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44 reviews in total 
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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A spiritual journey?, 25 January 2013

Two decades later, Thelma & Louise continues to absorb our attention. We can analyze it, admire the acting, praise the cutting, remember the story. But that doesn't tell us why it remains such a cult movie. And not just the feminists, who claimed ownership. Its appeal is universal, and I believe it is because it is laden with symbolism that engages those who, deep down, have a mystical experience. The main symbol is water. To many, water means baptism, purification, cleansing. T & L, throughout, shows water in many forms. Washing, of course, but there's irrigation, wet paving and rain. It appears at crucial times. Watch for the women as they wash hands and faces; note the changes in the drama.

Would the Bard have approved? I think Shakespeare would have loved this story. It has his kind of ending, his kind of humor, his kind of 'cast-reduction plan'. It is a very funny film. OK, some of the humor is too targeted to the stupidity of the men. Is that why some feminists like it? But there are some comedic lines and risible clichés. Those of a religious bent will recognize the dramatic elements of purification, retribution and revelation. When the women stop to admire the view over the canyon, do they experience that moment of glory to which many of a certain belief aspire? Their faces, their embrace, tell us that. If you want to analyze, note the moment when Thelma adopts the leadership role. Drama is about change; this has it in spades. This feminist came out of the hard-top smiling 20 years ago. In 2013, my third viewing, T & L is still a great movie.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A nice clean print!, 22 January 2013

Who was first in this "suspense" genre? Was it Carol Reed or Alfred Hitchcock? In "Running Man" Carol Reed uses much the same formula as Hitch. Music? Yes, well. The bloke with a problem? Sure. The very pretty blonde? Of course. That was the James Bond movies, too. In the end, who cares? Get a good story - yes, it was a good story - and get a good cameraman, and you are home and hosed. So my bias is showing. An Australian cinematographer of renown, even an Aussie, John Meillon as the walk-on rich sheep farmer who loses his identity. A weak point that. Without a passport, how was he to travel? The accents. John Meillon's normal voice is educated Australian. What on earth persuaded him to adopt an exaggerated Ocker accent? I mean, rich Aussie sheep farmers, if anything, will often adopt a plummy "received" accent. And Laurence Harvey. Where were all the voice coaches? "Running Man" was a fair attempt at the suspense genre. But it did not ever have me on the edge of the seat. When I first saw it nearly 60 years ago, I was looking for the great camera work. I think one aerial sequence has been cut for the TV version. It was superb.

17 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
How an 'accident' changed a community - and the law, 6 January 2012

Palm Island is a very beautiful little island off the tropical Queensland coast of north-east Australia. It is isolated socially, if not geographically, from the rest of the world. A century ago, it was a church mission, the destination of people who gave 'trouble' in mainland missions. The population tended to be Australian aboriginal, or from Pacific islands. In another culture, Palm Island would be an idyllic resort, with fishing, boating and all the attractions that money can buy. But Palm Island has no industry of note. Unless you count 'welfare' as industry.

An odd background to this story is that Queensland in the '80s had the lowest rate of reported domestic violence in Australia, with the highest rate of Aboriginal incarceration. Later studies showed that Queensland police officers had themselves a bad record of domestic violence.

The death of an Aboriginal man minutes after being arrested for being drunk and disorderly was apparently so important that the arresting officer released without charge at the same time a violent man who confessed to bashing his wife. The police claimed the death was an accident. The post-mortem showed injuries typical of a calamitous motor accident. The police officer was acquitted of manslaughter after a coroner named him. Another inquest many years later revealed that various police officers had lied, connived, and ignored positive evidence of an eyewitness.

This documentary is in the finest tradition of Australian reportage. Considering the final outcome (the Queensland government paid substantial compensation to the victim's family) this is a well-balanced story, beautifully photographed. There are no actors, but the natural love of the camera by the Aboriginals makes it a moving and memorable film. Police refused to help with the film, but the editor has cut into the story sequences shot on police video. The contrast between the shots of violence and the cutaways to serene landscapes is heart-stopping.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
How to do revenge!, 3 January 2012

When this film was released in Australia, it preceded the release of 'Jean de Florette', the first episode in what really is a continuing tale. Therefore, viewers were mystified by the story, even if they were impressed by the performances. 'Jean de Florette' appeared some months later, too late for cineastes to see Manon again. Luckily, the two are now being presented as a package, giving filmgoers a chance to see the two in the correct order.

The result is very impressive indeed. The French continue to give us lessons in movie-making, and this duo was a change from the New Wave that showed us all how movies can be made. Emotions are to the fore, and Manon has revenge imprinted on it. 'Jean de Florette' gave us a hint, as the young Manon listens - and sees. She doesn't say much, but her face tells us that she is thinking through a resolution.

I'm reminded of Nicole Kidman, in 'Dogville'. The character, Grace, is put upon by the locals, just as is Manon. The American treatment of revenge is different, with a different kind of violence. Dogville's conclusion is shocking and heart-rending; Whether you regard Emmanuelle Beart's face as more expressive than Nicole Kidman's is probably a very personal thing. But Manon's cold fury is a cinematic masterpiece, and we are well-prepared for the finale. This movie is so good I've no desire to read the book!

Here I Am (2011/III)
6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
The special touch of Australian Aboriginal film making, 10 December 2011

There's something "different' about the films coming out of Aboriginal groups in Australia. I asked an artist, Alan, in the Tiwi Islands: 'What is it with you guys that you make such great pictures?' Alan replied: 'You whitefellas have to go to college to learn to paint;' and putting his hand on his chest, 'It comes from in here.' Recently we have seen 'Rabbit Proof Fence', 'Toomelah', 'Samson and Delilah', and now 'Here I am'. This movie is not quite S & D, but it has the same cinematographer. Bec Cole and her husband have gone into the city, when so many Australian films have used the outback. This is not a pretty film, and I would have liked to give it a higher rating. It is well shot, and the performances from the tyro actors are truly remarkable. The same day I visited an exhibition by photographer Martin Mischkulnig, 'Smalltown', which is set in outback Australia. But his pictures are of 'white' Australia, landscapes and genre photos mostly without people. I cannot imagine an Aboriginal team making pictures without people.

An early post has described the film very well. I can but say, I'll try to see it again, and I hope many people give it the same value. I've never sat in a room with Aboriginal women in a shelter, but this film made me feel I was there.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A less than satisfying sequel, 26 November 2011

This writer tries to avoid comparing the film with the book, They are totally different media. I've never before referred to other posts on this site. This time I have to break both rules.

This film is effectively a sequel to the memoir 'Surviving Maggie', John Fingleton's tale of his dysfunctional family, and their violent, alcoholic mother. Yes, John's grandmother. The slant here is that of 'Once were Warriors', the great little movie from New Zealand, which was based on the experiences of a violent mother. In 'Warriors' the violent one becomes the father. The victim in John's memoir is Harold, played here by Geoffrey Rush, who has been turned into a violent alcoholic. Why authors do this, I do not know. What I do have to ask is: Is this a good movie, in itself? Now, the other posts. It is obvious that the American cut is different than the Australian version. Correction: The DVD is different. It would seem that at 'live' showings in the USA, there was a Q & A. Parts of this appear as part of the DVD version.

So, what about the movie? It's a good story, well acted. Judy Davis does the oppressed woman very well. So well, that it indicates some bravery on her part taking these roles. The invariably competent Geoffrey Rush is an excellent drunk. I suppose most of us have met his like. The camera work is fine, but the sound (all that splashing water!) is not good.

For the social psychologist, this is an interesting rendition of the effect of inherited characteristics through three generations. It is likely that more people have read 'Surviving Maggie' than have viewed 'Swimming Upstream'. I usually refrain from suggesting that people take in both the film and the book. In this case, You might enjoy both. There's a six-months wait for the book at my local library!

Railways (2010)
7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
A Japanese lesson in how to make a movie!, 18 November 2011

At a glance, there's nothing new about this story. Hajimi is a senior executive with a manufacturer making railway stuff. He's at odds with his wife, who has her own little struggling business. His daughter is rude to him. He's married to the job, and his daughter keeps reminding him of that. His company exports to America which is suffering an economic downturn. Sound familiar? Well, he is offered a promotion and a seat on the board. All he has to do is close down the plant he loves before the company goes bankrupt. Enamored of trains, he has little choice but to take the new job - or resign. What to do? Then his best friend, another worker also a train buff, dies.

This could have been another melodrama, or a potboiler. But a brilliant writer-director has painted a glorious picture of a divided family, eventually brought together by a sick Granny. We see vintage trains, lovingly depicted by a cinematographer of real talent. There are no tricks, no CGI. The action is rhythmic, with sequences of quiet, close-up contemplation, and railway operations so correct, so accurately drawn, you can almost smell the diesels.

Here in Australia we thought we had a monopoly on wide-screen landscapes. Here the camera dwells on gorgeous panoramas. And then we see a team of marvellous actors, telling us what is happening silently in close-up what is happening, just with their facial expressions.

There is no "wow" ending; it is almost predictable. Highly recommended for railway buffs. For lovers of drama, this movie is a great example of putting human emotions onto film. Every character changes. For those averse to subtitles, this film does them well. I detected one tiny and insignificant error. If you've enjoyed Japanese films in the past, well, this one is different.

4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
An exciting picture of one man's New York, 11 November 2011

Once upon a time this reviewer was a photographer who rode a bicycle for work. I carried a camera always. Film, until digital became cheaper. Here we have a man in love with his city and his camera. Director Press (what an apt name!), who also photographs and cuts, sets out to draw a man. In doing so he puts a tiny figure into a broad panorama of what some would say is the cultural capital of the world. Could a Bill Cunningham exist anywhere else? OK, we spend a little time in Paris, but the flavor is New York. This reviewer knows New York, has been influenced by Paris with but fleeting visits. This film alludes to the work of Jean Luc Godard, a director of imagination. Amongst photographers, Paris and New York evoke images that stimulate and provoke.

In my reviews I've been critical of hand-held camera work. Otherwise fine films, I believe, have suffered because the cinematographers have forgotten that viewers expect to see steady images. This film uses hand-held wisely, intercutting it with fixed scenes. There is a rhythm of busy, noisy shots interspersed with quiet, even contemplative material. This is an absorbing, thoughtful motion picture, telling a story of a "stills" master.

As I walked out of the cinema, people chatted animatedly with strangers about what they had seen, a reaction I had not before seen. My own reaction was envy and admiration. Here was an octogenarian riding a bike, when I had had to give it up; a photographer productive and imaginative. Lovely and exciting.

Toomelah (2011)
12 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
A story of alienation, violence and hope, 30 October 2011

Toomelah used to be a mission for aboriginal Australians. In the far north of the State of New South Wales, it was too far away to attract any attention from the state capital, Sydney, although it was right on the border of Queensland. Not until a community nurse resigned after exposing the abuse of children was any help offered, when the Australian government started an "intervention". Housing, sewerage and water supply were improved. To-day, the location of this film is still an aboriginal settlement. Its people are keen on education for their children, but substance abuse remains a problem.

Ivan Sen, who had been brought up here, walked the 15 Kilometres from the nearest town, Boggabilla. This is rich agricultural country, with cotton cropping. Sen's movie (yes, he does the script, the filming, the music) ignores the wealth of this sub-tropical demi-paradise. Poverty and neglect are apparent. Young Daniel carries the picture with very little to say. He is the observer, the cadet druggie. His father is alienated, devoted to methylated spirit. His mother tries half-heartedly to get him to go to school, but his disruptions force his expulsion. His Nan is his only consolation. He tries to relate to a visiting aunt, but she lives in the past. A violent episode, triggered by Daniel, brings resolution and redemption and hope.

This movie is well worth a look. The music is good. Sen is "handy" with the camera. I think perhaps that he could have used a tripod and a focus-puller. Sen edited the film himself. A few more seconds of cutting would improve it.

21 out of 28 people found the following review useful:
How to make an absorbing movie, 24 October 2011

Patrick White earned a Nobel Prize for literature. Having read only one of his novels and found it 'heavy', I was keen to see what someone could do to The Eye of the Storm. Given the director was Fred Schepisi, I knew it would be 'different'. First find a screenwriter. Judy Morris is an accomplished actor. I expected to see an 'actor's' film, with great lines and self-evident visuals. Yes, Judy Morris can write, and rather more clearly than Patrick White. Look for her in one of the scenes! Next find a cast. "Storm' has brilliant people. To nominate just one, Helen Morse proves that she can sing and dance, skills that I'd not seen before. Rush and Rampling carry the action, with Alexandra, Schepisi's daughter, a clever foil. Judy Davis has a face that seems to accommodate any role.

No, I won't be reading this novel. What we see here is a great motion picture. We've become accustomed to Australian films depicting poverty, isolation, and mayhem. This has an air of opulence and connectedness.

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