Judy and Punch

Judyandpunch2019posterWritten and directed by Mirrah Foukes

Cast includes Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman

A devastating movie. Beautiful. Breathtaking cinematography. Violent. Cruel. Tense. Extraordinary. If this doesn’t win every award at the next Australian film awards there is something wrong.

Gothic, dark and menacing with a twisted fairytale quality. As well as a bit of Mad Max-type post-apocalyptic chaos and carnage.  Set in a brutal village in a brutal period of history, there’s candlelit rooms, dark laneways of cobblestones, crowds baying for blood and much nocturnal scuttling around in hooded capes. This is a dog eat dog world (or perhaps a dog eat sausage world?) where brutality reigns supreme. Stonings are entertainment. And viciously beating your wife until she’s scarcely alive is… well, ‘that’s how you do it’.  Resonating themes of violence, vengeance and choosing good  are so powerful it’s impossible to see this film without reflecting on the world today. How do we stand up to injustice? How can the unempowered gain strength? A fascinating study of forgiveness and lack of forgiveness.

The famous Punch & Judy puppetry creates a wonderful world of clever recurring imagery – the constable with his baton, Mr Frankly and his truncheon bearing hoons who are skilled at extracting confessions, the rabbits (both dead and worm-infected and cute and alive), the crocodile scene – fabulous!

Brilliant cast. Agonisingly sad when Scaramouche (Terry Norris) remains kindly and polite to the end and his poor wife Maude (Brenda Palmer) simply suffers quietly beyond all imagining. The ensemble of Forest people including the beguiling doctor (Gillian Jones) show by their resourcefulness and courage that they may be outcasts but they will remain together, co-operative, cheerful and courageous. And non-violent aside from skinning those rabbits.

Brilliant script – wry comments here and there that make you laugh out loud even if the situation is so appalling. Like the crying drunk in the lane, supposing that they need ‘to mix it up’ a bit when it comes to hangings and stonings so everyone doesn’t get bored…

Boisterous, playful and wickedly dark. An exceptional tale of how easily crowds can be manipulated, how individuals make their own choices and how much evil lurks in the human heart. As the credits run, the final footage of 1950’s school children watching Punch beat the hell out Judy and the looks of terror on their faces is especially chilling.

Knives Out

Written, produced and directed by Rian Johnson

knives-out-houseOpening shot is divine. Grand old house silhouetted against foreboding sky and in the foreground piles of crunchy autumn leaves lie looking crunchy and autumnal. Two black dogs appear in the distance and run towards camera.

Sort of goes downhill from there. Not downhill, just not particularly memorable.

Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc had me guessing for a little while. Is that a really bad French accent? Surely not. Is he trying to be Hercules Poirot? And then it became clearer – it was a Southern US drawl. Confusing. He was softly spoken but that’s about all. He wasn’t intuitive. He wasn’t passionate. He wasn’t particularly interesting. Sadly he was a spineless anaemic character up on the big screen and Daniel didn’t really have much to play with.

Ana de Armas as Marta Cabrera plays her nursing role beautifully with wide-eyed innocence and sincerity.  A nice portrayal of a young Latino woman in a sticky situation. But could she be involved in this –? And Michael Shannon as Walt with his menacing walking cane. Could he have – ? Would he – ? And the fabulous ditsy Joni (Toni Colette)? It’s fun to guess.

Christopher Plummer gives a fine portrayal as the 85 year old patriarch, full of life, full of money and probably the only one full of good sense. The question is what will he do with all that wealth? And will his beloved family like his decision?

But some gripes…

The sunburst of knives that figures in so many scenes is wonderful. It frames anyone who sits in front of it like an evil halo. But there’s little other imagery that stands out.

Thought it would be a lot funnier than it is. There’s a few jolly moments but not many. The murder/mystery genre has a grand history but the dialogue in this particular movie was pedestrian (“asshole, asshole, asshole”) and lacked wit. Some ruthless script editing would do wonders…it doesn’t  need to be 130 minutes long.

But at least it’s entertaining to watch a seemingly together family descend into chaos because of that bothersome old thing called greed.

 

 

Bohemian Rhapsody

What a Fairy Tale!

bohemianrhapsodyLoved this movie. It’s not gritty or shocking or in-your-face which I kinda expected. It’s nice. Very nice. So sit back and think of it as a fairy tale version of reality…I mean that in a nice way.

It’s so rare to get a GOOD script. This was just that. A well-written script with taut writing. I looked up who wrote it…ANTHONY McCARTEN. He is a New Zealander – hooray for our cousins across the ditch! – THAT is why it’s so good.  It’s a fresh take. Not from a formulaic weary wizened up old hack who can only write action heroes. Hope you win something shiny, Anthony!

But back to the script…

It carried everyone along with a really good pace, helped along with nifty camerawork and great editing…even some comic chicken cameos! Emotionally it didn’t really have any great highs and lows but maybe it didn’t need them. There were poignant moments where so much was unsaid that worked beautifully between Freddie and Mary; and between Freddie and his parents. When the script is so tight, you really need good actors to carry it off…happily they did.

Rami Malek was superb. Absolutely mesmerising. With the iconic look, mannerisms & charisma of Freddie Mercury.

If anything, it was too nice. Everyone was NICE. (Well, nearly everyone.) The band were nice guys. “Brian May” had a perpetually pleasant, understanding look on his face. The most raunchy scene was where a bunch of guys in leather jackets got ferried into Freddie’s house for a bit of a good time but, well, over to you to find out what eventuated.  Yes, there was conflict but it was always polite. Spinal Tap had more grit (and more rude words!) and that’s saying something…

The ending – don’t worry, I won’t reveal it –  was too prolonged. Just a couple of songs and then freeze frame would have done just as well. I kept waiting for the final song. Come on, come on, I know it’s about to end, the story is coming to an end, come on…but it kept going.

But all in all, wonderfully entertaining.  A heartwarming movie.  A movie that taps into the human need for friendship and vulnerability and forgiveness. A movie full of music to make you happy – even if you’re not a particular fan of Queen. A really fun movie – watching a bunch of good guys come up with musical ideas, aim high thanks to fearless Freddie, make it in the industry and become a world-wide phenomenon, hey it’s a winner!

As Freddie used to say: “We are the champions, my friend”.

That’s Not Me

Directed by Gregory Erdstein.

Written by Gregory Erdstein & Alice Foulcher.

Hmmm. Great acting. Very perceptive characterisations. I want to like it. I want to support Australian Indie films. And Australian comedy. But…

Big problem. This movie is presented as the hilarious goings-on of identical twin sisters. The publicity features both twins (played by the very talented Alice Foulcher):

That's Not Me Poster

All the promos say: ‘Aspiring actress Polly is mistaken for her celebrity twin sister at every turn, and decides to use it to her own advantage.…’

Fabulous! Crazy co-incidences! Wacky scenes where one twin arrives as the other leaves! Twins swapping clothes! Twins playing practical jokes! It was nothing like that. It was the character study of A TWIN. Note: 1 (one) twin. And she turns out to be a loser. Or does she? I’m not sure. The weird thing is that the second twin doesn’t appear until the end of the movie.

I don’t know why the script editor (not blaming you, script editor) or a kindly friend or gaffer or granny or SOMEONE didn’t say:  Hey, this is a movie about twins, so shouldn’t there be twins be in it? Why is it that one of the twins doesn’t actually appear onscreen until 85 mins in? Didn’t anyone notice???

A nice character study of a confused late-twenties female but that’s not really what was promised. Such a missed opportunity.

Rams

Rams
written and directed by Grímur Hákonarson

I was expecting a comedy. Clearly I misread the publicity. I was so excited to see a film set in Iceland and support the Icelandic film industry – which seems to be the entire population of Iceland based on the final credits – that I assumed it would be a dark comedy because, well, aren’t all vaguely Nordic films zany and out-of-left-field and quirky, etc, etc, etc? ramsWell, there are a couple of comic moments – one involving a bulldozer – but Rams certainly won’t send you out of the cinema chortling with merriment. It will leave you feeling: Oh. Or perhaps: Oh? It’s bleak. Intense. Sad. Poignant. And structurally very clever: the gradual disentanglement, the mirrored actions, the rescues, the journey, the salvation.

Lots of close-ups of the craggy Gummi, (Sigurður Sigurjónsson), one of two bearded Icelandic-jumper-wearing brothers, who lives in an isolated valley in the north of the country and whose whole life is wrapped up in his sheep. Crisis arrives when it’s found that one of the prize rams has a deadly and contagious disease and drastic action must be taken…

On the way to Hotel Sel for hot chocolate

Not a still from the movie. Not northern Iceland. Not a valley. And no sheep. But still, it’s Iceland so it’s vaguely relevant (c) WJL 2013

Lots to love. The simple cream-coloured buildings. The tough, all-encompassing rural life. The grumpy brother next door, Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson), who’s a bit of a bother. Sheep running upstairs. Sheep running up hills. Love those sheep. Like curly rectangles on sticks. Dramatic sweeping shots of the farms, the roads, snowscapes, yes, but snow is not the focus until those sheep take off pursued by the two brothers and a dog into the white… The changing seasons. The Christmas candles. The bath tubs. The beautiful restrained acting to capture the bond between Gummi and his beloved sheep. And an ending that must be said is a tad ABRUPT.

A tender film.

THE END