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Recent reviews

Film  |  Theatre  |  Art  |  Opera  |  Music  |  Television  |  Festivals

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

The Alliance Française French Film Festival, the world’s largest showcase of French cinema outside of France, returns in 2024 for its thirty-fifth edition, with its usual eclectic mix of films from arthouse to mainstream cinema. Francophiles and cinephiles alike can see films from a range of genres, including drama, romantic comedy, social comedy, thriller, and historical biopic – from renowned directors like Marcel Carné and Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano, to newcomers like Marie Amachoukeli. This year’s festival features the usual big names in French cinema – Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Daniel Auteuil, Laure Calamy, and Mathieu Almaric – alongside some excellent début performances. Here are some of the highlights.

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Simone Young conducts Gurrelieder 

Sydney Symphony Orchestra
by
18 March 2024

What is Gurrelieder? Arnold Schoenberg’s massive cantata, or oratorio, or symphonic psychodrama, is technically a song cycle, presenting ‘Songs of Gurre’, a small Danish settlement best known for its crumbling medieval castle. A five-part sequence of naturalist poems, by the Danish ‘Modern Breakthrough’ writer and botanist Jens Peter Jacobsen, became the text of Schoenberg’s cycle, in a lacklustre German translation by Robert Franz Arnold, to which Schoenberg made few revisions.

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Jaime conducts Mahler 3 

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
by
15 March 2024

Famously, Gustav Mahler once told Jean Sibelius that ‘[a] symphony must be like the world – it must contain everything.’ Running for more than ninety minutes, indeed often cited as the longest symphonic work in the standard orchestral repertoire, his third essay in this genre (first performed in its entirety in 1902, conducted by Mahler) arguably gets closest to realising such an ambition. The composer suggested, furthermore, that the work was inspired by the contemplation of a soul’s journey from the natural world to the spiritual, no less.

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Gaslight 

Rodney Rigby for Newtheatricals in association with Queensland Theatre
by
12 March 2024
Patrick Hamilton’s play Gaslight (1938) surely ranks as the least likely cultural touchstone of our age. A middling melodrama about a suspicious husband, a nervy wife, and some dramatically expedient lost jewels, it made a minor splash on Broadway before being adapted twice for the screen, the second starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer in 1944 (Bergman won her first Oscar in the role). Decades passed and the work was largely forgotten, until the play’s title resurfaced as a byword for a particular category of coercive control. ... (read more)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream 

Bell Shakespeare
by
12 March 2024
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s most tightly constructed plays. Productions that mess with the play’s structure risk creating a string of comic scenes that don’t hold together as a coherent whole. Thankfully, Peter Evans’s heavily cut and rearranged version for Bell Shakespeare doesn’t just avoid these pitfalls. It creates a play with a viewpoint and a clear storyline with its own sense of balance. ... (read more)

Qui a tué mon père (Who killed my father) 

Schaubühne Berlin and Théâtre de la Ville Paris
by
12 March 2024

For the past decade, French writer Édouard Louis has been excavating and recuperating a childhood spent in a state of acute precarity in the Hauts-de-France. He has written both critically and empathetically about the lives of his parents and siblings, while also casting a probing eye on himself. His first novel, the autofictional En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule (The End of Eddy, trans. Michael Lucey, 2014), was published when he was only twenty-two and has enjoyed significant success in translation.

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The Threepenny Opera 

Berliner Ensemble/ Adelaide Festival
by
08 March 2024

The enduring popularity of The Threepenny Opera is often attributed to Kurt Weill’s music rather than Bertolt Brecht’s text. As director Barrie Kosky notes with characteristic hyperbole in the Adelaide Festival program for his new production with the Berliner Ensemble: ‘Weill … is as important for the history of music theatre as Wagner.’

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Vanya 

National Theatre Live
by
08 March 2024
The dramatic energies of Uncle Vanya are basically centrifugal. As the play (first produced in 1899) rotates in its unwieldy way, the various characters – all of them dolorous creatures – are driven apart, pushed outward into the dreary wastes of private disappointment. Human relationships are of little consequence in this play; everyone is adrift in his or her own special incapacity. ... (read more)

The Rooster 

Bonsai Films
by
20 February 2024
While it is set in the remote bushland of Victoria’s Macedon Ranges, The Rooster is hardly a quiet or peaceful film. The cacophonic soundtrack opens with a chorus of crickets accompanying the title credits and a haunting first image. We soon hear recurring, ironic snippets of Verdi, Bach, Vivaldi, and Puccini on a car radio, jazz interludes from Miles Davis and Pharaoh Sanders blasting from a secluded shack, and the cathartic yells of the film’s two principals as they crow cock-like into the tree-lined void. ... (read more)

Nemesis 

Australian Broadcasting Corporation
by
15 February 2024
Each episode of Nemesis, the ABC’s morbidly fascinating three-part retrospective series on the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments of 2013-22, begins with a word association game. The ensemble of parliamentarians and former ministers is asked to describe the three featured prime ministers in a single word. Tony Abbott is called, among other things, ‘strong’, ‘negative’, ‘clever’, ‘dishonest’, ‘aggressive’, and ‘disciplined’, and, in the words of former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, ‘pugilistic and [someone who is] also willing to] give you a hug’. ... (read more)