changed by this whole experience. Inspired. When I told my mother about this blog, her response was, “So you’re procastinating.” I knew what she meant. Am I writing about cinema instead of making cinema myself? Well, I’m inspired. Perhaps I can do both, Mum.


The Loneliest Planet

Rifts, Nuance and No Embellishment

Last night I saw The Loneliest Planet. I went to see it because I’m a fan of Gael Garcia Bernal’s. Not him per se – although he’s one of the best actors around – but I trust his choices. See, he’s the guy from Y Tu Mama Tambien that didn’t do Dirty Dancing 2. Instead, he played a transvestite for Almodovar in Bad Education. The kid has the best career for an actor in the world, bar none. (I site Romain Duris a close second). He works with the most interesting directors worldwide. He shuns Hollywood. I trust his choices.

The Loneliest Planet pushes the envelope in simply letting the moment be. When a movie can capture the intricacy of a look or a gesture or a silence between two people, and we feel the whole relationship on tenterhooks, it’s pure magic. The Loneliest Planet achieved this. It was stunning, captivating. But what gets me is how it achieves this. This film is as no frills as it gets. Pure doco-realism. In fact, there’s no story or inciting incident until halfway. Prior to that we are just watching three people hiking around the mountainside. This film dares to be boring. For the woman in my row huffing and playing with her phone, I guess it was. But not for me. I was absorbed, mesmerised, taking in the scenery, marvelling at the beauty and also the behaviour of the characters on screen. These people weren’t acting. And when the drama kicked in, I was on the edge of my seat. More on the edge of my seat than I’ve been this whole festival. Why? Because I was pulled into the situation. I cared.

And perhaps here lies a new genre – the rift movie. These are films such as Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy, Maren Ade’s Everyone Else, even Gus Van Sant’s Gerry. The entire drama lies in the nuances of the cracks within a relationship. It’s a micro drama, but more thrilling than any car chase. One word of warning. They don’t work on television. It is imperative you see these films on a massive screen. Some films only succeed when you become entranced. Because they need you to experience the story. Otherwise, yes, you will be bored.

After sitting through now 21 films, I’ve noticed a few things. As soon as a director puts things into slow-motion and adds ‘intense’ music, I am taken out of the situation. I don’t know anyone in this world who experiences things in slow-motion. I think Don Bradman might have a little bit. This kind of embellishment damages stories! It seems directors do not trust the dramatic weight of the circumstances in the script and must employ stylistic tricks. I’ve seen it over and over. Stop it!

Now, The Loneliest Planet goes to the extreme. It took a great artistic risk in trusting its audience’s attention, empathy and intelligence. And it paid off. (With the exception of phone woman, who was probably expecting Diego Luna.) I’m not saying this works all the time – Bachelor Mountain was as boring as hell. But when a film dares to ride that fine line of indulgence and restraint and succeeds, the result is astounding.


On The Road

Back-slapping, homoerotic, sycophantic, man-love, bromance sometimes on the road but mostly in little rooms in shaky close-ups.

I was bored. Like the book, the story is all over the place. Literally, of course. But I think this movie proves that some novels are not going to translate well. The whole thing seemed like a representation of the novel. A wax figure. There was no story. I felt no sense of where this was going, no sense of a beginning, middle or end, I had no investment in the next moment, I didn’t give a fuck about any of the characters, no nothing. The book is like that too, and that’s probably why I’ve had to put the book down and pick it up months later. It’s a sprawling ramble.

The film is too literal. Especially the characters.

There’s a sycophantic hero worship of Dean Moriarty, both in the the novel and in this film. It’s fine in the novel – there’s no other way to represent him but with description. I mean, the quote is: “The only people for me are the mad ones…” To do the same in a film is to set up for a fall. It’s like fictional rock stars depicted in film. They never ring true – only generalised stereotypes. Who can fill this man’s shoes? I’ve never seen Garrett Hedlund before, but something bothered me. I could not help but feel that here is a pretty Hollywood actor from the Midwest doing his best impersonation of the description of Moriarty, to be tougher and cooler than he actually is. It reminded me of Val Kilmer in Tombstone with a touch of Christian Slater. His deep voice seemed like an affectation. I may be wrong there. But the permanently confident smile, the backslapping, the twinkling eyes all seemed to be external representations of the character. We have Dean/Neal on the surface, but no gravitas. Oh, for a young Jack Nicholson.

And that begs the question – where are the Steve McQueens, the Jack Nicholsons, Dennis Hoppers of today? Who can fill this man Cassady’s shoes? He needs to be inhabited from the inside, from his essence. I was amazed to discover this:

Nolte is one of the most underrated actors in cinema. I mentioned Nicholson before. Now, here’s something interesting – Ken Kesey met Cassady around 1962 when Kesey was writing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Did Kesey base Randle Patrick McMurphy on Neal Cassady? Apparently so.

Dean Moriarty and R.P. McMurphy are the same person. Ha!

I wanted to like this film, but suspected I wouldn’t. It’s a shame, because who’s going to have a crack at it now? As I mentioned before, this film was too literal. I’d like to see a movie inspired by On the Road.

It’s called On the Road. There’s cinematic gold just in the title! I want to see open spaces! I want to see the stars at night, I want to sit on freight trains at dawn across the prairie, meander through Momument Valley, I want to be free, in the open, wind in my hair. This was captured in the first five minutes when Sal Paradise hops the back of a pick-up truck. The glow of a cigarette cherry in the breeze at dusk. Lovely. Then never again for the rest of the movie. Those are not the boring bits! Put them in! That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? In a film of On the Road, I’m hoping to feel the cinematic experience of Days of Heaven, Y Tu Mama Tambien, even The Brown Bunny. I want Easy Rider, goddamnit! Isn’t the jazz and the language and the stream of consciousness that Kerouac pumped into his book the soundtrack and spirit of being free physically? I could have had two hours of shots of cars on the road over staggering landscapes to all kinds of music. Give me Koyaanisqatsi on the highway. Give me something to meditate on. Don’t give me this literal representation of a seminal novel. Don’t put page on screen! It don’t work.

Milos Forman didn’t with Kesey, and look what happened there – they created a fucking masterpiece.

Moonrise Kingdom

I haven’t got a lot to say about Wes Anderson. Perhaps I’m not sure exactly what to think of Wes Anderson. He’s one of those people whose work boils down to taste. You love him or you don’t. A bit like Belle and Sebastian. He’s certainly honed his quirky idiosyncratic style. Do I like his quirky, idiosyncratic style? For about fifteen minutes. By then I realise I won’t see anything accidental, spontaneous, organic, natural, or real. Or moving. The extent of the pathos in a Wes Anderson movie is well within the parameters of his own clever ideas, his own control. I’m not sure why actors seem to be lining up to be in his movies – there doesn’t seem to be much room to act freely, amongst all the rigidity of camera set-ups, costumes, posturing, marks, deliberate dialogue. I imagine it’s the desire to be associated with something cool. It’s a good boost to career cred. It is nice to see Edward Norton back, albeit playing well within his range.

But Wes Anderson is a visionary, he creates his own world, you might say. That he does. It’s a cute world too, hip, whimsical. But lifeless. I’m not passionately against his work. I thought The Royal Tenenbaums was amusing, but I couldn’t see much beyond a series of cute ideas. Let’s have a dad and his two sons in matching tracksuits. Let’s have a guy dressed like Bjorn Borg. Et cetera. It’s a cartoon world, sure, but I’m falling to glean much more than that. To me, it seems kitsch.

The writer Milan Kundera had this to say: “Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession. The first tear says: How nice to see children running on the grass! The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass! It is the second tear that makes kitsch kitsch.” There were plenty of children running on the grass in Moonrise Kingdom.

Wes Anderson’s best film is Hotel Chevalier, the short that precedes The Darjeeling Limited. That film resonates. He’s tapped into something deeper there, while retaining his visual flair.

And that’s all I have to say about Wes. Don’t love him, don’t hate him. But I’m sure Ray Carney would have a few words. And I adore Ray Carney.

I love Belle and Sebastian, by the way.


Cinema Overload?

A strange sensation came over me last night in the State Theatre watching Rampart, an ultra-violent, nasty, gritty police drama starring Woody Harrelson. This was my fourth session that day. I felt out of sorts, ill at ease, queasy, fearful even. I had to get the fuck out of there. Was it the movie? Or was it movie overload? So I walked out.

Into the city air and wading through the Saturday night bustle of Pitt St, I felt vulnerable. Have I been pushing my brain to the limit? Was this a case of cinema overload? Or was it the kind of movies I had been watching? Is this like a therapist with too many intense clients in one day? I must acknowledge that I am a sensitive boy.

Away from the safety and comfort of the dark movie theatre, I was an animal exposed. Can too much cinema lead to a meltdown? Strange, because only the day before had I felt elated, in my element.

I raced to the train station and headed home, determined to calm down and get a good night’s sleep. A recharge – that’s what I need. Slow down. It’s OK, they’re only movies. I thought I should limit my viewing to only three a day.

So I’ve awoken this morning fresh, with Last Tango in Paris my next engagement. Yes, I do want to see it. It’s not violent, I know (well, that’s debateable). What happened to me? Are my eyes going square? I did, I felt so good after Where Do We Go Now? Maybe it was Lore.

Lore was my 6:15 session last night. Lore is Cate Shortland’s long-awaited second film after Somersault back in 2004. I will confess, I was not a fan of Somersault. I don’t know if it was my bias, or the fact that she spoke before the screening, but from the second the film began, I couldn’t shake my awareness that she had directed it. There is a tone and look that only short films have. You see them over and over again at short film screenings. The mood is grim, the dialogue sparse, the photography ‘pretty’ with an extremely shallow depth of field. One can tell from the first 20 seconds that one is watching a short film. But this was a feature. It drove me mad. I mentioned the shallow depth of field. There seems to be a trend to use these lenses that put ears out of focus. They’re lovely for taking close ups of flowers, or food – yes, terrific for food – and hands, and feet. But not a feature film, please. Every shot in this film distracted me from the narrative. I mentioned feet. There were lost of close-ups of feet, hands, necks. All hand-held. The camera was never still for a second. There was a chaos to the whole thing. Perhaps that was the point. This is a story of the end of the Second World War, a chaotic time. I don’t know. I know I’m being harsh, but this whole experience smacked of film-school pretentiousness. All my reservations about Somersault were repeated here. There is a fine distinction between moody and vague. None of the characters behaved in any logical way. I felt a lot of the actions and behaviour of the actors was not honouring the character, but the director’s wishes. And the sparseness, sheesh!  A whole scene between the heroine and the young man she meets was done with humming. Do not people not speak? To me, this is lazy writing. There was no life in any of the scenes, just ‘intensity’ and ‘emotion’. Now, Terrance Mallick does this too, and I have to ask myself what’s the difference here? Well, referrring to his The New World,  that was about two people who spoke a different language and were communicating through the senses. This movie is about a family trying to make their escape through war-torn Germany. It’s a thriller, for God’s sake. Please don’t masquerade that behind meaningful looks, close-ups, slow motion, atmospheric music, and turn it into a vague, pondering, meditative, chaotic, dull, sexual-awakening-of-teen-girl art piece. I’m sorry, Cate. This is as much an attack on your film as it is on the Emperor’s New Clothes over-hype that certain films get in this country.

I have to go now. I think I’m ready for Brando, Bertolluci and butter.

Just the Wind

Riveting, shocking.

Ahh, now this is cinema. Just got out of the matinee of this Hungarian film and I am feeling a little awe-struck. I posted earlier today about Mabo, and I couldn’t help but think if only it had been given this treatment.

This is a rather bleak story, told in a very minimalist way. A family of Gypsies in rural Hungary is living in fear and paranoia after a string of murders in the local neighbourhood. This film reminded me of the two Elephants, by Alan Clarke and Gus Van Sant.

Screendaily in Berlin had this to say about director Benedek Fliegauf’s second film, Dealer: This is a test of endurance for misguided audiences seeking pure entertainment. Those accustomed to Hollywood and others’ over-stylised view on drugs culture, replete with flashing guns and/or flying punches, will find it like a trip to another planet that you will never want to visit again. Those with more down-to-earth first knowledge of drug sub-culture will not be shocked by its despondent mood nor its forbidding length and instead appreciate Flieghauf’s remarkable achievement.

The same can be said for Just the Wind. Most of the movie is silent, the camera following its protagonist as they walk through the woods. But it pulls the audience in with the constant threat of violence. And the result is enthralling. Check it out for some compassionate, intelligent, gripping cinema that doesn’t tell you how to think.

Next chance to see it – 4:30 Sunday June 10.

Day Three and a Stream of Consciousness

“I’m sorry this letter is so long, I didn’t have time to make it shorter.”
George Bernard Shaw

It’s Friday, day three of this film festival. I spent a good 36 hours reflecting on the first movie I saw, Whores’ Glory. I will be watching four movies today. Now, at the current rate I am spending more time writing about the films I see than the duration of the films themselves. This is not going to work. I will have to reevaluate my process. My perfectionist nature generally leads me to overthink, to procrastinate. In creating this blog, it was part an excercise in forcing myself to write every day. That’s a personal goal. Of course, I want every review to be thorough, researched, considered, reviewed, edited. In a word, perfect. But I guess I’m gonna have to let that one go. So, for the sake of these ‘memoirs’, there’s going to be a new process – stream of consciousness. Trust my gut, go with it. Pour it out and move on. It is a blog after all. If I have something to say, I will say it, and think well of myself as I learn to say it better.

Now, people, get out of your house and get down to the festival and feed your souls. The Voice will be there next week.