Tuesday, October 28, 2014


1974, Australia, directed by Tim Burstall

With Alvin Purple director Burstall at the helm, I anticipated a film far more ocker in spirit than the reality, which is more social commentary than broad laughs, consistent with the 1970s oeuvre of writer David Williamson. It's by no means a perfect film in terms of its social attitudes -- among other flaws there's a reasonable amount of what a later viewer might call "mansplaining" in the title character's interventions on behalf of feminist groups, something that's characteristic of Williamson's writing more generally.

As acute as he is in examining the Aussie male of the 1970s and 1980s, Williamson is a good deal less clued-in (or perhaps less interested) when dealing with the Aussie female, and the conclusion is, to say the least, rather jarring: it's difficult to say whether the brutal event or its insouciant aftermath is more unsettling. Jack Thompson is quite brilliant in the lead -- it's not at all hard to see why he became a star on the strength of this and the subsequent Sunday Too Far Away. There's something amazing in seeing an actor transform into something more than just an actor before your eyes: I was distracted by Errol Flynn in Captain Blood for exactly that reason -- not only is he visibly becoming "Errol Flynn," but he knows it full well.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Sapphires

2012, Australia, directed by Wayne Blair

A bit of a genre mishmash, crossing Good Morning Vietnam with The Commitments and adding a dash of Rabbit-Proof Fence, with the result about as confused as you might expect, and miles away from the true story that inspired the film. The film is a good deal better on Australian soil than Vietnamese, with the outback setting quite nicely evoked in both its positive and negative aspects, while the actors, particularly Deborah Mailman and Chris O'Dowd, are both energetic and effective. There are some very amusing moments in the first half, too, as the musical act slowly takes shape, and before the film enters bumpier territory with respect to the Vietnam war backdrop.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

A New Leaf

1970, US, directed by Elaine May

I couldn't quite decide whether it was my sense of humour or an unfamiliarity with Elaine May's work, but it took me a while to get into her gently scathing satire, with its two richly-drawn central characters, played by May herself and Walter Matthau. The latter is highly enjoyable in a buttoned-down mode, but the real revelation to me was May's apparently substantial influence on Wes Anderson. I think it says a great deal about the relative oblivion into which May has fallen that this connection isn't made rather more often. I remember David Ehrenstein commenting somewhere that in a sense Anderson's great obsession is the preservation of good manners in all situations, and Matthau's character in particular could very easily slot into a Wes film. Visually, I was on the fence, though: the film certainly seems quite typical of its time period, with striking -- even grotesque -- closeups, although sometimes this has terrific comic effect, particularly in the shot where Matthau reacts with great alarm to the possibility of an ample bosom being unveiled in his direction.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Double Indemnity

1944, US, directed by Billy Wilder

I hadn't seen this for years, and it looked quite wonderful on the big screen. As much as I remembered the performances, particularly the against-type turn from Fred MacMurray, I had forgotten just how spectacularly sour the film is -- a disturbing portrait of two people who deserve each other in the worst possible sense. It's a film that casts a long shadow, too -- it's not hard to find traces of the flinty personalities across the Atlantic a couple of years later, in fare like Macadam.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Friends of Eddie Coyle

1973, US, directed by Peter Yates

A very fine Boston film, one I can't believe I'd allow to escape me for so long. I've an ongoing correspondence with a film-loving friend, and this film provoked one of our few mild disagreements: where he was lukewarm owing to the faded "insouciance and swagger and magnetism" this was, for me, precisely what makes the film compelling, the viewer's awareness of the star's past greatness functioning as a very useful backdrop for a character who is a mere shell of himself. It's also an absolutely fascinating picture of early-1970's Boston, with Yates's outsider eye as useful here as it was in San Francisco a few years earlier for Bullitt. At times, the procession of low-rent diners and bars -- and low-rent patrons -- reminded me of Cassavetes circa Minnie and Moskowitz, although the tone is quite different.


List of all movies

Most of the images here are either studio publicity stills or screen captures I've made myself; if I've taken your image without giving you credit, please let me know.

About Me

Boston, Massachusetts, United States