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Sunday, 7 September 2008


It's a good time to be pretentious in the world of comic books. The literary crowd have (finally) embraced "graphic novels" as being the equal of ordinary prose - at least in theory - and the format is still new enough (at least as far as the literary crowd is concerned) to make even so-so projects seem cutting edge. And they have pictures, which is a big plus. So it's not all that surprising that Persepolis made a bit of a splash when it came out a few years ago. The story of a young Iranian woman growing up in the wake of the overthrow of The Shah, it also managed to tick various boxes marked "serious" and "worthy" and - perhaps most important of all post-9/11 when it comes to being marketed towards a western literary crowd looking to understand a people their right-wing leaders were demonising - "middle eastern". Unfortunately, as a biography (and author Marjane Satrapi has said from the start she tweaked some of the facts, though the central character bears her name) it was more down the "informative" than the "insightful" end of the scale. And apart from the fact that the pictures now move, not much has changed with this animated film: characters are thinly developed, the lead is passive and the tone throughout keeps events at a distance, making this a story that all too often feels obviously "told" rather than experienced. That wouldn't matter much if the story was told with flair, but the animation is basic and the pictures lifeless, resulting in a film that gets by because of the novelty of its setting rather than any real artistic achievement. Still, it's an animated film based on a graphic novel about growing up as a woman in a fundamentalist Muslim regime: you can't get more arthouse cred than that.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #435)

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Not Quite Hollywood

Once upon a time, not all that long ago, Australian films were entertaining as well as worthy. If you wanted to see well-off people moaning about their problems or poor people griping about their troubles, you could do that - but if you wanted to see people being hunted for sport in the terrifying future world of 2000, that was on offer as well. But in any war the winner gets to write history and when arthouse film took over the local cinemas in the late 80s / early 90s (thanks to a variety of factors, including the demise of the drive-in and changes in taxation), they wrote the entertaining side of Australian cinema out of the history books. Until now: Not Quite Hollywood is both an educational look back at the world of the so-called 'Ozploitation' films of the 70s and 80s and a rip-roaring collection of amazing scenes and sequences from those very same films. It's a double whammy: you not only get a solid history lesson in the dark side of Australian film, complete with countless classic wisecracks from the many, many colourful characters involved (and director Mark Hartley seems to have spoken to everyone who ever made a film in this country, from Barry Humphries to Sigrid Thornton to Dennis Hopper to numerous sleazy behind-the-scenes producers), you also get to see all the best bits from the films of the era. And there are a lot of best bits here. Whether you're a fan of swinging 70's nudity, people being set on fire, car crashes galore or just general trashiness there are far, far too many classic moments here to name. For once all the hype around an Australian film is totally justified: if you see only one Australian film this year... well, that's one more than most people do. But if you see this film, you'll not only learn why that wasn't always the case, you'll have a hell of a good time.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #435)