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La vérité (2019)
Surprisingly OK, #MeToo
Gotta hand it to Kore Eda, taking on the French language and La Reine Catherine at the same time. Not surprising that he is bested somewhat.
There's enough to like. I smiled when the Deneuve character disses the Hawke character as an actor. Same could be true in real life. But the Hawke character does riffs on the "Before Sunrise" franchise he was in, also fun.
Some of Deneuve's film-within-a-film scenes are true and affecting. But I agree with other comments, that the partial mother-daughter reconciliation at the end is out of whack with what's gone before. Lessens the whole movie.
Marriage Story (2019)
Ignore the Doubters, it's a Must-See
How am I meant to cope, with the beautiful ScarJo morphing into an Annette Bening? It's not easy, I can tell you that. Putting that aside, go see this, on Netflix if you will, I don't care. It's clever, but not in a bad way.
This calendar year, any calendar year, movies that actually prick my emotions (in real time) are very rare. Spanish-language Our Time, and Pain and Glory, did it. Here, ScarJo and Driver got to my emotions, a couple of times.
The money scene, a full-on donnybrook between the divorcing couple, is terrific. If director Baumbach provides a "happy" ending, then I reckon he's earned it.
The Irishman (2019)
Review the Movie, not the Director
Peoples are losing their minds over the sainted director, forgetting the movie. Sure, it's well made, fascinating history. But it's second nature for De Niro, and Pacino overreaches at times. The third reel is repetitive over the decline of the De Niro character. Would be a better movie at 2hr 30. In fact, I thought it had ended about then, but it meandered on another hour.
Isha Ovedet (2018)
Deserves Much Wider Audience
Though a couple of user reviews panned it, I thought it was a terrific take on the topical issue of sexual harassment. The perp, the victim, and the victim's husband, are all finely drawn, rather than being overblown or unrealistic characters. The director gets a lot out of 95 minutes, good ending too.
The Eulogy (2018)
Surprisingly good, do try
If you're fascinated by classical piano, or indeed manipulative mothers, this is a must watch. Even if you're not, it has surprising resonance.
The Australian Geoffrey Tozer was a world-level pianist (no, seriously) who flickered out early, but resurged under the patronage of Australian PM Paul Keating. When it all goes pear shaped once again, the suspects are variously too much patronage, the mother's death, the agent's death, or the end of the affair.
Resisting the urge to turn all this into white-hats and black-hats, director Janine Hosking achieves something better, a compact and original doco about the ominous and unlikely places from which great art arises.
More a Treat than a Tract
The cruel business of Asian forced-labour fishing is no joke, but if you want to make a movie of it, it still has to work as a movie.
Rathjen largely succeeds, aided by fine camera work, and cinematic interludes that break up what would otherwise be an unbearably grim tale. The interludes might be a high-altitude shot of the death boat, a thoughtful moment of beauty, or a flashback to the young conscript's home village.
The ending strikes an apt note, neither too sad nor too sentimental. It's hard to imagine this one will do huge box office, so let's hope that Rathjen comes back for another round. Talented Australian directors are rare, and rarer still do they kick on for longer careers.
Celle que vous croyez (2019)
La Binoche has done a couple of these out-there roles, brave of her. One hopes the real person is not really troubled by her approaching age.
Very watchable, though the plot grates gears a couple times. The protagonist's psych does a fine and nuanced turn. But I never bought the cougar romance with the youngster, not on any level, even though he works so hard. They always seem to be faking it. Y'know, like Don and Mel, at some presidential occasion.
Little Woods (2018)
Better than your average Sundance-financed movie
Tight, well acted, the opioid crisis, the flat parts of Texas standing in for Nebraska/Manitoba, what's not to like?
Didn't end the way I expected, arguably the ending is flat, but I was able to buy it nevertheless. Also, Texas has yet to adopt the Alabama attack on Roe v Wade, so you don't have to boycott it on those grounds.
A virtue here is the main character Ruth, who is unglamorous and pissed at the world in ways that female leads aren't always allowed. A fault is the overstaged violence in the third reel. Watchable, idiosyncratic, but not entirely convincing.
Gloria Bell (2018)
What were Moore n Turturro thinking?
A real struggle, both leads flounder with their characters. The cat, even though it's not a very nice cat, was the only person I could relate to. By the time the one fun scene arrives, it's far too late to redeem the movie.
If you're married, this will stop you from divorcing. If not, it will stop you from dating.
La Misma Sangre (2019)
Not going anyplace
An hour in, it seemed, this isn't going anyplace, nothing is going to happen. It wasn't. Folks are going to die, one of them quite creatively, but the story itself is far from creative. Nobody evolves that much, or evinces much sympathy.
Don't make extraordinary efforts to see this moderate piece, especially if you could see an interesting thriller like Burning instead.
Las herederas (2018)
Supple and sophisticated
What even is a Paraguay? No idea, never been there, but this is terrific. Ana Brun hits the ball out of the park, showing big life stresses and changes through just the subtlest of inflections.
Never heard of the director either. He delivers a sophisticated, morally perplexing and topical movie. I'll sign up for anything else he makes.
Thanks to Palace for bringing this one to Australia.
Prendre le large (2017)
Bonnaire does well. But she is better than the rest of it. In reality this is quite a limited movie, and its 103 minutes is plenty. Watch, but keep your expectations in check.
Zjednoczone stany milosci (2016)
As Polish As Anything
Given the distinctive quality of Polish cinema, we don't see enough Polish movies in Australia, and I was happy to catch a one-night stand, as it were, from this one.
Intelligent, well cast, beautifully shot, church-ridden, grey, and typically unsettling. As Polish as anything, this is definitely not a date and popcorn movie. Even the first and 'happiest' dinner party scene is shot in washed out blues and greens. From there on, all four female protagonists are bound for sexual grief, although the lesbian character does win a weird kind of satisfaction at the end.
I'd go see this director's next outing, and I wouldn't mind seeing his previous. For me, his observations are vigorous, expanding to give comment on life as we live it, and not just dispensing gloom for the sake of gloom. The gratuitous moments - like Madame Principal's rough-trade encounter with a former student - can be overlooked.
The Square (2017)
Palme de Bronze, peut-etre
You have to be astonished that this one collected a Palme. Not least, it evidently lies in the shadow of Haneke, winner of two recent Palmes for much better movies.
The satire on the art world, the rattling of the bourgeoisie, both seem too overdrawn to be effective. Sketches go on too long, as when the museum director videos his apology, or the ape-man detonates the society party. Cutaways that don't happen, or do but are merely irritating, seem like unsuccessful adaptions of Haneke's grating style.
A few folks left my screening up around the 90 minute mark, their patience evidently worn thin. They'd seen the best of it, like the director's fling with the journo.
Now, if you really want to see someone stick it right up the bourgeoisie, you can't go past Haneke's mordant misbehaviour in Benny's Video (1992).
Often, Japanese movies are slightly weird in a good and culturally intriguing way. This one is weird in a not so good way.
Based on a not very good novel, Birds intrigues for the first two reels, but falls away thereafter. The female and male lead, excellent as they are, are forced into too many tight plot corners, and their taut emotionality runs into histrionics.
Worth a watch, sure, but keep your expectations in check.
Close but no Cigarillo
Just one thing on top of another! Often different noises or different people coming at us simultaneously from different parts of the screen. The Lawrence character is forever fearfully reacting to the latest home invasion or the latest weird effusion from her house. Which she's tried to turn into a heaven. As if.
I went along with this one for the first two acts. Getting more extreme, but still in the frame. interesting and pointed. For me, the violent third act is a polariser, you either love it or hate it. I hated it. In the moment of watching, I couldn't grasp the full sense of it, and it seemed to undo a lot of the good work that had come before.
Good to see Lawrence going for new levels. Bardem as the blocked writer just seems to cruise, a less sinister version of his No Country dude. The previous reviewer here makes a useful comparison to Bunuel's teasing sleights of hand. Just think of the remarkable discipline in the quick-fire third act of Obscure Object, then compare that to the mayhem here.
Wind River (2017)
Good to Go
You'd buy Renner as a strong type with hidden emotions, but Olsen is somewhat against type as an FBI agent. They both do well in this nicely-written snowbound thriller.
Oddly enough, I thought the one characterisation that didn't quite gel was the baddest guy of all. Of whom we don't see a lot, but he's important.
How workable is it to run through miles of snow barefoot? Or indeed burst your lungs from the cold at these altitudes? Medical citations please, chaps.
Style over Substance
I'm closer to Thobias on this one.
Sure, it's an easy watch, quick and stylish to a fault, and certainly raises highly pertinent questions about Danish (or any OECD) society.
But I found that the script didn't take anywhere near enough effort to make it plausible. So, here we have this highly integrated professional, Dr Jekyll, with a great marriage. He's consciously walked away from his culture and ethnicity, goes out of his way to abuse his poor old dad for being mentally stuck in Iraq.
Then, on behalf of a loser brother he doesn't even like, he suddenly turns into Mr Hyde on steroids? The only partial explanation we're offered is guilt, but it didn't wash for me.
Tyttö nimeltä Varpu (2016)
Overcame my reservations
Billed in Australia as 'Coming of Age', usually a turn-off for me. Saw it anyway, one does get a little reckless down here, you know.
The first reel didn't dispel my misgivings, but it came home well after that, showing unexpected nuance, including the character of the girl's troubled father.
Nice showing by Skog, acting out the difficult brief of a girl supposed to be 'wise beyond her years'. I'm not surprised some of the other girls became her real-life friends.
I was sufficiently OK that I'd try out other movies by this director.
Much as this is likable, and ticks various boxes, I don't quite follow the rave reviews.
For me, it is sentimental and never gets much beyond a routine goodies vs baddies scenario. As 'satire' or 'commentary' it is lumpen and barely cuts through. Both Swinton and Dano can do much better than this. Gyllenhaal I scarcely noticed at all.
Extra point for a few terrific scenes of the CGI piggy creating city mayhem. Oink.
Hounds of Love (2016)
I write as an escaped West Australian. We've all got something to live down.
Like Adelaide, Perth has had classic serial killers with an eerie Australian twist. Riffing on a grim 1980s case, Ben Young delivers a fine first feature, for which the Metacritic 72% is not far off the mark. The cinematography is great, capturing the endless hot sky and bleaker suburbs (read Coolbellup or Hamilton Hill) of the 1980s. Also a fine score. The three key players are excellent. The script maybe needed a little more rounding for the ending to gel properly, but I sure felt the tension.
As with Don't Tell and Berlin Syndrome, here's a rare Aussie feature that captures Australia but which I'd be proud to show overseas. Discouragingly, I wonder if the three taken together will pull much more than $1-2m.
Actually uses a real street name, no kidding. Hope it doesn't lead to disaster tourism. Meanwhile, some eagle has already spotted the curious anomaly of the 7-character number plate, never issued in Perth before the 1990s.