Philip Noyce is a well-established figure on the Hollywood scene; responsible for such cinematic tyranny as the diabolical Salt, the pedestrian Patriot Games and The Bone Collector; among other such tedium. But Noyce is indeed an accomplished filmmaker despite the somewhat lame exploits of his latter years. His days of old were much more colourful and sublime; Backroads being his directorial œuvre d‘art. This 1977 film presents an unequivocal view of the ocker (or ‘bogan‘) and his frustration with the views of his Koori peer. The film documents Jack (Bill Hunter) and Gary (a triumphant Gary Foley) as they traverse the Australian outback alongside guests such as Terry Camilleri‘s ‘Frenchie‘; all the while blissfully charmed along the highways by the warmth of Gary‘s sometime-muse Joe (Zack Martin). This is one of the great films of late 70s Australian filmmaking.
The accompanied video offers some of the great moments in this tremendous film:
Hailing from San Franciso‘s Mission District Other Cinema (or ‘OC‘) is an alternative film & video production, performance, and distribution network that brings a voice to the Media Arts community. This counter-cultural outfit has been operating for nigh on 30 years, and it continues to spearhead Fine Arts film-making. Craig Baldwin established this vanguard of ‘underground cinema‘ under a range of names from 1978, because he “didn’t see anything coming up from the ground that ended up on the screens”. Since then, OC has developed into an artistic collective led by a dedicated team of curators and artists. Other Cinema continues to enhance Film & Media Arts projects in the Bay Area; which of course flourishes elsewhere due to the renowned esteem of OC.
Currently, Other Cinema is in the midst of a Benefit initiative, to raise money for their operations. As part of the fund-raising effort, they have compiled the video below, to engage with the public in what the OC has going on:
You will know Gus Van Sant by a spate of films dealing with emotive angst. His film-making style is often focussed upon dramatic themes that are purposely subdued. This is executed using curious soundscapes mixed with popular music tracks and rattling cinematography. Favourites among these are the enigmatic Elephant and Paranoid Park.
His latest offering continues in this fashion. In Restless, the coming-of-age film recieves a dose of sublte sublimity. Van Sant visits a foray into a whimsical, dreamy, and ultimately cute exploration of youth dealings with death. Although buoyed by such clichés as the dual parental car crash fatality; we contrarily find the double leads Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper charming in their fine performances. There are also a handful of nods to favourite adolescent films including Empire of the Sun and Stand By Me. If you can stomach the endless melancholy of the soundtrack then you‘ll most likely relish this as such a sweet film.
Restless opens at Cinema Nova on December 1st.
Shane Meadows follows in the tradition of film-makers Ken Loach and Mike Leigh in his exposé of England‘s working class humility. He is renowned for such films as the 1999 tale that is inspired by his childhood; A Room For Romeo Brass, the stunning 2006 This Is England, and its‘ 5-part television series follow-up This Is England ’86. Paddy Considine features in a lot of his film work; the pair have been close friends since they met at Art School in the Midlands. In Meadow‘s most recent film Considine is again in the starring role, as the manic Arctic Monkeys roadie in Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee; a parody of documentary that he filmed in just 5 days. The film was made in the vein of This Is Spinal Tap and harks back to the quasi-guerilla film-making style of his collegiate years. King Of The Gypsies is the epitome of this early documentary-style work, and it also lends a lot of understanding into Meadow‘s creative and formulaic perspective. Enjoy.
Born in New York as Alexander Jacob Gutman, Austen Tayshus is a comedian from New South Wales. Well known for his dry, black humour riddled with local colloquialisms; he achieved success in 1983 with his Australiana video/music single/sketch piece. Although an advocate for the Jewish religion (his family are Hasidic Jews), and the state of Israel throughout his youth, his comedic career satirises this culture and often includes bizarre, anti-semitic tirades. He ran for the House of Representatives in Sydney during the 2010 Federal Election as a candidate for The Sex Party, and also in the 2011 NSW State Election with the Outdoor Recreation Party.
Intolerance is an engrossing, witty, and ultimately brilliant comedy short film. It was the winner of Tropfest in 1998 and I‘d still classify it as Austen Tayshus‘ best work (even compared with Australiana). The short was directed by Paul Fenech (creator of Fat Pizza) under the pseudonym Laura Fienstein, and was edited by David Rudd. Austen Tayshus also appears in the films Holy Smoke and Strange Planet.
INFX presents an anti-semitic feast of the highest regard! Herein we feature the entire full-length film of the Adolf Hitler-sanctioned Triumph des Willens.
Leni Riefenstahl began life as a dancer prior to the formation of Nazi Germany. Whilst performing in Prague, she suffered a broken knee, and thence moved into the film world. After gaining notoriety as an actress, she switched to making films. Riefenstahl is well regarded as a cinematic pioneer: she brought new innovations into the development of film propaganda. Her technical and aesthetic achievements in film production culminated in Triumph des Willens. Following a spate of propaganda films for the Third Reich, she completed her Olympia film in 2 parts; travelling to the home of the Olympics in Greece before documenting the 1936 games in Berlin. Olympia is widely regarded as the 20th-century benchmark for documentary. Her use of slow-motion capture and dolly shots tracking athletes was indeed ground-breaking. However, after the fall of Nazi Germany her own career disintergrated. Although not charged before the Nuremburg trials, she remained artistically void until re-emerging as a photographer in Sudan during the 70s; where she documented the Nuba tribe. For this she achieved international recognition, and continued on to realise her dream as an under-water photographer. Following her death aged 101, in 2003, her achievements in film were re-visited and posthumously endowed with the acclaim they deserved (in spite of her employ by the genocidal maniacs of the Nazi party).
It is the year 992 AD, and the Northern Korean peninsula is being ruled by a hierarchy of mean, oppressive and mentally distorted individuals. The people are enslaved by these tormentors and are cast into subservient poverty and starvation. Fast-forward over One Hundred and Twenty years later, and little has changed…
During a recent trip to the notorious DPRK I had the opportunity to meet the country‘s only film director. This director claims that he produces and directs a whopping 25 films a year (yes, one every two weeks!). And in spite of this ridiculousy fantastic and downright absurdly contrived country; I was in fact able to shoot my own film (of sorts); utilising the excellent studio facilities (namely the costume department). So take a trip back to the Kim Il-Sung inspired history of 757 AD and witness: Koryo Warriors.
Gianni Di Gregorio‘s film is one of the more thoughtful and comically entertaining films due for release this year. Di Gregorio (Writer/Director of 2008‘s acclaimed Gomorrah) both directs and plays the leading role in this wistful comedy; markedly titled Gianni e le Donne (Gianni & The Women) in his native Italian. Gianni (the leading character, and not to be confused with the Actor/Director himself) has recently reached a turning point in his life: the onset of ‘old age‘. Having been made redundant from work, he finds himself mindful of not only his aging face & body; but of his relevance to the world-at-large.
The film is endearing to the plight of this ageing Italiano and charming in it‘s climactic (yet restrained) final scenes. Its looks at the romanticism and sexuality of Gianni as he ponders his lacklustre marriage and his attention to (and from) young women. At once an humourous, heartfelt and honest observation of the aging man -The Salt Of Life is wonderfully shot with subtle stylisation. The film won‘t stir up any media-pack accolades but it‘s surely a fine production; with a brilliant cast.
The Salt Of Life opens this week at Cinema Nova.
Des hommes et des dieux provides a rare insight into philosophical ideas surrounding the theological-humanist realm. The film‘s religious and political posturing is set amid an ex-French colony‘s Islamic militant uprising. It is a study of conviction, dedication, and loyalties -to church, state, and self. Sweeping shots and cinematography that invokes a sense of foreboding frames a backdrop of Algerian Mediterrenean splendour that is mired by murder, subjugation and threats of violence.
Xavier Beauvois has sculpted a film that relates the hope of humanity with its insecurities and compromises, and one can‘t help but feel the presence (or influence) of Camus in the work. At times the film loses pace and relevance to its central narrative. However, this perhaps provides reflection on its monastic surroundings and religious themes. The film is utterly compelling; it is graceful and thoughtful in both composition and execution. Crucially, the audience is invited to delve beneath the somewhat melancholic and theological surface; wherein lies a rich bounty of questions about ourselves and our humanity and compulsions.
Of Gods and Men won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes and opens on May 26th.
Susanne Bier is a prominent Danish film maker and one of the finest screen directors in the contemporary film world. Her 2002 film Open Hearts (Elsker Dig For Evigt) is recognised internationally as one of the most acclaimed productions borne out of Lar Von Trier’s Dogme manifesto. Her 2004 film, Brothers (Brødre) did not appeal so much -but still it over shadows the abominable hollywood remake starring heart-throb sensations Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman and Tobey Maguire.
However, Bier orchestrated a brilliant return to form in her 2006 searing family meltdown After The Wedding (Efter Brylluppet); certainly her best after Open Hearts. Important to note is that both of these films featured the amazing Mads Mikkelsen.
That said, Bier‘s latest offering fails to out-shine even Brothers. Although it is easily a great piece of cinema, In A Better World (Haeven) was an utter disappointment, somewhat due to the fact that her film-making in such high regard. The characters were under-developed and at times their personalities vague and inconsistent. The empathy clearly sought for the characters failed to emote. It lacked the somewhat subdued elements of (although brash) realism; in the face of so much hyper-realism amid the genre. Add to this a repetitive score and casual shots in poor lighting (a feeble nod to Dogme?), and you‘re barely content. Come the closing shot and I was glad to be alone in the cinema as I was shouting aloud at the recklessness of such a cheesy and unbelieveable closing scene.
Fortunate in that between the 60s-era ‘changeover’ cinematic operation we have on the flagship MIFF site, the Forum; I was able to to catch Erik Gandini‘s documentary in near entirety.
This curiously Swedish film is presented by Lars Von Trier’s Zentropa -the production company that vyed for arthouse supremacy in the early 90s and has since made a resurgence with such titles as The Idiots, the Dogville trilogy and Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself.
Having an awareness of the manic that is politica Italiano, I found myself engaged in this perspective of Silvio Berlusconi‘s grasp of Italian media outlets. The film opens with a summary of erotic cinema; Ron Jeremy at the fore amidst shots of scantily-clad women in both popular ‘underground’ video and shopping malls on the continent, alike.
The film is at times tedious in its depiction of billionaire girls and television production impresarios: namely in its pursuit of t.v. ‘turncoat’ Fabrizio Corona but ultimately frames Berlusconi‘s hard hand on a post-modern propaganda machine that is both daunting and amazing; a description I use without any flattery.
This is a film perhaps best viewed on video but au contraire worth a visit to your supposedly ‘local’ or ‘independent’ cinema.
-Rock The Boat
Written and directed by Christian Carion (Joyeux Noël), Farewell is set in Moscow 1981, at the apex of Cold war tensions between the USSR and the West. The film is made in the vein of The Lives Of Others but also has a brooding foreboding in its narrative. You are not immediately drawn to the plight of French ex-pat Pierre (Guillaume Canet) but instead become immersed in Emir Kusturica‘s performance, characterised in his control of the role of disaffected Soviet renegade Sergio. This is an admirable performance; displaying the portrayal of this political matyr in a resplendent manner. I felt that the minor supporting role of CIA agent Feeney was dismal and grossly under-developed; as was Willem Dafoe‘s execution of the role. However, it is the brilliant acting by Kusturica (prominent director and musician himself) that anchors the film in its detached and ominous atmosphere. Well worth a watch.
I recently regained a grubby grip on this film masterpiece. Emir Kusturica‘s depiction of the charm and chaos between a sprawling Balkans family consisting of rival ‘gypsy gangsters‘ never ceases to amaze. The film consistently cements itself in any respectable top 5 favourite film lists. The film opens on the banks of the Danube, with the seminal techno classic ‘(I‘m a) Pit Bull Terrier‘ -a track crafted from the minimalist group Zabranjeno Pusenje, long before downtempo anthems bum-rushed the Eastern European dance music scene. However, this is just an opening sequence.
Do not be fooled by these wanna-be gangster buffoons and their hilarious bumbling bastardry -the plot opens up as the head of the family, Matko Destanov, unites his mob to make sure his daughter is wed and wed in a proper & timely fashion. The outcomes of these endeavours are heartfelt and often ill-concieved but ultimately, when played out on celluloid they will have you retching with laughter. You‘ll be gagging on your incomprehension of the trials and tributaries (yes, waterways) that the wedding party encounter.
Having been fortunate enough to traverse Bosnia a few years back; Kusturica‘s film is certainly reminiscent of the uneducated madmen that roam the countryside. Somewhat similar to the bogan or twit, this cariacature of clueless peasants from the Balkans is as interesting and humorous as it is sad and disappointing; with Bosnia a country particularly dire in despair. A place that an 80 year old professor who I stayed with in Mostar deemed “it is everyone against Bosnia. They have us land locked and it is each for their own“. Upon asking how he felt about the Croats, Serbs and other socio-political groups: “How do you think I feel when 100,000 people were slaughtered in this very town during a 2-day campaign“. A chilling reminder of the devastation of war. And it was less than 20 years ago. A ‘contemporary‘ war.
Last night was a real money maker. After throwing a few digital images around the bio box, I was able to whip up a stop-motion short involving 2 parts of a 100+ year old projector that has recently been decommissioned. The Bauer projector’s demise is a smirk on the face of the digital cinema technology that is becoming prevalent as the norm in cinema exhibition.
A synopsis of the short film (Francais):
2 ont diffame’ des parties de l’amour qui est la rencontre de projecteur de film quelques anti-heroes de canaille qui essayent d’assassiner ces 2 individus. Le resultat est la creation d’un amour obcene et wonderous. Un conte epique du combat pour former un coeur de 2 a brise’ des morceaux.
-Rock The Boat