Saturday, April 30, 2011


I'd heard rumors that 13 Assassins was going to bypass theaters and go straight to DVD in Australia but a quick look at Icon's site today turned up this "…and stay tuned for an announcement of the Australian cinema release date". Now I just have to hope it arrives before or after my overseas jaunt.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

An Architecture of Loss: Liverpool

I went into Liverpool fearing an "unmediated slab of quotidian reality"* and hoping for an Uncle Boonmee-like revelatory experience. What I actually experienced was something that, while not reaching (or to be fair even grasping) for Boonmee's intense mysticism, imparted a not dissimilar sense of a regrettable past embedded in the present. Unlike Boonme the loss is etched in run down, occasionally skeletal, buildings and faces. Lisandro Alonso finds a great deal of pathos in simply placing his prodigal son in what were clearly once familiar surrounds and people, or in quietly evoking the wider world outside of the small, isolated village.

Despite this I didn't find it an entirely gratifying experience. Alonso's use of non professionals ensures some very restrained performances which occasionally become flat. It's probable that this hyper-naturalism is exactly what Alonso was hoping to achieve but for me, raised on traditional acting, the ability to read the tiniest flickers of emotion in the actor's faces was missing and I couldn't stop thinking about how the film might have played with someone like Samantha Moreton in the lead.

*This wonderful phrase is stolen from Shane Danielsen who deployed it in his critique of Joe Swanberg. His piece is here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Short Note on Incendies

Incendies has the one thing I prize in cinema above all else: a director with a strong personal style who can tailor it to the subject matter at hand.  Unfortunately Denis Villeneuve's style is deployed in the service of a pot-boiler of a story. At first it's merely forgettable stuff: a mechanistic cycle of violence told through the prism of a straightforward detective story in which neither the detective nor her quarry emerge as anything more than plot tokens. But by the time it piles on its last lurid, contrived twist it becomes truly risible: an art house exploitation film in which the most painful, improbable scenario its makers could contrive is made palatable through an ostensibly laudable, yet astonishingly wrong-headed, paean to forgiveness.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

French Double Feature

There are innumerable features built around the coming of age story of a teen-aged protagonist. A substantial portion of them are centred around protagonists with separated parents. Love Like Poison stands out by virtue of its unusual emphasis on pubescent body anxiety, and its intersection with relationships (romantic, friendly and familial) and religious faith. I don't think I've ever seen a more honest or probing examination of this part of adolescence: too often film-makers focus entirely on the emotional difficulties of negotiating new relationships and forming an adult identity.