Category Archives: Movies 2019

Movie: Never Look Away

This film is loosely based on the life of the German artist Gerhard Richter, although he personally distances himself from it. Born into a German family, Kurt’s father is a reluctant member of the Nazi Party, and his family suffers from the policies of Hitler’s Germany during Hitler’s time, and suffers again afterwards.  It’s a very long movie (3 hours) and I must confess that I was aware that it was a long movie and found myself checking my watch. The baddies are very bad – in fact, despicable- and it is beautifully filmed with moments of real tension. It is German with English subtitles.

My rating: 3 and a half out of five.

Movie: Litigante

Well that’s weird- a Spanish trailer with French subtitles that tells you absolutely nothing about the film. Despite the title – in English, the Litigant- this is not a courtroom drama. The main character, Silvia, is a lawyer, but that’s only one part of her life as a single (by choice) mother. Her own mother, Leticia, used to be a lawyer too and even though she is dying – too slowly- of lung cancer, the two women argue incessantly.  Silvia is compromised by the shady dealings of the government bureaucracy for whom she works as a lawyer, and she is embarking on an unexpected love affair.  She is stressed, stretched and so tired. It’s a real slice of life, and thoroughly convincing.  I saw it as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival in Spanish, with English subtitles.

My rating: 4 stars


Movie: Diego Maradona

I come from Melbourne. I don’t like soccer, and the only real football is AFL. I didn’t know anything about Diego Maradona beyond the name. But this film is really good, and you don’t need to know any more than I did to enjoy it. It is subtitled, and consists of a compilation of film clips, some very grainy, of Maradona and has voice-overs from interviews, but no ‘talking heads’ as such.  It’s a rags-to-riches story, and a morality tale of pride before a fall. Go see it.

My rating: 5 out of 5


Movie: Rocketman

What is it with the nostalgia for old rock stars? Freddy Mercury in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, the Beatles in ‘Yesterday”, Michael Hutchence,  a new Bruce Springsteen movie coming out… and ‘Rocketman’.  I know that there’s a deliberate targetting of baby-boomer filmgoers who actually pay to sit on a cinema seat, but …I don’t know…there’s something a bit moth-ball-y and retirement village-y about all these excursions into the past. I personally mightn’t enjoy it and wouldn’t pay to see it, but are current musicians not worthy of celebration? Was the only good music written and performed between 1964 and 1994?

This was far more like a musical than I imagined it would be, and the songs are used to advance the story,  rather than a strict chronological discography.  I hadn’t realized how closely the lives of Elton John and Bernie Taupin were intertwined, but it seems strange to use the lyrics (which Taupin wrote) as a narrative skeleton for a telling of Elton John’s life. As someone once said: how odd that Elton John should sing for about forty years without ever singing his own words.  And I felt just a bit ambivalent about the idea of a very wealthy rock star writing and funding his own lavish autobiographical film (yes- I know, I’m inconsistent because I read autobiographies).  Hence, his prattishness was made to seem reasonable, or at least understandable, and there’s quite a bit of special pleading going on here.

That said, I did enjoy it, and hearing all those old songs from my adolescence and early adulthood again. I also enjoyed watching YouTube videos of Elton John and Taron Egerton singing together, with Elton beaming away like a stage mother in her dressing gown.

My rating: 3.5 stars.

Movie: Apollo 11

I had no real intention of getting swept up in the 50th anniversary until I caught the final part of SBS’ three part documentary Chasing the Moon (available on SBSOnDemand). Then, reading the magazine part of the Age a week late, as is my wont, I read Stephanie Bunbury’s review of Apollo 11. “Let’s go see this!” I said. And so we did.

This documentary covers the nine days of the lunar launch, using only contemporary sources. There are no talking heads, and no analysis. The footage comprises material sourced from other countries (because NASA had taped over its own records of the moon landings) and a huge unprocessed collection of large-format 70 millimetre film that had been sitting in cold storage.  There was also a huge cache of 11,000 hours of audio recordings taken from the headsets of mission personnel.

It starts with excerpts of Kennedy’s 1962 promise to put a man on the moon, and it shows people gathering with their campervans and sunglasses to watch the launch. Once Saturn is launched, the action moves to inside the control room and the lunar module. There is no explanation – you just watch it happen, and even though we all know how it ended, I found myself holding my breath as the various stages unfolded.

It is a visual experience, and having seen it, I decided to listen to BBC’s 13 Minutes to the Moon, which is a completely aural experience. I have two regrets: first, I think I would have enjoyed the movie even more had I listened to the podcasts first, and second I wish I had seen it at IMAX.

Movie: An Unexpected Love (El Amor Menos Pensado)

Very much an over-60s film, this Argentian movie looks at a long-term marriage that breaks up after the only son leaves home. Like all good comedies, it has a bit of an edge to it, as these middle aged characters negotiate Tindr, Instagram and the complexities of pulling apart two lives that have become integrated after years of marriage.  I guess you’d call it a rom-com, which is not my normal fare, but I really enjoyed it.

Spanish with English subtitles

My rating: 4.5 out of 5.


Movie: Red Joan

Usually I rail and rant when a film ostensibly ‘based on a true story’ makes changes, but I didn’t feel this way with this film. ‘Red Joan’ is based on the true story of Melita Norwood, who used her position as secretary at the innocuous-sounding Non-Ferrous Metals Research Association to pass nuclear secrets to Russia. The film has shifted the action to Cambridge University, and made ‘Joan’ a brilliant student, rather than a secretary. But in this case, I didn’t mind. It’s usually the most dramatic scene of the film that prompts the most egregious truestory-to-film changes, and in this case it’s the scene of an elderly woman giving a press conference in her garden. There was a fidelity both to this event and the impetus behind it, so if the producers decided to go for Cambridge scenery and a bit of a feminist nudge, that’s okay with me.  Judy Dench doesn’t appear much in the film, which is a series of present day/ flashback sequences, and really the film belongs more to Sophie Cookson, who plays the young Joan. The two actresses are well cast because it didn’t strain credulity to believe that they were playing the same character.

My rating: 4 stars.