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Stand van de maan (2004)
A unique and wonderful documentary about modern Indonesia
I'm surprised this film isn't more well known, at least judging from the lack of information shown here. This is the story of Christian family living in Indonesia - their daily struggles, the world they live in. Nothing stunningly dramatic happens but every scene is utterly compelling and even the smallest exchange sheds light on their situation, the characters, and the society as a whole. It has a wider political and religious context but for me the personal story is what it's all about. These are people we get to know and love. You really have to see it to understand.
The plight of Christians in Indonesia is to be always just a little on the outs - not necessarily discriminated against but just never quite part of the mainstream, sometimes not able to join in with the activities of the majority. This means the family in this film is looking at Indonesian society at a slight remove at times and this is fascinating. But they're also just poor people trying to get by and do the best for each other in difficult circumstances. They're sometimes comical, sometimes not even admirable - but they really get under your skin.
This seems like a wonderful old-fashioned observational style documentary - and it is, but it's also just as much an essay film, juxtaposing ideas and images in sophisticated ways to build up a picture, a stream of ideas. It's bold, and not afraid of using technique, and some people will call this 'showy' - I call it brave and entertaining. Visually, this is a fascinating film, full of clever shots and strange angles - all of which allows you to see reality, and the reality of the characters' lives, in a new way.
Love story with a rare truthfulness
This is one of those independent films that really deserves the name. It's shot on a low digital format with mostly friends and family of the lead actor and director and only one professional actor (Niki Owen). Tony Ryan plays himself (well, a fictional version of himself) and does so brilliantly.
It's shot hand-held style with limited lighting and at times pretty dodgy sound. And it does feel real, so much so that you feel a little like a voyeur at times, observing the developing relationship between this pair. Because things are not handled with typical 'film' smoothness we have to really think about simple things - like what it means to make a real connection with someone. This film forces you to look at things in a straightforward way. There's no music, you're not being told how to feel about anything. It's a strange but fascinating experience.
Ultimately, the film raises a lot of questions, about violence, love, Aboriginal and Anglo cultures coexisting. It doesn't necessarily answer anything, it just gets you thinking. There are moments that might make you quite uncomfortable and moments that are very warm. This is a film that rings true.
The Cars That Ate Paris (1974)
Sublimely weird horror comedy
A camp horror classic and Weir's feature debut. It's smart, gross, cheeky, macabre and just great.
Don't watch it if you think low budget is the same as being 'amateurish' because it's not. And if you're not used to Australian English, well, try not to panic. Doesn't matter if you don't get every word - just go with it!
This is the kind of film you don't see much any more, perhaps a product of its era. They weren't thinking much about marketing or target demographics - these filmmakers were just having a lot of fun, experimenting and coming up with something unique. Genre crossing, challenging and freaky, it also taps into some big themes about Australian identity and paranoia.
City Girl (1984)
Not a half-baked serial killer story ... it's actually great
The video cover makes it look a very trashy thriller - which it is not at all. It's about the life and times of Anne, a young and ambitious photographer. The style is very light and natural. The actors are convincing, 'real' types - Laura Harrington is especially good. Shot in Toronto I believe and set there too, which makes a nice change.
The ending is not so good, frankly. But the rest more than makes up for this. The subjects explored are unusual. Some great scenes and characters. A menage a trois after a party is depicted with such awkward truth that it's very funny - with a sting in the tail. The sequence where Anne photographs a stripper is filled with energy. A fascinating experience. The soundtrack's really good too.
That Old Feeling (1997)
Well-crafted comedy with old Hollywood quality
This is a lovely romp without a wasted moment. The often quite broad comedy is believable due to the great script and fine acting. The story cuts to the chase in a way that is refreshing (see the scene where Lilly and Dan go outside at the wedding). The leads are all appealing, especially Danny Nucci and Paula Marshall as an unlikely duo and Bette Midler and Dennis Farina, who are evidently having a fabulous time.
This is just flat out enjoyable and well-written, the way a lot of comedies were in the golden days of Hollywood. And like those great classic comedies, this is not a sappy sentimental story with any false nobility. People admit to not being perfect. They don't try to be anything they're not - or if they do they are quickly deflated.
The underlying theme is "be true to yourself and don't get sucked into the boring b.s. of life." This is the kind of subversive edge that the great screwballs had, right down to including a pompous wannabe politician and a gold-digging second wife.
Bravo. If only they'd make more like this. How about a sequel or the same team coming back together for another project?