Movie Review – Cats

Tom Hooper’s queasy visuals and artistic oversight undo one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s more charming musicals.

⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

I greatly admire Cats as a musical. I grew up with it. And I respect anyone who’s willing to dance night after night in a skin-tight animal outfit. Now that I’ve seen the movie, I don’t quite know what to make of it. No dramatic presentation of a musical like Cats could ever be considered “normal”. These are cats that look like humans, or rather humans that look like cats, choreographed to leap and twirl and occasionally behave like cats. But this movie is a uniquely unusual experience, not always in a fashion that is pleasant.

The most glaring issue is the CGI, which the movie seems to have bathed in. The result is not so much disappointing as distracting. The trailer for the movie received some hefty popular backlash on YouTube for the creepy digital effects on all the characters’ faces. The movie does nothing to improve matters. In fact, it compounds them, not least because in addition to the creepy felines, the same effects are applied to several mice and a whole contingent of dancing cockroaches. Yes, cockroaches. It doesn’t help that several of them are devoured by Rebel Wilson.

All this might’ve been easier to stomach if the effects had been seamless. Sadly, the CGI is so consistently inconsistent it draws unwanted attention to itself. It’s a movie whose visuals look frail on the surface then threaten to crumble spectacularly upon closer inspection. I suspect, if you go in to Cats without already possessing an affinity for the material, you might be so put off by the artificial appearance and bizarre movements of the cats that you might consider walking out before the first song has had its chance to be sung.

The plot, such as it is, is based on a collection of poems by T.S. Eliot. A young white cat, Victoria (Francesca Hayward, a principal dancer for the Royal Ballet in her first feature-length film), has been thrown out amongst the trash in a London alley, only to be salvaged by a tribe of “Jellicle” cats all vying to be chosen by Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) for a new life, while the sinister Macavity (Idris Elba) schemes to ascend himself. What’s a Jellicle cat? There are songs that explain it, but their choruses are so difficult to discern you’d be better off reading the original poems.

All this adds up to a movie I seem to have not enjoyed very much. I hold some of the older renditions of the musical too close to my heart. This Cats is too digital and visually unsettling to really stack up. Tom Hooper, who committed musical suicide with Les Misérables (2012) by casting an actor who couldn’t sing, does it again by incidentally drawing focus away from the things that matter. Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s score holds up gallantly, and there are pockets of delightful moments that reminded me of the material’s potential. If you can look through the strangeness, you’d have a good time. Unfortunately, the strangeness is stubbornly impenetrable.

Cats is available in Australian cinemas from December 26 2019

Image © Universal Pictures 2019

Movie Review – Marriage Story

Noah Baumbach’s message is clear – whoever said war is hell has surely never been through a divorce.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan

After a long, mostly happy period together, 30-something-year-old couple Charlie (Adam Driver), a successful theatre director, and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), his acting muse, find themselves facing difficulties in their marriage. Nicole sees new career offers outside New York as the right opportunity to file for divorce from Charlie, beginning a long, traumatic battle amidst an attempt to retain a sense of family for the sake of their son.

What is it about deteriorating marriages that makes them so fascinating to watch? It’s likely the sheer drama emitted by the situations and complications that come with falling out of love with someone. But when witnessing such a breakdown – when done well – it can tap into a complex emotional place and stir a hurricane of very intense feelings.

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, While We’re Young) is a man who, for better or worse, truly, deeply understands the trauma of a divorce. He’s already explored his own parents’ separation earlier in his filmography with The Squid and the Whale, and since then he’s had the added heat of his own divorce from Jennifer Jason Leigh – from which Marriage Story takes a great deal of inspiration. Pile on the claims of countless breakups of friends all around him (of whom he interviewed, along with lawyers, judges and mediators) and it seems as though Baumbach is a magnet for and an expert on the distressing subject, which Marriage Story brilliantly proves in all its messy, warts-and-all glory.

The film opens with both Charlie and Nicole monologuing everything they love about the other – the endearing quirks, the gestures both grand and tiny, how each one makes up for the other’s shortcomings and the strong bond they hold with their son. Combined with a typically whimsical Randy Newman score, it immediately romanticizes their marriage in the way that most love stories do and fills us with optimism of the magic they share. Or at least did once.

As the fantasy fizzles, it’s revealed we’re in Nicole and Charlie’s couples’ therapy. The love letter to one another is just an activity set by their councillor that both are too tense to actually read aloud. And this is just the tip of their rapidly crumbling iceberg.

Throughout, the audience is made to feel like the child caught in the crossfire of their parent’s separation. We err back and forth between whose side we’re on, face the difficult understanding that a side probably shouldn’t be picked and feel the weight and struggle of searching for a middle ground.

Both characters are deeply flawed. Both show their true colours and at times rear their very ugly heads in heated yelling matches, but it’s astounding to witness the humanity grow in both. By the end, you just want both of them to find something approaching happiness, even if it seems like an impossible outcome. Driver and Johansson deliver career-best turns, and both, particularly Driver, are truly deserving of some serious awards recognition.

Baumbach has delivered perhaps the ultimate movie about divorce and boy does it make us feel all the massive emotions of one. Messy, infuriating, funny, sad and distressing, Marriage Story cuts, very, very deep.

Marriage Story is available on Netflix in Australia from December 6 2019

Image courtesy of Netflix Australia

Roma – Cine Latino Film Festival

The most personal project to date from director Alfonso Cuarón, Roma chronicles a turbulent year in the lives of a middle-class family in 1970’s Mexico City.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Pascoe

After spiralling through space in Gravity and charting the collapse of society in Children of Men, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón returns with something profoundly more intimate. Roma, which is presented in black and white and with English subtitles, is a ‘year in the life’ of Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a maid in the Mexico City household of Sofia (Marina de Tavira), Antonio (Fernando Grediaga) and their four young children.

The film follows Cleo and her fellow maid Adela (Nancy García García) as they care for the family, clean the house, cook meals and spend time with their boyfriends during their time off. However, this isn’t the idyllic slice of domestic bliss that it appears at first glance. As time wears on, we learn that Sofia and Antonio’s marriage is strained and that Cleo’s own relationship with her boyfriend Fermín (Jorge Antonio Guerrero) faces issues of its own.

If it wasn’t already apparent, Roma takes a fairly sedate and fluid approach to narrative. Cuarón takes his time to orient the viewer in the lives of the increasingly dysfunctional family, both in a physical sense, as he winds his way through their intricately detailed city abode, and also in an emotional sense, as he explores the fractures that exist in a familial setting.

The film doesn’t so much plot a story so much as it unfurls a journey before you, with time blurring as milestones like first dates and Christmases wash past. The overall effect is one of intense immersion with the family and its trials and tribulations. Come the end of the film, you feel as though you’ve been with them every step of the way for a year of their lives, and it’s an incredibly moving experience. The soaring highs and the crushing lows all flood back as you exit the theatre.

Visually Roma is a knockout, with so much detail and richness packed into every frame. Cuarón drops the viewer into the midst of 1970’s Mexico City, and all the smells, sights and sounds ooze from the screen and surround you. The black and white doesn’t rob the film of flavour at all; it serves to further place the viewer in the setting.

A poetic and personal project that explores life’s big moments as well as the little ones that link them together, Roma is unquestionably one of the best films of 2018. With so much to take in, Roma is like peering through a window into the past and someone else’s life – no detail or moment too small or insignificant.

Roma is screening in Perth for a limited time in the Cine Latino Film Festival (Dec 6-16)

Image courtesy of Netflix Australia

Movie Review – 1%

While 1% boasts some strong performances, its unremarkable story fails to live up to its high-octane setting.

⭐ ⭐
Josip Knezevic 

Shot right here in Perth, 1% is a crime drama set in the underworld of Australian motorcycle club gangs. It follows Vice President of the ‘Copperheads’ Paddo (Ryan Corr) who has been leading the group while President Knuck (Matt Nable) has been behind bars. As Knuck nears release from prison, Paddo’s younger brother Skink (Josh McConville) puts him in a compromising position that threatens his loyalty to both Knuck and the Copperheads. Paddo must decide how to solve his dilemma before he loses everything he’s worked for.

Corr does well in expressing the conflicting emotions of a man constantly having to weigh up his loyalties and juggle his relationships. The film continuously puts Paddo between a rock and a hard place, and Corr did a good job of earning my sympathy towards his character’s situation.

Another standout is Aaron Pedersen (Goldstone) as Sugar, the President of a rival gang. His screen presence is like a breath of fresh air and it’s disappointing that his role was reduced to just a few scenes. Pedersen has a natural charisma and I love seeing his career expanding.  I’ve only known him to play good guys, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how well he could take on a more villainous role.

What brings it all down is the story. One of the major flaws of the film is that all the conflicts are caused by one character: Paddo’s brother. Literally everything he does is a mistake that ends up causing more grief for Paddo. His role is essentially the only driving force moving the story along. Every scene he’s in made me roll my eyes because I knew he was going to do something wrong and then the film would try to resolve it. It became repetitive and boring.

There’s also some really questionable events. Without giving too much away, there’s a subplot with Knuck’s character that makes absolutely no difference to the story. And the final act has one of the strangest standoffs I’ve seen in a long time.

1% tries its hand at being a gritty Australian crime drama, but it’s let down by its thin narrative. The film is entirely carried by its performances, which are the only real reason you should go and see the film.

1% is available in Australian cinemas from October 12 

Image courtesy of Icon Film Distribution

Italian Film Festival – Put Nonna in the Freezer

There’s desperation… and then there’s hiding a body in the freezer.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Elle Cahil

Claudia’s art restoring business is on the verge of bankruptcy until her Nonna generously lets her cash her pension checks to help her keep afloat. When Nonna passes away, Claudia makes the risky decision to hide her body in the freezer in order to keep the much-needed checks coming in. With a recent crack-down on people illegally collecting the pension, Claudia must keep the tax police in the dark before she’s left with nothing.

Put Nonna in the Freezer is as crazy as it sounds, but also a complete delight to watch. Miriam Leone gives Claudia an eccentric edge mixed with a strong sense of justice and a false sense of confidence. It’s these qualities that allow her to delve deeper and deeper into her rabbit hole of lies.

While trying to keep up the charade that Nonna is still alive, she falls for the hard-working, law-abiding Tax police officer Simone (Fabio De Luigi). De Luigi plays the part to perfection, maintaining a steely exterior as he’s continually surprised by Claudia’s spirit. A believable chemistry develops between them, and you’ll find yourself rooting for them, even when the whole frozen Nonna thing comes to a head…

In saying all this, it is a film that requires you to really suspend your disbelief as the events that unfold just become more and more preposterous. While it’s all coated in easy to swallow comedy, there are plenty of moments where you’re left thinking ‘oh come on!’ Luckily, the characters more than make up for the over-the-top story line, and the bright Mediterranean colour palette makes it feel like a film that’s arrived just in time to welcome in the summer. If you’re feeling like a lighter film filled with summer vibes, then you can’t go past Put Nonna in the Freezer… despite its chilly title.

Put Nonna In The Freezer screens in Perth in the Lavazza Italian Film Festival from 27 Sept – 17 Oct. 

Image courtesy of Lavazza Italian Film Festival & Palace Films

Hooked On CinefestOZ

Elle Cahill

CinefestOZ was quite the event this year. Sigrid Thornton won the CinefestOZ 2018 Screen Legend award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the Australian film industry. Minister for Local Government, Heritage, Culture and the Arts, the Honourable David Templeman talked about his “soiled” crotch. And Jirga took out the $100k Film Prize.

Some of the HOF team were lucky enough to journey down to the South West and enjoy all the food, wine and films on offer. So, without any further ado, here’s our top picks from the 2018 festival.

Madhattan
Documentary

Madhattan follows the story of Broome local, Felicity ‘Flic’ Brown as she prepares for her first solo show in New York Fashion Week. The documentary is full of beautiful landscapes, regional Australian personalities and more importantly, a lead subject whose positive outlook on life is contagious.

CinefestOZ Madhattan September 2018

Director, producer and cinematographer Carolyn Constantine does an exceptional job of capturing Western Australia as she follows Flic all over the Pilbara region. Constantine very carefully shows the change in environment once Flic arrives in New York, with one week to prepare for her show. The change of pace is rapid, and while Flic’s mega-watt smile never falters, the experience is draining on her as the usual hiccups take place.

The documentary wouldn’t have been the success that it is without Flic. She radiates energy and her enthusiasm for her creations is truly captivating. There is no life-changing event that happened to make Flic pursue her passion. The documentary is simply about a woman who fell in love with a craft and worked hard at it to become a success story, and there’s something beautiful in that alone.

Dying To Live
Documentary

Dying To Live takes an in-depth look into organ and tissue transplantation in Australia as it follows the story of five people who are all in desperate need of a donation. The documentary is absolutely heart-breaking as director Richard Todd carefully navigates through each person’s story, capturing the rawness of each individual’s ups and downs.

CinefestOZ Dying To Live September 2018

The documentary ultimately highlights the importance of having the conversation about organ donation with your family, while also showing a rare insight into the whole process. Todd makes a point of highlighting the fact that organ donation can be needed at any age, and that once an organ has been matched to a person on the list, the process doesn’t stop there as sometimes the organs don’t take immediately.

Overall, it’s a tearjerker that carries an important message about being able to give the gift of life after you or your loved one have passed on.

Reaching Distance
Feature Film

Reaching Distance follows Logan who wakes on a bus late at night to find one of the other passenger’s is his twin sister’s killer. As Logan continues to relive his interaction with the man and his fellow passengers on the bus, he begins to realise that all their lives are entwined and not all is as it seems.

CinefestOZ Reaching Distance September 2018

Reaching Distance is the first offering from director David Fairhurst, and it marks him as one to watch. He has created a clever and dramatic exploration of the effects guilt can have on a person and how their previous actions can impact their conscience long after the event. Fairhurst puts a unique spin on the idea of purgatory and forgiveness and delivers it with thought.

Armed with a talented cast, particularly lead actor Wade Briggs, the film unfolds in twists and turns, with the truth slowly coming to light. Despite the film sometimes drawing out for too long in some parts, the film is a great first offering from Fairhurst, and one that keeps you thinking long after the final credits have rolled.

Finke: There and Back
Documentary

CinefestOZ Finke There And Back September 2018

Finke: There and Back follows five people’s stories as they prepare for the Finke Desert Race – one of the longest off-road motorsport tracks in the world, which also happens to be Australia’s most deadly motor sport event. The documentary gives an insight into the relatively unknown event (for those outside of the motorsport world), and the perils that those who race it regularly come up against.

Director Dylan River not only sheds light on those who are willing to risk everything for the race, but also to those who have risked everything and lost, like Isaac Elliott. He decides to take on the course again despite being a paraplegic from a horrific crash that took place while training for the Finke race in 2007.

The documentary is a clever piece of work, and doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities that some of the racers come into contact with. It is packed full of footage from the race and many close calls that will leave you gasping as the film unfolds.

CinefestOZ image sourced from cinefestoz.com.au. Madhattan image sourced from madhattanthemovie.com.au, courtesy of Constantine Productions. Dying to Live image sourced from IMDb.com, courtesy of Aquarius Productions & Gifting Life Pty Ltd.  Reaching Distance image sourced from IMDb.com, courtesy of Reaching Distance Pty Ltd. Finke: There and Back image sourced from screenaustralia.gov.au, courtesy of Brindle Films Pty Ltd . 

Interview – Jordon Prince-Wright: The Decadent and Depraved

Rhys Pascoe

A five-year production from pen to paper to premiere, The Decadent and Depraved has been making waves with audiences across the state since its big unveiling last December. The first idea came about while director Jordon Prince-Wright was still at high school. Twelve months later, Prince-Wright pitched the idea to co-director Axel August, with whom he had recently completed a short film.

The rest, as they say, is history, and now the directorial duo are knee-deep in a winding regional tour that intends to showcase the film to as wide and as varied an audience as possible. Not just a hit here at home, The Decadent and Depraved has been garnering acclaim overseas as well, recently receiving five accolades from the Los Angeles Film Awards.

Taking a break from the regional tour, Prince-Wright – a self-described underdog from Morley Camerahouse – took some time to chat with Hooked On Film about the production of WA’s biggest independent film to date.

“We were filming while I was 19 and 20, and a lot of people were telling me it wasn’t possible,” Prince-Wright said. “I didn’t really know what was involved, but I did know what was involved, if you know what I mean. It was a real learning process on set.

“I initially envisaged The Decadent and Depraved as a showreel piece – that’s what I set out to make. It turned out to be one hell of a showreel piece and sort of snowballed from there. What started as a quirky Western turned into a full-blown feature film.

“It was halfway through shooting, while I was sat on the verandah of this big manor house in Yalgoo with the 200 cast and crew, that it actually hit me. It was a real ‘holy crap’ moment – what have I gotten myself into.”

The Decadent and Depraved Teaser Trailer from Prince-Wright Productions on Vimeo.

 

Hooked On Film: The traditional Western isn’t something we see much of nowadays, nothing like the volume of the classic studio era – what prompted you to dive into this genre?

Jordon Prince-Wright: I grew up watching classic westerns as a kid. The old black and white films of John Wayne were my childhood, as opposed to superheroes and cartoons. I grew into more spaghetti westerns and high content rating western films, as I grew older. So the western genre has always been a genre I’ve been fond of and adored. In saying this, I watch many other genres, but anything that is not set in today’s era and is a period piece is definitely my forte.

I mean I’ve been getting offers to direct and produce other films since high school, all of which are period pieces, so the reputation for what I am good at is out and the next film coming up is going to be even closer to my heart, not only because it’s a WWI film, but also because it’s based on a true story of Western Australians from regional WA who went to the Somme and the Western Front.

HOF: The Decadent and Depraved takes a distinctive genre – the Western – and supplants it into a local setting. Was it a challenge to take the rich American iconography – Stetsons, spurs, and bandoliers – and give them a distinctly Western Australian spin?

JPW: I had the upper hand with all the amazing locations up north. Once we were there and looking at the amazing wide shots with the red dirt it was distinctly Australian. When WA people see that on screen, they know right away that it’s WA. We’ve got a lot of the stereotypical stuff in there – the spurs, the hats – but it still looks like WA.

August2018_JordanPrinceWright_DecadentandDepraved_2

HOF: A core theme of the film is “upholding morality in an immoral world”. Can you tell us about any classic Westerns that may have inspired The Decadent and Depraved? Or maybe something else entirely?

JPW: I love my old school films; The Magnificent Seven, Sergio Leone films, John Wayne. I would say names like Yul Brynner, John Wayne, Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen and my friends in school wouldn’t know who they were. I would even go to school dressed as a character from a western and they would ask if I was Woody from Toy Story!

The thing is, all those characters in those films were in a way ‘one layered’ and to the audience it was simple separating the protagonist from the antagonist. Yet when you really look into it, I always would question why both were committing murder and stealing while roaming the vast landscape. What made their choices any better than the other? Both were killing for what he believed was right. With The Decadent and Depraved, I really wanted to blur the lines between good and evil with my characters. Throwing them into a world of corruption just made that all the more real.

HOF: A key consideration during the shoot was minimising the need for ‘CGI tricks’ and preserving that gritty Western aesthetic. Why?

JPW: I have a real love for old school cinema. With this film, throwing in camera tricks and CGI would have ruined some of the classic storytelling I was looking for. They didn’t have them back in the old days, so we weren’t going to cheat.

Also, it’s a western. As an audience member going to see a western, or any period piece for that matter, I am going to see something ‘real’, to be transported into a whole new world, and I think CGI in a way ruins it as we are just creating a world in a computer as opposed to putting thought and energy into actually recreating in real life.

In The Decadent and Depraved, there were no replica firearms. All of them are original 1860s firearms, all of which fire black powder with no CGI tricks. The actors are riding horses and the stunts are real. When you combine this with shooting in -5°C and rain, it all creates an epic aesthetic, which is something the entire cast and crew endeavored to get right.

August2018_JordanPrinceWright_DecadentandDepraved_4

HOF: How important was it to uphold historical accuracy and authenticity on this production?

JPW: Our job as filmmakers is to entertain. We can make people think, laugh, cry and jump in their seats, but it all comes back to being entertained. If you’re not entertained as an audience, the film most likely won’t stick with you. It probably sounds obvious when you state it, but sometimes I think filmmakers get so roped into making their film exactly how they envisioned it or how it must be exactly historically correct that they start to lose the audience. Therefore, yes the backbone of the story was to keep this historically correct, but when we felt we needed to, we pushed the boundaries. I think this has paid off extremely well in entertaining those who would not normally watch or be entertained by a genre like this.

HOF: There are some truly stunning WA landscapes featured in the film – what was the scouting process like when you’re such remote locations?

JPW: Long story short, at the premiere of my previous short films, the Shire of Yalgoo were present, as I had got them on board with Red Dirt a few years ago. At that premiere they asked what was next – of course I mentioned the western and what I was after. A few weeks later they flew Axel and I up, and away we went looking for locations. Before you knew it I had neighboring shires contacting me about their possible locations, sites, landmarks that we could use the film, and it all just flowed from there.

HOF: You’ve been touring the film around rural Western Australia over the last few months, from Cue and Leonora to Yalgoo. What has the response been like from the locals?

JPW: It was the scariest thing ever. We had WA’s largest premiere. Lots and lots of people. I can’t remember the premiere at all, actually. It’s just a blur. These were the guys who had a hand in making the film, whether that means helping us out in kind or shooting in their backyard – literally, because their backyard is this huge rural station.

In Yalgoo, 80% of the audience was indigenous and some of them were in tears at the end of the film. They were so overwhelmed and emotional. In Cue we had 200+ people all dressed as cowboys – that was one hell of a night. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, you get to Sandstone and they all bring a plate of food, real country-like. In Esperance, they were laughing at things that I didn’t think were funny. It’s really interesting seeing what different audiences respond to.

August2018_JordanPrinceWright_DecadentandDepraved_3

The Decadent and Depraved will screen at Orana Cinemas in Kalgoorlie, Busselton, Albany and Geraldton on Wednesday August 29 as part of its ongoing regional tour. Visit www.princewrightproductions.com/screenings for more information and to book.

Revelations Film Festival: You Were Never Really Here

Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here takes the foundations of an action thriller and uses them to build something altogether stranger.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Pascoe

An army veteran, a former FBI operative and a survivor of childhood abuses, Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) is a man for whom violence is akin to a second language. While others speak with words, Joe is a staggering, hooded goliath who communicates with his bunched fists and a ball peen hammer.

Living with his mother in their shabby New York home and working as an unlicensed private investigator with a penchant for rescue and retrieval of missing girls who have been sold into sex slavery, Joe is recruited by Senator Votto (Alex Mannette), whose daughter Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov) has disappeared. However, once he starts to pull at that thread, Joe uncovers a conspiracy that runs much deeper.

 At first glance, Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here sounds like umpteen other action thrillers that star a gruff macho man and a frail waif in need of rescue. That it reveals itself to be something vastly different is a testament to both Ramsay’s punchiness behind the camera and Phoenix’s mesmerizing performance. The latter lurches through each scene, veering from uncaring ferocity – that is rarely seen, with the camera lingering more on the crumpled bodies left in Joe’s wake – and crushing despair, with Joe’s work interspersed by vivid flashbacks of battlefield atrocities and dark formative years underscored by domestic violence.

Punchy editing hammers home this intensity, with each flash into the past crashing across the screen with blaring noise and arresting imagery. Phoenix, who is fighting with his own inner demons as much as he is the goons in his way, is a burning furnace of anger and sorrow. And while Ramsay’s film peels back the curtain to peer into the grim nature of Joe’s work, exposing the perpetrators is never the screenplay’s intention. There is no grand conspiracy to unearth.

Instead, this is a slow, inward character study that recounts the cyclical and inescapable nature of violence; that shows how moments of pain can echo throughout our lives. This pain the characters feel is relayed onto the audience; even in its final moments, You Were Never Really Here is a bruising, punishing film that is hard to understand and even harder to watch. At the same time, it’s one of the most intense and meticulous films of the year. Every aspect of this taut and meditative thriller has been expertly crafted to hit hard and resonate long after the credits have finished rolling.

 What it lacks in narrative coherence it more than makes up for in sheer artistry. This is an action thriller that has been removed of its rigid genre constraints, and now moves in stranger, eerier territory and is punctuated by moments of bone-shattering horror. Phoenix is unrecognizable while Ramsay’s cruel, poetic take on a vigilante noir lacks catharsis and defies convention. This is more Taxi Driver than Taken, and it operates on an unspoken ‘less is more’ modus operandi. Strap in for a feverish, dizzying experience.

You Were Never Really Here has one more screening on Sunday 15th July at Luna, Leederville. 8:50pm

To book your tickets go to http://www.revelationfilmfest.org/

Images courtesy of Revelation Perth International Film Festival 2018

 

Part 2: Revelation Perth International Film Festival 2018

Here’s the next set of reviews for the Rev Fest screenings for the coming week end! Screening from July 5-18, this is your chance to check out the latest and greatest in independent cinema. Featuring films and documentaries from Australia and all over the world, here’s a snippet of what’s on offer!

Get revved up!

Beast
Drama 
UK

A beautiful, intense film from first-time feature director Michael Pearce.

Elle Cahill

BEAST 1.jpg

Beast follows the story of Moll, a loner misfit who’s domineering family control every aspect of her life. After a mysterious stranger, Pascal Renouf, saves her one-day from a sexual predator, she’s immediately drawn to him, and starts a passionate relationship with him. The discovery of a young girl’s body, however, makes Moll start to question just how well she knows Pascal and if there’s something sinister lying beneath his quiet demeanour.

Jessie Buckley plays Moll to perfection. She manages to encapsulate all of the years of damages that Moll has, and her slightly unhinged characterisation has you constantly guessing about how accurate her version of events are. Johnny Flynn matches Buckley’s performance, adding a quiet intensity to Pascal and an air of all the things left unsaid. It’s quite a departure from his comedic, happy-go-lucky character Dylan in the TV series Lovesick, and it’s exciting to see him take on a completely different role.

The story is gripping and tender all at the same time, and Benjamin Kracun’s cinematography is stunning. His attention to capturing both the beauty and the isolation of the location is flawless, and its shot in the way that you can feel the distance between the minor characters, particularly Moll’s family, and equally the closeness the pair of them have.

Beast is a fantastic film that manages to get under your skin as well as stun you with its beauty. Writer-director Michael Pearce is definitely one to watch, especially if he keeps putting out films to this calibre.


RocKabul
Documentary 
AUS

Afghanistan’s first heavy metal band, District Unknown, is determined to bring music to the people, no matter the costs.

Elle Cahill

RocKabul 3 .jpg

RocKabul follows the journey of Afghanistan’s first heavy metal band, District Unknown, and the political and cultural challenges they have to compete with in order to be able to play their music. With the help of director Travis Beard, the band are given the opportunity to play their music not only in Afghanistan, but at festivals in India as well. Unfortunately, as Western forces pull out of Afghanistan and their safety becomes comprised by the Taliban, the band has to decide how important playing their music is to them.

RocKabul is an interesting study into how people living in the war zones in the Middle East become accustom to regular bombings and accept it as a fact of life. While the music component is prominent and has a whimsical feel to it, it’s really seeing how these young men live and try to pursue an activity that has been deemed as sinful that is most interesting.

The documentary doesn’t shy away from some of the harsh realities of the going-ons in Afghanistan, such as footage of bombings, religious acts that could be seen as barbaric, and the band receiving very real threats from officers casually holding machine guns. However, it also doesn’t conform to popularist Western views on the people of Afghanistan, and instead tells a story about a group of young men who were born into an unfortunate situation but still have impossible dreams that they’re determined to achieve. Equally heart warming and harrowing at the same time, this documentary is a must-see


Five Finger Marseilles
Drama
South Africa

Michael Matthews’ Five Fingers for Marseilles is a neo-western that’s every bit as authentic as the westerns of old.

Zachary Cruz-Tan

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Five Fingers for Marseilles is clearly a western, because we identify so much of the genre’s classic imagery – long dustcoats, expansive terrain, shotguns, the local saloon. Yet it’s not just a copy; the movie is about something. It’s set in more recent times, not in Texas or Arizona but in South Africa. Instead of horses there are cars. Its characters are not rip-offs of old western heroes. They have purpose, style, and most importantly, they are dangerously flawed. This is quite an impressive movie by director Michael Matthews that doesn’t yield to its ambition.

The plot begins with five kids who are unhappy their indigenous kin have been shovelled to a hilltop, out of sight, while white settlers take over their land. They vow to rebel, not for the sake of rebellion, but for the respect of their country. Then tragedy strikes, the film jumps 15 years ahead, and the five kids, now adults, have been shaped in one way or another by the harsh realities of their town.

Unathi (Aubrey Poolo), the faithful storyteller, has become a misguided pastor; Bongani (Kenneth Nkosi), the plump little rich kid, has invariably become mayor, hustling about in his Mercedes SUV; Luyanda (Mduduzi Mabaso), picked upon as a kid, is now a ruthless cop; Lerato (Zethu Dlomo) tries desperately to survive; and Tau (Vuyo Dabula), the lion, is our wandering hero, who now has to face the evil forces that threaten to dismantle the memory of his childhood.

One could argue that it doesn’t take a lot of thought to make a western, since the genre is usually defined by what we see and not how we feel. The great westerns, like The Searchers (1956) and Unforgiven (1992), gave us more than just cowboys and horses. Five Fingers doesn’t penetrate the depths of the human soul as well, but it makes a solid attempt, is beautifully crafted, and in the striking figure of its hero Tau finds a character who is simultaneously weak and unbreakable. Great stuff.

To book your tickets go to http://www.revelationfilmfest.org/

 

Images courtesy of Revelation Perth International Film Festival 2018

Movie Review – The Gateway

This Perth-produced sci-fi thriller earns a B+ for ambition, but can’t quite make the grade anywhere else.

⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan 

Jane Chandler’s (Jacqueline McKenzie) time is unevenly split between her family and her all-consuming job as a particle physicist on the brink of creating a functioning teleportation device. A breakthrough in her work reveals that her machine does not in fact transport matter, but instead sends it to a parallel universe; a revelation put on hold abruptly when Jane’s husband (Myles Pollard) is killed in a car accident. Overwhelmed with grief and unable to cope without him, she journeys to a parallel universe to bring back another version of her husband – without realising that the universe he is from has dark and violent tendencies.

The term ‘know your limits’ exists for a reason. It’s a rule that applies to filmmakers too; your idea may be bold, but that might not outweigh the resources you have available to you or the cliché-ridden script that embalms it. Someone should probably have told this to director/co-writer John V. Soto (Crush, Needle), whose heart is most certainly in the right place, but really should have been a bit more creative in bringing his sci-fi thriller The Gateway to life.

There’s always juicy potential in a premise that involves teleportation and multiple variations of our universe, and Soto starts engagingly enough with the determined Jane and her lab partner Regg (Ben Mortley) racing against the clock to make their matter-transporting passion project come to life before their executives cut their funding. It might not be such of a problem for international audiences, but right off the bat, the very blatantly Perth setting throws any credibility straight out the window – at least for local viewers. Perth audiences will no doubt scoff at the idea that our government would possibly commission scientists to experiment with the unbelievable, instead of, say, spending tax dollars on more speed cameras. Amazingly, in a film that features reality-hopping and lethal alien tasers, this is the most far-fetched concept.

Soto’s biggest downfall is shooting for that Hollywood blockbuster feel on a budget that is barely a fraction of their cost. As a result, his dependence on visual effects derails proceedings, bleeding the little money the production had into a hodgepodge of tacky CGI. Worse is the poor lighting palette and filters (particularly in the drab dystopia of the parallel world), which gives this the shabby feel of a Syfy Channel original.

Soto should have looked to his micro-budgeted peers for inspiration. Take James Ward Byrkit’s Coherence, for example. On an even smaller budget, it managed to be far more engaging and thought-provoking without the reliance on any visual trickery, simply because it focused instead on making its characters strong and ideas heard. And as a local filmmaker, Soto should have taken a leaf from Ben Young’s book; last year’s Hounds of Love was miniscule in scale and yet enormous in impact and resonance. Bigger is not always better – what’s the point in copying Hollywood when forming our own creative identity is much more interesting?

It’s not all bad of course. Jacqueline McKenzie does her best in attempting to elevate the material, as does Ben Mortley in forming a likable enough partnership. The early mix of science and family stuff fares fine separately; it’s just unfortunate to see it culminate in Myles Pollard doing his best Robert Patrick in Terminator 2 impression to become killer dad and hunt down his family. As tempting as it is to support local productions, the truth is you can see the same elsewhere and executed much more successfully.

The Gateway is available in selected Australian cinemas from May 3

Image courtesy of Rialto Distribution