SIGNIS –WACC Human Rights Award 2017 goes to "Maman Colonelle"
Melbourne, October, 9th, 2017 (Peter Malone). Below, find the second part of film critics written by Peter Malone for the month of October.
- HEAL THE LIVING/REPARER LES VIVANTS
- I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO
- INGRID GOES WEST
- KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
- MIDWIFE/ SAGE FEMME
- ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK CITY, The
- PATTi CAKE$S
- RIP TIDE
- TOMMY’S HONOUR
HEAL THE LIVING/ REPARER LES VIVANTS
France, 2016, 13 minutes, Colour.
Tahar Rahim, Emmanuelle Seigner, Anne Dorval, Bouli Lanners, Finnegan Oldfield, Theo Cholbi.
Directed by Katell Quillevere.
Heal the Living might seem a superfluous kind of title – who else can be healed except the living? But the very serious point being made is that the dead can be instrumental in healing the living.
There are two stories in this film connected by a young man, a surfer, who has gone out one early morning with friends to surf, drives back home but is involved in a car accident. The first part of the film is his story, life and death, especially the effect of the news of his sudden death on his parents. As they grieve, the father blames himself for introducing his son to surfing, the mother grieves powerfully as a mother.
The second part of the film focuses on an older woman with heart disease, a woman of culture and music, with two sons, facing the prospect of dying.
One might say that this is a film of “heart spirituality”, that a heart which has enlivened the young man still has the power to enliven the older woman.
It might seem obvious that a heart transplant can heal the living – but, the decision for the transplant and organ donation weighs very heavily on the parents, listening to the urgings of the young doctor and his enthusiasm, the father angry, the mother still grieving, and their finding a way to give consent.
For audiences who have some connection with illness and organ transplants, this may seem quite obvious. On the other hand, many in the audience do not have a direct link with death or have it only rarely. Organ transplants are not at the forefront of their consciousness. This film doesn’t pull its punches when visualising the excision of the heart, the physicality of the surgery, the urgency of the transport from hospital to second hospital, by car, by air, the need for haste, for – ice-cooling the the container to carry the organ to be transplanted.
With the shift in age and gender, the second part of the film focuses on Claire, older and having lived a lot her life, and her having the potential for living with the gift of the transplant and its suitability for becoming part of her.
The film shows two facets of contemporary French life, allows us to spend a lot of time with the characters, with families who have problems – and, somewhat to the fore, includes story issues of same-sex relationships.
Heal the Living makes demands on the emotions of the audience, identification with characters, with situations – but also makes demands on intellectual understanding of the reality of organ donation, the repercussions for the body of the dead person, of the responses by close family and their making decisions as well as anonymity and living with a life-giving organ from another person.
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO
US, 2016, 93 minutes, Colour and black and white.
Voiceover, Samuel L. Jackson.
Directed by Raoul Peck.
This is a very powerful and relevant documentary. While it has a particular American focus, it is illuminating about race attitudes in the 20th century and what has been inherited and how race issues stand at the beginning of the 21st-century.
This is a film about American author, James Baldwin. He is a significant 20th century American literary figure but, from the 1960s on, he had an important role in American consciousness about African-American history.
The title belongs to Baldwin himself. The word “Negro” has passed from common usage, descriptive of African-Americans but with a derogatory past from the slavery era. In fact, during the filming Baldwin gives an explanation of this usage.
The film was directed by celebrated director, from Haiti, Raoul Peck, whose career has focused, in features and in documentaries, on racial concerns, from a drama about Lumumba to an exploration of the genocide in Rwanda, Sometime in April.
What is done here is to assemble an enormous amount of footage, television and film, of Baldwin himself and to edit it into what might be a political essay as well as a political biography. So, the audience sees as well as he is his voice – and with other quotations read by Samuel L. Jackson.
Baldwin was born in 1924, grew up in New York City but in the 40s moved to Paris where he lived for many years. He was able to develop his literary career, the breadth of personality in a different culture – but was also at times dogged by his sexual orientation (which put him, ironically, on the investigation list by FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover).
Baldwin intended to do a book on three significant African-Americans, their campaigns as well as their deaths: Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Medger Evers. So, there is a lot of material about the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and these men who, in their way, were martyrs to the cause. Baldwin outlines his relationship with each of the men, admiration, friendship, but some tensions in outlook with Malcolm X.
Baldwin appears in quite a number of television interviews. One of the other interesting features of this film is the assembling of clips from a range of movies. Baldwin is rather critical of the presentation of African-Americans in American feature films, even in those of the 1940s and 50s which had some basic sympathies. Examples of this kind of criticism include the Sidney Poitier-Tony Curtis drama, The Defiant Ones and other films with Sidney Poitier including the 1950s No Way Out as well as Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
Baldwin is also interested in music with a number of reflections on the Negro tradition and performers like Lena Horne.
There are some caustic comments on the Kennedys, their New England background and what that meant in their trying to deal with the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s. The film was a nominee for Academy award for best documentary, 2016. It reflects some of the more recent topical history including riots in cities such as Ferguson, Missouri, with the deaths of black men at the hands of white police. There is also a quote from Bobby Kennedy about there being a black president 40 years after the 1960s and the turmoil – and the presidency of Barack Obama.
A mixture of the entertaining and the enthralling, thought and emotion-provoking.
INGRID GOES WEST
US, 2017, 98 minutes, Colour.
Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O'Shea Jackson Jr, Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnusson, Pom Klementieff, Joseph Breen.
Directed by Matt Spicer.
Are you on Instagram? If so, you will identify immediately with this film? If not, after 97 minutes you may well (or not well) feel that you are actually on it? One wonders whether there is already a support group, Instagrammers Anonymous, for the addicted, whose life seem to depend on it. (And, on public transport, walking up and down the street, there seem to be plenty of candidates.)
Ingrid is a prime candidate. She is played most persuasively by Aubrey Plaza. At first we see her as a morbid young woman, mourning the death of her mother. She is on her phone and looking at a friend’s wedding to which she has not been invited – and promptly gatecrashe hello s the party, spraying the bride, being tackled and finishing up in an institution finding affirmation in group work.
Ingrid’s life is certainly going west in the sense of going downhill. But, some seeming salvation occurs with her finding a young woman, a star on Instagram, Taylor (a lively performance from Elizabeth Olsen). With $60,000 in cash that she has inherited from her mother, and finding that Taylor, a photographer, bright media personality, her opinions on contemporary living quoted in magazine articles, lives in Venice, California. So, Ingrid goes West.
If ever there was a film about emotional neediness, Ingrid Goes West is certainly it. Ingrid is extraordinarily needy, low self-image, unable to relate well to people. She tries to imitate Taylor, dyeing her hair and change its style mimicking tailors, going to the restaurants where Taylor is reported to have eaten, then encountering her, awkwardly, in a shop and having the bright idea of stealing her pet dog and responding to the lost dog advertisement by returning the pet. Taylor and her partner, Ezra (Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt and Goldie Hawn) welcome her and they become best friends.
Also in the act is Ingrid’s landlord, Dan (O’Shea Jackson Jr, looking and sounding exactly like his father, O’Shea Jackson Sr, whom we all know as Ice Cube). He is pretty needy as well but finds all his fulfilment in Batman, the comics, the films, even trying to write a screenplay, doing re-enactments….
Clearly, this is not an ordinary relationship story. Can it last? Well, given the bad foundation of the friendship, Ingrid and her deceits, her incessant taking of selfies, of herself and everything to do with Taylor, something has to come undone. The catalyst for this is Taylor’s brother, Nick (Billy Magnusson) a smooth-talking rogue who takes an instant dislike to Ingrid, making her intensely jealous.
If this film were to have a subtitle it could be #self. As it is, the film does end, rather unpredictably and not without pain, with Ingrid being given #iamingrid.
US, 2017, 135 minutes, Colour.
Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfahrd, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Bill Skarsgaard, Nicholas Hamilton, Owen Teague.
Directed by Andy Muschietti.
Stephen King has been publishing novels for over 40 years, an extraordinary career, considered the doyen of horror writing. He has sold millions of copies and so many of his novels and short stories have been made into television series and films.
It was made into a television series in 1990. There is an intrinsic piece of information in the film, that the murderous clown, Pennywise, and his associates appear every 27 years. So, in 2017, 27 years later, here is It again.
As most frequently with Stephen King, the setting is in his own state of Maine. So many of his stories might be subtitled, Malevolence in Maine. Certainly the case here. And, remembering his other story and film about youngsters, this one could be Stand by It – or, rather, Stand against It!
This version of it has done extraordinarily well on release in the United States, over $100 million in the first week, and parallel box office in other English-speaking countries.
If it’s horror atmosphere you want, then It certainly provides it. While the setting is the American summer, and a lot of the action takes place in the sunny streets of the town, out in the countryside, quite a lot of it is dark, very dark, in sinister drainpipes, in sinister seemingly haunted houses, in dark wells and, literally, a vast underground.
The film is quite long and the early part spends quite a bit of time establishing the characters of the young boys who are at the centre of the action, especially in Bill’s younger brother, George, is seen with a paper boat at the opening of the film, following it down the rainy streets where it floats into a drain opening – only for the horrible clown, Pennywise, to appear, to tantalise George and then to devour him.
Bill (Jaeden Lieberher, the boy so effective in Midnight Special) and his friends, age 13, are tormented by the 15-year-old bullies of the town, one of them doomed, not a moment too soon, and the ringleader eventually getting his gruesome comeuppance.
The group of boys includes Richie, loudmouth and crude, Eddie, small and pampered health-wise by an overlarge mother, Stan, Jewish and preparing him for his bar mitzvah, Mike, African-American, working for his grandfather in an abattoir, Ben, the large new boy to the school who is more particularly the subject of bullying. Ben is helped by Beverly (Sophia Lillis in a strong performance), also tormented by the local girls, kind, despite her abusive father, and, emerging as a significant leader of the group.
There are a number of parents, teachers, police – but they tend to be minor characters because all the attention is given to the youngsters.
As Bill gets his friends to investigate where George might have disappeared to, each of the children is confronted by the personification of their fear, especially by that horrifying clown and in room collection of venomous associates. Their fears come to life as malevolently aggressive, building up to a climax in the extraordinary underground set, dead children floating in a tower, sudden apparitions, and a great deal of physical violence.
And, at the end, the credits announce that this has just been chapter 1. We won’t have to wait another 27 years for the sequel’s release because the setting of this film is 1989 and so the sequel will have to be set in 2017! Just wait a year or two…
(And a word of complaint about the 13-year-olds and their incessant swearing, wearing and wearying – and a challenge to the screenwriter to be more creative with language.)
KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
UK, 2017, 141 minutes, Colour.
Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Edward Holdcroft, Hannah Alstrom, Michael Gambon, Lena Endre, Pedro Pascal, Bruce Greenwood, Emily Watson, Thomas Turgoose, Calvin Demba, Keith Allen.
Directed by Matthew Vaughn.
Kingsman was a popular and box office success right around the world. Based on comic strips, it had a particularly British flavour, enhanced by the writing team of Jane Goldman and Matthew Bourne who had worked in the previous film as well as other action adventures like Kick Ass.
While the film was particularly successful in Britain, it had an appeal in the United States and so this sequel reaches out to the Americans, incorporating them both as villains and as heroes.
There must be a very strong Colin Firth fan club in England and, perhaps, the United States. After all he was George VI in The King’s Speech. However, despite his strong and gentlemanly presence as Harry in the first film, he was killed off in a rather sensational manner. Screenplay writers have a certain omnipotence so what else but to resurrect him, with a touch of the sensational, but letting him go into final action even more sensationally.
The emerging hero of the first film was a young man from a poor background who was chosen for his personality and skills, personally trained by Harry, and becoming a gentlemanly hero while working at that most elegant of British gentleman’s clothes shops, Kingsman. He was played by Taron Egerton, Eggsy.
There is a slam bang opening for this sequel, gentleman Eggsy confronting a rogue former agent, Charlie (Edward Holdcroft), elaborate fights, a spectacular car chase ending up in Hyde Park and a lake, with an underwater exit, although through the sewer, with everything under the IT control of Mark Strong’s Merlin, a welcome return.
But, the American connection. Julianne Moore obviously enjoys herself as the eccentric, folksy and chatty villain, the ruthless Poppy, running a drug empire from the jungles of Cambodia but having all the pop comforts of American “culture”, a diner, a movie theatre, streets just like back home. And she makes a mean hamburger – especially with some of her enemies going through the mincer!. The Kingsman team suffers a great blow, everyone, including Michael Gambon, being blown up. But Merlin discovers a link to Kentucky, to a whiskey company, Statesman. And the action transfers to Kentucky. (With disputes about the British and American spellings of whiskey/whisky.)
The members of Statesman all have alcohol names, Channing Tatum being Tequila, Jeff Bridges, the boss, being Champagne, Champ for short, Pedro Pascal being Whiskey and, because she works behind the scenes, Halle Berry is only Ginger. So, a lot of action in Kentucky, especially with Whiskey who is able to confront homophobic as well as anti-British rednecks with his lassoo and whip.
But the main discovery, of course, is that Harry got a severe injury to the eye but was rescued – now suffering from amnesia and thinking he is a butterfly expert, no therapy helping until Eggsy has a bright idea and Harry recovers, though initially uncoordinated, joins in all the action, some of it very spectacular in Italy. Poppy has sold drugs around the world but has infected people – so her scheme is to manufacture the antidote and exploit it, even threatening the President of the United States (Bruce Greenwood) and his chief adviser (Emily Watson). But, in a reminder of President Trump, this president is against drugs and rounds up in cages all those infected.
While the action in Italy is spectacular, especially a cable car rolling down the mountainside, the final action is in Cambodia, umbrella weapons as in the old British television series The Avengers as well as modern guns. Who should be Poppy’s hostage in Cambodia but actual Elton John – it does get to do a few martial arts moves!
So, plenty of action, well-choreographed, eccentric characters, international and elaborate situations, incessant swearing as in the first film, and happy ending that could lead, of course, to a further sequel.
US, 2017, 97 minutes, Colour.
Debra Winger, Tracy Letts, Aidan Gillen, Melora Waters.
Directed by Azazal Jacob.
There have been many films with this title. One of the differences for this film is that the central protagonists are aged 50.
We are quickly introduced to each of them, Michael involved in an emotional argument and clash with someone who may be his wife or girlfriend, Lucy. Then we see Mary, involved with a younger writer, Robert.
And then, the scene shifts to their home and we find that Michael and Mary are married and have been for 25 years. They have an adult son. At home, there seems to be a certain amount of intimacy but also a certain amount of tension. And we see both of them at work, realise that each of them is carrying on an affair, covering the affair by excuses at work, but not confiding in each other.
So, the scene is set for an explanation of relationships. It would have been more accurate to have in the title, instead of “love”, fidelity and infidelity.
What exactly Michael sees in Lucy, a very temperamental ballet instructor might puzzle some audiences. And, the writer is rather full of himself and difficult to see what attracts Mary to him.
The film has a strong cast with playwright Tracy Letts is Michael, Debra Winger making a rare screen appearance these days as Mary, Melora Waters is Lucy and Aidan Gillen as Robert.
Michael and Mary intend to separate but are waiting for their son to come home for a visit and to tell him. He is particularly bitter against his father, seeing him as seriously unfaithful. The young man turns up with his girlfriend and, as always in a film like this, there is a meal sequence with all kinds of tensions. The truth is exposed.
So, Michael and Mary separate, take up with the new respective partners – but the ironic question arises whether the affairs are completely satisfactory now that they become more stable relationships and whether some infidelity, between Michael and Mary on the side, is still necessary for their emotional life. While the characters and plot may resemble a lot of real life, the screenplay takes a rather distanced view of marital love, especially after 25 years (although the son and his fiancee are intending to be together for life), so it is all rather amoral.
THE MIDWIFE/ SAGE FEMME
France, 2017, 105 minutes, Colour.
Catherine Frot, Catherine Deneuve,
Directed by Martin Provost.
It is a pleasure to see two important actresses working together. In 2016 Catherine Frot made a powerful impression as Marguerite, the French equivalent of the off-key singer, Florence Foster Jenkins. Catherine Deneuve, in her early 70s, has been making films, quite prolifically, and receiving top billing since 1964, a French icon.
The title, Sage Femme is the French for Midwife. The emphasis is very female – but there are lines of dialogue in this film to indicate that the name will have to be changed, both in French and English, with men becoming significant in birthing. The son of Catherine Frot’s Claire tells his mother that he is stopping his medical studies but that he intends to work as a midwife.
The film opens with quite a number of births scenes, an opportunity to show Claire and her skills, her ability to deal with mothers giving birth, to encourage, to cajole, to sympathise, and spreading her expertise to the attending nurses. There are other sequences throughout the film enabling us to appreciate Claire’s commitment and professionalism. She is also unhappy at the move to great technological change in care for mothers and birth, moving away from the personalised midwife care.
And Catherine Deneuve? She plays an older woman, Beatrice, who wants to get in contact with Claire’s father with whom she had a relationship decades earlier. This puts a great strain on Claire who is very serious at the best of times. It means going back into her past, her attitude towards her father, her resentment towards Beatrice, her long held the ring that Beatrice had betrayed her.
The main complication is that Beatrice announces that she has terminal cancer, tumours. Claire is very positive in her outlook on illness and recovery and, at first, it is her sense of medical duty that she gives attention to Beatrice. Which is not always easy because Beatrice is one of those people who can never settle down, is always out on the town, is still smoking despite warnings, fond of a drink, and a propensity for gambling. She switches moods in an incident, upset, then over-gracious.
There is one other complication, apart from Claire’s son and his fiancee announcing that she is pregnant. Claire has a garden plot on the outskirts of the city, working with her vegetables, and encounters the son of the manager, Paul (Oliver Gourmet) an international truck driver who befriends Claire, a genial and obliging man, someone who can open up Claire and her capacity for one-to-one affection. There is an exhilarating scene at the end where Claire, Beatrice and Paul go for a country drive in the lorry and Beatrice gets the opportunity to drive.
So, it is a great pleasure to see the two actresses embody these two characters, their interactions, the changing relationship, going back into memories, and the possibilities for some reconciliation and forgiveness. Bringing to birth, so to speak, a new life of relationships.
US, 2017, 120 minutes, Colour.
Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnal Gleeson, Kristin Wiig.
Directed by Darren Aronofsky.
Reviews in response to Mother! have been quite polarised. Some headings have stated: “love it or loathe it”. Definitely!
It is quite a complicated film, something to be expected from its writer-director who over a 20 year period has made such films as Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, Black Swan – and, more straightforwardly, The Wrestler. Darren Aronofsky is not afraid to take his audiences into the realms of imagination and fantasy and the complex world of allegory.
If one were to be asked what the film is about, it is easy to say that it is about a husband-and-wife setting up a house, she repairing and restructuring it, he a writer enjoying some seclusion. He invites people to stay. There is a family altercation with his visitors and, consequently, more and more people come to the house with strange results. But that is not even the half of it!
In looking at the final credits, we see that the cast are not named with personal names but with designations. Jennifer Lawrence is Mother. Javier Bardem is Him. Taking Him as a clue leads us into all kinds of speculations, especially religious. Aronofski has no hesitation in setting up many religious connotations.
Since his previous film was a biblical saga, Noah, religious concepts, the Judeo-Christian tradition has been strong in his consciousness.
The film begins and ends with a spectacular fire, death, the finding of a glass heart in the fire and its being set up as a shrine. It seems as if the world we have been invited into is cyclic. And the beginning and the end are apocalyptic, apocalyptic fire, destruction and potential renewal or cruel recycling and repetition.
Since the husband of the narrative is designated as Him, it is easy to make a God reference. Him is creative, has moments of writer’s block, seeks stimulation by sharing other’s stories, inviting them into his home. Mother is younger, is loving, wants a child, eventually becomes pregnant. She can be seen as something of an earth mother/Virgin Mary figure, giving birth to a child to great acclaim but to destruction. The Judaeo-Christian references are there and open to interpretation.
One of the main speculations is whether the film is religious or anti-religious, whether it is theist or anti-theist. Him seems good but seems also to be self-absorbed, loving Mother but also cruel to her. His creation is beautiful but spasmodic. And, one might also speculate that the couple played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer (Michelle Pfeiffer giving almost a masterclass on haughty malice) are like Adam and Eve with a sudden intrusion into their new hope for Paradise by their two clashing sons, with Cain and Abel results.
In the religious/anti-religious speculations, the film has a great deal to show about cult, cult-figures, fans and fanatics, committed disciples, irrational disciples, the madness of putting people on pedestals and knocking them off.
So, while the above can be considered as a review, it is very much a rumination about a film that is often wildly imaginative, sometimes delirious in its action and visual style, a dream allegory of our world.
Australia, 2017, 74 minutes, Colour.
Directed by Willem Dafoe.
Directed by Jennifer Peedom.
Whether you love mountains or not, spending an hour and a quarter contemplating the beauty and ruggedness of mountains is well worthwhile.
Director Jennifer Peedom has made a number of short films about mountains, including Everest, and then made the very interesting documentary about the scaling of Everest, the role of the local Sherpas and their being underestimated until they stood their ground for proper recognition and payment, the growing crowds lining up to climb Everest, commercial queues, something to do rather than something to achieve. This documentary was called Sherpa.
While there is an underlying message in this film, communication is mainly visually and aurally.
Quite a number of cinematographers took part in this project, filming all around the world, in the Himalayas, in the Andes, in New Zealand, in Australia… Their material is generally spectacular and a lot of time and effort have gone into the choice of visuals as well as the editing placement for best effect. While the camera sometimes stand still to contemplate a peak, a range, a valley, much of the photography has been done from helicopters with an extraordinary sense of moving in and through and above the mountains.
Particularly spectacular are sequences of volcanoes, eruptions, the vast extent of lava flows.
We see a variety of mountains in a variety of seasons. We also see a number of the climbers, caught in what seem to be extraordinary positions, foothold on the side of a sheer cliff, hundreds of metres high; climbers triumphing through the snow having achieved peaks; climbers swinging, seemingly perilously, out into the vast void.
The particular feature of this project is the musical accompaniment. The score has been composed by Richard Tognetti who conducts the Australian Chamber Orchestra, a symphonic piece that provides background but does not overly intrude.
There is also a spoken commentary, written by Robert McFarlane, which also provides background and does not overly intrude. It is quietly spoken by American actor, William Dafoe, glimpsed in black-and-white in the studio at the opening of the film. It tends to be contemplative of nature, with a great sense of wonder, offering reflections on creation and beauty. There are some moments when we see a Buddhist priest in a small chamber, prayer and incense and mysticism.
The film offers a wonderful opportunity to be immersed in mountains.
THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK CITY
US, 2017, 89 minutes, Colour.
Callum Turner, Jeff Bridges, Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan, Cynthia Nixon, Kiersy Clemons, Bill Camp, Wallace Shawn, Debbie Mazar, Tate Donovan
Directed by Marc Webb.
Innocent or naive? Quite a significant question that audiences will raise in getting to know this only boy living in New York City. He is 25 but the title is boy. And is he innocent or naive? Certainly awkward, gawky, not knowing the ways of the world but having to learn them. And, in what ways is he living?
There is a lot of voice-over in the film, welcome because it is spoken by Jeff Bridges who plays the next-door neighbour to the boy, tells his story, writes it – substituting for the boy’s own father, listening, counselling, a kind of father confessor as well a psychiatrist.
The boy’s actual father is a millionaire in the publishing business, an interesting character study from Pierce Brosnan. The boy’s mother is quite neurotic with a charm of her own, played by Cynthia Nixon. Their marriage is brittle and is on the verge of breaking, another woman.
The boy, whose name is Thomas, is played very effectively by Callum Turner (who, it turns out, was born in London). Actually, so was the other main character in the film, Johanna, a book editor, in complicated relationships with the father and the son, played by Kate Beckinsale. The other central character is Mimi, a friend more than girlfriend for Thomas (Kiersey Clemons).
It is surprising, with these complex characters, how much material is on-screen in just under 90 minutes, keeping audience attention, listening to dialogue which is well-written, often quite arresting and thoughtful. (The screenplay was written by Alan Loeb who has done quite a number of genre films as well as 2016’s somewhat pretentious Collateral Beauty – which means that the screenplay is quite a surprise.)
The voice-over has quite a lot to say about New York City and speculations about the soul of the city, the various trends, the shifting community, the art world, the drug addicts, the changes in neighbourhoods – which would make it interesting for anyone who has spent some time in New York City. One of the key sequences occurs at a Jewish wedding, a most elaborate event, with an unexpected philosophical speech by Bill camp as Uncle Buster. Not sure whether most of the audience will retain the extensive content of the speech.
There are some surprises in the screenplay and some twists that may or may not have been anticipated which gives something of a different perspective on some of the characters and their behaviour.
The title comes from a song by Paul Simon, sung by Simon and Garfunkel and incorporated into the screenplay towards the end of the film.
US, 2017, 109 minutes, Colour.
Danielle Macdonald, Bridget Everett, Siddharth Dhananjay, Mamoudou Athie, Cathy Moriarty.
Directed by Geremy Jasper.
This is definitely a film for audiences rapt in Rap.
While Rap is an American phenomenon, especially developed by African-Americans, it has spread in more recent years right throughout the world, many indigenous groups drawing on the traditions of Rap to explore ideas and feelings in the lyrics and the rhythms.
Basically, this is a familiar story about young people with musical ambitions, developing their talent, spreading their hopes, experiencing setbacks, working through them to achieve some kind of success. It has been seen as the foundation for many films about singers and musicians. This time about Rap. The director of the film is obviously an enthusiast because he has contributed to many of the songs throughout the film.
Patti is a young woman living in New Jersey with her mother and grandmother. She is played by Australian actress, Danielle Macdonald, and one might she is in the tradition of Rebel Wilson. And she loves rap, composing songs, practising, getting a few local gigs. She is joined by a young man who works in a local pharmacy, Indian background, who is enthusiastic as she is, even more so in performance. The other member of the group, by contrast, is a rather laconic African-American, replete with facial rings, who goes under the name of Bastard field, is Bob.
Patti works as a caterer, fairly successful in a restaurant but then going out to cater for various functions – including a dinner for a celebrated rap artist, slipping him the CD that she and her group have made, he proving to be an arrogant snob. She is disheartened and prepared to give up. At home, there is a crisis with her grandmother, with whom she is great friends (Cathy Moriarty) having a stroke and then dying. Her mother (Bridget Everett) as they might say is a tough broad, a big strong woman, a talent for belting out a song, which she does in a local club – but finds her moment at the culmination of the film in joining Patti in song.
The film fills in the background of life in the suburbs of New Jersey, indicating the this is not necessarily the place to build a musical career. However, Patti does get an opportunity to revive her group, apologise to the others for her harsh treatment of them, gets her mother to dye her hair, dresses up, goes to a local club to perform in a competition. The group is on its way…
Australia, 2017, 85 minutes, Colour.
Debby Ryan, Genevieve Hegney, Andrew Creer, Naomi Sequeira, Valerie Bader, Aaron Jefferey, Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, Danielle Carter, Marcus Graham.
Directed by Rhiannon Bannenberg.
Rip Tide is a small film combining surfing with fashion.
This is very much a film made by women, featuring women, of particular interest to women. But, the men are quite good characters as well…
The story is not unfamiliar. It opens in New York, the world of high fashion, the focus on Cora (Debby Ryan) an 18-year-old who is dominated by her mother, an ambitious businesswoman, whose hopes are being fulfilled in her daughter and who does not realise how little attention she really gives to her daughter as a person. The stage is set for some kind of eruption, especially when the daughter suggests to the designer how the dress could be improved – he is played by Marcus Graham in a very small cameo, mainly having a hissy fit.
Mother and daughter do on in fact am come from Australia and have visited in the past. The contact is the mother’s sister, Margot, a strong screen presence by Genevieve Hegneyi. Her husband died the previous year in a surfing accident and Cora and her mother did not make the funeral. Cora decides to buy a ticket fly to Australia – and there are some humorous moments, at least from the Australian point of view, where Cora really doesn’t understand Australian idiom especially when the genial young surfer, Tom (Andrew Creer), asks how she is going and her response is “where?”. Her mentality is completely focused on first-class in everything.
With the help of Margot and with the help of Margot’s mother-in-law, a very sympathetic old girl, Cora adjusts, is encouraged by the ever smiling, ever-twee, Chicka (Naomi’ Sequeira), and finds that she can surf well, revise memory with the attractive Tom, finds that she might have a possibility of staying back in Australia – and it is all filmed rather glowingly on the New South Wales Illawarra Coast.
Needless to say, there are a few crises, especially when Cora is asked to design dresses for a local celebration, the centenary of women surfers, and she treats one of the local girl models who tears the material to improve the dress exactly as the hissy fit designer in New York treated her. With Chicka’s help, she naturally repents, designs the dresses – and, spoiler alert, it all goes very well!
The other crisis is whether she should return to New York after her mother phones her with news of a new and substantial contract. No spoilers here – everybody will guess has to be a happy ending.
UK, 2016, 112 minutes, Colour.
Peter Mullan, Jack Lowdon, Ophelia Lovibond, Sam Neill, Peter Fernando.
Directed by Jason Connery.
And who is Tommy? Actually, there are two Tom Morrises in this film, the old and the junior. And anyone who knows the history of golf will be able to identify them immediately.
This is very much a golfing film, a film for enthusiasts for the sport and with a knowledge of its history. Non--golf-fans may well feel on the outer as they watch the film, allowing for the fact that there will be details of tournaments, strokes and difficulties, achievements. But they will acknowledge that this film offers significant golf history.
The setting is 19th century Scotland and information is given at the end about the careers of the Morrises as well as a number of photos of the actual characters, a reminder that Tommy Morris Jr is considered the greatest golfer of the 19th century. And his father who lived to the age of 85, was the designer of over 70 golf courses.
So, who were the Morrises and where did they live? Actually at St Andrews – so not far to go for play. The film opens in the 1860s and moves into the 1870s with Tommy Morris national champion at the age of 17 and winning four successive championships before he was 21.
The important theme for the film is that of class in British society in the 19th century. The Morris family were servant class. Old Tom Morris was seen as a servant, working as groundskeeper and caddy for the Lord of the manor. And this was the world into which his children were born. And it is very clear that they were to keep their place, that they were often told that they were not gentlemen, that they could never become members of the golf club at St Andrews, that they were paid to play by the aristocracy who bet on their success.
Tommy Morris Jr was something of a rebel, sometimes defying his father, who was always very proud of him and his achievement, challenging the local aristocrat, demanding more professional payment, but always treated, humiliatingly, as a person.
There is a Scots humane story underlying Tommy’s Honour, the dour Scots family life with its churchgoing and Bible reading, a very stern mother, young Tommy attracted by a local servant girl, six years his senior, defending her reputation, marrying her, her pregnancy.
Veteran Scots actor, Peter Mullan, is the older Thomas. Jack Lowdon, young and brash, brings Tommy Morris Jr to vivid life. Ophelia Lovibond is Meg, his wife, also humiliated as a servant but also powerfully defying Tommy’s rather puritanical mother. Sam Neill is the local aristocrat.
It is a film for sports lovers and golfers will personally be interested in the history, in the influence of the Morrises and the development of the contemporary sport. For others, watching the film might be a bit like being a member of the crowds who tag along, moving from hole to hole.
(A bit of Scots history. The film was directed by Jason Connery, actor and director with an Australian mother, Diane Cilento, and a Scots father, Sean Connery.)
WHAT IF IT WORKS
Australia, 2017, 95 minutes, Colour.
Luke Ford, Anna Samson, Brooke Satchwell, Wade Briggs, Karen Fairfax.
Directed by Romi Trower.
There have been many films over the years, especially in recent years, about relationships, romantic relationships, potential healing relationships between people who are physically and/or mentally disabled. We don’t always expect to see these stories acted out in the ordinary streets, in the ordinary suburbs of Melbourne. They are acted out here – but, at the end, there is still the question that the title raises, will it work, what if it works?
It takes a few moments to get into the feel of the film We are introduced to Adrian, Ford, a young man in his 30s, driving a fast car, getting into trouble, landing unsuspectingly into a group of drag queens. Who is Adrian? When we see him behave, gloved hands, hands raised in the air, wary of touching anything, fastidious, we realise that he is absolutely obsessive, has a compulsive disorder. Which means that while he is friendly in his way, it is not always easy to like him. Non-compulsiveness will feel very impatient with him. But, as we get to know him, see him in all his foibles, there has to be some sympathy. In fact, he is very intelligent with science and engineering and is able to help people in the art commune, even calling in the aid of the drag queen friends.
He almost runs over a young woman (Anna Samson) who lives just up the street, who walks dogs (which he abhors). When he encounters her on his session with his therapist and she comes to visit, mistaking him for the therapist and pouring out a rather salacious life story, he is upset. He later meets her in the street.
It emerges that she has multiple personalities, explaining to him that she is rather like a block of flats with 10 particular rooms, some of the inhabitants being aware of the others, each able to emerge at various times. She has a reasonable personality, Grace. She has a very progressive personality G. She is also an artist, involved with a fellow artist who, in fact, is rather jealous of her art and exploitative of her as a person. She is unaware that she has an opportunity for an international exhibition, he concealing it from her.
A lot of the film is the interaction between Adrian and Grace, and how a relationship can develop between a fastidious untouching and untouchable man and a reticent woman who will erupt, often unexpectedly, with another self. There is a further complication that Adrian has had a relationship previously with a young woman who also is afflicted, by her self-image and self-doubt.
The film does not take us necessarily very far but invites its audience to contemplate these central characters, to reflect on how they are hampered by the disabilities, to wonder whether therapy will help, to wonder whether the relationship will enable some breakthroughs and some healing.
And at the end, we are left to wonder, of course, what if it works?