Sydney Film Festival Reviews, 2003
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Saturday 7 June
See What Happens: The Story of DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus –
Germany/Finland – dir: Gerold Hofmann – rated 2.5/5
This film’s title promised much. We would get the story of DA
Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus. But of course we didn’t. We
followed them around a bit and talked pleasantly with them, and saw
lots of clips from their films (which of course only made us wish we
were watching their films and not someone else’s. It’s a tough
ask to make a great film about great filmmakers, as Penne & Chris
are. This film didn’t quite make it. We didn’t get their
story; we just got filmmakers trying to get their story by filming and
“seeing what happens”.
Nothing much actually did happen. Only one thing: they were both
explaining how they make a great team, and how they argue about editing
and how they often disagree and how Chris is often right and he
disagrees but lets her have her way because it is a valid option.
Then later we see them have just such a disagreement and we see both as
equally stubborn and we suspect that Penne won’t practise what he
preaches and let Chris have her way. But we don’t see how it pans
out. That would have been worth seeing, and would have told
something of their story.
Right at the end we heard how they had 8 children between them. Chris
was dying to tell the story of that, but we didn’t get the follow
up. So we didn’t really get “the story” at all.
A Tale of a Naughty Girl – India – Buddhadeb Dasgupta – Rated 2.5/5
A charming story, well told, with plenty of fascinating detail and
beautiful women to look at. Uplifting and optimistic with a climax
co-inciding with the landing of the first men on the moon. That was a
moving climax, and there was another gorgeously moving moment when a
very old man began to sing a song to his ancient wife comparing her to
the moon. Sweet. With a horrid villain and an intrepid cat. Much
of the detail was based on the director’s childhood memories.
Gate of Hell – Japan (1953) – dir: Teinosuke Kinugasa – Rated 4/5
Wow! Such colour, such costumes, such action, such heroic performances,
such lovely skies (day and night), such scale, such staging of human
movement! All this and a strong anti-revenge message from post-war
Japan. A film that asks the question “what good does yet more violence
do?” A film for our times.
Sunday 8 June
Together – China/ South Korea – dir: Chen Kaige – Rated 4.5/5
Violin music and an abandoned baby: how could this lose? The music is
handled intelligently and with subtlety. All the performances are
excellent, and even the broad comedy of the peasant father comes round
to a sensitive end. The script is clever: lots of communist slogans
given a new twist in the brave new world of capitalism. The two
aspiring musicians show that there are two ways to achieve success, and
both might well work, but the kind of success that comes with love is
the one worth having
Lola – France (1960) – dir: Jacques Demy – Rated 3.5/5
This film is a tribute to the films of Max Ophuls, and I guess you can
see it in the swirling camera work, the mirrors, the circular romances,
the beautiful heroine and the beautiful photography. For a romantic
fantasy, it shows a pretty realistic grasp of the fleeting and elusive
nature of love.
Monday 9 June
The Spirit of the Beehive – Spain (1974) – dir: Victor Erice – Rated
Mysterious and strange, beautiful and moody, I’m still working this one
out. It’s set in Franco’s Spain, and it is a barren and deserted place.
There’s no life anywhere, except in the bees, who work away in the
hives, producing, but for what purpose? And the children: they at
least show promise. They have imaginations and they are learning. When
Ana sees James Whale’s Frankenstein she imagines he is her friend. It
is a fascinating look inside the mind of a child in a dangerous time.
Shiraz – India/ UK/ Germany (1928) – dir: Franz Osten – Rated 4/5
A beautiful print – though with some damage in places, of an amazingly
opulent film, with a wonderful love story at its heart. The musical
accompaniment on Indian instruments was truly magical
Marooned in Iraq – Iran – dir: Bahman Ghobadi – Rated 2.5/5
A strange film – at times funny and at times tragic, it shows people
getting on with their lives u8nder the most difficult of circumstances.
The 3 heroes were sometimes like the 3 Stooges. The mood of the film
was uneven, but somehow I feel that’s my problem, not its. Like his
previous film, A Time for Drunken Horses, some of the shooting must
have been done under almost impossible circumstances.
Tuesday 10 June
Stevie – USA – dir: Steve James – Rated 3.5/5 (but very hard to rate)
A very disturbing film on many levels: the self-indulgence of the film
makers – for starters, using a person’s desperately dreadful life to
make a film (a) for commercial release to advance one’s career, and (b)
to assuage one’s guilt for not having helped that person more.
Just the lives of these people are worrying enough, and the generations
of abuse and retribution. Then there are the failures of people to make
a difference – the tendency to dip in and out of Stevie’s life,
promising help but not carrying through. Then there’s the whole
question of Stevie’s guilt or innocence of a heinous crime, and the
reliability of the evidence, his “confession’ and the failure to
“Mirandize” him. I’m not convinced of his guilt, and yet everyone
assumed it (worst of all, the filmmaker’s social worker wife. The only
person who made sense on this was one of Stevie’s “good ole boy”
friends – Tim Wicks – who said “There’s only two people in this world
that know what happened, and I’m not one of them”. Then there’s
the amazing Tonya and her handicapped friend. Between them they have
more sense than all the others put together. The filmmaker becomes
irresponsible in the extreme taking Stevie to a nightclub and letting
him drink. And finally, most disturbing of all, I worry that
because Stevie began to see himself as the start of his own bio-pic, he
may have disregarded his lawyer’s instructions to make a plea in
mitigation, and this cost him an extra 4 years in prison. This
film floored me for quite a while.
Blind Shaft – Hong Kong - dir: Li Yang – Rated 4/5
This is a very well made thriller, with wonderful performances from the
mostly amateur cast, especially the young boy who is duped by the two
miners. The director, who attended the festival, explained how arduous
the shoot was – everything had to be hand carried down the mines
because of the danger of using transportation (explosive gases), and
they could only use miners’ lighting. The result is a fascinating
film, with a great use of close-ups, well directed, with well-sustained
suspense and a sense of black comedy worthy of Hitchcock.
Angel on the Right – Tajikistan/Italy/France dir: Jamshed Usmonov–
Fascinating to see Tajikistan and what the influence of Russia (and the
West) have done. I loved the 2nd half of the double doors which was
never installed, the fact that “those who made doors like that are all
dead”, that the museum wanted to buy them, but they had not been sold,
were still on-site and could be installed that afternoon.
It’s awful to think that these men don’t talk to their women – if they
did communicate a bit more they may not get into such trouble.
He’s an awful guy and he looks like dragging his child into this world,
but at least he is a projectionist so he can’t be all bad.
The early scene with the two brothers leaving their good jobs to risk
heroin smuggling and losing their houses tells a tragic tale.
Wednesday 11 June
Amandla – USA – Dir: Lee Hirsch – Rated 3/5
This was a terrific documentary from start (almost) to finish. It was
best at doing what it set out to do: to show the way music was integral
to the revolution in South Africa. At politics it was a little less
successful. On the other hand, by showing how the sings (and notably
the dance) got more and more aggressive, it made a strong [political
point. Some of the songs are very violent, with lyrics like 'The dogs
must die” and 'The black man is coming to get you'. The interviews were
excellent. There’s a mix of the radical and the musical, and all points
The film begins and ends with the death of the great composer Vuyusile
Mini. It begins with his exhumation & ends with his reburial. He
and his comrades literally went to the gallows singing. The music
builds & changes naturally throughout the film, until oddly low-key
end-credits music. I had been expecting an explosion of joy, and
instead we get soft flute music, neither plaintive not sweet. I
A few of the things that particularly struck a chord with me:
• at one point
the subtitles said “When you really wanted to make the white man mad” –
but in fact the interviewee said “Boers”.
• the great
intelligence and articulation of musician (pianist) Abdullah
Ibrahim. He told the story of the black mother who had to explain to
her child why she had to let an empty bus go by without getting on.
Then he said: “They created the [Apartheid] laws, but we had to execute
them”. Ibrahim also said that the hardest thing about exile was
dreaming: you'd dream you were at home, but when you woke up you knew
you couldn’t go home.
• the guard
Steinberg’s incredible honesty about liking his job and getting
addicted to the power.
The Original Mermaid – Australia – dir: Michael Cordell – Rated 2/5
A great and intriguing subject for a documentary: Annette Kellerman’s
life. But it’s a strange script. Why 1st person commentary? I
immediately wanted to know the source, and that isn’t made clear in the
credits. It purports to say what Annette is feeling. In the Q & A
afterwards, the director admitted that perhaps he should have made that
clear in the credits. He guessed it was 80% Annette’s words, based on
her 2 books and some other writings. But I found it a very odd
Another thing I disliked was the corny French music. But they had good
clips of her silent films and of the Esther Williams bio-pic, and good
interview clips with Williams herself (still looking great). They
managed to trot out a “Swimming Historian”, a “Vaudeville Historian”,
and both the King and Queen of the English Channel, all of which added
to the story. But I’m still puzzled about Annette’s comment that
she conceded that Esther Williams had a prettier face than Annette, “I
concede nothing from the waist down”!
Titicut Follies – USA – dir: Frederick Wiseman (1967) – rated 4.5/5
The opening of this legendary film is powerful: a group of prison
inmates perform “Strike Up the Band” at a concert. They look
terrified and they only smile when it’s over. The film was banned in
Massachusetts for many years, ostensibly on the grounds that the State
considered it invaded the privacy of both the prisoners and the staff.
Director Wiseman reckoned that he had everyone’s consent, but that is
hard to imagine, especially given the mental retardation and
demented or drugged state of many of the inmates.
There is considerable invasion of privacy – first of all by the State
of course: why are the prisoners kept naked so often? It is utterly
humiliating. But then how can Wiseman compound the injury? Of course,
the faces are the powerful thing: making them into real people again is
part of what Wiseman in doing. And then the film may have led to
improvements in the prison system – although Wiseman is not claiming
credit for this. But in the end it is a very humane film. The death of
one of the prisoners is shocking in its matter-0f-course treatment by
the staff, but the staff are not treated entirely as villains (except
when they hoist themselves by their own petards). The film ends as
powerfully as it begins when you realise that the “Strike Up the Band”
singers are also the dead man’s pallbearers.
Thursday June 12
Bus 174 – Brazil – dir: José Padilha – Rated 5/5
This is the best documentary of the 2003 festival to date. The opening
helicopter shot is fantastic – it subverts the usual view of Rio over
the green hills to Sugarloaf and the Christ statue. Instead we fly over
the green hills to the city and then to the slums. We hear the voices
of the people who live on the streets. We hear that the only
thing The only thing Mancha says he learned was how to survive.
Then at last we come to Sugarloaf.
The helicopter also prefigures the news reports to come.
This is a film that does respect its subjects’ privacy (unlike Titicut
Follies & Stevie). When showing a little street boy they blur his
face. Some Police, and other, faces are also blurred. Others are not,
and we have confidence that that it because they have given
permission. This is a meticulously made film. The care shows in every
Interestingly, it also raises another issue that worried me in Stevie:
that the filming may have influenced the actions of the protagonist.
But in this case it is the news cameras, not the documentary-maker’s
camera, because the footage of the incident was all news footage – not
Padilha’s. One of the interviewees says: “He was acting violently
because of the cameras. He was aware that he was on TV - that the
cameras protected him. This made him somebody in that sense that TV was
important to him.” Later the sociologist says: “He was the main
character in the narrative.”
The film’s style is gracious, too. There’s a clever use of negative
footage to disguise the prison inmates. There’s footage of a nude
line-up in prison, but the faces are obscured. When showing how
Sandro’s case was processed through the social-help system, we see that
seeing his family again has had a positive effect. This is really
well-done by having the camera pan over the psychiatric report. We see
how the system is sound but the execution is terrible – Sandro is
beaten & mistreated by staff at the institute: “We never learned
anything there – they just wanted to beat us - to break us” says
The film is also a text-book case on how not to handle a siege. It
could well be a police instructional video. One of the police who is
hooded in interview so he can’t be identified because he has been
forbidden from talking about the incident says: “In that situation a
sniper should be perfect. But it was being broadcast on TV - nobody
should see that”. Again the influence of the cameras on the actions of
the people involved.
The filmmakers also show us that some of the hostages were also putting
on a performance for the cameras - in reality. This is almost
incredible: we see the scene & the meta-scene. The hostage Janina
confronts Sandro with this fact, and we actually watch as he takes this
in: the realisation dawns on him with it & he realised what was
happening. I have never seen anything like this before.
The ending is a mix of utter tragedy and police incompetence. But it
was inevitable. As one of the interviewees says: “At the end of the
show the bad guy has to die. People expect it.”
Devastating and brilliant!
Kamchatka – Argentina/Spain – dir: Marcelo Piñeyro – Rated 4/5
This film had a great sense of place and a wonderful performance by
Cecilia Roth as the mother. I loved the false identities they take up,
because I used to watch The Invaders, and so it was fun for me to see
the Father become David Vincent, architect. I also loved Houdini as a
kid, and the boy becomes known as “Harry”. The little boy becomes Simon
Templar because he loved The Saint (El Santo). They do finger symbols
There are many poignant moments in this film, but none are too
maudlin. For example, the photograph Harry takes just as his
father leaves the frame. He just gets the lake. All too soon his father
really will have gone.
The other poignant moment is when Harry writes his name in the Houdini
book. And so we se his nae below that of its previous owner: Pedro '75.
Harry comes to understand what his parents had to do. He loved to
play a board game (TEG) with his father. Kamchatka, his father shows
him, is the place to be when you want to resist. The film is remarkable
for the sense of danger it is able to convey by inference. There is no
violence, only the threat of it. The telephone becomes a powerful
symbol of that threat.
Sex is Comedy – France – dir: Catherine Breillat – rated 3/5
Clearly Breillat admires technical people. In her film, they can do
anything. They are instantly adaptable – the professionals in the
process of filmmaking.
The central performance is brilliant - and honestly written, if
slightly glamorised. The “Actor” is mercilessly portrayed (&
written) and the “Actress” is protected. She's a cipher until the last
scene when she pulls off a fabulous performance - but Breillat is
clearly claiming it as her own work (cf Hitchcock). The film is
self-deprecating & self-justifying at the same time - & why not?
I’m afraid I haven’t seen A Ma Soeur/ Fat Girl, so this film’s integral
relationship to that film is lost on me. But this film still stands on
its own as a witty and entertaining comment on filmmaking in general
and on filming sex scenes in particular.
Preservation – Australia – dir: Sofya Gollan – Rated 1/5
The main character must be the world's clumsiest taxidermist: she has 2
accidents in 1st 5 mins! It’s a totally implausible set-up. Thank
goodness for Jacquie McKenzie. Only she could make this jumble seem at
least half-0way worth watching!
The picture looks murky and fuzzy. Although the program notes say it
was 35mm, the cinematographer said that it was shot on 16mm, which goes
some way to explaining its fuzziness.
The script is laboured. There are too many things happening here, and
not much is worth knowing. Sometimes the script is anachronistic in
style, and at other times it is just irritating. For example the
leading man (a dreadful performance) says: “There’s nothing you can
tell me about dying that I don’t already know”. And was the word
“paranormal” used in 1890? Possibly.
I got annoyed when Daphne’s character thinks it is an injustice when
people accuse her father of being a fraud (he was!). And then you can’t
even really see the items he was accused of faking (stuffed rats with
wings). And it just doesn’t ring true that the leading man would get
all huffy when he seed them. They just look stupid (in the brief
glimpses you get of them).
Another dreadful performance (or was it just the character) was the
foreign woman. The idea seem to have been modelled on something out of
The Portrait of a Lady, but the foreign accent is pure comedy. I didn’t
like this film at all. It gets one point purely for the effort put into
Broken Wings – Israel – dir: Nir Bergman – rated 3/5
A well-executed naturalistic family drama, not unlike what Ken Loach or
Mike Leigh or Robert Guidigian might make - if a bit subtler on the
proletariat side (though there is some social comment in the classroom
on the new economic plan for the country). Nice performances all round
and a great sense of place.
Friday June 13 - (“Catholic Day”)
Marion Bridge – Canada – dir: Wiebke von Carolsfeld – Rated 4/5
This film is set in Sydney, Nova Scotia. The first thing I noticed was
that there was something arresting about the music. It seemed fresh and
The few 1st scenes are brilliantly written to establish character. The
1st scene tells you most of what you need to know about Agnes to begin
with. The 2nd scene tells you most of what you need to know about her
relationship with her sisters. Bo
Normally I detest films about 3 sisters (or 3 brothers) coming home to
deal with the death of a parent. In this film it is nice to have the
mother still alive for most of the film – that was a fresh element.
Another fresh element was in the way that there was no climactic
“shouting match: scene, and no symbolic purging (as in Radiance – SFF
2000?), for example. Here everything is underplayed.
Two lovely scenes in particular I’d mention. The first is the
delivery of the lines in “bites” by Rebecca Jenkins as oldest sister
Theresa, when she explains her reasoning for finally breaking it off
with her long-time lover. Her logic is revealed in steps - 'and then I
thought' - 'and then I thought'. A great piece of writing, beautifully
delivered. The second is the close-up look between Agnes and her
elderly demented father. Heartbreakingly eloquent without saying a
word. The best of this genre I’ve seen, I think.
Raising Victor Vargas – USA – dir: Peter Sollett – Rated 4.5/5
At first it was hard to hear the actors. Partly this was because for us
it is hard to follow the Latino-American accents. But also these are
non - professional actors not enunciating properly. But after a while
it became easier to follow.
There’s a totally charming performance by Victor Rasuk and Victor
Vargas – he’s nervously confident. There’s also great “eye-acting” by
both girls - Judy (Judy Marte) & the young sister, Vicki (Krystal
Rodriguez). Both have amazingly expressive eyes.
The director does wonderful close-ups, getting gorgeous intimacy with
all the ensemble. The film is funny and sweet, and close to a perfect
little gem. The only 2 real criticisms I have are these: the 2 girl
friends give up their “pact” far too easily – although they do retain
their standards to a degree. And the director/screenwriter falls for a
bit of a cliché in that he teams the couples this way:
good-looking with good-looking, fat with fat & glasses with
glasses. A pat solution to an otherwise true-ringing film
Gerry – USA – dir: Gus van Sant – Not rated (not seen to end)
This looked to me like a very promising film, but I only saw about 25
minutes of it and I had to leave for an appointment. So I can’t rate
it. But it is clear that the film is beautifully shot, with some
magnificent images of Death Valley, California.
The opening shot shows two guys in an old Mercedes driving along desert
roads. The shot went long enough to get me daydreaming, but not long
enough both to get me back from the daydream and then back deep into
the film (like Bela Tarr does).
One of the few things they said to each other was some stuff about
seeing “The Thing”, such as “Fuck the thing”. Surely this device is
borrowed from Aaron Sorkin (ex-writer for The West Wing. His
characters always refer to “The Thing”. And then, could “The
Thing” also be like Bela Tarr’s “The Prince” from The Werckmeister
The scenery is stunning. The small figures in the landscape made me
think of the photographs of Andreas Gursky. This is a film I must catch
up with later.
The Sweatbox – USA – dir: John Paul Davidson & Trudie Styler –
This is a very good documentary, and it may well have been its last
showing. Disney don’t want it shown - they think it shows that they
don’t know what they're doing (they're right), but the co-director said
at the Q & A that he told them they looked heroic - brave enough to
trash a partially-made movie if it is not good enough.
I could see trouble brewing from the start in the Kingdom of the Sun
film. The director and other filmmakers had such a superficial view of
Inca culture. That, together with no script, made it a disaster from
And all the executives seem to be just playing – and getting paid for
The filmmakers had great access, allowed by Disney, who didn’t seem to
realise that things could go wrong.
The only negatives were that some of the facts were unclear: I had to
ask how many songs of Sting’s made it to the final film (one).
That and what I think is a dishonest ending: the co-director admitted
in Q & A that Sting had said that the process was positive – but
he’d said it about 2 years earlier!
Saturday June 14 (“Communist Day”)
Mondays in the Sun – Spain/France/Italy – Fernando Leon de Aranoa –
Is the initial documentary footage of the labour dispute real? If not,
it’s impressive. This film explores the very sad situation when
unemployment makes men are afraid of their bosses and allows their
bosses to take advantage.
It’s star, Javier Bardem, is a very showy actor. But he really inhabits
this role. The script is very witty and clever. When the men baby-sit
at a rich guy’s place, one says: “The guys got taste”. Bardem’s
“We all got that. He’s got money”.
When one of the guys goes to a bank for a loan with his wife, the baker
says: “Sign here. No - the active person” (meaning the employed wife).
Later when Amador falls of his stool, drunk, he says “I didn't fall - I
threw myself down.” These Spanish men & their pride. This will
later resonate when he is found dead. He also tells the story of one
Siamese twin pushing other one over. He doesn’t explain, but the
meaning is clear: united we stand, divided we fall.
It’s very sad when Bardem’s character goes to Amador’s home, and it’s
clear there’s no wife in Amador's apartment - the signs of wife are
also the signs of life. And I loved his habit of turning out the
lights. This results in a great payoff towards the end.
The music was really good until the guitar theme began to get a bit
maudlin and repetitive - but the harmonica, accordion & clarinet.
was very good. The sad theme with mouth organ was played just once too
much. But overall a lovely and important film. The explanation of the
film’s economic theory was so lucid: of the closing of the shipyard and
the work going to Korea, and then the Koreans coming back and living in
luxury apartments built on the waterfront land that was once the
shipyards, and laughing at them. And the giving away of their
children’s jobs too. Very sad.
Shivers – Poland – Dir: Wojciech Marczewski – rated 3.5/5
A wonderful, if bleak film about the things we lose under a
totalitarian regime. A group of children are forced to attend a Polish
Youth Union summer camp, which is really a school for Communist
There are many wonderful images which stay in the mind long after the
film ends, such as a portrait of Karl Marx that appears to cry
when the boy glazes it for his photography class.
“You’re silent – that’s good. That means we have a tacit
understanding,” says the school inspector. Exactly! They have a library
for books forbidden to be read. One boy is totally confused by the
schooling he’s received at the summer camp. He’s totally screwed up,
praying to God for the success for the party!
A Madagascan stamp features prominently. Is it a symbol of the boy’s
individuality and freedom to think? And throughout the boy is afraid of
the coming of “the deluge”. At the end it comes. Is the old regime out
(as is the kind woman - the “Guider”)? After the deluge - like Noah’s
flood – does the world begin again?
Comandante – USA/Spain – dir: Oliver Stone – Rated 2.5/5
Yesterday was Catholic Day, today is Communist Day! Is it just me
or does Oliver Stone look like Juan Batista?
Such questions! Stone’s first question to Castro was whether Castro had
ever seen a psychiatrist! Doesn’t he realise he’s not in LA, he’s in
Havana? Stone also asks Castro whether he’s ever thought of suicide
& whether he believes in God! Clearly Stone is no political
interviewer. He’s more interested in presenting Castro with a series of
fictional scenarios. He’s firmly put in his place by Castro when he
puts a couple of options about how Castro’s life will end to Castro and
asks which one Castro would prefer. “Neither one,” says Castro, “I
always try to be rational in my thoughts.” Unlike Stone, obviously!
Castro tells Stone that he never thinks about glory. He quotes
José Marti “All the glory in the world fits in a kernel of
The documentary is fascinating and informative, but nearly all of that
is due to Castro – he’s charming, witty, intelligent, and clearly still
in possession of all of his faculties. Stone is no match for him. But
still, Stone got the interview…
Why on earth did the filmmakers feel they should play “Don’t cry for me
Argentina” in the background - firstly when Castro is talking about
Cuba’s admirable literacy levels, and many times after that. And
speaking of literacy: the filmmakers could do with a spelling lesson:
they spelled 'cessation' as 'secession' (in the context of the Cuban
missile crisis demands – the cessation of blockade etc).
Some of the most fascinating revelations were also about the Cuban
• Castro says he
drafted the letter to Khrushchev, and because they had no Russian
translator the Russian Ambassador translated the letter (badly - his
Spanish was not good.
• Castro says
that he advocated the 1st nuclear strike on USA. But the thing they
most feared was to be annihilated.
• The only time
that he gets quiet and has no real answer is when questioned about who
would succeed him, Too bad Stone didn’t make the film a year later.
As we came out of the theatre I saw that lots of people were rating the
film as a 5, but me. Fascinating, yes, but not a great documentary.
Again, too centred around the filmmaker.
Auto Focus – USA – dir: Paul Schrader – Rated – 2.5/5
This film has a great pedigree. Directed by Paul Schrader, who wrote
both Taxidriver and Raging Bull and who wrote and directed Mishima and
Affliction. It stars Greg Kinnear (the best thing in As Good as it
Gets), has music by Angelo (Twin Peaks) Badalamenti and is about Bob
Crane from Hogan’s Heroes. Unfortunately it does not live up to its
It starts off well – truly great titles (by Kenneth J Ferris ) in a
kind of a 1960s homage. The film is unfussily directed, but soon I
began to notice that it was being shot in a kind of sitcom-style. Then
as things get shakier, the camera becomes shakily hand-held, which
became uncomfortable. The music was interesting and appropriate, but
the screenplay was just not interesting enough. This problem is not
uncommon, and it is only that it was a “nice guy” that it happened to
which made the story worth telling. But there was little more here than
the story. Elements like the development of video technology added
interest along the way, but I’m sorry to say that there was no pay-off
– which is odd in a film that begins and ends with a murder. In
fact Schrader borrows Billy Wilder’s technique (Sunset Boulevard) of
having the story narrated by a dead man.
Perhaps the problem is that Schrader didn’t write the screenplay.
Monday June 16
Oasis – South Korea – dir: Lee Chang-dong – Rated 4/5
A problematic film, which made me feel conflicted.
Molly and Mobarek – Australia – dir: Tom Zubrycki – Rated 4/5
A great story that needs to be told, and it is very effective that it
concentrates on jusy one of the refugees: Mobarek. But Zubrycki’s
approach is problematic.
Pure – UK – dir: Gillies MacKinnon – Rated 4.5/5