Film

Cinema’s future in Australia

Richard Leathem
Thursday, 12 November 2020

As Victoria emerges from its long lockdown, cinemas, among the last businesses to reopen under the roadmap to recovery, are finally open to the public again. But how will they operate in a Covid-normal world? Have we learnt to live without them?

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J.M. Coetzee and Philip Roth on Screen

Brian McFarlane
Wednesday, 28 October 2020

‘It wasn’t like that in the book’ is one of the commonest and most irritating responses to film versions of famous novels. Adaptation of literature to film seems to be a topic of enduring interest at every level, from foyer gossip to the most learned exegesis. Sometimes, it must be said, the former is the more entertaining, but this is no place for such frivolity.

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Reviewing Oliver Stone’s film Salvador for The New Yorker in 1986, Pauline Kael detected a ‘right-wing macho fantasy joined to a left-wing polemic’. That same compound, a politically unstable one, bubbles under the surface of Stone’s autobiography, Chasing the Light. Generally speaking, it is hard to separate judgement about an autobiography from that about its subject, since reading an autobiography is like a long stay at someone’s home, listening to them detail their life story around the dinner table, night after night. The problem is twofold when its author is so politically conflicted. As distinct from a film review, to review Oliver Stone’s autobiography is undeniably to review ‘Oliver Stone’.

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The Social Dilemma 

Joshua Krook
Monday, 21 September 2020

If you watch one film about technology this year, make it this one. The Social Dilemma (Netflix) features almost every tech insider turned outsider. There’s Tristan Harris, Google’s former chief design ethicist who famously dissented over the company’s attention/addiction business model. There’s Justin Rosenstein, the inventor of the Facebook ‘like’ button, who now regrets his invention. There’s Guillaume Chaslot, inventor of the YouTube recommendations system, who now regrets his invention. There’s Jaron Lanier, founder of virtual reality, who now wants people to delete their social media accounts. There’s Shoshana Zuboff, author of last year’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, who blew the lid on the whole game. And that’s just in the first few minutes.

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Ratched 

Tim Byrne
Monday, 21 September 2020

How, precisely, does a character unmoor itself from its source material? And how concerned should we be to track its progress – or should that be retrace its steps? These questions bugged me as I admittedly devoured Ryan Murphy’s new Netflix series, Ratched. Ostensibly a prequel, it re-contextualises and re-packages the unforgettable villain Nurse Ratched from Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962) for entirely different aims, so much so that the original feels hopelessly far away. In fact, there’s little evidence of Kesey at all.

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Adrian Martin’s Mysteries of Cinema is, above all, an impassioned love letter to film, a written record of a life defined and driven by the pleasures, ambiguities, and indeed mysteries inherent in what André Bazin, co-founder of Cahiers du Cinéma, called the ‘seventh art’. In the author’s own words, the book ‘covers 34 years of a writing life’. It charts both his ephemeral and enduring fixations and obsessions, many of which converge on cinema, film form, the role of the critic, pockets of film culture, and the psychological, emotional, and intellectual responses that cinema elicits. Mirroring much of Martin’s oeuvre, Mysteries of Cinema is not easily classifiable; it cuts across different strands of film theory and thought by employing ‘a mode of synthetic film analysis attuned to … the mysteries of cinema’. Martin’s devotees will devour Mysteries of Cinema, savouring its details, imagery, and linguistic flourishes. At more than 430 pages in length, it might prove a formidable undertaking for the more casual reader.

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People tell you one week that they liked Gallipoli, but the next they’re not so sure. Gone are the days of intuitive gut felt reaction – everyone wants to make sure their judgements are intellectually sound. They read every ‘expert’ on the subject and come back with another opinion. Reading the script gives you another variation. The skeleton is there, warts and all.

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Words and Images is a valuable contribution to the rapidly growing body of work on Australian film culture and a welcome addition to the relatively small collection of volumes dealing with the film-literature connection. As McFarlane notes there is not, as yet, a ‘definitive work’ on the art of adaptation, though George Bluestone’s Novels into Film (1957) established a fairly solid base for others working in this area. McFarlane’s acknowledged indebtedness to Bluestone is most evident in the method he adopts in order to examine individual adaptations. Essentially it is one of determining and exploring changes to texts, that is, the major alterations and manipulations which take place in the process of adapting a narrative from one medium to another.

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In his long poem The Bridge (1930), Hart Crane balances the breadth of his epic vision against a compressive energy, a ballistic sort of expression: ‘So the 20th Century – so / whizzed the Limited – roared by and left.’ Since Crane worked in an American tradition of poet–prophets that includes Walt Whitman and the undersung H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), it is tempting to grant him that. The twentieth century did roar by and go. And the 20th Century Limited, the luxurious passenger train connecting New York to Chicago, furnished it (and him) with an expression of the century’s quarrelsome momentum, its loud, emblematic modernity.

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Peterloo ★★★★

Brian McFarlane
Tuesday, 20 November 2018

What I’ve come to expect of a new Mike Leigh film is, above all, the unexpected. His first feature, Bleak Moments (1971), of which there were quite a few in that contemporary study of urban, lower-middle class life, made him a potent force in British film. Think of Naked (1993) and Secrets & Lies (1996) ...

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