Review by Rochelle Siemienowicz
Set in the French Riviera town of Antibes, the film revels in both the sparkling seaside and the ugly economic underbelly of the region. Such contradictions and contrasts abound, for director Jacques Audiard (A Prophet), together with cinematographer Stephane Fontaine and composer Alexandre Desplat, has created a work of art that is simultaneously realist and expressionist; shockingly blunt at times, yet mysterious and profoundly romantic.
(This review previously appeared in edition 429 of The Big Issue magazine: 29 March - 11 April)
Monday, 15 April 2013
Thursday, 14 March 2013
Hang on a second: when did March become the month for party movies? Last year we had the aimless, pointless and dull Project X, and this year come March* we get 21 And Over, in which the writers of The Hangover prove they’re not just one-trick ponies by writing (and directing) a movie that’s nothing like The Hangover. For one thing, those guys in The Hangover are way older than 21, right? And sure, this is also a movie about a totally crazy party night in a bunch of guy’s lives, but in The Hangover they were just flashing back to the party the day after, whereas here the party is happening right here and now. Oh, wait, the very start of the movie shows the guys at the end of the night so yeah, in a way this is all one big flashback too.
But this time there’s only two guys: Miller (Miles Teller), the wild, crazy, Jim Belushi knock-off one, and Casey (Sylar Astin), the uptight sensible one. So that bit’s more like Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle. They’ve turned up on campus to help their old high school buddy Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) – you won’t forget that name, as they say it at least sixty times during the course of the movie (I counted) in the kind of running joke that’s not really a joke but they sure run with it – celebrate his 21st, even though his evil dad has told him he has to get up early for a big interview so NO PARTYING. But one drink won’t hurt, right?
Yeah, right: before long it’s the end of the night, Jeff Chang has passed out (okay, that bit’s like The Hangover too) and his surprisingly sober buddies have to find out where he lives, which is the bit of the film that’s kind of like Dude, Where’s My Car?. Crazy things then happen, but guess what? All the movies this movie is ripping off are better than it, so you’re better off watching them instead. A lot of the crazy stuff here isn’t even that crazy: they have to complete a variety of drinking games to make their way through a multi-story party house, but because our heroes never seem to be affected by alcohol, where’s the drama?
Various dark hints about Jeff Chang’s current situation (why is he carrying a gun, for starters?) are more dramatic and funny, only the film then wimps out on even the mild drama it’s created for a resolution that’s just a whole bunch of hand waving. But they throw an unconscious guy out a window onto a pool and he goes flying into the bushes! So that bit’s like Weekend at Bernies. On the plus side, Teller is pretty good at selling the average material he’s stuck with here, and there’s just enough chemistry between him and Astin to make it plausible that they’re friends who’ve drifted apart since high school. Oh wait, that doesn’t require any chemistry at all. But they do get to make a couple of hot, blindfolded sorority girls make out! Which is totally worth buying a movie ticket for if you’ve never seen the internet.
*presumably these movies are released in March to teach new university students what is expected of them re: their partying responsibilities. Or, more likely, to torment them with a lifestyle they'll never have, what with having to actually study if they want to have the slightest hope of "making it" in today's post-employment work environment.
Thursday, 27 December 2012
Somewhat surprisingly considering how much of my current income is derived from writing Top Ten lists, I don't actually like end-of-year best and worst lists. There are plenty of perfectly valid criteria on which to compare and rank movies (let me know if you think of any funny ones), but "they came out in the same calendar year" never really feels like a good one to me.
Still, it doesn't hurt to look back at the end of the year and take stock of what's gone by, if only to update your shopping list for your next trip to the DVD store. So with the half-hearted introductions out of the way, let me present perhaps the most whishy-washy Best and Worst of 2012 list you'll read this year. By which I mean I didn't even narrow it down to a top ten, I just lumped the good and bad films together in near-arbitrary clumps and left out most of the really recent releases just in case I changed my mind about them (sorry, the most excellent Wreck-It Ralph! Close shave, the unflushable Parental Guidance!). Enjoy!
10) Relationships: A Separation / The Deep Blue Sea / Take This Waltz / Your Sister’s Sister / Jesse & Celeste Forever. Whether you’re falling in love, falling out of love, or are just plain sick of the person you’re in love with, good viewing was the result.
9) Male nudity: Shame / Magic Mike. One is a depressing tale of sex addiction, the other features a lot of shirtless dancing and screaming women. They’re both worth a look for more than the tackle-out action.
8) Kids: Safe / Moonrise Kingdom. Okay, Jason Statham running around with a pre-teen maths wiz and Wes Anderson’s latest tale of melancholy have very little in common apart from the presence of small children in both. But they're still both good films.
7) Hitmen: Looper / Killing Them Softly / The Grey. Okay, Liam Neeson in The Grey was a hitman of wolves, not people. Doesn’t mean that movies about hitmen didn’t do well in 2012.
6) Cops: End of Watch / Dredd / 21 Jump Street / The Raid. Out of these three extremely violent films and one comedy, guess which one had the goriest moment? Wrong: the end of 21 Jump Street was just plain nasty.
5) Robbers: Get the Gringo / Headhunters / Contraband / Bernie. At the other end of the law-enforcement scale, these films proved that committing crimes could be just as entertaining as fighting them.
4) Superheroes: The Avengers / The Dark Knight Rises / Chronicle / Skyfall. Hey, James Bond is as much of a super hero as Batman – he just doesn’t have to wear a silly outfit to save the world. Though Chronicle was the only real surprise of the bunch here, as Hollywood at least has the big budget superhero movie down to a fine, unsurprising, art.
3) Spies: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy / Argo / Haywire. And these guys don’t need any outfits at all to save the world! Not that they weren’t wearing clothes or anything, but, you know, they lurk in the shadows and so on.
2) Comedy: Ted / Bachelorette / Young Adult. This was not a great year for comedy, but at least these three managed to bring the laughs.
1) People in a room: The Master / Margin Call / Carnage. These films may have all been very different from each other, but one thing did unite them: the drama you can create simply by having people in a room talking to each other.
(as for my actual best film of 2012, that's the same as my best film of every year since 1987: Robocop)
But just in case you were thinking 2012 was the dawn of some kind of new golden age of cinema after all that praise, rest assured the stench of utter rubbish continued to billow out of cinemas at a steady rate. Especially cinemas screening the following, for which it was a very bad year…
10) Science Fiction: Prometheus / The Darkest Hour / Total Recall. In theory it’s possible to tell a science fiction story without, you know, just completely making all of the science up. Not that you’d know it from these films.
9) Australasian Comedy: Any Questions For Ben / Two Little Boys / Kath & Kimdrella / Mental / Housos Versus Authority. Anyone remember when Australia used to make funny films? Anyone? Didn’t think so.
8) American Comedy: The Watch / That’s My Boy / American Pie Reunion / The Five Year Engagement. American big screen comedy seems to have come to a screeching halt. Five seconds after it ran off a cliff.
7) Fantasy sequels: Underworld / Resident Evil / MiB III / Paranormal Activity 4. The fun of a movie where you’re just making stuff up is that the stuff you’re making up is surprising and new. If you’re doing sequels, you’re doing it wrong - especially with horror, where "the same old shit" really is just plain shit.
6) Big name directors: Savages (Oliver Stone) / Dark Shadows (Tim Burton) / Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg). Yeah, just retire already. Well, not you Cronenberg, at least you're still trying new things that only kind of don't quite work. But you other two, don't let the door hit you in the arse on the way out.
5) Big Budget Spectaculars: Battleship / Wrath of the Titans. You cost how much money now? At least John Carter was trying to tell a story...
4) Highbrow guff: A Dangerous Method / The Words / Holy Motors / Beasts of the Southern Wild. Actually, most of these movies weren’t all that bad really (apart from The Words, which was just plain rubbish). They just weren’t anywhere near as smart as they thought they were.
3) Giving love a bad name: What to Expect When You’re Expecting / This Means War / The Vow. Seriously, if you go see Hollywood romantic comedies at this stage of humanity's existence you get exactly what you deserve
2) Musicals: Rock of Ages. In which Tom Cruise sang part of a musical number into a woman’s arse. Though I didn't enjoy Les Mis all that much either.
1) And the worst film of 2012 was… Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Presumably the title was meant as a warning as to what it was going to feel like being in a room with the amazingly annoying quasi-teenage lead as he wandered around post 9/11 New York refusing to shut the hell up. There are plenty of "bad" films I enjoyed (how did I fail to mention Step Up 4: Miami Heat?), and plenty of boring films I can see have merit: this was the only film that left me actually angry over how much time I'd wasted watching it.
Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Lasseter's Bones premiered as part of the 2012 Melbourne International Film Festival
Australian history has never seemed appealing to me – dirty, masculine, embarrassing in its barbarism to the Aboriginal people, and let’s face it, decidedly lacking in glamour. But the opening title of the documentary Lasseter’s Bonesreminds us that a wit no less than Mark Twain found it fascinating: “Australian history [...] does not read like history, but like the most beautiful lies.” It’s a brilliant opener, pulling the viewer immediately into the extraordinary story of Lewis Harold Bell Lasseter, a man who claimed to have sited a 7-mile gold reef in central Australia, and reportedly died in the desert in 1931 after one of several failed expeditions to try to find it again. Conflicting stories suggest Lasseter was a con-artist, an obsessed fool or a tragic genius.
Documentary filmmaker Luke Walker (Beyond Our Ken, 2007) spent three years sifting through the stories and the facts in an attempt to establish what really happened, and why the story of Lasseter has gripped the imaginations of so many. What he uncovers is gold indeed, though perhaps not the kind Lasseter craved. The real nugget is Lasseter’s 85-year-old son, the sprightly Bob Lasseter, a bearded and amiable Aussie eccentric who has spent 50 years trying to vindicate his father’s assertions and rescue the family name. He invites the filmmaker to accompany him on the latest expedition to try to locate the famed El Dorado of Australian gold mining (somewhere near the border of Western Australia and the Northern Territory).
This trip, undertaken with modern four-wheel-drives, aeroplanes and good camping equipment, is so harsh and difficult that it really hits home how convinced Lasseter must have been to do it in the 1930s . We see the immensity of the landscape, the cruelty of the salt-bush (heavy duty car tyres are ripped to shreds every few kilometres and repaired at night by campfire) and the indifferent landmarks that all start to look the same after a while, especially when you’re looking for a rocky outcrop that resembles “a lady wearing a bonnet”.
Walker, a British-born former actor and VCA graduate is a personable presence throughout the film. Fit, tanned and enthusiastic, he’s nonetheless cowed by the landscape. “I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed,” he tells Bob as they rest on a sandy mound after days of fruitless searching. “It is a bit immense,” admits Bob laconically, in a moment that sums up the entire project and his undaunted approach.
Lasseter’s Bones is a triumph of painstaking research, but it’s made to look easy. Interviews, maps, clippings and extensive detective work are utilised to make sense of the complex story. The Australian types and characters, most of them elderly now, are delightful as they reminisce. The long dead Lasseter lives on as a larger than life character, a Zelig or a Christ who is reportedly seen after his death on a boat to New York, and who claimed to have drawn the original design for the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The real revelation, however is the nature of obsession – the way that an idea can take root in a person and begin to choke out all other relationships, all other loves, all sanity. Even the filmmaker starts to look like he’s in its thrall for a while, as he considers: “Just one last trip to the outback…”
[This piece was originally published as a Program Note for Lasseter's Bones as part of the 2012 Melbourne International Film Festival]