Released for Armistice Day, this film by Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame) takes 100 hours of black and white footage from the Imperial Museum, slows it down and transforms it into colour. The most striking thing is the faces. They look right at the camera- and you. Unlike the generic ‘soldier’ who flashes onto scratchy black-and-white film then disappears, each one of these faces is distinctive. The voice-over is a montage of audio snippets from 120 oral histories -600 hours in all- that reveal the commonalities of the war experience from these men who clearly come from such different classes and backgrounds. There are no names, no ‘iconic’ battles, no dates. It’s excellent.
Set in the ‘Special Period’ when the Cuban economy plummeted after the demise of the Soveiet Union, a taciturn, aloof Professor of Russian Literature is sent to a Cuban hospital to translate for Russian patients and their parents who have travelled to Cuba in the wake of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. The closing credits point out that over 20,000 Russian children were part of this program that continued until 2011. A father himself, the translator becomes increasingly drawn towards the Russian children, to the detriment of his marriage and relationship with his own son. It is filmed in Cuba, so I enjoyed seeing places I’d visited. The language is really hard to understand, although if you look (or rather, listen) to the trailer, the dialogue is very muffled.
An Argentinian film about a young girl, Dolores, who finally, after two and a half years, faces the court after the murder of her best friend. This friend had posted a sex tape of Dolores, leading to a falling-out between the two girls, and when the friend is found stabbed on the couch after a drunken party, Dolores is accused of the murder. Now she faces the court, her parents having mortgaged the house to employ the best lawyer they can. The young actress reminded me of Demi Moore in Ghost, and she is very good in manipulating your feelings about her. Is she innocent, exhausted, manipulative or a good liar?
It’s subtitled in English, which is just as well because I could barely follow a word.
My rating: 3.5
I saw this as part of the 2018 Latin American film festival. It’s directed by Alfonso Cuarón, who also directed Gravity and Children of Men. It’s filmed in black and white, and it looks at a year in the life of a middle-class family in the Roma suburb of Mexico City. It reminded me a lot of that other black and white film Of Time and the City, (which in that case was about Liverpool), in that the director is almost writing a love letter to the city of his memory. Lots of observations about class, being a woman, betrayal – and in beautifully clear Spanish! (subtitles in English). It’s very good
My rating: 4.5 stars
This was a very wordy film, as you might expect given that it was set amongst writers and artists in the Bloomsbury circle. Elizabeth Debicki was excellent, playing an ungainly and mentally fragile Virginia Woolf. There was rather too much of Vita and Virginia staring face-on to the camera in close-up, talking, and felt myself getting rather bored by it all. I wanted to like it more than I did.
I saw this as part of the British Film Festival.
There’s not a lot of dialogue in this film, or at least, not much dialogue that you and I will understand. An Australian ex-soldier, Mike, returns to Afghanistan where he served in the army some years earlier. He had been involved on a raid on a village, and he wants to make amends. He doesn’t speak Pashtun, and to put us as viewers in Mike’s place, nothing is translated. The landscape is stark- no wonder armies founder there.
It’s an excellent meditation on repentance and forgiveness.
My rating: 4 stars.
And here’s an interesting video about the making of Jirga
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