This is showing at the moment in Melbourne as part of the Italian Film Festival. It is a documentary about the Elena Ferrante phenomenon, exploring the universal popularity of her books and contextualizing the Neapolitan novels amongst Ferrante’s other works. It doesn’t necessarily dwell on who the author is, but instead considers the effect of having an invisible and unknown author, both on readers and the book marketing industry. The documentary features several well-known talking heads, most particularly Elizabeth Strout and Jonathan Franzen for Western readers and translator Ann Goldstein, intercut with animations and small film clips. It has subtitles.
I also saw Nonnas on the Run, one of two ‘Nonna’ films being shown as part of the Italian Film Festival. It’s a bit of a romp with two ladies-of-a-certain-age breaking out of their aged-care hostel. It teeters on the edge of laughter and a stab of sorrow, which is a good thing.
With the State Judiciary Committee hearing into Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, it seemed particularly apposite to go to see RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsberg) in its last days. An intelligent lawyer (and strikingly beautiful as a young woman) she worked quietly in the courts, steadily building up cases that showed that everyone loses by discrimination – women in particular. Nothing came easily to her: the quotas of female students at university (5 male students to every female student), her difficulty in getting a job even though she was an outstanding student because she was a woman – there’s no entitlement here. The documentary does touch on her inappropriate comments about Trump’s nomination, and the question of whether she should have resigned while Obama was still in power. Who knows? Look at the Republican stonewalling over Merrick Garland. But with the prospect of two men on the Supreme Court with sexual assault or harassment allegations, to say nothing of the President, I’m glad she’s there.
I suspect that this is a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it movie, and I’m afraid that I lean more towards the latter. Two best friends work together to organize an ‘out’ for people who want to break up a relationship, by deception, confrontation or other devious means. It was too loud and in your face for my liking. It’s a New Zealand film, with layers of Maori-Pakeha relations, and an exploration of female friendship. I did laugh in places, but it didn’t have the quirkiness of ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’.
My rating: 2.5
A few weeks back, this doco was everywhere, but it’s disappearing fast. It’s fantastic. You don’t need to be a Cold Chisel fan (although it helps) because you’ll see his present-day renditions of songs, backed and accompanied by his brilliant daughter Mahalia, in a whole new light. Born in Glasgow into a poor, violent home, he emigrated with his family to Australia, to live in the working class, industrial suburb of Elizabeth in South Australia. There he embarked upon -and survived- a rough rock-and-roll life that we know replicated the alcoholism and dysfunction of his childhood. He came to be the lead singer of one of the best-known bands in Australia. It’s a mixture of film footage, archival footage about Glasgow and Elizabeth, talking head interviews, a who-do-you-think-you-are-like return to significant places, extracts from his stage show based on the book, and studio recordings. There were only about five of us in the cinema when I saw it, applauding away vigorously in the dark. Go see it before it disappears.
My rating: 5
This film is taken from Ian McEwans novella, which ran to only 160 odd pages. From memory, it was an excruciating painful book to read, full of silences and the lack of language. I was left with a feeling of the small tragedy and pathos of it all.
That novella has been padded for this film, and everywhere the padding is, it veers off course. Even though Ian McEwan himself was involved in the production of the film, the ending is just awful and all I could do was look at the prosthetics and think about how implausible the whole scenario was. Despite excellent acting from the wonderful Saoirse Ronan, the film’s a bit of a slow dud.
My rating: 2.5/5 (or may be 3 once I get over my annoyance at the ending)
This film, set in Catalonia and directed by Carla Simon, is autobiographical, telling the story of six-year old Frida whose mother has died. She is sent to live with her uncle and his wife and young daughter in the countryside, even though she is very close to a single aunt who remains in the city. The young actress Laia Artigas is excellent, capturing both the deep sadness and passivity of a young bereaved child, and the joy of just being alive and feeling loved. The film is very much taken from the child’s point of view, and yet you can so easily empathize with the uncle’s wife who has most of the care of her husband’s niece; with the aunt who loves Frida so much, and with the grandparents who are now so distant. The movie is in Catalan with subtitles, and it’s a very quiet film where things move very slowly, with a sense of impending danger. The sadness at the end snuck up on me -just as it did the characters in the film- and I found myself crying again when telling my husband about it.
My rating: 4.5/5
Glenn Close is absolutely brilliant in this film as the wife of a Nobel-Prize winning writer. He is receiving plaudits for his body of literature while she, as a once-aspiring writer, has been at his side. She glowers with barely-repressed anger and disdain at her philandering, egotistical husband, and while the film is a bit predictable, it’s a pleasure to watch Close’s performance. The overwhelmingly-female audience with whom I watched it groaned and audibly hissed at times. The casting of the young and older wife character was sensitive,and it was not hard to accept that the older actress was playing the same character as the younger one. Glenn Close herself was beautiful and complex. Loved it.
My rating: 5/5