ABR Arts Film

The Professor and the Madman 

Barnaby Smith
Monday, 17 February 2020

When the British author Simon Winchester published the book The Surgeon of Crowthorne in 1998, the idea was, according to his editor, to ‘make lexicography cool’. The non-fiction work told the bizarre and oddly uplifting Victorian-era tale of the autodidactic linguist and scholar Sir James Murray and his relationship with William Chester Minor, a retired American army surgeon incarcerated at Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Despite serious mental illness, Minor was a vital contributor to Murray’s gargantuan task of creating the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), an endeavour that began in 1879.

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The Lighthouse 

Andrew Nette
Thursday, 06 February 2020

It has been fascinating to watch the evolution of Robert Pattinson since the role that brought him to public attention, that of the reluctant vampire Edward Cullen, in the first instalment of the syrupy teen romance franchise Twilight (2008). In a little over a decade, he has transmogrified, via a series of eclectic, often challenging roles, into a major Hollywood talent, able to hold his own with screen veteran Willem Dafoe in Robert Eggers’s psychological horror, The Lighthouse.

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Uncut Gems 

Jack Callil
Monday, 03 February 2020

There is something fundamentally irritating about Adam Sandler. Whether it’s his two-dimensional characters, mousey face, or nasally voice, he reminds you of that obnoxious guy whose loud voice dominates a party. He is the poster boy of puerile comedy, the SNL-alum visionary of some of the most blasphemously bad films of all time. The sheer offensiveness of his work is unignorable: the homophobia of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007), the racism of Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008), the sexism of … pretty much all of it. Each film generally comprises a character arc of Sandler urinating freely, shouting petulantly, fucking wildly, and then maybe punching someone: The end.

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A Hidden Life 

Jordan Prosser
Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Terrence Malick’s mid-career output has been as divisive as his early films were revered. After The Tree of Life won the Palme d’Or in 2011, To the Wonder (2012), Knight of Cups (2015), and Song to Song (2017) arrived in uncharacteristically quick succession, testing audiences’ willingness to indulge Malick’s stubborn stylistic sensibilities. His knack for laying bare characters’ inner lives simply didn’t have the same impact when applied to a smattering of good-looking celebrities milling about South by Southwest festival, or Ben Affleck’s middle-aged ennui.

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True History of the Kelly Gang 

Jordan Prosser
Monday, 13 January 2020

The suggestion that any single retelling of the story of the Kelly Gang might come close to ‘true’ is laughable, but by drawing attention to this fact at the outset, Carey gives himself unfettered creative licence to embellish the tale however he pleases. And while the aural-visual medium of filmmaking could never hope to recreate the unique interiority of Carey’s Kelly or the breathtaking poetry of his loquacious, first-person prose, Kurzel’s film nevertheless succeeds, positioning itself less as a direct adaptation and more of an invocation. It summons the same restless spirit as the novel, and permits itself those same grand liberties with the so-called ‘truth’.

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The Truth 

Felicity Chaplin
Wednesday, 18 December 2019

For much of his working life, Hirokazu Kore-eda has been preoccupied with the question of what makes a family a family. Following on from the critically acclaimed Shoplifters (2018), which received the Palme d’Or at Cannes, The Truth continues to explore the idea of family, the roles we assume, the parts we play, and, above all, the lies we tell. It also interrogates our attachment to the idea of truth, something which for Kore-eda we may never, as humans, reach.

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Sorry We Missed You 

Jack Callil
Wednesday, 18 December 2019

For anyone who has seen I, Daniel Blake (2016), the baked-beans scene is likely to be burnt upon the brain. It is a harrowing moment, one that draws attention to the brutal lives of many people who depend on the British welfare system. The film, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, tapped into what for many was a daily existence – and even influenced political elections. Now its director, the octogenarian auteur Ken Loach, has returned with Sorry We Missed You, a sort of thematic sequel following one working-class family’s struggle to stay afloat in the gig economy.

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By the Grace of God 

Nicholas Bugeja
Monday, 25 November 2019

‘By the grace of God, the statute of limitations has expired’, pronounces Cardinal Philippe Barbarin (François Marthouret), the Archbishop of Lyon, at a 2016 press conference. He is, of course, referring to the historical child abuse crimes committed by Father Bernard Preynat (Bernard Verley). The press corps is understandably shaken. A journalist rises, indignant: ‘Excuse me, do you realise how shocking that is?’ Barbarin tries backpedalling, to no avail. The words are etched in history, signifying a rare moment of truth nestled among the lies, prevarications, and confidentiality agreements that the Catholic Church has often deployed to salvage its tainted reputation. Yet these tactics have had the opposite effect, further plunging the Church into a profound legal and moral crisis.

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Judy and Punch 

Anwen Crawford
Monday, 18 November 2019

The fictional town of Seaside is ‘nowhere near the sea’, state the opening credits of Judy and Punch. Fine, but where or even when this film is set remains a puzzle throughout. The two titular characters, puppeteers Judy (Mia Wasikowska) and Punch (Damon Herriman), speak with an Irish lilt. The rest of the townsfolk – who come bedecked in grimy pirate shirts and motley, corseted gowns – possess an array of Scottish and English accents. The film opens with the medieval spectacle of three accused witches being stoned to death, and yet Seaside also boasts a uniformed police constable. Enough eucalypts are glimpsed in the background to alert any attentive viewer to the fact that, wherever Seaside is meant to be, this film was shot in Australia – in Eltham, Victoria, as it happens. Yet no reference is made to Australia at any point.

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The Irishman 

Aaron Nyerges
Wednesday, 06 November 2019

Martin Scorsese, as the world well knows, makes movies about Italian restaurants. Sure, he makes bloody crime films, too, but at some level he seems to be asking: what’s the difference? In Goodfellas (1990), a man crashes into a pizzeria, one hand shot to pieces, bleeding all over the place. He’s kicked out, and the film cuts to a platter of deli meats surfing through a crowded eatery. The gambling mastermind at the centre of Casino (1995) masquerades as a ‘Food and Beverage Manager’. Meanwhile, the film’s trigger-wild tough, played by Joe Pesci, opens up a classy night spot.

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