Two films to see, one to miss

On any trip one takes in a bunch of movies, at least on the plane. I’ve seen two that I heartily recommend. Belle dramatises (meladramatises?) the true story of a girl who was the product of a British military seaman in the 18th century and a black west indian woman. Before he dies he extracts from a relative the promise to look after his illegitimate daughter that is the product of this union. The resulting dark skinned girl receives a lady’s upbringing and the film portrays all this in a way that was convincing (for me anyway). She ends up marrying an opponent of the slave trade and so the films’ producers have turned this into a Jane Austen style story in which the drama of romance (including the wider family drama) becomes the vehicle in which virtue discovers itself in the world. An difficult thing to try, but well brought off I reckon.

Magic in the Moonlight is Woody Allen’s latest. It’s everything a good Woody Allen movie is. It’s funny and built on a conceit that generates a nice, neat plot through which Allen explores some of his themes. Colin Firth delivers the humour well, though his character is rather too didactically drawn as is Allen’s way. But a very enjoyable movie, if not must see viewing.

The final movie is Russell Crowe’s “The Water Diviner”. I would have steered clear of it from the trailer alone – which allows the viewer to gorge himself on Crowe’s non-acting – but for one thing. It was opening in Istanbul and the film is largely set in Istanbul. It’s the story of an Aussie, Aussie, Aussie who, visits Gallipoli after WWI to find his three dead sons. There in the aftermath of the war he finds Australian and British soldiers going about their moustachioed business of identifying and burying the war dead. They haven’t been able to identify his sons, but hey, Aussie, Aussie Aussie is a water diviner, so he tells them where to dig. And there they are! The characters consist of Aussies (salt of the earth – with the exceptions of the moustaches which are pretty obviously stuck on), Poms (whining and stuck up), Turks, who really can wear a moustache (tough but civilised and with a heart of gold).

But the best is kept till last. Russell ends up in Anatolia where there is major unrest between the muslim and Greek Christian population. Here the Greeks are Bad. As in About As Bad As You Can Get. They’re made up in near blackface from boot-polish and their main pass-time appears to be machine gunning turks. Russell manages to save a Turkish buddy from trouble by whacking a Greek Baddie with a cricket bat with which he’s been teaching the Turks to play cricket - I am not making them up. This was the obvious place for an “oy, oy, oy” but owing to the understated tone of the movie, we are spared. Anyway, I was puzzled at this as it made little sense to me that the Greek minority in the middle of the country would suddenly become uppity – as it was so against their interests. So I looked it up in Wikipedia. There was some aggression from the Greek nation supported by its coalition allies from WWI which landed at Smyrna inflaming racial tensions in the region. the Greeks also had designs on areas in Anatolia in central Turkey where Greeks were a majority. The upshot was vast Turkish massacres of Greeks known as the Greek genocide. It accounts for the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Greeks with some accounts giving it a similar scale to the Armenian genocide. You wouldn’t have guessed it from the film.  Still I wouldn’t’ avoid the film for that reason. Avoid it for its vacuity masquerading as profundity, it’s non-acting masquerading as acting.

Testament of youth: Breaking free of the boilerplate

There comes a terrible moment to many souls when the great movements of the world, the larger destinies of mankind, which have lain aloof in newspapers and other neglected reading, enter like an earthquake into their own lives — where the slow urgency of growing generations turns into the tread of an invading army or the dire clash of civil war, and gray fathers know nothing to seek for but the corpses of their blooming sons, and girls forgot all vanity to make lint and bandages which may serve for the shattered limbs of their betrothed husbands.

Vera Brittain quotes this magnificent passage from George Elliott’s Daniel Deronda in her own great work, Testimony of Youth. It is of course the story of her generation and the catastrophe of the Great War visited upon them after a century of peace (if you ignore the horrors of colonialism at the periphery). She also says this in the book.

There is still, I think, not enough recognition by teachers of the fact that the desire to think – which is fundamentally a moral problem – must be induced before the power is developed. Most people, whether men or women, wish above all else to be comfortable, and thought is a pre-eminently uncomfortable process.

One of the most iconic and haunting episodes of war, indeed of any time is the Christmas parties that broke out spontaneously – to the horror of the authorities – along substantial sections of the Western front in 1914. Those events stand for many things – most particularly the life-world, in all its fragility breaking out against the iron fist inside the velvet glove of civilisation – the organised forces of coercion and violence behind any successful mass social formation. Yet, by then it was too late. Any insight or inclination that those events stood for could not be turned to any material advantage to anyone and the soldiers were hounded back into the trenches.

I’ve been reading some of Ulysses S Grant’s autobiography and it’s notable how often he juxtaposes moral and physical courage giving the impression that they tend to substitute for one another: Lack of moral courage seems the norm, and it often exacts its price in the need for physical courage. In a world which is so often reduced to boilerplate prose, never less so than today when managers manage their brands, and their own personal ‘brands’, in which politicians of both sides gradually – nowadays rather quickly – disappear beneath the insincerity of their talking points, I loved this film for dramatising this dichotomy in our lives between life as the collection of the petty hypocrisies and insincerities that get us through a normal day and life as a creative and rational act.  Continue reading

British Film Festibule

Top Picks (Looks like a good crop!)

The young Vera Brittain, an irrepressible, intelligent and free-minded woman who overcomes the prejudices of her family and hometown to win a scholarship to Oxford. With everything to live for, she falls in love with her brother’s close friend Roland Leighton and together they pursue their literary dreams. But the First World War brings everything to a grinding halt, and tears the couple apart. As Vera experiences the heartbreak of one by one losing the most important men in her life, and of the horrors of working as a nurse to wounded soldiers, she determinedly resolves to create a world in which such a war can never take place again.
☆☆☆☆ Cine-Vue
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Telegraph
Show Timings:
Set in contemporary London, a Cambodian-Chinese mother is mourning the untimely death of her son when her world is suddenly disrupted by the presence of a stranger. Without a common language, the two have difficulties in trying to communicate. But through a translator they slowly piece together memories of a man they both loved and realize that while they may not share a language, they are connected in their grief.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Guardian
☆☆☆☆☆ The Telegraph
Show Timings:
During ‘The Troubles’, a young British soldier is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the streets of Belfast. Unable to tell friend from foe, and increasingly wary of his own comrades, the raw recruit must survive the night alone and find his way to safety through a disorientating, alien and deadly landscape.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Guardian
☆☆☆☆ The Telegraph
Show Timings:
Mr. Turner explores the last quarter century of the great, if eccentric, British painter who lived from 1775-1851. Profoundly affected by the death of his father, this anarchic yet popular member of the Royal Academy of Arts lived a full and exciting life. From traveling and visiting brothels to being strapped to the mast of a ship so that he could paint a snowstorm, he was both celebrated and reviled by royalty and the public. Rich and immediately enjoyable, this is a portrayal both funny and visually immaculate, combining domestic intimacy with an epic sweep both lyrical and mysterious.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Guardian
☆☆☆☆☆ The Telegraph
Show Timings:
This daringly anarchic vision of British society follows nonconformist Mick Travis, along with his fellow students, as they lead a revolution against their school. Mixing colour with black and white as audaciously as it mixes fantasy with reality, this remains one of cinema’s most unforgettable rebel yells.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆☆ Eye For Film
Show Timings:
A Hard Day’s Night is a lively trip back to an era of sensational music, marking the true birth of British Beatlemania. The Fab Four’s famous first foray into film is considered one of the most innovative and refreshing music movies ever made. Celebrating the phenomenon of Beatlemania in 1964 and capturing John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr in their unselfconscious and electrifying element, we experience a wildly irreverent journey through one day in the life of the world’s greatest rock’n’roll act.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Guardian
☆☆☆☆☆ The Telegraph
Show Timings:
Running from an unsympathetic working-class family, a pair of demanding fiancées and an insecure job at an undertaker’s, Billy escapes into a world of fantasy where he can realize his dream ambitions. As work and family pressures build to new intolerable levels, Liz enters Billy’s drab life and offers him the one real chance he’ll ever get to leave the past behind.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Guardian
☆☆☆☆☆ The Telegraph
Show Timings:
A flashy, fast romp that chases a team of career criminals throughout one of the biggest international gold heists to ever appear on film. Charlie Croker is a stylish thief fresh out of prison. He takes over “The Italian Job”, a complicated plan to steal gold bullion from Italy, right from underneath the noses of the Italian Police and the Mafia. Combining action, humour, and an incontrovertible sense of style, this is undoubtedly one of the quintessential British caper films of the 1960s.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ Eye For Film
Show Timings:

Italian Film Festival: a bit late

Films

Marina Play Trailer

True story of beloved singer, songwriter and accordionist, Rocco Granata, from his early life as an immigrant in Belgium to his emergence as a worldwide musical phenomenon with his 1959 song Marina, one of the biggest international hits of that era.1948 Calabria, in southern Italy, poor local worker Toto Granata leaves his wife Ida and two children to work in the Belgian mines, promising to return wealthier. But like countless others, instead of returning after a few years as planned, his family are forced to join him and adjust to a new life as immigrants in a foreign country. It is here Toto’s only son Rocco discovers his sole joys lie in young love and the music that will eventually immortalise him.

☆☆☆☆ IMDB

Show Timings

PALACE CINEMA COMO

Wednesday 17 Sep 7:00pm

Wednesday 17 Sep 7:15pm

Saturday 20 Sep 6:45pm

Sunday 21 Sep 1:45pm

Monday 22 Sep 8:45pm

Wednesday 24 Sep 1:45pm

Friday 3 Oct 1:45pm

Friday 3 Oct 9:00pm

Saturday 11 Oct 4:15pm

KINO CINEMAS

Wednesday 17 Sep 7:00pm

Friday 19 Sep 1:00pm

Friday 19 Sep 6:00pm

Wednesday 1 Oct 1:00pm

Saturday 4 Oct 6:00pm

Tuesday 7 Oct 6:00pm

Saturday 11 Oct 1:00pm

PALACE WESTGARTH

Wednesday 17 Sep 7:00pm

Wednesday 17 Sep 8:30pm

Thursday 18 Sep 4:30pm

Friday 26 Sep 7:00pm

Monday 29 Sep 4:30pm

Thursday 2 Oct 9:30pm

Thursday 9 Oct 4:30pm

Saturday 11 Oct 9:00pm

PALACE BALWYN

Monday 22 Sep 1:30pm

Sunday 28 Sep 4:00pm

Tuesday 30 Sep 9:00pm

Thursday 2 Oct 1:30pm

Sunday 5 Oct 6:30pm

Thursday 9 Oct 8:45pm

Sunday 12 Oct 4:00pm

PALACE BRIGHTON BAY

Wednesday 24 Sep 6:30pm

Friday 26 Sep 1:30pm

Tuesday 7 Oct 1:30pm

Wednesday 8 Oct 6:30pm

Friday 10 Oct 6:30pm

Lots more films below the fold Continue reading

Israel Film Festival

It is remarkable – non? – that, with the vast amounts spent on arts marketing it’s so hard to know what great arts events are on, where they’re on and whether you should go to them ahead of other arts events. In other words that it’s so hard not just to ensure that the information turns up on some feed of yours in a form that’s easily accessible and comprehensible, but also in a form that allows you to ignore dross, unless you want dross.

As a small contribution to solving this problem (with larger contributions in the wings), as you know Troppo hosts film festival highlights in a form that makes it easy for you to identify when and where good films are on. Here’s the Israeli Film Festival films that score around four stars or more from decent independent reviewers.

What’s there not to like?

Top Picks

A deeply compassionate depiction of the intricate and complex relationship between Jews and Arabs in the late 1980s, based on Sayed Kashua’s bestselling novels Second Person Singular and Dancing Arabs. Leaving his Arab home town of Tira to attend a prestigious Jewish boarding school, Eyad faces a dilemma: can he be accepted in this new environment without sacrificing his sense of self and culture? Though this opportunity suggests a positive future, Eyad struggles among Israeli Jews, feeling shame at simple things like not knowing how to use silverware, what music to listen to, and not pronouncing Hebrew correctly.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
This multi award-winning comedy is set in 1991 during the immigration wave from Russia to Israel and depicts one family’s hilarious experience through a video recording when their aunt dies in-flight causing all kinds of problems with entry paperwork!
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
From around the world, a group of thirty somethings return to their homeland of Israel to attend a mutual friend’s wedding with dramas forcing them to reexamine their relationships and desires.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
Zohara decides to travel to her estranged sister’s wedding, but on the way becomes an accomplice in a young Bedouin woman’s desperate escape from an arranged marriage.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ Vox Magazine
Show Timings:
Aidan Bloom is a 35-year-old man who finds himself at major crossroads, which forces him to examine his life, his career, and his family. A struggling actor, father and husband, he is still trying to find his identity; a purpose for his life. He winds up trying to home school his two children, when his father can no longer afford to pay for private education and the only available public school is on its last legs. Through teaching them about life his way, Aidan gradually discovers some of the parts of himself he couldn’t find.
☆☆☆☆ Examiner.com
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
Two men, spy and handler, whom history insists must be adversaries, forge an unexpected trust and friendship. A Palestinian in Ramallah, Mosab Hassan Yousef, whose father is a Hamas leader, grows up angry and ready to fight Israel. Arrested for smuggling guns at the age of 17, he’s interrogated by the Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, and sent to prison. But shocked by Hamas’ ruthless tactics in the prison and the organization’s escalating campaign of suicide bombings outside, Mosab astonishingly agrees to spy for Israel. Focusing on the complex relationship with his handler, The Green Prince is a gripping account of terror, betrayal, and unthinkable choices, along with a friendship that defies all boundaries
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Guardian
Show Timings:

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The best of Melbourne’s Spanish Film Festival

You know the drum. There’s a film festival on and these are the films that rate four stars or more.
In 1966, John Lennon was determined to leave the Beatles to become an actor, and arrives in Almería to shoot ‘How I Won the War’. Antonio, a school teacher in the small Spanish town of Albacete, learns that Lennon is visiting and decides to undertake the journey to meet his hero. On his way, Antonio meets two runaways; Juanjo, a 16-year-old boy who is escaping his home, and Belén, a 20-year-old pregnant girl reluctantly planning to go home to her mother. Together they travel to reach a destination where they will learn more about themselves and one another than they could have imagined.
☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ View Auckland
Show Timings:
After losing his mother to senseless violence, 12- year-old Lucas embarks on a brave journey to meet the grandmother he never knew. But the graceful, elderly Martina has no idea Lucas is on his way-she is terminally ill, and after thirteen years has decided to return to the region where she spent happy times with her husband. During his travels, Lucas meets up with Kayemó, a young man with a money problem and a gun, who reluctantly agrees to accompany him to his destination. Together, Lucas and Kayemó will discover there is only one destiny, the one you choose for yourself.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
Diego, a young and successful photographer, lives comfortably in the glamorous but shallow and excessive world of fashion. His deeply committed partner Fabrizio works as a paediatrician. However, Diego is not ready to commit to their relationship…until a tragic accident turns his world upside down; Fabrizio is now in a coma. Unexpectedly, and right at this inopportune time, Diego’s estranged son Armando shows up. Both of them have to adapt to each other; Armando to the unknown, homosexual world of his father, and Diego to the closed attitude of his teenage son.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
Claudia has grown up alone for almost her entire life. She fends for herself, living in a small room in a run-down neighborhood of Guadalajara. One day, she falls ill with appendicitis and winds up in hospital. In the bed next to her is Marta, a woman with four children and an endless lust for life, in spite of her terminal illness. Each of her children are very distinct from one another, but all love her profoundly. Claudia is gradually drawn into the family unit, forming a special bond with each one of them and filling a long-empty void in her life. As Marta’s illness advances, Claudia takes on a role within the family, keeping Marta company on regular hospital visits, accompanying the children to school, helping around the house, and even going on holiday with them.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
In order to escape from the squalid barrio in which they live, young Guatemalan teens Juan, Sara and Samuel make the decision to attempt the 1,200 mile-long arduous border crossing into “The Golden Cage”, i.e. USA, via Mexico in search of a better life. In order to blend in with the group and protect herself from the harm a woman can suffer on the journey, Sara initially disguises herself as a boy named Oswaldo. Not long after their departure, the group encounter Chauk, an Tzotzil Indian who speaks virtually no Spanish. Despite Juan’s fervent and passionate opposition, Sara insists they allow Chauk to join the gang. A harsh road follows as the four children show inspiring bravery in the face of relentless danger and obstacles, both natural and man made.
☆☆☆☆ Eye For Film
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
Paula is desperately in love with Jorge, a once divorced literary genius who keeps his feelings held close to his heart. Jorge is nominated to win a prominent literary award, but is only eligible if he completes his current novel. Much to Paula’s dismay, he decides to spend some months living away in his lakeside cottage to complete his writing. Although she accepts the move, Jorge’s lack of passion wears on Paula’s mind, and the limits of her loyalty begin to present themselves. She gradually loses interest in the relationship and gains enthusiasm for her own writing and her compelling thesis supervisor. Her withdrawal initiates a reversal, sparking Jorge’s desire for her and a relationship tug-of war is initiated.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
After a relationship break-up and being fired from his TV job, Siminiani embarks for India in search of material for a new feature. Anticipating a renaissance of his life, he travels from Delhi to Calcutta, with stops in various striking locations, both urban and rural. As he desperately seeks deep connections between his past and present, he decides he needs a female companion. But when he realizes that she is back in Madrid, his Indian soul searching comes to an abrupt end, and a new journey commences back in Spain.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:

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French Film Festival: Melbourne Edition

As the festival is now upon us in Melbourne anyway, I’m sticking it up the front of Troppo for a while for your delectation. Below is a timetable of the French Film Festival in Melbourne together with a table of the films rating better than most. I hope it helps you get to see a film. And if you want to find the films in cities other than Melbourne, then feel free to hightail it to the festival website.

Top Picks

Friends from France ☆☆☆☆
Going Away ☆☆☆☆
Jules and Jim ☆☆☆☆
Me, Myself and Mum ☆☆☆☆
Our Heroes Died Tonight ☆☆☆☆
The 400 Blows ☆☆☆☆☆
Venus in Fur ☆☆☆☆

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What’s on? A Troppo Initiative starting with the British Film Festival

This image came up on a Google search for “What’s On”. It’s from The Central Tavern at Springfield Lakes, wherever that is. Seems nice enough, the cocktails can be very red by the looks of things, though there does seem to be quite a breeze blowing there. But I digress.

I’ve complained before about the strange state of the world. On the one hand we can set up fabulously useful markets for stuff on eBay and Amazon where you can not only find just what you’re looking for (if it’s available) but are also made aware of things that, based on what you’ve previously bought or liked, you might like, but you can’t get the same service for events on around you. And here the market for events is divided into the heavily marketed standard fare – mainstream films, and Big Arts for instance – and the not so much. Of this there’s what you might call ‘mainstream arthouse’ which is also heavily marketed, and then there are lots of other events like festivals where there are once off events. And here you’re at the mercy of the marketers of the festivals. For instance the British Film Festival started last night and had a film on that it said was pretty swish.  The reviews say it’s pretty horrible, but you have to do a bit of work to find that out.  True, with Google, it’s much less work than it used to be, but then there are a lot of events on. And I would check out perhaps one per cent of those events.

Meanwhile the government which should be in the business of funding public goods is nevertheless in the business of subsidising private goods.  It subsidises the Art Gallery to further its own interests and feather it’s own nest, and the Recital Centre, and the ABC and the Opera and so on. They’re all taking to the internet with their cool new apps. But that isn’t solving the problem, but rather replicating it. Why? Because us users continue to receive a service that’s fragmented which wastes our time and misleads us with marketing bumph rather than addressing our needs (to mainly go to events we’re likely to like.)

But there you go. Complaints are only ever surfaced so as to spur action to solve them – that’s one of our corest of core values on “Our Values Charter” at Troppo. So I’ve asked Anoop, Lateral Economics’ designer-cum-research-assistant in India to do the basic legwork necessary to produce a schedule of a film festival with our interests as potential patrons in mind. So instead of the marketing bumph on the official website, I’ve asked Anoop to go find the two best reviews he can find, and to put up the synopsis, and links to the trailer denoted by this iconTrailer  and the best reviews together with their ratings either as expressed by them in stars out of five, or as they have rated them themselves. So below the fold you’ll find the schedule for Melbourne. It immediately demonstrates the difference between marketing bumph and reviews. The opening movie is described on the official website as “A superb, celebratory crowd-pleaser, with a gorgeous performance from the affable Corden as an inspirational nobody who dared to follow his dream against all odds.”. Maybe that’s right, but you should at least know that the Guardian reviewer reported it as being a “weirdly miscast. . . treacly, tepid heartwarmer”. The bad news is that with this kind of shoestring operation, you would probably have liked to know this before last night when it was on.  But the rest of the festival is similarly unlocked for you. Imagine if markets in information actually worked a little more directly to actually help consumers! It really shouldn’t take much.

Melbourne Schedule

@Palace Cinema Como

Wednesday 20 November

7:00pm One Chance (Opening Night)Trailer
Triumph follows adversity follows triumph follows adversity in dizzying fashion in David Frankel’s contrived but still affecting biopic of Paul Potts, the phone salesman from Port Talbot who became the first winner of Britain’s Got Talent.
☆☆☆☆☆   The Guardian
☆☆☆☆☆   The Independent

Thursday 21 November

Mr Pip: and some things and people who give me the pip

Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are the rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried than before – more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.

I went to see Mr Pip last night. I checked out several reviews before I went and they were not encouraging. But I liked the sound of the story and wanted to go to a movie and so there I was. I recommend it – though readers are warned that I am prone to strong views when seeing movies – particularly when I see them on my own which I did with this one.

It’s a film made in New Zealand and I have to say that based on a number of New Zealand films I’ve seen – most particularly Once were Warriors and In my Father’s Den these New Zealanders seem to be much better than us at making serious movies lately. Ours are so timid by comparison – so often focused on fairly cute comedies of manners – like Priscilla and Muriel’s Wedding and usually bathed in the treacle of our national preoccupation with asking “what does it mean to be Australian?” – sorry I nearly lost consciousness just contemplating that last question. Such an interesting one. Note: Henry Lawson and cousin Banjo were no doubt good guys, but can we please move on?

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