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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

The Godfather

by
12 April 2022

The Godfather, the first instalment of Francis Ford Coppola’s three-part mafioso epic, premièred fifty years ago last month. Released in March 1972, The Godfather became a huge commercial success. By year’s end it was the highest-ever grossing film. And despite its brutal and salacious content, and its pulpy source material – which may help explain its attraction to moviegoers – it was a critical success. Pauline Kael, writing in the New Yorker, described it as ‘a great example of how the best popular movies come out of a merger of commerce and art’.

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The Dropout 

by
11 April 2022

If there is a logical successor to the twentieth-century gangster epic, it may well be the modern-day high-stakes corporate drama. Both revolve around merciless protagonists operating by their own dubious moral code, amassing wealth and influence as they leave a trail of bodies (literal or figurative) in their wake. Instead of intimidation and assassination, our new corporate anti-heroes leverage powerful attorneys and hostile takeovers. Instead of doing business in the smoke-filled backrooms of family restaurants, they operate in biophilic, open-plan offices (and on the stock exchange). Instead of working outside capitalist structures, they bend it to their will. And instead of concealing their crimes and leading a double life, they are openly celebrated, sitting on boards and delivering TED talks.

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Memoria 

by
01 April 2022

In the middle of Bogotá’s Parque de la Independencia is a statue of Nicolaus Copernicus. Designed by the Polish sculptor Tadeusz Lodziana, it was gifted by the People’s Republic of Poland to the city of Bogotá in 1974, after the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries, which had been suspended from 1952 to 1964. This period overlapped with La Violencia in Colombia, a bloody civil war between conservative and left-wing forces, during which roughly 200,000 people were killed.

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Queer

by
29 March 2022

We all know that emancipatory drives in the late twentieth century dislodged the hegemonic politics of social normativity through the movements of second wave feminism, civil rights, and gay activism, but it’s worth remembering that some rights took longer than others. Homosexuality was only fully decriminalised in Australia in 1997 (Tasmania being the last state to do so); same-sex marriages were not legalised until 2017.

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The twenty-third Biennale has been highly anticipated through two long years since Brook Andrew’s twenty-second Biennale suddenly closed in March 2020 as Covid took hold of the country, not to reopen for three months.

This year’s guiding idea, rīvus – meaning stream, but embracing rivers, fresh water, saltwater, lagoons, banks, confluencesis peculiarly topical, as water resources, in both scarcity and flood, become every year a more urgent issue.

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The Phantom of the Opera 

by
28 March 2022

I don’t remember why we were talking about The Phantom of the Opera, the nuclear-proof blockbuster that has rung out from multiple cities every day since its London première in 1986. But I do remember the question posed so absurdly by my psychiatrist that it made me scoff, like the diva Carlotta discovering that she’s been relegated to a minor role in the masked one’s fiendish new score.

‘Do you think you enjoy the musical because you relate to the protagonist?’

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Heroes of the Fourth Turning 

by
28 March 2022

Not long into Will Arbery’s Heroes of the Fourth Turning a character brings out an acoustic guitar and is asked to play a song. He chooses Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Nothin’’, a melancholy ballad pulled from the annals of American folk music. When it was released in 1971, many assumed it represented Van Zandt’s struggle with drug addiction. In fact, as he explained two years before his death, the song was inspired by Nikos Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ, a novel banned by the Catholic Church in 1955 for representing a Christ figure prone to human fallibilities.

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Loveland 

by
22 March 2022

After a decade spent redefining Australian outback noir with Mystery Road (2013), Goldstone (2016), and their ABC TV offshoots, writer–director Ivan Sen turns his attention to a semi-futuristic Asian metropolis in Loveland, retaining his lean directorial focus while delving into even headier philosophical territory. His new film is a strange beast indeed – daring, beautiful, frequently confounding. Those expecting breakneck cyberpunk action will likely head home disappointed – the genre worlds Sen’s characters inhabit are usually more prison than playground – but those with the patience to indulge this alluring and moody experiment should find much to admire.

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An American in Paris 

by
21 March 2022

It is called An American in Paris, but perhaps a more apt title would be The Americans in Paris. Not because the story is about two ex-servicemen who decide to ditch the victory parades back home and stay in a recently occupied city that is in desperate need of revival; but because the show itself is a triumph of the American musical as an art form, a kind of staking out of territory. It is, in its own way, an act of cultural imperialism, a banishment of old conventions in favour of something shiny and new. Proof of this comes deep into the second act, when a French character who fancies himself ‘a song and dance man’ suddenly launches into a fully fledged tap routine that ends with a high-kicking chorus line straight out of Radio City Music Hall. We are still in Paris, right?

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Peter Grimes 

by
18 March 2022

Sadly, stage productions of Benjamin Britten and Montagu Slater’s opera Peter Grimes are now few and far between in Australia, notwithstanding the fact that the work’s exploration of psychological distress and social ostracisation has lost none of its currency. Britten’s score, while incorporating significant modernist musical elements, also remains both accessible and attractive. And Australia can also boast of having produced two of the finest exponents of the title role in Ronald Dowd and Stuart Skelton (who sang the role in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s concert version in 2019).

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