Melbourne, June, 12th, 2018 (Peter Malone). Below, find the first part of film critics written by Peter Malone for the month of June.
- AMANT DOUBLE L’/ DOUBLE LOVER
- BROTHERS’ NEST
- CROOKED HOUSE
- DEADPOOL 2
- EXCEPTION, The
L’AMANT DOUBLE/DOUBLE LOVER
France, 2017, 104 minutes, Colour.
Marine Vacth, Jeremie Renier, Jacqueline Bissett, Myriam Boyer.
Directed by François Ozon.
A more than suitable and informative title for this film might have been Unsane – but Steven Soderberg had taken it for his psychological thriller about a young woman caught up in her psychological problems, clashes with psychologists, and the audience wondering what was real and what was happening in the young woman’s mind.
This time a young woman, in Paris, Chloe (Marine Vacht), is physically ill but her doctor recommends her going to a therapist. She chooses a male therapist, Paul Mayer, who is an intense listener rather than intervening as she explains her life and her problems. However, she becomes infatuated with him, he with her and the therapy has to end. Paul moves in with Chloe. He now works in a hospital and she gets a job in a museum as one of those men and women who sit for security sake observing the visitors. (The paintings and sculptures are more than a touch of weird.)
So far, so psychological. However, coming home by bus one evening, she sees Paul talking to a woman outside a building where she knew he would not be present. She goes back to the building and finds a psychiatrist there, Louis Delord, Paul’s true surname but which he had changed. She begins some therapy with him. He is the opposite to Paul, abrupt, intervening, demanding and very conscious of collecting his fee. She becomes more and more involved and deceiving Paul who by now is truly in love with her and proposes.
One of the features of Chloe’s life is her dreams, planning to go to a dream therapist but going to Louis instead.
Once the relationship between her and the two men is established, she has more and more vivid dreams, erotic dreams, an, the audience at times is not too sure which is dream and which is reality – too far-fetched to be real.
The film offers a lot of reflections on relationships between twins, bonding, rivalry, hatred – and a physiological theory that in the mother’s womb, one of the twins can absorb the life of the other.
And this is compounded by Louis admitting that he and Paul are twins (which the audience immediately realised, although Jeremie Renier does good work in making the two similar but different) and there is enormous sibling rivalry. The name of a young woman from the past is mentioned and Chloe goes to visit her, finding her the victim of a car accident, helpless in a wheelchair, looked after by her mother (an interesting French-speaking role for Jacqueline Bissett).
And, just as we might have been sorting out what was really happening to Chloe and in her dreams, there are even more complications. As with Soderberg’s Unsane, some reviewers have been very critical of the difficulties in following the plotline, seeming to think that this is all a narrative presented realistically. However, realising that this is a blend of reality and fantasy, where life and dream (and we have to keep checking if we can appreciate which is which), the film becomes quite intriguing, at one moment everything seeming to be reconciled, at the last moment the audience wondering whether this is true or not.
The film was directed by François Ozon, who for 20 years has been making a range of quite striking and varied French films.
Australia, 2018, 97 minutes, Colour.
Shane Jacobson, Clayton Jacobson, Kym Gyngell, Lynette Curran, Sarah Snook.
Directed by Clayton Jacobson.
Especially with the comedy film, Kenny, and, with other film and television appearances, Shane Jacobson is by now strongly associated with Australian comedy.
But, caution. Not here.
As the film opens, we see Shane Jacobson and his brother Clayton as obvious lookalike brothers, cycling outside the town to a used-car dump and to a house which belonged to their parents. They change into boiler suits, start cleaning the house, Terry (Shane) rather bemused his wary about following the lead of his older brother, Jeffrey (Clayton). Terry is rather laid-back but Jeffrey seems to be rather obsessive, sitting down with his brother early in the morning of their visit to the house with an extraordinarily detailed timetable for their activities for the day.
If this was a first review of Brothers’Nest that someone were to read, the review should end here except to add that it is sometimes frightening, sometimes very black, some sardonic humour, and a bit of a shock film for the Jacobson brothers to be in.
But, many other reviews will indicate that the brothers have murder in mind and that this preoccupies them for most of the film. We learn their reasons, their deceptions, their alibis, their being upset at their father’s suicide, their love for their mother (Lynette Curran) who is dying of cancer, acknowledging that their mother’s new husband, Rodger (Kym Gyngell) loves their mother but has usurped the place of their father.
So, as the day goes on, the brothers realise that meticulously planned murders need to be more meticulous than they anticipated. So much can go wrong. So much is unforeseen.
When Rodger arrives at the house, there is an effective dramatic sequence when the brothers, especially Jeffrey, vent their angers on Rodger. There are also some tense dramatic sequences when their mother comes into the house and is bewildered by what she finds.
As has been suggested, to get away with murder, careful planning beyond careful is needed. And, who knows what the reactions will be if two people are part of the plan and begin to differ.
At the beginning of the film, the name of Sarah Snook appears in the opening credits. Just to reassure audiences who may be wondering when she is coming in, it is best to say that she comes in at the end, giving the audience an opportunity to think over what their reactions have been to the events, to the two brothers, to Rodger and the brothers’ mother, and see what has happened through her questioning eyes.
Of its kind, which may not appeal to gentler sensitivities, this story of murder in mind is intriguing and effective.
Australia, 2017, 105 minutes, Colour.
Martin Freeman, Anthony Hayes, Susie Porter, Caren Pistorius, Kris McQuade, Natasha Wanganeen, Bruce R.Carter, Simone Landers, David Gulpilil.
Directed by Yolanda Ramke, Ben Hollows.
Were one to ask the average filmgoer whether they wanted to see a zombie film or not, the answer, most likely, is not. On the other hand, a younger demographic might well answer that they would. And, whatever the age or generation, aficionados of the long spate of zombie films, especially in recent decades, as well as television series like The Walking Dead, might well rush to say that they definitely would.
Best to say immediately, Cargo is a zombie film.
Best to say immediately afterwards, Cargo is not your usual zombie film and it could well have a much wider appeal than just for zombie fans.
It began life as a seven minute short film. The writer, Yolanda Ramke decided to expand the short into feature length and joined with fellow-director, Ben Hollows, to make this feature. They went out into the landscapes of South Australia, choosing desert landscapes, bush landscapes, the Murray River… All of which are filmed beautifully using helicopters and drones. This is a very attractive countryside for the living dead. Not that we see so many of the living dead. That is one of the more relaxing features of watching this film.
The focus throughout is on Andy, played with quite some sensitivity by British actor, Martin Freeman (best known for, take your pick, the Hobbit or Dr Watson to Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes). As with the quiet horror film, A Quiet Place, the setting is post-Apocalyptic, an epidemic not explained at all, decimating the population and turning many into the living dead. Andy is on a boat on the Murray with his wife Kay (Susie Porter) and their one-year-old baby, Rosie. They are in search of food, the parents wanting to protect their daughter at all costs.
It is not really a spoiler to say that Kay becomes infected and dies, leaving Andy to travel through the bush, trying to find food and shelter, with a wristband counting down 48 hours since he potentially became infected.
At the opening the film, a young aboriginal girl, Thoomi, is seen running through the desert. She will later appear again and become an important character in Andy’s journey to safety. In fact, with white paint on her face, she has been feeding her transformed father and is in search of the Cleverman who has the power, she thinks and hopes, to heal her father.
Andy meets very few people along the way, only a smattering and scattering of the living dead. He gets to the small town and meets a former teacher who is very hospitable (Kris McQuade) who urges him on. He rescues a man pinioned by cylinders, Vic (Anthony Hayes) who has been working on a gas line who takes him to his temporary home where he finds the wife of one of the workers, Lorraine (Caren Pistorius). One of Vic’s pastimes is to put a zombie in a cage which then is a taunt to the other living dead to come to consume it, meanwhile firing his rifle to destroy as many zombies as possible. He urges Andy to learn to fire a rifle and join in.
Time is running out, and Andy wants to find a safe place and sympathetic people to look after Rosie. He does encounter a family – but that turns out tragically for the family. He persuades Thoomi that she has done her best for her father and she then serves as a guide and protector for Andy and Rosie.
What makes this film different from so many other zombie films which concentrate on the horror and gore and the dangers of infection and madness, is a deep humanity in Andy, audience response to the care for the baby, and Martin Freeman’s very sympathetic performance as is that of Simone Landers as Thoomi.
The aboriginal theme pervades the film, the latecomer to the land being infected, some aborigines, who are able to listen to the land, escaping infection and providing shelter and hope among them for the little white baby. The film released in cinemas in Australia but was booked for almost immediate screening on Netflix.
US, 2018, 107 minutes, Colour.
Jason Clarke, Ed Helms, Jim Gaffigan, Kate Mara, Bruce Dern, Olivia Thirlby, Clancy Brown.
Directed by John Curran.
It is surprising to find that this episode in the life and career of Senator Edward Kennedy, the last remaining son of tycoon and diplomat and powerbroker, Joseph Kennedy, has not been the subject of a feature film before this. Many documentaries, inquiries. In June 2019, it will be 50 years since the events portrayed.
Audiences have varied responses to members of the Kennedy family. There is great sympathy for President John F. Kennedy, the appeal of his personality, the speeches of idealism despite bungling of some of the confrontations, especially with Cuba in the 1960s, the impact of his assassination. Robert Kennedy also made a great impression as attorney general, advisor to his older brother, and then the impact of his assassination. The oldest brother, Joe, whom his father had destined for the White House was killed in action in World War II.
For many in the audience, 1969 will be something of past history if not ancient history. For those who remember the times, they may have strong views about Ted Kennedy and his behaviour at Chappaquidick. Audiences may not remember that the events and the death of political aide, Mary Jo Kopechne, happened at the very time of the moon launch and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, a fulfilment of John F. Kennedy’s hopes, the seeming beginning of a new era for the human race – but was also a time of political unrest, Richard Nixon’s presidency, disaster for Americans in Vietnam, a transition from the enormous social changes of the 1960s.
The action of the film takes place over a week. Australian actor, Jason Clarke, with touches of make up that make him sometimes uncannily look like Ted Kennedy, and with his New England accent, gives a strong performance of a man who, at this stage of his life in crisis, seems a weak man. Ed Helms has a good role as his cousin and adviser, Joseph Gargan. Kate Mara has some scenes as Mary Jo Kopechne, Jim Gaffigan as the Massachusetts Attorney General and an advisor, Clancy Brown dominatingly ruthless as Robert McNamara. Bruce Dern communicates the strong personality of Joseph Kennedy despite his being inarticulate, chair-ridden, because of a stroke.
The situation is re-created, an evening party, Ted Kennedy still morose about the death of his brother a year earlier, the memories of the President, the expectations of his father (which seem to be rather low). Some drinking, some brooding, giving a lift to Mary Jo Kopechne, the bad turning onto the bridge, the car going over the bridge, his escaping from the car and sitting on the bank, Mary Jo Kopechne drowning after some time trying to breathe the remaining air in the car. While the episode was an accident, Ted Kennedy’s behaviour was that of the hit-run driver, in denial, going to get friends to try to remedy the situation, promising to report the accident to the police but failing to do so, going to bed, having breakfast at the hotel with friends until he is confronted and has to act.
The screenplay has him saying to his friends as they arrive at the scene of the accident that he won’t be President in 1972. And, with ups and downs, with phone calls to his father, with a visit to his father, with all the legal advisers and political bosses trying to make the best of the scenario, continually sabotaged by statements released by the police to the press, changes to the story, and even Joe Gargan advising him to do the right thing and resign, he is weak.
The theme of the film is summed up by Gargan telling Ted Kennedy that his television broadcast to the people of Massachusetts in which he accepts responsibility for leaving the scene of the accident, should be seen as a situation of integrity and not of opportunity.
The film ends with people being interviewed about their views on Kennedy and his broadcast. There is a great deal of sympathy for the family. How much to forgive? How much to forget? In fact, Kennedy was re-elected to the Senate and the end of the film reminds us that he finished as being the fourth longest serving senator, contributing to the politics of the United States.
Chappaquidick raises issues of responsibility and blame, of authenticity in people from privileged backgrounds, issues of human weakness and possibilities for redemption.
UK, 2017, 115 minutes, Colour.
Max Irons, Glenn Close, Stefanie Martini, Honor Kneafsey, Christina Hendricks, Terence Stamp, Julian Sands, Gillian Anderson, Christian Mc Kay, Amanda Abington, Preston Nyman, John Heffernan, Jenny Galloway.
Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner.
Another Agatha Christie murder mystery.
This is one of her stand-alone novels, a young private detective involved in an investigation, not relying on her super-sleuths Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. The setting is England in the late 1950s.
The film opens with the news of a murder, the private detective, Charlie Hayward (Max Irons) seeing the newsreel about the death of a millionaire from Greece who came to settle in England. His granddaughter, Sophie (Stefanie Martini) who had had a romance with Charlie Hayward in Cairo but broken it off, comes to his office (a bit poor and seedy with few clients) and invites him to come to investigate the death – the audience having seen only a hand an alarm in the filling a syringe and it being inserted into the old man’s arm in bed.
The first part of the film, as expected, is the detective going to the mansion where three generations of the family live. It gives the opportunity for him to meet each of the suspects and for the audience to get some information, begin to get suspicions, start to make a preference list of who is the most likely murderer and who the least likely.
He meets the grand dame of the family, the dead man’s sister-in-law, Edith De Haviland. We are already on familiar ground because she is played by Glenn Close, at times rather similar to her sinister presence as Cruella de Ville. There are the dead man’s two sons, one bailed out of a bad gambling debt, Philip (Julian Sands) who now lives at the mansion with his would-be actress wife, a sardonic dilettante a and alcoholic Magda (Gillian Anderson). The other son is Roger who manages the family business, although ineptly, (Christian McKay) and his somewhat disgruntled wife, a scientist, Clemency (Amanda Abingdon). Magda has three children, Sophia, her very young little sister, wise beyond her years, Josephine (Honor Kneafsey). She tells the detective that she too is doing her detective work and writing everything in her diary. There is also a handicapped son, Eustace (Preston Nyman), rather bitter and offhand. The millionaire’s young wife, Brenda (Christina Hendricks) whom he met as a dancer at a casino he owned in Las Vegas also lives in the house, resented by everyone, except by Laurence Brown, Eustace’s tutor, (John Heffernan) who is obviously in a relationship with Brenda. Finally, there is the family nurse who looks after Josephine (Jenny Galloway).
And there we are. Whodunnit?
It is rather old-fashioned in its visual style, dialogue (with Julian Fellowes, the Downton Abbey, is one of the writers).
Each of the characters, of course, has suspicious moments. The film consists of a lot of interviews with each of the characters, and there are some red herrings about the dead man’s links with the CIA and anti-Communist movements.
Terence Stamp also appears as a detective from Scotland Yard. He has ups and downs with Charlie Hayward but, eventually, there are some arrests. Or are they wrong arrests?
The payoff and the murderer is not bad – depending on how high the suspect was on your list of most probable released probable.
Perhaps best recommended as an entertaining Agatha Christie night out for those who are more senior rather than those who are more junior.
US, 2018, 119 minutes, Colour.
Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Julian Dennison, Marina Bacarin,Zazie Beetz, Brianna Hildebrand, TJ Miller, Terry, Rob Delaney, Alan Tudyk, Eddie Marsen, Leslie Uggams, cameos: Brad Pitt, Bill Skarsgaard, Matt Damon, Terry Crews.
Directed by David Leitch.
The original Deadpool was very well received by the public. It was something of an acquired taste which moviegoers were eager to acquire. While it derives from the Marvel Universe, so-called, its characters are really at the periphery (although the film does open with a joke about Logan, a little statue impaled, with Deadpool speaking derogatorily about Wolverine – who does get the chance to appear in Hugh Jackman form at the end of the film – and uncredited, so many of the characters popping in from the X-Men series).
Deadpool is certainly an example of pop culture. However, with its tone of parody, with a variety of spoofs and send ups, with the in-references to movies and actors and actresses, with the sudden appearance of Barbra Streisand singing Papa can you hear me from Yentl, a CGI fight with Dolly Parton singing 9 to 5 in the background, with a buildup to a climax with the singing of Tomorrow from Annie, Deadpool might be considered and is an example of “flip-culture”. (Trivia, like that in the film: Barbra Streisand is Josh Brolin’s stepmother – and she thanked in the credits for giving permission to use the song and clips from Yentl.)
As regards plot! Prior to the initial credits, Deadpool, with his costume on, confronts an enormous range of villains from Hong Kong to the US with all kinds of martial arts and stunt work. And then, in a moment of quiet, he visits Vanessa “Morena Bacarin) and they discuss domestic possibility of having children. Not to be. An assassin intervenes and Deadpool, unmasked and his remnant-of-burns face is tearful.
Actually, the initial credits are examples of the flip culture with all the technical aspects being parodied by descriptions rather than by actual names, the director being referred to as one of those who were responsible for deaths in John Wick (which actual director, David Leitch, was).
And who would believe that the centre of the main plot would be a 15-year-old, chubby, New Zealander called Russell? It must mean that The Hunt for the Wilderpeople served as a marvellous audition and an entree for Julian Dennison, is able to make strong rapport with his audience, to become an international star. He has superpowers of fire in his hands but is confined to a sinister orphanage, presided over by Eddie Marsan, who parodies Gospel Beatitudes with “blessed are the wicked…” And there is a whole atmosphere that he and his staff are paedophiles.
Enter Cable, Josh Brolin taking time off from being Thanos in the Avengers series. He can time travel. He has experienced disaster in his own life, knows how the world is going to end (badly!) And wants to prevent Russell from becoming a killer. This leads to a prison break, Deadpool and his friend Weasel (TJ Miller) auditioning their own X-Force of rather inept heroes, one of the funnier and gruesome sequences in the film being their skydiving and their various spectacular demises.
The screenplay is very conscious of equality for women, so Domino (Zazie Beetz) is now black, is an extraordinary truck driver (she says her talent his Luck) and her commandeering the truck, driving through the metropolis, an enormous smasheroo sequence with probably more cars destroyed in this film than the body count!
In one sense, the final confrontation to liberate Russell is fairly low key – but, a lot is made of it with Deadpool’s heroics (which he remarks to the audience he hopes have been filmed in slow motion) combined with a giant fight between the metallic Colossus (on Deadpool’s side) against the even bigger and gigantic Juggernaut (the enemy).
If this film is successful, as initial box office seems to indicate it will be, there are all kinds of directions it can go in for a sequel – time travel and remedying the past certainly enables all possibilities. (And, in the final credits, Ryan Reynolds who has made Deadpool his own, with the heroics and the deadpan references and talking to the audience, suggests that The Green Lantern isn’t his most favourite film.)
Ordinary cinemagoers will have to adjust fairly quickly to the tone and style of the film. Aficionados will want more.
UK/Ireland, 2017, 114 minutes, Colour.
Rachel Weisz, Rachel Mc Adams, Alessandro Nivola, Alan Corduner, Bernice Stegers.
Directed by Sebastian Lellio.
Not quite a title that would entice legions of fans into a cinema. But, for those who are interested in the title, this is quite a strong drama with impressive portraits of the central characters. It has been directed by the Chilean director, Sebastian Lellio, who has made an international impression with Chilean stories, Gloria (which he has remade in the US with Julianne Moore) and The Fantastic Woman as well as a significant American story, Jackie, dealing with the First Lady and the assassination of President Kennedy.
The theme is presented powerfully in the opening sequence, a London synagogue, strongly, sometimes fiercely, Orthodox, the men with tassels, vests, hats and Scriptures, the women separated. The old rabbi gives an interpretation of creation, highlighting that angels are pure spirits whose wills are directed to God, contrasting with the beasts who are part of creation but have no will. In the middle are humans, with free will, with the possibility of choice – and with the possibility of sinning, incurring judgement, being disobedient. He then collapses and dies. However, at the end of the film, the rabbi designated as his successor recalls this explanation of choice at the old rabbi’s funeral. By then, the significance of the title and the theme of will and choice has been interestingly explored.
We are introduced to Ronit (a strong performance by Rachel Weisz), a photographer in New York City receiving a mysterious phone call to return home to London. She is the late rabbi’s daughter. It emerges that she has been ostracised by the local community – and it soon emerges why. She goes to the home of the rabbis adopted son, Dovid, Alessandro Nivola, friendly but strict in his interpretation of Orthodox customs, even to women not touching men. Ronit is surprised that he has married – and even more surprised when she meets Esti, Rachel McAdams, who was significant in Ronit’s past and is now married to Dovid.
Ronit is very much an independent woman, defying the local critics of her and her behaviour, wanting to sell the rabbi’s house only to find that he bequeathed it to the community. The important part of the drama is Ronit’s relationship with Esti, passionate in the past, the reason for Ronit’s exile, and the dilemma for the relationship now that she has returned to England. While there is pressure on Ronit, there is even more pressure on Esti and her marriage. She is part of the community, happily teaching at a school, but disturbed by Ronit’s presence.
While much of the drama is about relationships, especially about same-sex relationships and the attitudes of the community, the drama is also about independence and – with the reprisals of the rabbi’s initial sermon and the focus on choice, the issue for the resolution of the drama is whether Esti will have a choice.
This is a film of emotion, sometimes passion, sometimes sadness and disappointment – and the dilemmas of obedience, disobedience, constraint, freedom and choice.
Belgium, 2017, 107 minutes, Colour.
Lily James, Jai Courtney, Christopher Plummer, Janet McTeer, Ben Daniels, Eddie Marsan.
Directed by David Leveaux.
The title for this drama, quite worth seeing, is not at all exceptional. However, the title of the novel on which it is based, The Kaiser’s Last Kiss, is more evocative.
There always seems to be an audience for British films or films from the continent which deal with World War II. Some are based on fact. The screenplay here is based on a novel but grounded in fact.
The setting is Holland in 1940. The Nazis have just invaded Belgium and Holland. One of the principal residents of Holland is the former Kaiser, Friedrich Wilhelm, living in exile after his resignation in 1918 in a mansion in the Dutch countryside, living with his wife and an entourage. He keeps out of the way, working on the property, proud of his collection of military uniforms, feeding the ducks. He is still ideological, fixed in rather aristocratic ways (after all he was one of the many grandchildren of Queen Victoria), longing for a restoration of the monarchy.
In Berlin, a young officer, Captain Brandt, wounded in battle, reacting against an officer who had massacred many people in a village, now has a desk job but is assigned to be head of security for the Kaiser and his wife. On arrival in the town, he encounters the local security officials, the officer who manages the Royal household, the Dutch staff, including a very attractive maid.
This is a fictional story about the Kaiser and his wife but it some commentators have indicate close relationships to facts.
The Kaiser is elderly and portrayed excellently by Christopher Plummer. Janet McTeer is certainly very good as his wife, more ambitious than her husband, with connections in Berlin, machinating behind the scenes so that the couple will be restored to their status by Hitler.
The captain does not seem at first a particularly interesting character. He is initially seen back in Berlin with a prostitute. He is immediately seductive of the maid. He is played by Australian Jai Courtney. She is played by Lily James.
There are power struggles in the mansion, the Princess rather haughty in her manner and proud of her household, Sigurd (Ben Daniels) is the proper officer who protects the couple, making sure that the Kaiser is not indiscreet in any outbursts, especially about the Third Reich.
There is news of a British spy in the village and audiences do not have to be particularly astute to realise that it will obviously be Mierke, the maid. While she is in a relationship with Captain Brandt, she steals off to the village to meet the pastor who sends messages to Britain and receives instructions. And the captain follows into the town.
He begins to doubt his loyalties in his relationship with Mierke but there is to be a significant event. Himmler announces that he is to visit the Kaiser and his wife and dine with them. Eddie Marsan and has only a few sequences as Himmler but makes the most of them and the sinister dialogue, especially a dinner table anecdote about experiments on young children and poisoning them. The Kaiser and his wife are in fact quite repelled. Captain Brandt then questions his loyalty to his country – with the Kaiser advising him to ask what his country really is.
The possibilities raised for the Kaiser and his wife to go back to Berlin – but Himmler throws doubt on the idea. The security agents track down the radio signal and so, as you might imagine, the finale of the film is how to get the spy out of the mansion, out of danger after the pastor has been arrested and tortured. What is the Kaiser’s attitude towards the maid and her behaviour? What will Captain Brandt do?
And so, there is action adventure, symbolic of the microcosm of the film and World War II focused on small Dutch village and the Kaiser’s mansion.
This film, and its cast, should appeal to those who enjoy World War II stories, fact or fiction.