Berlin Syndrome

I deliberately avoided any 9.30pm sessions of Berlin Syndrome (2017) in case I scared myself on the dark walk home.  Some films are best kept for daylight hours.  Watching a thriller is as much a test of the film, as it is of my internal fear that I will remember painful, revolting, cruel scenes from the film, bring that fear into my sacred space, and not be able to sleep, perhaps even have a nightmare during which I cannot grab anything.  One could probably achieve the same by locking me in a room with a bird or a reptile (this is not an invitation), and saying, “Go to sleep.”

When I ‘get through’ a thriller, with minimal sensory ‘damage’ it is a small achievement.  Tonight though, I was too late to see a comedy, and settled for another film on my list of desired fillums[sic] to watch, the 7.10pm session of Berlin Syndrome.  So, really no different from the 9.30pm assault upon the visceral senses after all.

Director Cate Shortland’s Berlin Syndrome is an engaging, though at times slow-moving erotic thriller about a young photojournalist who has packed up her life in Brisvegas, Australia, for a creative endeavour in Berlin, but meets hell instead.  At first, Teresa Palmer’s Clare is your prototypical hiding-her-light-under-a-bushel solo backpacker, enjoying a fun fling.  She discovers too late that behind cute local Andi’s  (played by Max Riemelt) friendly mask, lies a wolf in waiting.  But within herself, Clare finds her own animal instincts in an increasingly excruciating, in more ways than one, fight for survival.

See the preview here: 

c. Kylie J. Lawrence 2017

 

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Table 19

I don’t know if it is an ephemeral hang-over from last night’s Samhain*, but tonight, sitting alone in Cinema 9 at Dendy Newtown, I could feel presences, at first in the row behind me, to the left, then later, further along the right of that row.  Ghosts of patrons past?

And for the second time tonight I sat in seat C5, though different cinema screening rooms.  Oooooh!

Speaking of veils between worlds, the second film I saw tonight, Table 19, was a bitter-sweet comedy about a table of wedding misfits, lead by sacked and dumped Maid of Honour, Eloise, (Anna Kendrick) at first lost in in wedding reception hell – having to spend an evening with strangers.  Although at times laugh-out-loud funny,  it was no Death At A Funeral (2007), and, like some weddings, tonally, it slipped between maudlin and comical.  It evoked Safety Not Guaranteed (2012), later it was no surprise to find out that Mark Duplasse was one of the co-writers.  I did find my heart beating and a romantic smile enveloping me, in a dance promising much, but delivering a plot twist servicing a morally conventional true love pas de deux.

See the preview here: 

c. Kylie J. Lawrence 2017

*I drafted this in May, so that’s Samhain Down Under.

 

Colossal

Pisshead Gloria’s life in New York is a mess.  An unemployed writer, Gloria’s mainstays in life are partying, sleeping all day, and borrowing money from Nice Boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens). The do hits the fan when N.B.T. dumps her, kicks her out of his flat, and Gloria moves back to Mainhead, her childhood home town, where she is forced to face her demons, one of whom is not the drink.

Convinced that her emotional state is controlling literally monstrous events in far off South Korea, anti-hero Gloria’s unwilling journey to save herself becomes a mission to save the world before the world becomes complacent.  At times brutal, this comedy is more monster film than action film.  It evokes the quirky storytelling of writer Derek Connolly’s 2012 romantic comedy, Safety Not Guaranteed, and director Dan Trachtenburg’s 2016 seat-clencher 10 Cloverfield Lane.  A decent performance from Anne Hathaway as Gloria, who buries herself in a world of men, but is more King Kong than fey Fay Wray.  An increasingly plotty storyline resolves itself in a very clear-cut way, and over all, a satisfying film to watch.

Watch the Colossal preview here:

c. Kylie Lawrence 2017

Far From Men

Algeria. 1954.  Lone middle-aged schoolteacher Duru, played with increasingly unquiet soul by Viggo Mortensen (‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy), lives a peaceful, spartan life, in an isolated valley.  Forced to escort a young alleged murderer to court in a distant town, the reluctant Duru comes face-to-face with his own past, in an increasingly dangerous journey through the shale and rebel-filled mountains, to redemption.   But whose redemption?

Cowed villain Mohamed, played beautifully by Reda Kateb, is arguably the more fascinating character of the two, his story peeling away to reveal a tragic core.

Far From Men is a character-driven, action-packed western leavened with heart, moments of levity, and a stillness befitting the extraordinary Algerian landscape.  From Albert Camus’ short story L’Hote, and directed by David Olhoeffen who also collaborated  on the screenplay adaptation with writer Antoine Lacomblez, Far From Men draws one in with decent performances, stunning cinematography, and a genuinely heart and gut-gripping climax.

Unfortunately I forgot to post this film review back in August when I saw it at the cinema and concluded that: “Far From Men is the best drama I have seen recently, and I would hasten thee to a cinema on the pronto.”

Now it’s November, I’d say saddle yer steed and hasten thee to a DVD or VOD!

c. Kylie Lawrence 2015.

The Great Gatsby

I finally went and saw The Great Gatsby at the pictures last night and I am glad that I did.

First up, was it spectacular cinema?  What Baz Lurhmann film isn’t?

Look at it this way, when you have more special effects crew than cast, and enough to populate a small town, with Baz Lurhmann and the fabulous Catherine Martin at the helm, how can it be anything else?

But what of the story?

If I was irritated by Gatsby’s repetitive fondness for the phrase “old sport,”  bandied about like Kevin Rudd trying out Australianisms to suck up to voters at a barbeque, then at least Buchanan took him to task over his right to its utterance.  Fair suck of the sav, we get that it’s an idiologism of the 1920s, we see that it’s the 1920s, what more do you want?

As Nick Caraway says of Daisy and Tom Buchanan at the end, “They were careless people.”  Did I care about these characters?

Daisy had a heart, for sure, and Nick too.  It took me a while to warm to Jay Gatsby, and it wasn’t really until he revealed his love for lost love Daisy, and thus began unravelling in his pursuit of her, that I cared indeed for Gatsby himself.  By the end, who did I care most for?  Nick, and Gatsby himself.  I’m interested in anybody who chases and does all he or she can for love.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1343092/

 

Will I watch The Great Gatsby again?  Thinking about it.

Does seeing this latest cinematic reinterpretation make me want to read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s original novel?

Definitely.

 

 

 

Hollywood Movie Data Machine Puts Bums On Seats

It had to happen.  Somebody who loves numbers invents a machine that can calculate exactly what ingredients determine a film’s success at the box office.

Hollywood executives secretly love this, because they can use it to make more money.

Screenwriters are not so keen, because they have been making replica  calculations on the backs of envelopes for years.  They have made trigonometry and other fancy maths words out of equations such as Tools to Sell Out With – I mean, Commerce: Art, and Commercial Paradigms: Indie Tropes.  NB.  It is always good to use words such as ‘paradigms’ and ‘tropes’ to stop words such as ‘story’ and phrases such as ‘a bloody good story’ getting in the way of sounding fancy pants/like a cinematic fancy pants (CFP).

Hm, what role does imaginative storytelling play?  Will writers have to wear aluminium foil around their heads to stop the Hollywood statistics machine messing with their imaginations?

I reckon there might be a few home truths in the statistics garnered by this wizz-bang new service, that writers, such as myself, should cop sweet.  Such as:  successful action films always have action scenes in them and/Bruce Willis.  Or, the older Bruce Willis gets, the more likely he is to take the piss out of his earlier action roles, which is endearing on the one hand, but raises questions about how fast he can run away from baddies on the other.  I refer particularly to Die Hard 96 which is due on cinema screens in thirty years time  (but don’t hold me to that being true or not because I just made it up).  Bruce will probably be close to 96 himself by then.

Lolly Bag Gift for Writer:  always include a dramatic action sequence in your action film, and if you can’t get that, write Bruce Willis taking the mickey out of his youthful action star persona.  He loves that kind of shit*.  Especially if you make him some young hottie’s dad and he gets to show him up in a wild action scene, such as in Die Hardest.

Never Mind Hollywood, What About the Real Down and Dirty statistics?

Speaking of Bruce, I have had a few thoughts.  Instead of writing my screenplay in which Bruce Willis gets to play a flute in a highly emotionally-charged but totally pointless scene that leads the story nowhere, and is thus illustrative fluff (hm, or maybe his character is playing the flute in the desert and when the sun shines off his silver flute, he is blinded, and this makes him go dizzy, and when he wakes up, he is confronted by wolves who threaten to turn him into wolf breakfast unless he plays Xmas carols), but will cut down on the musical composition budget because that’s one less musician to hire – I have just come back from a top secret investigation and discovered some surprising statistics that screenwriters should be aware of before they next put finger to keyboard or quill.

  1. Films about shy young men who turn into spiders always put loads of bums on seats and make bucket loads of moolah.
  2. The brand and quality of coffee on set is directly proportional to the proportion of cranky actors who carry on like plucked-arse parrots, get shickered in pubs on location, and end up on the front pages of trash mags just before their latest film premieres.
  3. Tom Cruise + any film about aeroplanes = always a safe bet.  Ditto for Tom Cruise rescuing maidens and them falling in love with him.
  4. If you write a film where Meryl Streep plays a paper sandwich bag in a hair shirt in the the pitch black of night where you cannot see her performing, this role is over 90% likely to result in a Best Actress Oscar nomination. And 0.003% likely to end in an actual win.  Still, you will have Meryl Streep in your film, and that, in my book, is heaps better than all the Oscars in China.
  5. Kids love films about animals, and films about kids saving the world from stupid adults.  Thus kids are 100% likely to pester their parents to spend silly amounts of money on taking them to the pictures to see these films, or annoy the crappola out of them until they buy the DVD.  So you should probably write one.
  6. French films are 99% likely to have French-speaking characters and 96.2% likely to look classy and glamorous, even in a working class setting.  Even if they talk pointless or banal crap in a scene, the subtitles always make French characters’ dialogue sound impressive and meaningful.  So if your dialogue is a shocker, just write it in French.
  7. American films often have shit character names, and kid characters with boring old man names.  I’m looking at you, Home Alone.
  8. Horror films are 100% horrible.
  9. Angelina Jolie is 100% unlikely to break into a sweat even if she has run for what looks like kilometres across a freeway.   See Salt if you don’t believe me.
  10. Australian actors are like ants:  everywhere and into everything.   Sometimes you can’t even tell that they are Australian.  Statistically they are 95% more likely to do a good Yank accent than the other way around.
  11. Quentin Tarantino is 99% likely to have never made a rom-com or a kids’ film.  
  12. Successful rom-coms ALWAYS have kissing in them.
  13. Films about Xmas always have a Xmas tree in them.
  14. Films about nuns are either miserable or romantic.  If they have songs in them they are 100% successful at the box office, and they won’t reach reach their peak again for close to sixty years.
  15. 100% of films set in space have aliens in them.

*Pure conjecture.

 

c. Kylie Lawrence 2013.

The Loneliest Planet

What is the loneliest planet? 

This is a question which played by chance after watching writer/director Julia Loktev’s latest feature film, visually stunning The Loneliest Planet.

Adapted from a short story by journalist and travel writer, Tom Bissell, Loktev draws out the tale almost in real-time of Nica and Alex, a young couple passionately in love with each other and on the brink of marriage.  Too soon, but not soon enough for the audience, they find themselves on the brink of betrayal, wrought by a single shocking event, which shatters everything they think they know about each other, and about themselves.

Nica, played by Hani Furstenberg a talented Israeli-American actor who could give Jessica Chastain a run for her money – partly ’cause she’s a ranga – and Alex, played by Gabriel Garcia Bernal, (The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) and Babel (2006)) are fit, seasoned backpackers, seeking experiences off the beaten track in rural Georgia, Russia.  I say seasoned, unlike their clothes, which never seem to get dirty or torn, no matter how many rocks they clamber over or grassy mountains they roll down.  But hey, John Wayne’s shining new trousers and red shirt at the start of The Searchers (1956) never truly belied the adventures of a U.S. Confederate soldier who has ridden rough for three years before arriving home to his family out in the Texas desert.

Alex and Nica’s Georgian local mountaineering guide, played by Bidzina Gujabidze, is at first a subtly shy though friendly older character, in counterpoint to the garrulous Nica, but as Nica discovers, behind the scarred exterior Dato is a thoughtful man hiding a tenderly complex story of loneliness which proves an elixir in the resolution.  Gujabidize, an accomplished mountaineer, rather than actor, offers an authentic, nuanced performance in his feature film début.

We are easily drawn into the minutiae of life on a trek in a foreign country:  a tourist’s eye-view of magnificent, rugged countryside, which both invigorates and blisters the traveller’s spirit and feet, from shattering rock-strewn hillside, to washing in flat waterways, and laughing over cheeky language games.  There are some unsettling moments for Nica and Alex: perhaps this land is not so friendly, but Dato ushers them through with care.  These hints of danger tease the viewer into thinking that they are watching a thriller.  The rising tedium  – I wanted to yank a chunk out of the story – leading to the crisis moment in Alex and Nica’s journey, contrasts with the slow-moving but rising tension in the climax scene, during which an inevitable careless betrayal elicits the aforementioned elixir.   Delaying the drama is an intriguing choice, but as a measure of character development, it works well.

After watching this film, I find the loneliest planet is not the isolated wilds of remote Georgia‘s Caucasus Mountains, but the human heart.

No bull:   If you love backpacking, or storytelling that gives you time to smell the roses, then it is worth a look. 

Newly released in Australian cinemas, The Loneliest Planet is clever, simple character-based storytelling.   Slow in parts, it is ultimately evocative, and provocative.

To watch The Loneliest Planet preview:

c. Kylie Lawrence 2013.