ABR Arts

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Welcome to ABR Arts, home to some of Australia's best arts journalism. We review film, theatre, opera, music, television, art exhibitions – and more. Reviews remain open for one week before being paywalled.

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Recent reviews

Elvis 

by
20 June 2022

Crafting a biopic is a near-impossible act of curation; of the hundreds of thousands of hours that make up a person’s life, which two and a half will accurately sum up their entire existence? Some recent attempts, like the excellent Steve Jobs (2015) or the Judy Garland biopic Judy (2019), limit their slice of life to a handful of defining moments and allow the viewer to extrapolate from there ...

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Men 

by
17 June 2022

The films of Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Ex Machina, Annihilation) all share a distinct feeling of descentan almost gravitational pull towards madness, towards decay, towards a loss of self. His new film, the ingeniously titled but only half-realised Men, continues this tradition.

It stars Jessie Buckley (devastatingly good in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter, and equally committed here) as Harper ...

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Lost Illusions 

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15 June 2022

Xavier Giannoli calls Lost Illusions less an adaptation of Honoré de Balzac’s three-volume novel (1837–43) than a transfiguration, comparing it in form to Max Richter’s celebrated reworking of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Richter’s ‘Spring’ appears in the film, and a famous quote from Oscar Wilde finds its way into the dialogue, signalling Giannoli’s intention to remake the novel in a way that expresses its ‘spirit and modernity’ without betraying the original. 

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Early on in Jonny Hawkins’s Maureen: Harbinger of Death, Maureen invites an audience member to light her cigarette. The man she chooses, like most audience participants, hesitates. She beckons him with a wry smile. As he wanders on stage, she immediately notices his bare face. She presents him with a mask – coordinated perfectly to the colour of her room and attire – and remarks: ‘He has a chin that could have sunk the Titanic.’

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The Milk of Dreams

by
07 June 2022

The 59th Venice Art Biennale is an invitation to imagine. After the pandemic caused the event to be postponed for just the third time in its 127-year history (the other two instances being the two world wars), there was hope at the beginning of the year that this would be ‘the Biennale of rebirth’, marking a return to some kind of normal. Amid widespread global crisis, this could easily be dismissed as an optimistic goal ...

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A Hero 

by
03 June 2022

Some directors leave their fingerprints on a finished product through a trademark visual style, a particular musical taste, or a recurring ensemble of actors. Others embody the notion that when something’s truly well made, the handiwork is invisible. Such is the case with Asghar Farhadi, two-time Oscar-winning writer and director of A Separation (2011) and The Salesman (2016), who continues to ride the crest of the Iranian New Wave with A Hero – meticulously studied, profoundly insightful, and expertly executed right through to its impeccable final frame.

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Dear Thomas 

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03 June 2022

Will this biopic be the film that reintroduces German author and filmmaker Thomas Brasch to the world? Perhaps. Something is indeed afoot. Brasch and his family – his three siblings are also notable figures in literature and film – have been the subject of three films in the last decade. Besides Dear Thomas (Lieber Thomas, 2021), currently screening the German Film Festival, we have The Brasch Family (Familie Brasch, 2018) and ...

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Orontea 

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30 May 2022

Antonio Cesti and Giacinto Cicognini’s frisky opera, Orontea, begins with an argument between philosophy and love as to who is the stronger. Love heads off to Egypt to create havoc chez the Egyptian Queen Orontea, but at her steamy court the contest seems to be more between the opposing delights of lust and alcohol. Orontea’s determination to remain a virgin queen dedicated to her subjects quickly crumbles on the sudden appearance of the painter Alidoro ...

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The Sound Inside 

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30 May 2022

On paper, American playwright Adam Rapp’s The Sound Inside is an intriguing piece of writing. Bella Baird, a professor of creative writing at Yale University, ‘emerges from the darkness’ onto a nondescript stage and introduces herself. She speaks in the ‘heavily embroidered, figurative’ sentences that she dissuades her students from using, a liberty she allows herself standing here, alone in a park, ‘[talking] things out’.

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A Stasi Comedy 

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27 May 2022

A Stasi Comedy bundles its explorations of truth, desire, morality, and freedom into an exuberant coming-of-age story. In Melbourne, the Palace Cinema Como was humming in anticipation at the opening night of the German Film Festival. Christoph Mücher, director of the Goethe Institut, invited us to celebrate the joy of a shared film experience; we raised our glasses and toasted our fellow-cinemagoers – a nice touch.

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