my reviews

Angèle et Tony

Posted in my reviews on May 15th, 2011 by Rachael – Be the first to comment

Writer/Director: Alix Delaporte
Producer: Hélène Cases

[In Australian cinemas May 19 through Palace Films]


This is the type of film that once would have been described as the perfect first feature film: largely a two-hander, it is a modest story set largely in domestic locations with natural lighting. And is it – the debut feature from a French director who has established her screen career in television and short films. However, in the current Australian funding climate, with genre imperatives and commercial pressures at heart, it’s the type of first film that might struggle to be made. In a market flooded with superheroes, ghosts and werewolves, it is refreshingly low-concept: a simple, modern, naturalistic romance.

The film centres on two people desperately in search of intimacy: one who seeks it through indiscriminate sex, the other who resists the vulnerability innate to physical contact. It opens with a random sexual encounter and spends the next 85 minutes on a carefully helmed voyage to real intimacy. In an idea not entirely new but certainly revitalized in the astute performance of Clotilde Hesme, Angèle must find rebuild her self-love before she can have the chance of a relationship from Tony (Grégory Gadebois), himself grappling with a deep and recent loss.

A fisherman, a boat full of paper flowers and the solitude of the sea, there’s a lovely poetic at work at the core of the film. However, ironically, the strongest part of Delaporte’s direction is her restraint against sentimentality. The most intimate scenes are played with a matter-of-fact candour, the emotional turning points rendered so subtle they are almost overlooked.

Hovering somewhere between Shone Auerbach’s Dear Frankie (2004) – also set amongst the fishing docks and Beck Cole’s upcoming Here I Am (2011) (funded through the Adelaide Film Festival), Angèle et Tony is an unassuming tale of two adults trying to find their way to each other in the wake of heartache.



Posted in my reviews on August 12th, 2010 by Rachael – Be the first to comment

Writer/Director: Taika Waititi
Producers: Cliff Curtis, Ainsley Gardiner, Emanuel Michael

[In Australian cinemas August 26 through Transmission Films]
Taika Thriller

Having already overtaken Whale Rider as the highest grossing New Zealand film of all time, this hilarious tale of the underdog combines finely drawn characterisation with the understated humour of Beached As; the same classical composition and mesmirising child performances of Taika Waititi’s Oscar nominated short Two Cars, One Night (one of my favourite shorts of all time) and the quirky, indy sensibility of his first feature Eagle Versus Shark.

In my Q&A last night, writer/director and actor Waititi explained that his homage to the ’80s stemmed partly from his own childhood experience but also from a filmmaker’s desire to avoid the all-too-fast obsolecence of technology; opting instead for something that was “already daggy.”

A touching coming-of-age story of family, identity and national pride – in tight pants and fluorescent tights.

See the mashup here that saw a nationalistic anthem go to number three on the charts. Guaranteed to make you smile, moonwalk and/or twirl a poi.

Father of My Children

Posted in my reviews on June 23rd, 2010 by Rachael – Be the first to comment

Writer/Director: Mia Hansen-Løve
Producers: Oliver Damian, Philippe Martin, David Thion

[In Australian cinemas August 26 through Palace]
Father of My Children

Serge: “Why do you work with Stig Jensen. Are you a masochist?”

Grégoire: “Did you see his retrospective?… Garden of Eden’s a masterpiece.”

Serge: “Never heard of it.”

This dialogue from Mia Hansen-Løve’s latest Cannes acclaimed feature is emblematic of both the film and a central plight at the core of modern cinema production: how to maintain integrity in an increasingly commercialised industry. That classic conundrum of art versus entertainment made all the more apparent by the GFC is the subject of this necessary and finely wrought film. Is film a commodity or cultural artefact? And who carries the debt of that decision?

Grégoire Canvel (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) is a film producer whose slate is crumbling under the pressures of blown out budgets, testing auteurs and uncompromising financiers. This is compounded by the demands of three active daughters and an increasingly dissatisfied wife (Chiara Caselli). All very relevant for the Cannes Film Festival setting where it won last year’s Special Jury Prize in Un Certain Regard.

The film abounds in subtle motifs such as the white sheep detailed in a church mosaic (“They’re the believers,” Canvel tells his daughters on a rare holiday outing) to Le Moutin Blanc bar outside the Canvel home; faith being one of its central themes. Also the marvel of creation, as witnessed through an impromptu play devised by Canvel’s youngest daughters one evening.

It is from the joyous performance Hansen-Løve evokes in these children – a talent she exemplified in her César nominated All Is Forgiven (2007) – that the film’s greatest success springs: combined with unfailingly realistic dialogue and considerable shooting in low-light conditions, the naturalism creates a sense of extreme intimacy with this man, his colleagues and his family; most of all an empathy with the juggle between all three. What happens to disciples when their guiding light goes out?

The September Issue

Posted in my reviews on August 4th, 2009 by Rachael – Be the first to comment

Director: R. J. Cutler
Producers: R. J. Cutler, Eliza Hindmarch, Sadia Shepard

[in Australian cinemas August 20]
The September Issue

Behind every great woman is… another great woman.

Such is certainly the case in upcoming documentary The September Issue, which I just saw today. An exposé on the life of infamous Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, The September Issue is renowned for making time with Wintour’s fictionalised character in The Devil Wears Prada look like a walk in Hyde Park.

The film’s narrative throughline is the leadup to the magazine’s annual highlight: the September issue of the magazine. And issues they have. The dramatic tension is built up between Wintour and her fashion editor Grace Coddington, the art and soul of the magazine who started at Vogue the same time as Wintour.

In this way it is very much like Matt Tyrnauer’s doco Valentino, King of Couture, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year and charts the similar politics and co-dependency at work between the legendary designer and long-suffering partner.

The politics between the mantis and her prey are cruel and at any moment in The September Issue, we can’t predict whether Coddington will resign, be fired or save the day – and one of these is indeed the film’s outcome.


Posted in my reviews on June 19th, 2009 by Rachael – 2 Comments

Director: Robert Connolly
Writers: David Williamson, Robert Connolly
Producer: John Maynard

[in Australian cinemas August 13 through Footprint Films]
LaPaglia Balibo

Robert Connolly and John Maynard (The Bank, Three Dollars) are renowned for their films with social conscience. Their latest, Balibo – sympathetic portrait of the invasion of East Timor (then Portuguese Timor) in 1975 and the six journalists who died reporting its leadup – is their bravest to date.

The film unfolds through devices organic to its themes – recorded interview, news clippings, reportage and documentary – as three different stories unfold ahead of each other: The narrative thread relating to the “Balibo Five” (Australians Greg Shackleton and Tony Stewart, New Zealander Gary Cunningham and Britons Brian Peters and Malcolm Rennie) is demarcated by a visual treatment typical of footage of the time. In their wake, is the story of the Australian journalist Roger East; and, bookending these, a modern day revisiting of events. Beneath all three storylines, none of which get ahead of the characters thanks to the great restraint shown by editor Nick Meyers, is the unrelenting sense of unease which owes much to the work of sound designers Emma Bortignon (Noise) and Sam Petty (The Boys), who are unparalleled in this country.

LaPaglia, who also starred in The Bank, plays the reluctant hero with understated grit, well supported by a talented group in Gyton Grantley, Damon Gameau and Simon Stone. David Williamson (The Year of Living Dangerously) does the story justice in a script of insight and ardor.

The film has an innate integrity. Whilst shying away from neither the violence nor the politics, nor does it exploit them. Whilst conceding the muddiness of political reporting, it seeks a purer truth; like an ANZAC myth from the ’70s. With its ongoing relevance, this film is one the world should see. With the craftsmanship of its delivery, thankfully it will.

Mary & Max

Posted in my reviews on March 22nd, 2009 by Rachael – Be the first to comment

Writer/Director: Adam Elliot
Producer: Melanie Coombs

[in Australian cinemas April 9 through Icon]

With his self-effacing homage to “difference” and evolution of a medium, Adam Elliot has created something wonderful with his first feature-length claymation.

Mary & Max unfolds through the cross-Pacific correspondence between two unlikely pen pals. Though both outsiders for different reasons, 8-y-o Mary Daisy Dinkle and 300 lb New Yorker Max Horowitz share loneliness and a love of chocolate.

The tone and structure are reminiscent of Leunig’s book The Curly Pyjama Letters, and the characters are defined by a Benjamin Button innocence and Forrest Gump goodness. But most of all, Mary & Max references Elliot’s body of work so far: his early shorts Uncle, Cousin and Brother, and his Oscar winning short with producer Melanie Coombs, Harvie Krumpet. His animation, like life, has fingerprints on it – and that’s what makes it real.

Despite themes ranging from cerebral palsy to Asperger’s Syndrome, depression and suicide, Elliot finds the light side of life as characterised by a distinct sense of compassion and good humour. Filled with the quirky minutiae of life, his work stands as an affirmation of humanity on the grandest scale.

The film opened this year’s Sundance Film Festival and, in its first Sydney screening at AFTRS Friday night, the theatre was full house and overflowing with praise.

Forget ‘1000 Films to See Before You Die’ – Mary & Max should be in your Top 10.


Bertie Blackman: Secrets & Lies

Posted in my reviews on March 21st, 2009 by Rachael – 2 Comments

Just in from seeing Bertie Blackman and Neal Sutherland (bass/keys) play at the Wharf Sessions. Totally blew my mind.

I’ve seen these guys perform over the years and even worked with them, so I know how they can raise the roof with complex tunes and the biggest little voice you’ve ever heard. But even I was unprepared for how much they have evolved with this new album.

Goldfrapp producer Lee Groves has served them well: from the palpable ‘Heart’ (watch out for clip produced by Diana Ward and shot by Bonnie Elliott) to more contempletive ‘Sky is Falling’, this album has not only guts but gravitas and is truly cinematic.

No longer Sydney’s best kept secret, these guys have been featured on the soundtracks to Puppy, Feed, Feeling_Lonely? and Hey Hey It’s Esther Blueberger.
bertie blackman

Secrets & Lies will be released in stores in May.

Samson & Delilah

Posted in my reviews on February 23rd, 2009 by Rachael – 3 Comments

Writer: Warwick Thornton
Director: Warwick Thornton
Producer: Kath Shelper

Samson & Delilah, Rowan McNamara

[In Australian cinemas April 30 (NSW May 7) through Footprint Films]

Exile, struggle and salvation are all central themes of Warwick Thornton’s first feature Samson and Delilah. But this is no simple allegory. And it is completely unpretentious. In fact, the conceit of this film’s title works precisely because the plight of its protagonists seems of so little consequence to everyone else around them.

Unlike similar angst-ridden couples – from Bonnie and Clyde to Neil Armfield’s Candy to new Mexican director Gerardo Naranjo’s volatile Voy a Explotar (I’m Gonna Explode) – Thornton’s Samson and Delilah elicit a mute protest and quiet pathos.

Thornton’s signature characters are here: the Green Bush radio station and Nana (Mitjili Napanangka Gibson) that made his award winning 2005 and 2007 short films by the same name world celebrated (the former won Best Short in the Panorama section of Berlin and the latter a Crystal Bear). Both bring humour to this otherwise largely bleak landscape. But what I like most about Thornton’s direction in Samson and Delilah is that he never allows the journey to be romanticised. Whilst his stunning cinematography could easily have elicited a nostalgic glow, the Samson and Delilah he creates in long, slow shots and intimate close-ups are all too real.

This narrative runs to its own rhythm and pace. There is no clearly delineated line of cause and effect; action and consequence. There are repetitions, echoes even, but no clear tracks. This will make it a difficult commercial sell but should play well at international festivals. It is Thornton’s homage to a culture (and one that he knows well) in which change does not come quickly or easily and in which the greatest danger is the subtle erosion of hope itself.

Samson & Delilah, Marissa Gibson

other critique

Posted in my reviews on February 21st, 2009 by Rachael – Be the first to comment
  • Offerings for the poor: the cycle of poverty
  • Report from the Venice Film Festival FIPRESCI jury

  • Eye of the Beholder: Intimacy in the age of surveillance
  • Report from the London Film Festival FIPRESCI jury

  • The Power of One
  • Report from the Sydney Film Festival FIPRESCI jury