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

 

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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

Five-Fingers-For-Marseilles_6.jpg

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

Movie Review – Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok is by no means the finest Marvel movie, but it does a fine job of keeping up with the pack.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 
Zachary Cruz-Tan

If there is one thing true about the Marvel Cinematic Universe it’s that Thor is about as interesting a movie hero as the dried up skin flaking on my heel. It’s the failing of any mythological figure – they are bound by the limitations of their respective traits. Medusa cannot do anything other than turn infidels to stone. Ares knows only how to wage war. No matter how many family squabbles you throw at him, Thor can still only command lightning. So what do you do? Run with it and make it as much fun as possible, I guess.

Thor: Ragnarok is a delightful step up from the first two movies because it proves Marvel is capable of running self-diagnostics. Thor and Thor: The Dark World were horrendous. You don’t take a boring mythical juggernaut and dump him in New Mexico. That’s like trying to treat depression with Schindler’s List. As a result, Ragnarok is damage control. Its director, Taika Waititi, whose What We Do in the Shadows had me guffawing like a buffoon, is the emergency physician. His remedy is simple: Thor is a hulking lug without brains or a character to develop, so I shall construct around him a world that is infinitely more exciting. And it is.

This is the kind of movie that knows precisely what it is and what it isn’t, what it can and cannot do. For example, it can deliver amazing action set pieces and some truly beautiful imagery, but cannot be as deep or insightful as Batman Begins or Captain America: Civil War. Waititi’s approach is fundamentally helpful. He doesn’t try to beef up the lousy characters or outdo more successful superhero films but simply lets the chemistry of his cast flow with the outrageous dialogue.

Thor is once again played by Chris Hemsworth. This time, his home of Asgard is under threat of destruction by Hela (Cate Blanchett), another mythic figure bound to her eternal moniker of “goddess of death”, which is unfortunate because no matter how hard she may try, she cannot play anyone else but the villain. Thor, meanwhile, is stranded on a faraway garbage planet, ruled by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum in Goldblum overdrive), who enjoys pitting superheroes against each other as some kind of intergalactic blood sport. So you can imagine Thor’s consternation and beastly grunting when the Grandmaster forbids him from saving his home.

Let’s face it, this isn’t a compelling plot, least of all because Asgard as a fantastical ethereal paradise looks more like the blown up internal mechanisms of a wristwatch. Hela’s dialogue is all exposition and snark and very little intelligence. The scenes on the garbage planet are colourful and alive, but after you’ve seen one fight-to-the-death arena presided over by a psychotic dictator, you’ve seen them all, especially if the movie’s trailers have already given away all the best bits.

So the plot is merely serviceable. We know the characters are thin soup. And yet I had a really good time with this. I appreciate an action movie that can make me laugh earnestly, that doesn’t betray the idiosyncrasies of its quirky director, that adopts an approach and sticks with it for better or worse. I can’t recall a single memorable quote (except perhaps “the devil’s anus”) but I remember laughing a lot, being impressed by the quality of the entire production, and thanking the Norse gods for finally giving Darcy the day off.

Thor: Ragnarok is available in Australian cinemas from October 26 

Image courtesy of Marvel Studios 2017

Interview: Rob Livings – Two People

Thomas Munday 

Two People has, in every sense of the term, something for everyone. A twenty-something girl (Liberty Hills) takes some time out from domesticity to wander bars and comedy stores in Northbridge alone. She strikes up a conversation with a comedian (Nick Pages-Oliver) and after missing the last train home, the two begin an elongated conversation throughout the middle of the night.

Director, editor and co-writer Rob Livings peaks into the average twenty-something’s mind in this low-budget, walking-and-talking feature that was shot over four nights in the Perth CBD and Northbridge. Filmed in black and white, Livings and co’s latest utilises the budget, gear and location at their disposal to a desired effect.

Livings chatted with Hooked on Film about his cast, production challenges and how one night can change our lives.

TM: How did you conceive of the idea for the film?

RL: With Two People, I don’t think it was ever intended to be what it became, we were just like ‘let’s try and make a feature for nothing and we’ll just do it overnight, a couple of nights a week and figure it out as we go and do it in an improvised fashion’. We just held a little meeting about it, everyone was keen and then it just went from there. So, it was very much – ‘Let’s get together, shoot it chronologically and see what happens’.

It’s a very simple idea but it was a matter of whether we could pull it off the way we wanted to, we were like: ‘Let’s shoot it multi-cam, let’s treat it so when we’re editing it’s just dumping in a timeline’. There’s so many ways to move quickly in production, but there is not many ways to make a film quickly in post-production, so let’s try and find a way to find an answer for both of those.

TM: How was it to go from shorter-form projects to feature filmmaking?

RL: Switching to feature film was good, but it was just more targeting a new way of making a movie, so fully improvising the dialogue, going against what you learn in film school – basically, taking what you’ve learned from a technical aspect and throwing away everything else and building over. It was really fun and exciting to do something different, – shooting at night when no one is around. It was like Northbridge became this canvas we could do whatever we wanted with.

TM: A lot of the movie feels realistic, how much was scripted before filming and how much was improvised on set?

RL: Every bit of dialogue is improvised, we knew we had a start and we had an ending. We knew where we were going to be shooting because we had access to certain places. The film was set around who we knew and what we had and that’s kind of the point when you’re working for no money, you’ve just got to make the most of what you’ve got.

This film was very much a ‘make it up as you go’, but just let’s get to that ending and let’s get to the finish line however we need to. If things were steering in one direction we’d make sure they went back the other way. I’d say 90% of it happened whilst we were filming and the 10% was planned so it was very, very loose and I was just happy to see where it took us.

TM: How does Perth stand out as a good movie setting?

RL: I love Perth and like everyone in Perth. People have complained about the quiet nature of Perth many times. I think Perth works really well, I would encourage people to shoot at night here because there is literally no one around so you can kind of just create this world if you go to the right spots. For me, in this film they seem like they are alone and on their own, even within the bar there is a couple of people there. That whole quiet nature of Perth really works to people’s benefit, so you don’t have to deal with sound issues or the issues that you might have in a busy city like Sydney or Melbourne.

TM: This movie relies entirely on interaction, why is human behaviour so pertinent to drama, comedy and cinema in general?

RL: I think you can be your own character, anyone can reference with it. The characters in this film are so realistic and so down to Earth. I know that’s something that might push some people away, they might not want to relate to real life; they might want to go in there and watch something that takes them out of what is going on, but it is interesting to see people in this vulnerable state where they are willing to kind of open up. Well, at least, Liberty’s character was vulnerable whereas Nick’s was a bit more guarded. That’s just two different types of people and when you put them together it’s an interesting situation.

Image courtesy of Rob Livings 

Movie Review – Hotel Coolgardie

Between Perth and Kalgoorlie lurks a remote location that appears devoid of humanity; the outskirts of civilisation in Western Australia may be more formidable than we think.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan 

Every three months, the Denver City Hotel in Coolgardie – a stopover country town frequented by miners and industrial workers to and from Kalgoorlie – hires new barmaids (or “fresh meat”) to serve the patrons of its bar. Two Finnish backpackers in their mid-twenties, Lina and Stephie, are the Hotel’s latest additions. Having been robbed on a vacation in Bali, they need jobs fast, and are sent by a Perth recruitment agency to this town far from civilisation. Little do they know that the next few months will become hell for these girls, as they find themselves the subject of farcical levels of abuse, objectification and harassment from their employers, the locals and the pub’s many visitors.

Every now and then, a documentary comes along that makes you truly wonder whether or not everyone involved was actually in on it and if it was all staged. Surely anyone would want to make themselves look better if they knew their words and actions were being caught on camera, right? Raw & Cooked Media’s Hotel Coolgardie is one of those rare films that manages to perfectly create a fly-on-the-wall feeling, almost as if there is no film crew present and we’re simply watching reality unfold before our eyes. In a volatile situation like this in particular, it must have taken a great deal of restraint for director Pete Gleeson and his team to not interfere and get involved with the (often traumatic) conflict going on at this hotel.

‘Responsible drinking’ seems to be a naff concept in this place; from their very first night on the job, Lina and Stephie are barked orders from their boss Pete as he drowns himself in alcohol alongside the rest of the bar’s patrons. The girls, given essentially no training, struggle to keep up with the constant orders, counting cash and pouring drinks while they are sworn at, insulted and humiliated by the drunken crowd surrounding them.

It only gets worse from here. They’re frequently advanced upon in shockingly crass ways by countless men, given misguided gifts from older blokes whose fancy they’ve taken, urged into arguments by drunks who are a little too open about their life problems, and even find themselves forcing people out of their rooms who have wandered in without invitation. They’re made to endure a camping trip that results in serious health ramifications and professional embarrassment. The girls remain good natured and deal with their situation well, despite how increasingly uncomfortable things become throughout their stay.

It’d be too streamlined to take this all as a deconstruction of “fragile masculinity”, especially considering that some of the residents that belittle and criticise the girls for their looks, physique and demeanour are women. This is more of a look at the way of life in these desolate places far from what we would perceive as a normal, sophisticated way of life. These people live their lonely lives on the road, only ever interacting with a small circle of other human beings and doing what they need to just to get by. Despite how unpleasant they can be, it’s difficult to not feel a little sorry for some of them, clearly so desperate for human interaction they’ll go about it the only way they know how (despite how awful that may seem to us).

Most amazing is how natural everyone seems to be, seemingly uncaring (or unaware) of what image they’ve made of themselves to appear on screen. It’s an incredible feat Raw & Cooked have accomplished in giving us an organic and exposed observation of everyday life just a few hundred kilometres away; it’s an incredible, if somewhat sinister, experience.

Hotel Coolgardie is available in Australian cinemas from June 15

Image courtesy of Raw & Cooked Media

Interview: Fin Edquist – Bad Girl

Rhys Graeme-Drury 

Filmed in Perth’s lush green backyard of the Swan Valley and its surrounds, Bad Girl is a low-budget thriller garnering widespread critical acclaim. After premiering at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August last year, the film scored a WA Screen Award for Best Long Form Drama.

However, the process of bringing the project from page to screen wasn’t a smooth one. Built on a confronting cornerstone of destructive family units and domestic in-fighting, Bad Girl suffered through a long and tricky gestation before finding its true voice, as Hooked on Film found out when it sat down to chat with writer/director Fin Edquist. After working on a range of popular Aussie TV staples (House Husbands, The Secret Daughter, Home and Away) and animated children’s films (Blinky Bill the Movie), Edquist put together a wildly different beast in Bad Girl.

RGD: Bad Girl is a project that took several years to truly come to fruition – what is the story behind this lengthy development process?

FE: I was approached by Stephen Kearney (one of the producers for Bad Girl) about 10 years ago to write a generic revenge-based thriller. That isn’t usually how I set about a new project; usually I get inspired by one aspect and work from the inside out.

But this one went the other way. We spent a couple of years writing around the idea of a father whose family is brought under siege by a girl who may or may not be his long-lost biological daughter. The script read okay but we couldn’t get much interest in it, so we thought we’d make a brief teaser, take it to Cannes and try and get some interest over there.

We had a couple of actors lined up for the father, but they weren’t going to do a teaser for nothing and said, “forget it”. But we realised we could get a couple of up-and-coming teenage girls for the peripheral supporting roles and I wrote a couple of scenes with these two girls specifically for the purpose of being a teaser.

After we filmed it, we realised that this was the story – this was the really interesting angle. The story of two girls fighting over a family is great. They have all their mistakes in front of them and they’re at a crossroads, like a lot of people are at 17. The decisions you make can largely affect how your life turns out.

RGD: So that’s the hook that got you interested again?

FE: Absolutely. I rewrote the screenplay with them at the centre and from that point onwards, everyone got interested.

RGD: Were Sara West and Samara Weaving (who play lead characters Amy and Chloe respectively) attached at this point?

FE: Sara featured in the teaser; we auditioned for the role of Chloe and it was a long process. We really needed someone who could match and counterpoint Sara, who is a really strong actor. Eventually, on the second last day of auditions, Samara rocked up and immediately it was one of those moments where it all came together.

RGD: How did you as a filmmaker alter your approach towards the movie and its characters once you had made that decision to change direction?

FE: It was quite a large shift. It was liberating too. Prior to that, the story was pretty straight-up with clearly defined characters, both good and bad people. I actually drew a lot on my experience of having two warring sisters as teenagers and enjoyed deepening the characters from there. I brought a lot of relatable domestic experience to the new angle. It’s called Bad Girl but both girls are bad and both have positive qualities.

RGD: So that’s where the central idea of family and the notion of belonging stemmed from?

FE: I think so; at that age, everyone goes through those questions of identity and where you fit in. My marriage had also recently broken down so I was channelling a lot of what was going on in my life at the time through the characters.

RGD: Sounds like a very deeply personal vein of inspiration.

FE: Definitely. Having these two girls articulate that in a different way was maybe cathartic to an extent, for sure.

RGD: Tell us a little bit about working with frequent Nick Cave collaborator Warren Ellis (Band member of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds; composer on Hell or High Water, Lawless, The Road) on the soundtrack. How did that come about?

FE: One of my producers, Bruno [Charlesworth], lives in France and has a lot to do with the entertainment and music industry. He knew Warren through that and approached him with the film at the script stage, and Warren really responded to it.

Warren is unlike other composers in that he doesn’t work off the picture or traditional cue points; he’ll get a feel for the sequence and will riff on that and develop a number of different themes that he feels speak to the sequence. The music he composed for Bad Girl works as both ambient noise and then it will swell and rise and catch you out. It increases and crescendos towards the end of the film until it’s hammering you at 100 per cent.

I really enjoyed working with him; he’d just pump out hundreds of samples and send them too me at all hours of the night. He composed everything on his bass guitar, a keyboard and a laptop – very lo-fi, but it suited the film. I didn’t want a lush orchestral score but something stripped back and menacing. The soundtrack is actually being released soon through his label.

RGD: What was it about the Swan Valley region, Kalamunda and Serpentine that suited the story you wanted to tell?

FE: The film was originally set in the Dandenong Ranges outside Melbourne but the funding came through from ScreenWest. I had no idea what Perth was like, I thought it was going to be dry and hot…

RGD: Well, you’re not too far off – most of the time it is! What time of year did you shoot?

FE: September. We got very lucky, as it was suitably cold, grey and sombre. The Swan Valley really suited the film because of the house – we were looking for a house that could sustain the drama. It was perfect; I wanted a really austere and architecturally severe house, but the art department actually had to dress elements into the house to make it look like people who lived there! It was like a display home, not an item out of place.

WA was a really fantastic place to work in. ScreenWest were very enthusiastic and were keen to cultivate the industry. Everyone was keen to be involved.

RGD: Yeah we’ve got really cool industry chugging away over here!

FE: Hopefully I can make the next one over there too (laughs).

RGD: What is the next one – anything concrete lined up?

FE: I’m developing a project that is set off the northwest cape of WA. It’s a two-hander and a thriller also.

RGD: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today Fin.

FE: My pleasure.

Bad Girl is available in Australian cinemas from April 27

Image courtesy of Curious Films 

Movie Review – Bad Girl

A duo of impressive young performances elevates Bad Girl above your usual humdrum psychological thriller.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Filmed right here in Perth, and winner of a 2016 WA Screen Award, Bad Girl is the feature length debut for filmmaker Fin Edquist: one of the creative minds and writers behind some of Australia’s best-loved TV series’ such as The Secret Daughter, House Husbands and McLeod’s Daughters as well as the recent Blinky Bill Movie.

The film follows tearaway teen Amy (Sara West), a sulky drug-addicted 17-year-old living with her adoptive parents, whose life is turned around after meeting new neighbour and all-round darling Chloe (Samara Weaving). The two strike up a dynamite friendship that at first seems wholly harmless – but secrets and lies start to etch away at their relationship and before long it’s clear that nothing is as innocent as it first appeared.

Having been moulded and fine-tuned by Edquist over a period of about a decade, Bad Girl offers raw and unrelenting insight into female friendship and sexuality, as well as commenting on the idea of belonging and family. The purposely-vague title should be your first clue as Edquist succeeds in penning and shooting a project that plays both sides and shapes a bold new twist on the classic cinematic femme fatale.

A lot this success stems from West and Weaving’s respective performances, which grow and develop naturally across the tight 87-minute runtime. West deftly traverses the tricky tightrope that is the sulky teen, both frustratingly self-destructive and sullen but also sympathetic. The film hinges on her performance navigating both extremes, and the actress successfully explores both with ease. Weaving shines too as the almost too-perfect girl-next-door with watery blue eyes that conceal her true intentions.

The cinematography (Gavin Head) and moody score (Warren Ellis) round off an impressive debut for Edquist, who is able to root himself in the minds of two girls and deliver a film that is honest, raw and often shocking. The third act feels a little protracted and the twists and turns a little convoluted at times, but on the whole this is an notable Australian production that offers a notch or two more than your average psychological thriller.

Bad Girl is available in Australian cinemas from April 27 

Image courtesy of Curious Films

2017 Alliance Francaise French Film Festival

Bonjour Perth! The 28th annual French Film Festival is in town for the next few weeks screening at Cinema Paradiso, Luna on SX and The Windsor. We sampled a few of the films on offer.

Tomorrow

Riding on a crest of environmental documentaries comes Tomorrow: a passionate, yet humble look at the positivity global contamination can bring.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

03 March - AFF Tomorrow
You know how the Western genre has become so saturated that, to stand out, it has to come with unique selling points? Like, look – it’s cowboys and aliens! The Environmental Documentary has more or less reached a similar crisis, with each new film threatening to re-tread what the other has said. It’s no longer enough to complain about fossil fuel emissions and global warming – a new angle is required.

Tomorrow provides that angle. Helmed by Mélanie Laurent and her filmmaking comrades, this immensely informative documentary shifts our attention from a dying Earth to a world that can be rightfully repaired and re-energised through solidarity, networking, and positive thinking. It’s great that more households are converting to solar power, but is that enough? Tomorrow posits broader change, change that is already happening in towns and cities throughout the globe. Urban families are micro-farming. Counties have introduced self-contained currencies to benefit small businesses. Schools in Finland place education ahead of status, and their children are better for it.

All this is meant to be encouraging instead of disheartening, and it is. Tomorrow makes me want to convert my backyard into a vegetable garden. It makes the microcosm I live in seem unclean and harmful, and that I should do something to purify it. Leo DiCaprio’s Before the Flood told us what the billionaires are doing. Tomorrow is a bit different – it’s about you and me, and the good we can do from the ground up.


Planetarium

Rebecca Zlotowski’s supernatural period drama offers a wonderful respite for insomniacs.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

03 March - AFF Planetarium
Planetarium follows two American sisters who are believed to possess the supernatural ability to communicate with ghosts. Laura (Natalie Portman) and Kate (Lily-Rose Depp) Barlow, cross paths with André Korben (Emmanuel Salinger), an eccentric French filmmaker, while performing their travelling séance roadshow in pre-WWII Paris. Captivated by their ethereal connections, Korben invites the girls to live with him while they produce a movie centred on their show, but his interest soon transforms into something a little stranger and disconcerting.

Much like the séances it depicts, Planetarium is a vague and obscure dreamlike ritual that disentangles itself from the anchor of time, stretching two hours into what feels like a bottomless eternity. Maybe this elongated, formless structure is intentional; it could mirror Laura and Kate’s ambling and directionless lives or – at a stretch – the lingering limbo of European geopolitics on the eve of war.

Whatever director Rebecca Zlotowski was aiming for with Planetarium, I don’t feel like much of it congealed into a cohesive whole. There is a collection of interesting ideas here; the middle act transforms into a strange pseudo-sexual experience with Korben supposedly navigating beyond the veil to meet with his deceased wife while using Kate as a vessel.

But a lot of these ideas hang in isolation, disconnected from other ideas that waft gently in and out of the film. It certainly doesn’t help that both Portman and Depp are so reserved in their performances; distanced from genuine warmth or deep emotion. We could have had something special on our hands, if only the rest of the film was as captivating as the production and costume design.


In Bed with Victoria

A quirky concept tackled in a completely mundane way.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Cody Fullbrook

03 March - AFF Victoria
Struggling to raise two daughters while being embroiled in two court cases, one of which involves exposing her own personal life, Victoria Spick (Virginie Efira) is attempting to juggle her personal and professional life.

What could have been a humorous and completely original film about an attempted murder case with the only witnesses being a dog and monkey – which actually does happen – In Bed With Victoria wastes too much time on romantic storylines, tarot readings and other things I’ve now instantly forgotten.

Like all films focusing on lawyers, the most interesting and intense moments are the court scenes, and although rarer than I would have liked, they show the same clinical function and form that I’ve come to appreciate.  Even when it’s just a friend of Victoria’s defending her in court against allegations of colluding with a witness, the delivery is passionate yet sensible. An appropriately slow scene with Victoria enduring the end of her case after overdosing on drugs shows exactly what In Bed With Victoria should have simply been about. A stressed woman handling a peculiar court case.  Nothing more.

Though tolerable with a few funny lines, In Bed With Victoria’s characters and storylines are far too basic and plodding for me to think about recommending it to anyone.


Images courtesy of the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival 

In Perth from March 15 to April 5: https://www.affrenchfilmfestival.org 

Movie Review – A Few Less Men

This Aussie comedy sequel no one asked for may be flogging a dead corpse, but surprisingly it isn’t quite dead on arrival. Only just, though.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan 

Immediately following David’s (Xavier Samuel) farcical wedding (the events of A Few Best Men), his honeymoon plans are put on hold when his drunken friend Luke topples off a cliff and is crushed to death by a rock. David and his remaining friends, Tom (Kris Marshall) and Graham (Kevin Bishop), board a plane to return Luke’s body to England, but things naturally go awry when Graham accidentally causes the plane to crash land in the middle of rural Western Australia. The boys must now find their way to Perth carrying the corpse, depending on the colourful characters of the outback they come across, before missing Luke’s funeral and facing the wrath of his violent cousin Henry (Ryan Corr).

Australian cinema has become a truly respectable entity, especially these past few years, consistently releasing content that rivals the best of Hollywood’s recent offerings. And yet, every once in a while, there still seems to be an incessant need to drop all standards and fart out a mindless, lowbrow raunchy comedy to appease the masses. Why a sequel to 2011’s A Few Best Men was thought necessary is perplexing, given its forgettable critical reception and lukewarm box office takings.

On the bright side, A Few Less Men is definitely an improvement on its predecessor. It’s still completely braindead, of course, but in shaking off the single setting and ensemble nonsense of the first film, it finds firmer ground as a ridiculous road trip, focusing on the mismatched dynamic of its three leads – now essentially Australia/England’s Hangover trio. Each has a more clearly defined role in the group – the straight man (David), the sex-obsessive (Tom), the moron (Graham) – so each bounces off the other and gives a neater flow to their reactions in the many zany situations they find themselves in.

The plot of Dean Craig’s script (who also wrote Death at a Funeral) is essentially an afterthought; all that really matters here is what ludicrous character the boys will be forced to seek the help of, or what is going to go wrong for the boys next. The supporting cast are clearly having a ball with their eccentric weirdos – Chloe Hurst’s horny backpacker, Lynette Curran’s 70-year-old sexual deviant, and Shane Jacobson’s Norman Bates-esque crossdresser all raise amusing hell for our trio. But it all becomes a bit too repetitive, fizzling out and becoming tiresome as the frequent finding and losing Luke’s body out of stupidity becomes numbing. And despite a well-intentioned emotional scene near the end, it’s impossible to become invested or feel anything in a story so relentlessly silly.

It’s a scrappy affair, but raunchy comedy aficionados should be satisfied enough with all the corpse boners, granny shagging, pants shitting and penis-shaped coffins. It’s unlikely to win any AACTAs, but there are enough cheap laughs to make for a modestly amusing, switch-off-your brain time. Maybe just down a few beers first.

A Few Less Men is available in Australian cinemas from March 9 

Image courtesy of StudioCanal