Archive for February, 2011

Howl

February 25th, 2011 - admin

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical”, perhaps the most iconic line in American 20th century poetry, is the opening to Allen Ginsberg’s notorious 1955 poem, Howl, which gives the film its title.  Few poems have had such an impact on American culture than the Beat Generation guru’s counterblast against Eisenhower’s 1950’s conservatism, spontaneous evocation of Beatnik cool and battle cry against the persecution of gays and all others that did not conform to US post war bourgeois orthodoxy.  A forerunner to Rock & Roll, Dylan and the Who’s Sixties own take on ‘my generation’ blazing contempt, this is the outsider fighting back, a new counter culture in the making.

 

Ginsberg introduced his cultural ‘time bomb’ to the world during a reading at Beat haunt, San Fran’s Six Gallery to a rapturous crowd.  Beatnik legend Jack Kerouac and other like-minded urban hipsters cheered Ginsberg’s impassioned delivery every step of the way.  Gone were the conventions of the poetic form, gone was the traditional poetic reading, this was the start of poetry as performance, the origins of rap.  Lawrence Ferlinghetti, of City Lights bookshop fame, was in the audience that night and, with a full understanding of his absolute social obligation, he did not delay publishing.

 

The Establishment reacted with a rash shot from the hip.  It charged Ferlinghetti with obscenity and thereby lifted Howl from back street obscurity to overnight fame.  Its promulgation was guaranteed under the full glare of a media trial and the rest, as they say, is history.

 

Jeffrey Friedman & Rob Epstein’s new film dramatises this short period and captures the culturally defining moment with an intensity that would have been lost with a full blown biopic.

 

James Franco is much in demand following his Oscar nominated portrayal in 127 Hours of the real life extrovert rock climber that fate cruelly restrained.  Now, he applies his considerable skill in playing introvert Ginsberg turned electrifying performer at the smokey Six Gallery.  In a performance reminiscent of Hoffman’s Lenny Bruce, there is an immediacy in Franco’s absolute conviction that connects with the audience in ways that are normally the preserve of a live show.

 

There is a casual interview with an unseen journalist based on a series of actual interviews that Ginsberg gave post-publication.  Franco’s expert characterisation offers many insights into Ginsberg’s vulnerability, fears and powerful intellect that mould the man, mould the poet.  In contrast to the spellbinding spontaneity of Howl’s every line – “the world is holy! the soul is holy! the skin is holy! – Ginsberg’s responses are not only considered but delivered with an irresistible purposefulness that quietly taps us on the shoulder and says listen and listen carefully, listen to this sage and take note.  Spontaneous Howl maybe but this is a spontaneity that is very very knowing.

 

There is nothing remotely spontaneous about the staid court proceedings as liberated defence lawyer and ultra conservative Populist state attorney rehearse the arguments that would define much US political debate for the next 50 years.  This is not Ginsberg’s world and he does not attend.  The evocative black and white monochrome docu aesthetic of the Ginsberg scenes now gives way to a sumptuous colour exposing abundant opulence in every shot.  We are not witnessing an American Lady Chatterley’s scandal, but the precursor of the civil rights movement, the first call for a genuine US democracy, a genuine US freedom.

 

The film abandons a linear narrative in favour of intercutting between these three episodes to telling effect.  Far from being a Ginsberg biopic in the traditional sense, this is a contextualisation of a vital cultural document and its immediate impact.  Is it a sad reflection of contemporary Western society or a mark of Ginsberg’s genius that Howl has lost none of its relevance today?

 

In a neat touch, Ginsberg’s own illustrator, virtuoso graphic artist Eric Drooker, chips in with some fine animation.  Imaginative and striking, it provides impressive visual form to Ginsberg’s imagery, to the “haunted streets” of the “saxophone cry”.

 

Surprisingly, the Californian court, a judiciary for an elite, found in favour of progressive publisher Ferlinghetti.  This was a victory for Modernist literature, a victory for free speech and a victory for those “visionaries whose faculties of divination” so disturbed the establishment.  But as history tells us, this was only the beginning and much remains to be done.cost for cialis from walmartgeneric cialis vs brand cialis reviewsgeneric cialiscialis pricecialis for salediscount cialis

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Animal Kingdom

February 25th, 2011 - admin

The Animal Kingdom of the title is the criminal underground of 1980’s Melbourne where the police have caged the Cody family by constant surveillance.  Once prolific bank robbers, they are an endangered species in need of alternatives.  Word has it that the cops, frustrated by lack of evidence, intend to expedite natural selection and take matters into their own hands.  This is a lawless world where paranoia and desperation determine actions in a vicious cycle of absolute malice.

 

Add to the mix a young relative, Joshua, one of life’s innocents, who comes to stay when his mother dies of a heroin overdose.  It is taken as read that Joshua, or J to his few friends, will join the gang but there is no Goodfellows style rising amongst the ranks here.  Joshua, humble and unassuming, is content to watch silently from the sidelines although there is no sense that he is doing anything other than killing time.  On the odd occasion that he does speak, there is a literal honesty that reveals a telling vulnerability; one that both sides will look to exploit in the fierce battle for supremacy.

 

Things come to a head when renegade cops bump off friend of the family and the brains of the operation, Barry.  The family’s revenge is swift and explosive in a recreation of a real life incident in eighties Melbourne, the Walsh Street shootings, where waiting assassins gunned down two random cops investigating an abandoned car left in the middle of the road.  It was this incident that served as the starting point for David Michôd’s film, his fictional depiction of the psychological terrain that gave rise to such a ruthless act of cold blooded brutality in a city where the dynamic below the surface was very different from the civilised cultural spaces of the picture postcards.

 

Jacki Weaver received an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the family matriarch, the over the top loving mother with a psycho edge.  Off-putting and borderline perverse, she insists on inflicting long-drawn-out kisses on her sons’ lips as much to their embarrassment as to the audience’s.  But this is schmaltz and saccharine of the controlling kind, a privileged quirk that only the powerful can afford themselves.  And no one could seriously doubt, with the exception of J, that we are dealing with a ruthless ‘Godmother’ that will stop at nothing to protect ‘the family’ regardless of the consequences.  One minute J is a much loved long lost grandson, the next he is wholly expendable.

 

Even more chilling is the eldest son, Andrew “Pope” Cody, a paranoid psychotic who Ben Mendelssohn plays with such chilling effect that his performance lingers in the mind long after the screening.  A disturbing obsession with cross-examining anybody who crosses his path with persistent questions on mundane subjects almost to the point of pleading for a response – “I just want you to talk about it”, “I am here for you” – becomes an in-depth probing of expressions and gestures in the search for duplicity.  Any hint of ‘guilt’ on his terms and they are duly dispatched.

 

Guy Peace is very convincing as the one ethical cop on view, a charismatic detective sergeant who tries his level best to persuade J to give evidence against Pope and a younger Cody, both accused of the cop killings.  The family’s corrupt lawyers counter by coaching J with trial responses that draw on his innocent persona.  J’s split loyalties provide a genuine tension that runs to the end.

 

The shifting power positions between the family and external forces, the growing sense of entrapment and the increasingly irrational responses bring to mind the principal thematic concerns of Roman Polanski; many of which were evident in his recent Ghost Writer.  Comparisons are inevitable but the themes here sit comfortably within the diegetic world that Michôd has created and, far from being derivative, augment a fresh and individual look at some home truths that we should prefer to ignore.  With the benefit of hindsight, it is apparent that distorted and disjointed security camera stills of bank robberies in progress, which form part of the opening credits, provide a remarkably concise visual metaphor for the themes that Michôd would develop within the film itself.generic cialis online reviewsgeneric cialis professionaldomperidone purchasecialis sublingualcialis sublinguale cialis sublingual 20mg generic cialis sublingual buy domperidone tablets

 

Winner of a World Cinema Jury Prize at Sundance 2010, Animal Kingdom heralds a new distinctive voice of considerable note; the latest in a long list of Australian filmmakers to make their mark.

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Berlin International Film Festival 2011 (10-20 February)

February 21st, 2011 - admin

Against the ropes Berlin IFF struggling to retain its top four status needs a strong 2011 showing.

 

True Grit (Coen Bros) continues its strong Oscar campaign by opening the BIFF tonight out of competition.

 

Bela Tarr, Joshua Marston & Asghar Farhadi are amongst the more prominent filmmakers in a competition that seems to offer one of the more interesting line-ups of recent years.  The competition includes potentially intriguing debuts from Ralph Fiennes & Paula Markovitch.

 

Isabella Rossellini heads the international jury, which includes Canadian maverick filmmaker Guy Maddin.  Jafar Panahi is unable to take his place on the jury following his 6 year prison sentence last December at the hands of the Iranian authorities.  The jury will retain his empty chair by way of a silent protest.

 

Tomboy, Celine Sciamma’s follow up to Water Lilies, is amongst the more eagerly awaited films showing in the Panorama section.  The sidebar also includes Jose Padiha’s sequel to his 2008 BIFF Golden Bear winner, Elite Squad.

 

Elsewhere, unfairly out of favour, Wim Wenders, shows his 3D documentary portrayal of Pina Bausch.

 

 

Competion line-up:

 

A Mysterious World

D. Rodrigo Moreno

 

High expectations these days for any high profile festival film from Argentina.

 

 

Come Rain, Come Shine

D. Lee Yoon-ki

 

Follow up to My Dear Enemy (2009) is the sole Asian representative in competition?

 

 

Coriolanus

D.  Ralph Fiennes

 

The latest Shakespeare on film offering for Fiennes’ directorial debut.  Potentially, a welcome addition to the sub-genre.

 

 

The Future

D. Miranda July

 

International premier for July’s Sundance hit.

 

 

If Not Us, Who

D. Andres Veiel

 

Interest in the Red Army remains unabated.

 

 

The Forgiveness of Blood

D. Joshua Marston

 

High expectations for Marston’s follow up to Maria Full of Grace

 

 

Innocent Saturday

D. Alexander Mindadze

 

Chernobyl disaster drama.

 

 

Lipstikka

D. Jonathan Sagall

 

Jerusalem reflections in Israel/UK co-production from the Canadian filmmaker.

 

 

Margin Call

D. JC Chandor

 

Credit crunch drama starring Kevin Stacey for another festival hit arriving from Sundance.

 

 

Nader and Simin, A Separation

D. Asghar Farhadi

 

Farhadi returns to Berlin where he picked up a Silver Bear for his 2009 festival hit About Elly.

 

 

Our Grand Despair

D. Seyfi Teoman

 

A return to Berlin also for Teoman for the follow up to the Summer Book.

 

 

The Prize

D. Paula Markovitch

 

The Argentine Military Junta continues to attract filmmakers over 20 years after its collapse.

 

 

Sleeping Sickness

D. Ulrich Kohler

 

European aid workers in Africa drama has scope for some relevant observations.

 

 

Tales of the Night

D. Michel Ocelot

 

The only 3D film in competition.

 

 

The Turin Horse

Bela Tarr

 

Tarr meets Nietzsche in the most keenly awaited competition entry this year.

 

 

Yelling to the Sky

D. Victoria Mahoney

 

Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) returns as another teenager up against it in a socially deprived neighbourhood.
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Brighton Rock

February 4th, 2011 - admin

Upon selling the film rights to one of his novels, Julian Barnes once urged the producer not to be faithful.  Quite right.  A faithful adaptation restricts scope for innovation and, more often and than not, lacks vitality; leaving us with an experience on a par with a truncated version of a rather hackneyed TV serial for the lazy Sunday night viewer.  But filmmakers should be on their guard; the book police will be on their case, monitoring even the most minutest change to the nth degree.  Changes must speak for themselves, they must be intelligent and must make absolute sense within the wider context of the film’s form.

 

Rowan Joffe made the brave decision to adapt Graham Greene’s classic novel, Brighton Rock.  A daunting endeavour in itself but all the more so for having to compete against John Boulting’s outstanding 1947 film noir adaptation, co-scripted by Greene and containing one of the great performances of British Cinema, Richard Attenborough playing the young pretender, Pinkie.

 

The changes are extensive, Joffe moving the setting to the early Sixties when Brighton hangs in a suspended state on the threshold of the youth revolution.  Here, Pinkie’s challenge to the old school gangsters takes on wider cultural implications as part of new attitudes, still in their infancy but very much the seeds that lead to such a generational sea change later in the decade.  Something different, a new way of considering the text but relevant and coherent.

 

The key themes remain; defining God and virtue through the binary opposites of Satan and evil, all within the context of Catholic guilt and pending damnation.  Strong is the sense of a living hell, a kind of precursor to the real thing, as Pinkie comes to terms or otherwise with the ultimate punishment for his crimes; the film being set during the final stages of capital punishment.

 

Quite rightly, Sam Riley’s performance is very different from Richard Attenborough’s.  More moody, a certain Mods coolness but we never doubt his ruthlessness and fear.  There is much to admire in Andrea Riseborough’s Rose and her portrayal of single mindedness born out of naivety. And Helen Mirren is in fine form as the worldly Ida who knows a thing or two about men and certainly too much for Pinkie.

 

It works effectively enough as a thriller and the changes generate sufficient interest to make the adaptation/remake worthwhile.  Probably the pick of the recent Greene adaptations although Phillip Noyce did a particularly competent job on The Quiet American.generic cialis from usa safecialis mail order pharmacycialis generic datebuy cialis online with paypalcheap cialis pillscialis price per pill

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Rabbit Hole

February 4th, 2011 - admin

Parental grieving after the death of a 4 year old child is a potentially thorny subject but James Cameron Mitchell’s third feature not only offers a thoughtful and perceptive portrayal of the process but a very engaging film.

 

Becca and Howie are a middle class couple living in suburban New York.  We suspect that married life may not have been a bed of roses before the tragedy but the film focuses on the period 8 months later.

 

Their son died in a car accident.  They engage in occasional half hearted blame apportionment but it is not convincing.  This is one of those terrible things that will happen from time to time and will wreck lives.

 

Howie holds on to every tangible reminder.  Videos, toys and fridge magnets become conduits to a past life, everyday objects that take on monumental commemorative significance.

 

Becca tries to remove every conceivable trace.  Handprints on doors are a harrowing reminder of the unbearable grief.

 

When Becca deletes a video from Howie’s i phone, they clash.  Was it a haphazard slip or something more?

 

And so it goes on.  Opposite and entrenched positions emerge but there are spaces in between, spaces for the characters to reflect.

 

Becca develops an unlikely friendship with the innocent teenager who was driving the car on the fateful day.  He creates his own hand drawn comic of an alternative universe, an American brand of Pop Art for the 21st century, an escape from cruel guilt.  His escape becomes Becca’s escape and they escape together.

 

Howie flirts with a lady from ‘group’, a therapy group for bereaved parents.  They smoke pot together, they share each others’ grief and they almost have an affair.

 

Somewhere between the lame recriminations, the spaces and escape mechanisms, they find an understanding at the film’s close.  It is no more than a discreet and silent gesture but it offers hope for the first time.

 

Nicole Kidman received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for her performance as Becca.  Aaron Eckhart was just as good as the co-lead but missed out.  Miles Teller also catches the eye as the unfortunate teenager.cialis online irelandcialis cost australiafluoxetine and fatiguecialis sublingualcialis sublinguale cialis sublingual 20mg generic cialis sublingual

 

A subtle and observant adaptation of David Lindsay-Abaire’s play for the subtle and observant filmgoer. see facts here now

Fighter, The

February 2nd, 2011 - admin

A boxing biopic with a difference that transcends its genre to depict the contrasting fortunes of two brothers whose struggle against the odds extends well beyond the ring.

 

Dicky Eklund achieved his ’15 minutes of fame’ when he became the first opponent officially to knock down the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard although doubts remain as to whether it arose from the punch or a slip.  Still milking it for all its worth, Dicky proudly draws attention to a film crew following him around.  They are filming his comeback, he tells anybody who cares to listen, but the filmmakers have a different agenda.  This is a comeback of the kind that could never happen even in a sport where its regulators have a tendency to turn the metaphorical blind eye whenever there are a few bucks at stake.  Jerking, twitching and always on the move with nervous unreleased energy, Dicky is now a physical and mental crack cocaine induced wreck well past his sell-by-date.

 

Alice is the ultimate matriarchal monster who takes care of anything ‘family’ and, with her seriously scary henchdaughters in tow, woe betide anybody who stands in her way.

 

Together Dicky and Alice spectacularly mismanage the boxing career of Dicky’s younger half sibling, Micky Ward.  Nothing more than a useful earner, Micky is safe bet fodder for ambitious would-be champions en route to the top.  When an opponent withdraws from a bout at the eleventh hour, the gruesome twosome condemn Micky to a brutal beating at the hands of an ex-con from a higher weight category; otherwise, “nobody gets paid”.  Micky, who is stable and compliant, a genuine ‘quiet man’, but not in the reformed Ford sense, provides a sharp contrast and foil to the neurotic and edgy Dicky.

 

Charlene is Micky’s feisty girlfriend who challenges Alice’s authority; there is no hope she tells Micky unless he severs all ties with the family. But is it that simple?

 

This is the true story of Micky Ward’s unlikely rise to welterweight world champion.  A blow by blow account of the shifting power positions in a dysfunctional blue collar family living in the parts of Massachusetts that are very much off limits for the local tourist brochures.  Sidestepping many of the obligatory cliches and conventions of the genre, it is a thoughtful revisionist film that avoids adopting a moral position on the sport or its characters and where the boxing is secondary to social drama.

 

The Fighter received seven Oscar nominations including best film, best director for David O. Russell, best supporting actor for Christian Bale as Dicky and best supporting actress nods for both Melissa Leo, who picked up a Golden Globe for the same role, as Alice; and Amy Adams for her portrayal of Micky’s girlfriend.  Nothing though for Mark Wahlberg who delivered a beautifully judged and understated ‘against the grain’ performance as Micky and seemed to this reviewer as real as anything else on offer.generic cialis for daily usecialis sublingual tabs cialis sublingual side effectscialis sublingual absorption cialis generico sublinguale

 

A boxing film with very little boxing that nevertheless packs quite a punch. my childhood essay writing