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Recent reviews

Flee 

by
14 February 2022

A teenager’s arduous journey from a Taliban-occupied Afghanistan in 1989 to the safe haven of Denmark is given a uniquely painterly treatment in Flee. Far from diminishing the story’s impact, this animated documentary is all the more profound for the insidious way the visuals undermine our defences.

Danish filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen became friends with Amin soon after the Afghan refugee arrived in Denmark as an unaccompanied minor. Despite a friendship that has lasted twenty-five years, Amin had never told Jonas the full story of the harrowing experiences that led to his eventual asylum. He hadn’t told anyone. Through the course of Poher Rasmussen’s film, we find out why. 

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Die Walküre 

by
11 February 2022

Richard Wagner’s famous pronouncement, ‘Kinder, schafft Neues!’ (‘Children, create something new!’), has often been the inspiration to take daring creative risks, particularly (but not exclusively) with productions of his works. Using The Ring as a starting point, directorial licence has been extended in all sorts of intriguing ways that have, over the years, seen Valkyries roaring around on motorcycles, Rhinemaidens as strutting Victorian doxies, the dragon Fafner at the turret of an army tank, Wotan as a Texan oligarch, Siegfried as a hippie, and Gunther and the Gibichungs as Nazis.

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Death of a Salesman 

Hearth Theatre
by
09 February 2022

Since its première in 1949, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman has managed to cling to cultural relevance with a vice-like grip. In 1975, New York Times critic Walter Goodman saw in its evocation of the American middle class the perfect representation of a nation-wide recession following the Vietnam War. In 1984, the play’s titular salesman, Willy Loman, became the symbol of a dwindling middle class under Ronald Reagan. And in Mike Nichol’s 2012 Broadway revival, Charles Isherwood transformed Loman into the perfect everyman for the Great Recession. That same year, Simon Stone staged an innovative adaptation of Miller’s masterpiece for Sydney’s Belvoir Theatre. It was Stone’s decision to have his actors speak in Australian accents rather than the conventional Brooklyn dialect that seemed to pry the play from its American origins.

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Benedetta 

Hi Gloss Entertainment
by
07 February 2022

Catholicism gets a bad rap when it comes to sex these days. The Church fixates on condoms and abortion. It isn’t always big on homosexuality either. Paul Verhoeven’s ‘historically inspired’ film, on one level, explores the hypocrisies that arise from such callow credos: the religious renounce the flesh but flagrantly eroticise spiritual and interpersonal relationships. Carnal obsessions abound on screen. Nuns mortify themselves (quite literally) and male clergy are reassuringly lascivious. The whole film is as revealing of the female figure as you would expect from the director of Basic Instinct (1992) and Showgirls (1995). Indeed, those who buy their ticket for the soupçons of Sapphic frottage are unlikely to be disappointed.

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Belfast 

Universal Pictures
by
31 January 2022

On the sunny streets of Belfast in 1969, nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill) fights imaginary dragons with a wooden sword and a shield made from the lid of a garbage bin. When his Ma calls him home for tea, he races through the neighbourhood, bright-eyed and carefree. But the afternoon idyll is quickly shattered by a small army of Protestant rioters laying siege to the street, smashing windows and firebombing cars in a targeted attempt to weed out any remaining Catholic residents.

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Into the Woods 

Watch This Theatre Company
by
24 January 2022

Great works of art speak to us regardless of circumstance, even if they have a tendency to take circumstance and fold it into their architecture. Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods (1987) is such an expansive work – ranging over ideas of parenting and childhood, moral culpability, risk and renewal, death and community – that it will always feel relevant, a grand canvas of the human condition. And yet, in the midst of a global pandemic that is still shutting theatres and clogging hospitals, this work seems more relevant than ever. We have entered our own woods, and the way out is unclear.

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Coen it alone

by
21 December 2021

They have always been inseparable in the public imagination, the Coen brothers, a zygotic artistic collaboration with an almost primal indivisibility. While for years Joel was credited as director and Ethan as producer, this was due entirely to a quirk in the Directors Guild of America that disallowed duel directorial credits, unless members were an ‘established duo’. This became official in 2004: they are now the established duo of commercial film – one would have to go back to Powell and Pressburger to find a cinematic partnership of such richness and breadth. With the release of Joel’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, the first film directed solely by one brother, it seems a good time to drill down into the brothers’ quintessence: what is a Coen brothers’ film, and what could or should we expect from a Coen brothers film? Is the zygote finally subdividing?

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Sidney Nolan: Myth Rider

TarraWarra Museum of Art
by
20 December 2021

This is a beautiful, thought-provoking, and timely exhibition about the enduring power and relevance of myth to humanity. In fact, visitors get two exhibitions in one, in the way that TarraWarra Museum of Art does exceptionally well: with contemporary art speaking back to Australian modernism – the original core of the museum’s permanent collection.

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The Tragedy of Macbeth 

by
20 December 2021

Could Macbeth be Shakespeare’s most innately cinematic play? Even in its brief stage directions and off-stage action, it conjures up daring battlefields, horrible massacres, spine-tingling witchcraft, wandering spirits, duels on castle ramparts, and a moveable forest. Every few years another filmmaker tries their hand at it, Orson Welles (Macbeth, 1948), Akira Kurosawa (Throne of Blood, 1957), and Roman Polanski (Macbeth, 1971) notable among them. 2006 gave us Geoffrey Wright’s best-forgotten Dunsinane-does-Underbelly version, while Justin Kurzel (director of Snowtown and the recent Nitram) injected his terrific 2015 version with rousing battle sequences and a blockbuster-ready, musclebound Thane of Glamis. Now, not long after Kurzel’s film, comes The Tragedy of Macbeth from Joel Coen, working without his brother Ethan for the first time in decades. Where Kurzel’s version aimed for historical realism and cinematic virtuosity, Coen’s adaptation is faithful above all else to Macbeth’s original medium: the theatre.

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Firebite 

AMC+
by
16 December 2021

Eleven vials of smallpox virus were transported to Sydney on the First Fleet by Surgeon John White1. In the crucible of a filmmaker’s mind, this historical fact is forged into fantasy, the vials transmuted into eleven vampires, let loose to suck the lifeblood out of the local people. When that filmmaker is Warwick Thornton (Sweet Country, Samson and Delilah), this monstrous cargo becomes a metaphor to explore the atrocities of colonialism and their emotional sequelae, all wrapped in the idiom of genre. This is Firebite, an Aboriginal vampire thriller television series, co-created by Thornton and Brendan Fletcher (Mad Bastards) and co-directed by Thornton, Fletcher, and Tony Krawitz (The Tall Man).

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