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Film

The French Dispatch 

Searchlight Pictures
by
06 December 2021

Devotees of Wes Anderson know what to expect, and they certainly get it in spades in The French Dispatch. Those who sensed that the American director lost his way with The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), may feel he has strayed even further from the simplicity of the works that made him famous, such as the understated Bottle Rocket (1996), the quirky and endearing Rushmore (1998), and that masterpiece of whimsy, The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson’s homage to Stefan Zweig set in a European alpine resort, has much in common with his latest film; an episodic, phantasmagorical, excessive, and, at times, indulgent work.  It met with mixed reviews and was described as ‘kitschy’ and ‘curiously weightless’, epithets which might apply equally to his The French Dispatch, largely for its overlong zany scenes which appear arbitrary in relation to the action.

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Benediction 

by
29 November 2021

Cinema and poetry make for a less obvious coupling than cinema and theatre or cinema and painting, but once you start counting, the number of movies about poets and their world is surprisingly high. Granted, there’s more about scandal than scansion in most of them, but the list, just from those I remember seeing, is impressive: The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934), The Bad Lord Byron (1949), Stevie (1978), Gothic (1986), Barfly (1987), D’Annunzio (1987), Tom & Viv (1994), Total Eclipse (1995), Sylvia (2003), and Bright Star (2009). Within only the past five years we’ve been treated to Neruda, Dominion or the alternatively named Last Call (about the final hours of Dylan Thomas), Mary Shelley (which, like Gothic, ropes in Byron as well as the title character’s poet–spouse, with Coleridge added to the mix), and two bardic biopics from director Terence Davies: A Quiet Passion (2016) and the newly released Benediction. Might Davies, you wonder, be planning a third such venture, to match his acclaimed semi-autobiographical trilogy about working-class life in Liverpool from the 1940s to the 1960s?

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The Power of the Dog 

Transmission Films
by
15 November 2021

After eighteen months of wayward blockbusters and couch-ready, pandemical streaming entertainment, Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog arrives like a stiff shot of pure cinema. Adapted from Thomas Savage’s 1967 book of the same name, Campion’s film offers no quick thrills, no easy answers, no simple heroes, and no mercy for its inhabitants. It’s a rare beast in an industry increasingly split between shoestring-budget genre films and $200 million franchise toppers; a quintessential adult drama.

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Incarceration Nation 

NITV
by
14 September 2021

Dean Gibson, a Guugu Yimithirr man, is the writer and director of Incarceration Nation, one of the latest documentaries on SBS On Demand. It’s worth noting this because Incarceration Nation, for those who believe this country was ‘settled’ and is equal for all, is essential viewing. Gibson says that ‘Australia was founded by the English with one clear purpose: to create a prison island. More than two hundred years later, not much has changed.’ It’s a strong statement. Having written about this before, I would take it one step further and say that Australia was founded to create not a prison, but an economy.

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Pig 

Madman Entertainment
by
13 September 2021

Truffle hunters and the pigs they bond with would unlikely subjects for a film, yet in 2021 cinema goers have been treated to two films centring on such characters. Earlier this year, the documentary The Truffle Hunters (2020) offered a whimsical tribute to the humble foragers of northern Italy. Now Michael Sarnoski’s Pig presents a darker but no less playful portrayal of a fictionalised hunter.

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Shiva Baby 

Dimbo Pictures
by
02 August 2021

With their forced solemnity and rigid formality, religious ceremonies have long been ripe for comic subversion – see Four Weddings and a Funeral, Death at a Funeral (the original and the American remake), This Is Where I Leave You, Six Feet Under, et al. – but Shiva Baby, a new indie comedy from American writer–director débutante Emma Seligman, gives the sub-genre a refreshing Millennial update. Set almost entirely at a shiva (the Jewish equivalent of a post-funeral wake), Shiva Baby depicts one (very bad) day in the life of college student Danielle, wonderfully played by rising comic star Rachel Sennott. We first meet Danielle mid-coitus with Max (Danny Deferrari), her ‘sugar daddy’ – an older man who forks over a handful of cash and an expensive bracelet in exchange for the time they spend together. Danielle is almost immediately summoned to the shiva in suburban New York. Her first question when she arrives is: ‘Mom, who died?

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Cousins 

Vendetta Films
by
21 June 2021

Cousins, a new release from New Zealand, has its heart in its throat, harmonising a driftless protagonist with the enduring love of her whanau (Māori for extended family).

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Playing with Sharks 

Madman Films
by
18 June 2021

Any film about shark conservation faces a dilemma: how to de-sensationalise an animal whose cinematic charisma relies on the combination of thrill and fear. What reels us in as viewers is the excitement of an up-close, full-frontal encounter with a dangerous predator. Film scholar Tom Gunning talks about this as ‘lust for the eyes’, when an image ‘rushes forward to meet the viewer’, provoking ‘a complicated sort of excitement bordering on terror’.

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Martin Eden 

Palace Films
by
15 June 2021

‘I want to tell you about my incessant march through the kingdom of knowledge.’ Hands in pockets, jacket collar turned up against the wind, Martin Eden (Luca Marinelli) strides forward, centre-frame. He cuts a bold, broad-shouldered figure against a steely Rothko of a backdrop, all cool blues, hazily banded into sky, sea, and deserted concrete waterfront. But for his lilting napoletano voiceover, and the chanson strains of Joe Dassin’s 1970s hit ‘Salut’ – addressed, like Martin’s words, to a lover who’s far away in more senses than one – he seems like a man out of space and time.

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Percy vs Goliath 

Rialto Distribution
by
07 June 2021

Percy vs Goliath, known simply as Percy in some territories, is based on a real-life legal case of an independent crop farmer who took on a large-scale agrochemical corporation. One can imagine a shared sentiment that the story would make a great Hollywood movie. Problematically, the reason for thinking this is because Hollywood has made this film before, repeatedly. The familiarity and predictability of the events depicted are the very reason why it shouldn’t be made into a film.

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