Django Unchained

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django

What will strike some viewers and elude others in Django Unchained is the casting of James Remar in 2 separate roles; one, Butch Pooch, who features briefly in the beginning, with a full beard and cowboy hat, and a second, Ace Speck, in a top hat, and a white moustache much later in the film. It could just be a western thing. Leone, still the reigning King of the Spag’ West, used Van Cleef and Volonte as different antagonists to Eastwood’s nameless wanderer. In HBO’s Deadwood, actor Garrett Dillahunt, who played Jack McCall returned in season 2 as Francis Wolcott. More recently, Paul Thomas Anderson cast Paul Dano as Eli, and his own brother Paul in There Will Be Blood, and although it was suggested to be a last minute decision by the director due to a drop-out, it opened up enough investigation about attaining similarities in characters, or how the same characteristics – that of greed, for example – are then likewise embodied in two separate actors, whose beliefs are different, but fate, the same. Paul Thomas Anderson’s casting choices may have no meaning beyond convenience, but the choice to double cast Remar is a deliberate and fascinating one by Tarantino, which encourages you to consider all the reincarnations that Django Unchained brings into play.

Inglourious Basterds revisited the darkest chapter of German history, which was also one of the greater military victories of the United States. In Django Unchained, we arrive at the pre-civil war holocaust of American history, set in the southern states. Tarantino’s analogous shaping of character and circumstance do as much to reference himself politically, as a multitude of other films stylistically. Where Waltz played the “jew hunter” in Basterds, here he is a German bounty hunter named King Schultz, who seeks the slave Django (Jamie Foxx) to identify three brothers who are wanted for murder and train robbery. Schultz gives Django his first beer, his first horse and first gun and the pair set out to hunt, and then to rescue Django’s wife who is the property of the sadistic, yet hospitable cotton tycoon, Calvin Candie (Leonardo Di Caprio).

Tarantino draws several parallels between his own filmmaking and the elaborate charade that they put on in order to rescue Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), informed by a heroic German legend with a princess of the same name and several suggestions of Greek mythology. It is almost a self-parody and the likeness of production and product, history and myth are constantly reinforced, in a perpetuated dualism. Tarantino knows well that, while he may seed a chain of events in Django, his own right to provide the African-American population with a western hero is a kind of suicidal gesture for a white guy. He himself appears in a cameo role as a slaver, but otherwise uses Schultz as his surrogate. This is evident from the recasting of Waltz, and Schultz’ own musing of Django’s legend, his reservations about Django (and, by association, Jamie Foxx) portraying a slaver (in their charade, and by association, in the film) and the all the performative risks correlated with material so sensitive, it could explode. Schultz is Django’s director; he concocts the scheme, and infers the necessity of a guise in order to infiltrate an empire where women are tortured and raped and men fight to the death for entertainment – the symbolic and actual extremes of human slavery. Both Tarantino, with the film, and Schultz, within the film, are aware that they are entering an arena. They are very sensitive to their spectators, and take pride and pleasure in their showmanship.

Schultz’ silver-tongue and gay attire, are signatures of his commitment to performance, propriety and the Southern values that appear to be absent in all whom he and Django come across. Though Candie’s attire resembles something that Capt. Rhett Butler may have been spied in, he very clearly lacks the sophistication that the American aristocracy aspire to in the presence of an actual European. Candie is, however, similar to the jew-hunter character that Waltz charmed and repelled us with in Inglourious Basterds, a parallel that is made profound when a particular exchange is prompted between the two of them toward the end of the film, which appears to carry with it an overwhelming mythological significance; all characters are faced with their past and futures, embodied in that which they have historically found or newly find abhorrent. An American history of violence and German future of violence are glimpsed in a kind of putrid twist of fate.

Tarantino’s own history of violence, which includes rape (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill vol 1), torture and mutilation (Reservoir Dogs, Inglourious Basterds), is something difficult to ignore and lends Django to accusations of racial and political profligacy. The film does contain some particularly distressing scenes of human cruelty, the kind that were only strongly implied in Basterds, not shown – but the charge doesn’t stick. He has always assumed full responsibility for his characters’ prejudices: recall his portrayal of Jimmy, “did you notice a sign on the front of my house that said ‘dead nigger storage’?” in Pulp Fiction.

Samuel L. Jackson’s “house nigger”, ostensibly the most despicable character in the film, wears all the extremes of Tarantino’s history of criticism about how he portrays race. Jackson like Waltz, but more considerably so, is a component of and collaborative allusion to Tarantino’s existing work. The three of them form a response to an ongoing critical conversation about his flippancy with race issues that started back with Pulp Fiction. The film is a fantasy of vengeance against history, criticism, and political propriety itself, which by all rights should be questioned, challenged, and reconsidered and which we know can be tremendously violent. Using mythology to realise the dark ages of human history does not necessary trivialise the plight of the persecuted. It is political satire and allegory that is achieved in Django Unchained and Tarantino, in all his incarnations, knows well enough that this business of being “politically correct” is just a manner by which we veil racism with a poorly fashioned white hood.

Useless Children – Post Ending.

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Here is my first date with my new DSLR. This is “Post Ending”, track 1 on Useless Children’s POST ENDING // PRE COMPLETION released in 2012. Video taken at Gasometer Hotel in Collingwood last night.

It’s a great record on Iron Lung’s label. Check it out here.

Hitchcock

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Hitchcock

Hitchcock‘s audience is that of people old enough to have seen Psycho in theatres. Our subject is old, fat and coming off the success of North By Northwest. At its premiere, a reporter asks, “you’re sixty-years-old, shouldn’t you just quit while you’re ahead?” This scene can be viewed in the theatrical trailer for the film, but it was still a surprise to see such blatant foreshadowing in the first 2 minutes. The question is silly considering that Hitchcock’s contemporaries, like Chaplin, DeMille and Keaton were still making films into their seventies regardless of their successes.

Hopkins’ transformation has made a creature of him, but the creature isn’t frightening. His chin, which is like a malfunctioned flapping dickey, is hypnotically distracting. It seems such a superfluous feature to constantly have attention drawn to it as though Hitchcock had swallowed his own brain. This soft, rotund, sad sack Hitchcock – with an eating disorder – isn’t remotely intimidating. How can the master of suspense and fear, played by the same vessel, who peeled off a dead man’s face in Silence Of The Lambs be such a… pussy cat?

We see past Hitch’s chin via a strange subplot involving Ed Gein (Michael Wincott), and his deceased mother. With this, and the fondling of his stars’ head shots, the profile of Hitchcock’s “voyeurism” is inconsistent and doesn’t match what was probably a truly perverted, bullying nature. The filming of the shower scene, with some good screaming by Scarlett Johansson, is ridiculous and makes another lazy comparison between Hitchcock and his male characters that protects viewers from him, by filling the mentally ill with his frustrations, like freezing them in fiction. He becomes impossible to connect with, and the romance, which is supposed to hold the film together, becomes secondary to confining Hitchcock’s fears and desires to the product of his craft.

The Psycho marketing campaign is Hollywood legend, and a realisation of this legend is always going to be problematic particularly in a domestic drama that never aspires to the affect or style of its subject. There is a second Hitchcock film The Girl, based on his relationship with Tippi Hedren, starring Toby Jones as Hitchcock, who also featured in Infamous, as Truman Capote, in competition with Phillip Seymour Hoffman a few years back (an irrelevant, though interesting, recurrence). A Hitchcock collection on blu-ray is now available featuring 12 of his later films, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents is playing on TV again. Melbourne’s Astor Theatre screened The Birds and Psycho back to back and Vertigo recently succeeded Citizen Kane as the greatest film of all time – a title Kane held for 50 years – in a critics poll conducted every 10 years by Sight & Sound magazine. Hitch is the flavour of the month, and the Hollywood system is unlikely to yield anything for his admirers to engage with. Thankfully, Mark Cousin’s The Story Of Film, which offers an awing, poetic chronology of film history, names Hitchcock as cinema’s great artist. Watch that instead.

Best Films Of 2012

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Here is Film Fervour’s top 10 films of 2012 released theatrically or to DVD in Australia. I’d like to honourably mention Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love, Whit Stillman’s Damsels In Distress, Sam Mendes’ Skyfall, Steve McQueen’s Shame and David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method as they could all be moved into and off this list at a whim.

Look forward to the 2013 theatrical releases (hopefully) of many festival films I had the pleasure of previewing: Like Someone In Love, Modest Reception, A Simple Life and Alps, to name a few.

The year’s worst film was a tie between Ted and Les Misérables. 

1. COSMOPOLIScosmopolis

Cosmopolis, which I write about here, is a culmination of a life of work examining human desire and its destructive/reproductive relationship with technology. This sterile, bleak and darkly funny film odyssey is like a sequel to Crash, showing us that we are so bonded to this greater, unseen machine, that all stimulation is mechanism, all feeling is programmed, all experience fabricated. From Stereo to Cosmopolis, Cronenberg has succeeded in paving an existential passage through cinema that can be mapped like no other auteur’s.

2. HAIL hail2

Hail, which I review here, revisits a class of Australian citizen with whom we have sympathised through legend, comic archetype and sorrowful moral tale. With a collage narrative, Courtin-Wilson delivers a radical portrait of human struggle with non-actors, and an artful rendering of sadness, love and rage, paying homage to some of film’s great humanist artists and experimental pioneers. There is nothing like it.

3. THE MASTERthe-master01

The Master, which I have written about here, is a film that explores several dualities of human conflict through a character that lives all and none of it simultaneously. It considers the confines of a class-conscious society and uses class as a means by which we attribute self-worth. Dodd and his team going down in an elevator, all heads inclined toward the upmarket New York apartment from which they were excused is an excellent metaphor of prescribed understanding and social confinement. Where Clarice Starling – who shared a similar frame in an elevator with recruits that towered over her in The Silence Of The Lambs – wishes to ascend the ranks as a woman in a man’s vocation, Dodd (Hoffman) wishes to set the social agenda by reworking history. Freddie Quell (Phoenix), on the other hand, aspires to nothing, and is free to do anything. The possibilities for viewers are endless.

4. HOLY MOTORSholy motors

Monsieur Oscar, a performer, laments the dwindling appreciation for the individual artist in a digital age. Through a series of startling vignettes, director Leos Carax and long-time collaborator Denis Lavant have unlocked a new dimension in cinematic art that shows us precisely what magic can be still be woven in a medium largely stuck in a kind of creative drought. This is a film lover’s golden ticket.

5. THE DEEP BLUE SEAdeep blue sea

With what is possibly the great female performance of the 21st century, The Deep Blue Sea captures a sorely romantic and sensuous love affair between the wife of a Royal court judge and a dashing Royal Air Force pilot. Centred on just one day and night, Hester (Rachel Weisz) and Freddie (Tom Hiddleston), bearing unspeakable symptoms of post-war depression, are caught between their own destructive natures and carrying on their immoral situation. With a stirring wartime soundtrack provided by drunks in pubs and passengers in train stations, the film is a beautiful portrait of British disillusionment, female desire, and the heart’s betrayal in its reworking of memory and how it shapes our experience of love. The best final scene of any film in 2012, and the best love scene.

6. MARGARETmargaret

Delayed in Australian cinemas for a number of years, we finally received the magnificent Margaret in 2012. When Lisa (Anna Paquin), is involved in a fatal bus accident, her own guilt leads her to alienate all those around her in a knee-jerk effort to correct the damage she feels responsible for. Highly intelligent and self-aware, Lisa finds little solace human exchange as she makes efforts to experience adolescence while suppressing/rebelling against her own maturity. Though her suffering is contending the greater sorrows of New York City, she and her mother are ultimately delivered by the redemptive influence of art. It is larger than life.

7. MARGIN CALLmargin call

Set largely over one night in an investment bank in the early stages of the GFC, Margin Call‘s drama is written on its characters’ faces, and lies between their discourse like a gaping, incalculable void. When two young employees learn that a miscalculation could destroy their firm, the board is summoned together to discuss a strategy that will keep them afloat, no matter what the cost to its investors or the public.  J.C. Chandor’s understated bureaucratic process, carried out by a group of despicably wealthy men, never plays up its sense of urgency, or emergency. It is as still as the warm New York night, completely removed from the bustle and noise of the city and yet tempered with an overwhelming sense of impending doom. Paul Bettany and Simon Baker are excellent.

8. ELENAElena2

Elena is a dutiful wife to a wealthy, ageing Vladimir. She prepares his meals, cleans for him, and is a warm and abiding companion. Both she and Vladimir have children from previous marriages. Elena’s son, Sergei, has a family of his own that Elena supports with her pension payments. Vladimir has a daughter with a history of sex and drug addiction who wants nothing to do with him. As a film with little more than a single tremor in the plot, this superbly Russian moral drama opens up to unknown dangers, treating them with refreshing frankness and some inexpressible cosmic influence. In what is the best written scene of 2012, Vladimir’s daughter visits him in hospital and a casual, and tremendously abundant exchange occurs between them.

9. MAGIC MIKEmagic-mike-pic04

Magic Mike suffers nothing but a sketchy/conservative understanding of it being a film about male strippers. Which it is. Soderbergh’s metallic-gold Floridian-American dream follows Mike, a stripper, who aspires to start his own custom-design furniture business. He takes the young Adam (Alex Pettyfer) under his wing, getting him work as part of Dallas’ (Matthew McConaughey) stage ensemble, while working hard at several jobs to get the deposit ready for his business loan. Adam takes to stripping, and the party life, like a fish to water and despite the apprehensions of his protective, hard-working sister (Cody Horn), the boys party very hard. Soderbergh has made a new instrument of Tatum, while capturing a very natural, fumbling romance in a beautifully false paradise. The hottest film of the year.

10. DARK HORSEdark horse

This film is Todd Solondz’ most satirical, cartoonish assault on Western civilisation since he began his career in 1984.       Abe (Jordan Gelber) and Miranda (Selma Blair) meet at a wedding and start dating. Miranda is severely depressed and concedes to the over-eager Abe, the “dark horse” of his family and also the most despicable bi-product of the capitalist experiment that could be conjured on-screen. Abe is incapable of anything, and desires everything. His deluded self-image manifests in a splendid cinematic cyclone as the cold facts of his pointless existence slowly start to dawn on him. It is Solondz’ most anxious and hilariously unsympathetic film and hits like a brick to the face.

Academy Award Best Picture Nominations

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clint eastwoodHere is a page of trailers for the films nominated for Best Picture at the upcoming 2013 Academy Awards. I thought this might be user friendly for those looking to follow the awards. Let’s go alphabetical:
AMOUR – I liked a Michael Haneke film?

ARGO – a film that steps around its politics behind a flag of vacuous characters

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD – looks like a commercial, and kinda is

DJANGO UNCHAINED – yeah, get excited

LES MISERABLES – will win the razzie

LIFE OF PI – there’s my review https://filmfervour.com/2013/01/12/life-of-pi/

LINCOLN – no arguments here

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – looks good, eh?

ZERO DARK THIRTY – lots of helicopters

At this date, I put my money on Lincoln, because I have no preference. Will post some predictions after I actually see Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained.

Life Of Pi

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Life Of Pi begins in a zoo, with the candid images of its inhabitants climbing trees, eating, napping, flirting. Initially, each colourful creature is flesh and blood, but a large CGI elephant lumbers into frame, followed by an ape so magnificent looking, it couldn’t be real, then another digital creation – or, maybe, it is real? Were any of them? Real or not, they’re exquisite.

Pi (Irrfan Khan) recalls his survival story to a journalist (Rafe Spall) looking to write it. He begins with his childhood, his unusual namesake and how he to came to believe in God(s). For Pi, spirituality and ritual are exponential and secure in this belief, he is able to live within the customs of multiple faiths at once, becoming a Hindu-Muslim-Catholic, uninterested in a singular religious “truth”.

His family decide to migrate their zoo from India to the United States via ocean liner. A storm hits, and the ship is sunk. After a traumatic sequence of events unfolds between Pi and the other survivors on a life raft, he awakens to a sea so still that it mirrors the sky. The horizon is indiscernible were it not for the upright position of the raft in the water, and he is met with a ferocious Bengal tiger. The tiger’s name is Richard Parker, a human name given him by mistake. Although we can see that this is a post-production creation, there hasn’t been such a realised carnivore since Spielberg’s velociraptor in Jurassic Park. Audiences will be divided between the drama, and the spectacle of just how close digital animation has come to creating life.

Where 3D technology has done little to enhance anything outside of Avatar, it is part and parcel to Pi’s intrinsic ideas about perception and reality. It is used to astonishing effect in a deeply spiritual scene where Pi looks into the mouth of the universe, where the water and sky blend into a tunnel of imagery that rushes and blooms onscreen.

The journalist is a troublesome but necessary component to Pi’s story that undoes Pi’s analogy with a single, delineating sentence. He speaks for the audience, which is unfair, but reinforces to us that the film has such a sumptuous symbolic trajectory that it does it little justice to yield a single truth from it. The result is something like Jonathon Glazer’s Birth. Pi’s fear conjures an existence within which he can survive, as Kidman’s grief gives birth to the ghost of her lost love. Where the ocean represents pre-existence, the sky opens up to the afterlife, and where Kidman stands devastated in the surf, Pi’s life begins again on the shore.

Life Of Pi is a picturesque production of cinematic rhetoric. Recent work from Kiarostami and Leos Carax’ Holy Motors explore much of the same meditations on truth and cinema. It also uses a principle of Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut: that the truth lies in the telling. Though its alchemy won’t turn atheists to Catholics, it speaks volumes on the human experience using the same mirror tricks that have historically furnished the cinema in its simulacrum­ purpose, the imitation of life.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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We are uncertain exactly what flight of fancy took Bilbo hot-footed out of the Shire to join 12 dwarves on a mission to reclaim their native mountain of Alebore, which was seized by a dragon named Smaug over 60 years ago. We know the choice is an historical one, in both the J.R.R Tolkien chronology but more over, to us, those who have come to know Bilbo Baggins and hobbits and the greater Middle Earth through cinema. The Lord Of The Rings franchise has already taken us on a journey that belongs to a future 60 years ahead, in which a ring is to be destroyed and a king to claim his throne, and unlike any other sequel, remake, reboot, prequel – whatever – the replication of one of cinema’s most magical landscapes is a bewildering watch, because of its far less ambitious narrative. There is no great war, no grand parable of industry, greed and corruption of mankind. This is simply a hobbit’s tale.

The choice to create a mutual place in time from which the The Fellowship Of The Ring and Hobbit trilogies can extend, suggests that we must accept the LOTR films as a component of The Hobbit experience. Bilbo, again, sits at his writing desk before his birthday party, beginning a book about his adventures. He addresses the story to his kin, Frodo, and sure enough, there’s Frodo. Seeing Elijah Wood back in high pants and long locks is something of wonder, like uncovering a forgotten memory. Bilbo tells his story beginning with a visit from Gandalf (Ian McKellan), followed shortly by a veritable siege of festive, musical dwarf-kind. The dwarf theme is wonderfully mysterious; 12 deep male vocals in fine oaky harmony, and it is a beautiful addition to Howard Shore’s LOTR ensemble, which possesses the film’s most stirring nostalgic affect.

The jovial, grouchy, slightly demented, eleventy-one year-old Bilbo – performed beautifully by Ian Holm – is nowhere to be seen in Martin Freeman. His puzzled, apprehensive, hanky-loving hobbit is not so endearing. He is like us, a party to the spectacle of the world outside The Shire, not a component of it. One of the commendable performative tricks that wrapped us up in LOTR was characters’ voices and accents speaking courageous dialogue. Who could forget Gimli’s “and my axe” line, Gandalf’s “you shall not pass” or Sam’s peculiar “o” sound in saying “Frodo”? We don’t get to know our 12 short warriors as well as we’d like, but there are still 2 films to come.

Many characters return but none so strikingly as Andy Serkis’ Gollum. A more refined performance and one that is conscious enough of its future as well, as there is no sign of Smeagol. The creature’s loneliness and delirium are precisely what you’d expect from a Gollum who possessed “the one ring”. His “precious” pronunciation is also perfect and had the scene, like the book played out entirely in darkness, it would have lost none of its terror or mystery. Freeman, and the film’s unusual framing/staging choices are redeemed in what is one of the most masterful sequences of Peter Jackson’s LOTR repertoire.

In terms of fantasy-action there is a thrilling, labyrinthine escape from the Goblin King – like a platform video game – as close to an amusement park attraction as cinema has come and truly suited its 3D/48fps technology. The mines and mountains of the bygone dwarf era or the present Goblin domain, like sliced layer-cakes of rock, are a hellish playground writhing with wormy, hairy life that bursts with flame, blades and crushing stone. Jackson takes us spiralling through elaborate empires, instead of panning over grey, CGI war zones. The film’s particular genus of orc also ride wondrous beasts that are like snarling, flightless incarnations of that thing from The Neverending Story.

With many formats in which to view this spectacle, The Hobbit is a bitter/sweet return to a place that has scarcely escaped its viewers’ minds with thanks to the belated issues of its extended cuts, and finally in 2011, extended blu-ray releases. Though there are some concerns with the film’s overall artificiality, it is thrilling to back in annual anticipation of a journey to Middle Earth for as many hours as we can get.

Paris Manhattan

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paris manhattan

It is rare that a fan-film makes its way to population through legitimate channels. Its channel is usually YouTube and its love and knowledge of its subject is often profoundly nerdy. If not pornographic, it will ascribe itself to the comic genre, and jokes with which other fans can relate and interact, will have it shared, talked about, viral. Sophie Lellouche’s Paris Manhattan must be commended for its sheer existence because it’s an impossible film.

Anna Taglioni is Alice, a pharmacist working in her father’s business who prescribes Woody Allen films to depressed women, and armed robbers, instead of medicine. She’s a knockout blonde who plods around like a wooden puppet, and can’t find a husband because she’s too tied up in her misuse of her favourite director’s body of work. Since adolescence, Alice has spoken to an Allen poster that looms large from a wall in her bedroom. The poster speaks back with smatterings of Woody’s own dialogue which would work if the film was a parody like Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.

When Alice meets security system designer, Victor (Patrick Bruel), who has never seen a Woody Allen film, a friendship is formed and built on some strange investigations into Alice’s family life. His work and Alice’s, which occupy much screen-time do not carry any symbolic significance and are mere echoes of boutique queerness in the modern French post-Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain purview.

Lellouche’s Allen-sphere is incoherent and idiotic. When asked why she likes his films, Alice’s answers are flimsy, or she dismisses the question altogether. Manhattan shares the film’s title with Paris, but Manhattan and Manhattan are so remote to Alice that it completely alienates her from viewers; rather than charmingly unconventional, she is pathologically trite.

The film is a collage of misappropriated Allen ideations. His vanity, self-obsession, death anxiety and neuroticism, the precarious nuggets of Woody lovers, are not attended – which would be refreshing, of course, if only Lellouche had succeeded them with anything insightful or interesting. Rhythmically anarchic, Paris Manhattan is a bizarre narrative compression, centred on a character whose existential puzzle revolves around her prioritising her career over marriage – another system of gender confinement disguised as radical thinking – something that Allen, inclusive of all his prostitute and actress characters, never stoops to. Any woman claiming to adore Woody Allen – and it is him that she appears to favour over his film legacy – must do so with reservations. This strange pandering to the director’s ego, which is the most documented ego in cinema, delivers some disheartening/disappointing twists.

Wish You Were Here

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A hot and colourful twilight tableau takes us through a culture shock on the streets of Cambodia. Four friends are ecstatic – and sometimes hysteric, as they seem to be jeering and throwing their heads back in laughter at everything they encounter – but more ecstatic because they decide, on their last night, to actually take ecstasy pills at a party. The following day Jeremy (Anthony Starr) is missing and the others return to Sydney full of dark secrets.

Thus begins a pretty engrossing experience and an all too familiar (and all the more haunting) tale of Australia’s notorious profligacy in South-East Asia.  While our characters are smiling and dancing and laughing on their holiday – the locals are frowning, glaring and merely serving/servicing these Home And Away looking tourists.

Shifting from missing persons in Cambodia pretty quickly, the film concentrates on family deceptions and betrayal. While we long to know the truth of Jeremy’s disappearance, we often forget he’s missing at all with what drama pervades Dave (Joel Edgerton) and Alice’s (Felicity Price) beachside home.

Edgerton is a natural performer, in particular with children and special mentions go to Otto Page and Isabelle Austin-Boyd – every scene with these kids is candid and organic. The adults are all a bit unlikeable but its hard to know what makes a charismatic Australian personality as Eric Bana’s transcendent turn as Mark Reed was finally surpassed by a dusty Kelpie last year. When our hearts are easily won with underworld criminals, dogs and toilet cleaners – its difficult for us to identify with well-to-do young families living in modern apartments, with alfresco dining, overlooking Bondi beach. It is when Alice visits Jeremy’s parents that we are reminded that he belonged to anyone (as Steph – played by Theresa Palmer – had only just met him) and we find again another reflection of helpless parents fearing the safety of their children. Lost? Or mixed-up? Or locked-up in foreign prisons?

All but Alice (due to her pregnancy) took ecstasy on that final night in Cambodia, but each separate, subsequent action would affect the unit collectively. The clear lesson here is: stay away from drugs.

Wish You Were Here is a finely structured film about sticking together, whether looking for cheap thrills in South-East Asia or balancing parenthood, work, and love in the aftermath of trauma.

* a version of this post originally appeared at filmblerg.com

Iron Sky

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In Iron Sky we see the rise of the 4th Reich, who have been building war machines on the moon since 1945 and watching an extensively abridged version of The Great Dictator to inform their growing generations of Hitler’s glory. When two astronauts (sent by the president as part of an elaborate voter campaign) land on the moon’s unexplored shady surface, they are accosted by a group of very stylish, gravity-defying space men. Washington, the first African-American on the moon, is assimilated into the Nazi co-op in an atrocious experiment and with the naïve Renate, and ambitious Klaus (two Gen X moon Nazis vying the future of National Socialism) they descend on Earth for a new holocaust.

Begun as a teaser trailer aired at Cannes, and then a viral sensation on YouTube, the warped brainchild of Finnish director Timo Vuorensola is an idea so extraordinary, its almost irresistible. It had a cult status before it started production, and is partly fan-funded. Shot in Finland, Germany, the United States and here in Australia, the special effects are great for its budget and the camp costume design is a marvellous mockery of the seductive SS uniform.

This feat of a team effort, 6 years in the making, does not necessarily vouch for the weak plot, babel performances or out-dated politics. The United States president resembles Republican candidate Sarah Palin but, please, she is SO 2010. The Nazi jokes are likewise exhausted and surprisingly enough the holocaust isn’t really mentioned at all.

Where conspiracy/cult movies like The Celestine Prophecy, or Battlefield Earth have a kind of niche market or faith, Iron Sky, parodying conspiracy, didn’t dare take itself too seriously or as seriously as the kind of audience it might attract. It may have been funnier, if it had been a little more evangelistic and less like a really bad Hollywood spoof from 5 of the 10 writers of Date Movie.

* a version of this post originally appeared at filmblerg.com