Category: Film

The Tree

You want a standard movie that features strong actors and performances, but never really goes anywhere or bothers to do anything with the flimsy scenario with which it has been entrusted? The Tree is your film.

Welcome to the Space Show

Welcome to the Space Show showed at the Sydney Film Festival before it saw its wide release in Japan. It is an impressive piece of science fiction work, albeit not the same film that I was expecting from the synopsis provided by the program (but then, is a film ever the same as its listing?), and one that is perhaps overloaded with ideas towards the end, but I came out of it glad for having seen it.

Advance word on an Advance Screening of Scott Pilgrim vs The World

My friend Melinda was somehow invited to a market test screening of something that was described to her as “indie/slacker/comic book”. Upon consultation with her brother, she theorised that it may be Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Turns out she was right. Attached are her brief impressions of the film:

“Yo it was Scott Pilgrim- no food stuffs provided, a thought that was a little stingy, considering they didn’t pay us and expected us to do a survey as well.

It’s clearly a niche film, and not really being a Michael Cera fan meant that I didn’t laugh at all the jokes, actually I thought a lot were pretty lowbrow. (pee jokes enough said) not that there’s anything wrong with that humour, but I am not charmed by Michael Cera. He needs to work harder than that to make me laugh.

There were parts that were weird for the sake of being weird, and it felt a little long, it was a solid two hour movie- but the fight scenes were good and the video game feel/ style made it a little different from your usual action movie.

I gave it a 7, good enough, even if it wasn’t something that i’d pay to see. My bro loved it and wants to see it again, so there you go.”

There you have it: the inside word on Scott Pilgrim from a woman who is interested in nerd type things, and a mention of her brother who I’ve never met – but I believe we’re not so very different, he and I (translation: nerdlinger to the maxtreme).

As for myself, I haven’t watched any of the trailers, and my exposure to Scott Pilgrim in general is very limited – but I have enjoyed Edgar Wright’s previous work and I was definitely going to see it anyway … even if “Sex Bob-omb” is a ridiculous idea and is the very reason that the terrorists hate us (even Canadians!).

Post script: Just watched the trailer, now my interest is piqued.

Au Revoir, Taipei

At last, a truly light movie in the Sydney Film Festival! Au Revoir, Taipei is obvious and insubstantial fun that provides quite a few good laughs.

Kai wants to go to visit his girlfriend in Paris, but he doesn’t have any money. He consults local crime boss Brother Bao to get the money for the airfare, but Bao’s henchmen want to get a cut of the job Kai has been given, and give chase to Kai and Susie, a bookstore worker.

Thus begins a crime farce that’s essentially Taiwan’s equivalent of Date Night.

Au Revoir, Taipei is a consistently funny film that never takes itself too seriously. There is no point at which the characters pull over and have a heartfelt talk about the state of their relationship (“you never give me a chance to help out!”). Instead you have dancing exercises and nice night food market scenes.

There’s not much more to it than that: there are perhaps more subplots than one might expect, but it’s light and fun and entertaining. The ending is a great scene, too. If you judge a movie on “feeling”, then “happiness” is the result of watching Au Revoir, Taipei. Plus it’s executive produced by Wim Wenders, of all people.

It’s nice to have some fluff amongst all of the “worthy” films you get in a film festival.

The Illusionist

Beautiful but disaffecting is probably the best way to describe a film like The Illusionist. It is very pretty to look at and can be quite funny in places but it feels a bit hollow. The back story that I was unaware of lends it slightly more depth, but I will be honest in my philistinism here: my limited exposure to Jacques Tati has not left me enamoured of him.

In 1959, A magician travels from job to job until he meets a young girl in Scotland, who then joins him. The magic business doesn’t run so well, but the girl is convinced magic is real – so the magician picks up odd jobs here and there in Edinburgh to keep the girl in material possessions.

True to Tati’s form, The Illusionist has almost no dialogue. The character of the magician is modeled after Tati himself, and the girl is apparently supposed to be based on a daughter that he allegedly abandoned.
What follows, based on what we can piece together from the largely emotive animation and gibberish speak, is a literal object lesson: nothing comes from nothing, all people in entertainment are suicidally depressed (and this is apparently funny), and young Scottish girls fail to understand the way the material world operates.

It would be a disservice to silent films to say that the lack of dialogue means we can never really know these characters: it is the disjointed nature and repetition of the film that means that we don’t really know that much about them or care much for them. They are simple caricatures who don’t really have many emotions beyond a baseline affection for one another.

While it’s engaging to look at, there’s something ever so slightly off about the film. One of the aspects of this offness is that in many places it’s simply annoying: the depressive clown, the ventriloquist, the effeminate mincing “Britoons”, aren’t so much a joy to watch as they are a protracted distraction to endure.

While Sylvain Chomet was awarded for his Triplets of Belleville, this is a simple case where nostalgia for a much-loved filmmaker triumphs over “proper” cinematic sensibility.

I fully expect to be contradicted by the professional critical establishment when The Illusionist reaches wider attention. I enjoyed it “enough”, but I didn’t think there was much more to it than the fluidity of its mostly excellent animation.

Postscript: On the advice of commenter Matt I append some more context for the film: Roger Ebert has publicised two sides of the argument. First is “The secret of Jacques Tati“, the second is “In defense of The Illusionist“. The key quote in the defence is the following:

The Illusionist” is a work of the imagination that seeks only to stand or fall as a film in its own right.

Personally, I think it falls. And that is all that really matters to me: it’s a movie that doesn’t quite work.

I Killed My Mother

Xavier Dolan. 19 years old when he wrote and directed I Killed My Mother! Instiller of fear and jealousy into the hearts of men and women alike!

Dolan is a boy of honesty, a boy of spite. A boy who loves pieces to camera, but only if he’s allowed to do them naked and black and white in his bathroom.

I Killed My Mother is a pretty good movie, but it’s rough around the edges and its protagonist is misplaced. There’s one great character here, but her whiney idiot foil has been mistakenly made the lead in her place.

The Refuge

The Refuge gets the heavy stuff out of the way first: two drug addicts. One overdoses. The other one wakes up pregnant. No more drugs. Five minutes down, on with the movie!

The Refuge is an imperfect wisp of a movie, with charming atmosphere and pleasant characters but a few key misfires that stopped it from being more than a passably good film.

Heartbeats

Heartbeats was my first film of the 2010 Sydney Film Festival. If this is how it starts, I’m expecting good things. It’s also a competition film. I only saw one of those last year: Louis-Michel (hardly a competitor). This year, I’m seeing every competition entry.

Heartbeats is not for everyone, dividing along two primary gaps: sexuality (preferred by gays) and age (preferred by hip twenty somethings). That said, Roger Ebert himself is keen to see it, and I can’t say I blame him. Much is made of the fact that director Xavier Dolan is only 21, but everyone gets their start sometime.

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom is out in Australian cinemas today.

Australia. It’s a tough country to nail down, because so many of us hate the image that we project. It’s called the “cultural cringe”. No one in Australia goes to see Australian films; if you talk about a movie and then say that it’s Australian, your audience quickly loses interest.

There is something utterly uncompelling about the promotion of our films that a lot of people don’t get through the door to find out if something is worth watching. Of course, it was not always like this. And it doesn’t always have to be like this.

Animal Kingdom is a magnetic movie. From its first trailer, featuring a home invasion set to Air Supply’s “All Out of Love”, I knew that I had to see it. A more conventional trailer only cemented that thought. The fact that it won at Sundance didn’t hurt, either.

Suddenly Animal Kingdom had done what Beneath Hill 60 with its appeal to jingoism and I Love You, Too, with its appeal to the Peter Dinklage fanbase, had resolutely failed to do: it got me excited to see an Australian movie.

In an industry where apathy is the killer, where it’s easier to go to Transformers than it is to make an informed decision, where they let Robin Hood open Cannes, to set off someone’s radar means something.

Through no fault of Animal Kingdom, I had come to expect it as some sort of Holy Grail of Australian cinema. It’s pretty good, but it’s not close to sacramental.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

It’s time that someone accepted it, but no one will: a video game movie doesn’t have to be bad. A video game movie doesn’t have to be like a video game. A video game movie can be lighthearted fun. A video game movie can really just be a “movie”, without the need to append “video game”.

One does not watch No Country For Old Men and call it a “book movie”.

Prince of Persia is a movie. It is not game-like in its presentation. It’s not entirely clear why it needed to be made but, unlike quite a few of the action adventure films I’ve seen in recent months, I do not regret its production. In fact, seeing it brightened my day a little.

The best way to put it is this: Prince of Persia is what Clash of the Titans might have been had Clash of the Titans been a competently made movie.