Image: Cargo - a key image
Opening this week
Cargo is the headline film. Don't be put off by the zombie motif - this is a picture about primal determination and love of children, in which the world disintegrates in remote Australia, releasing very different survival strategies by White and Aboriginal communities. Martin Freeman's performance is spectacular and Geoffrey Simpson's cinematography is a hymn to landscape.
It was written and half-directed by Yolanda Ramke, an actress, writer and director who came to attention through a Tropfest film with the same title which scored 14m views on the net and was a finalist for 2013. She co-directed that with Ben Howling and the relationship continued on this film. They met behind the scenes on Big Brother a decade ago and have been collaborating ever since.
The film is produced by Kristina Ceyton, of Babadook fame, along with Russell Ackerman, Samantha Jennings and Mark Patterson.
Filmink has an interesting discussion with the two, which nails the way in which individualism is pitted against community.
The Roger Ebert site has a strongly positive review based on the Tribeca screening.
With uniformly terrific performances—particularly from Freeman, who dominates most of the film and must play out a gradual deterioration—“Cargo” is remarkable in the way that it mixes and subverts genre conventions to make an old story into something fresh.
Luke Buckmaster for The Guardian saw it at its premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival, which helped to find it. After some minor glitches, he concluded
Nevertheless Cargo is a very strong, at times stirring achievement: a zombie film with soul and pathos. The living dead are frightening again, not because of jump scares, surprise attacks or haunted house style shenanigans, but because they remind us of truly terrifying things: losing ourselves, and our loved ones.
And Ready Steady Cut for a US pov:
Despite possessing all the requisite gruesome mauling, hair-raising altercations and pointed examples of how human beings are the worst monsters of all, Howling and Ramke’s approach is geared less towards the Walking Dead crowd and more at a mature, thoughtful audience ..... Cargo has a broader appeal, but is a similarly strong and stirring achievement, a zombie film with, ironically enough, plenty of brains to chew on.
There is a twist to the release of this film. It has also been out at the Gold Coast Film Festival and done the arthouse Q&A circuit. But it sold to Netflix, never be released on a cinema screen anywhere else in the world. So it is running in a limited way here and may only be available for a short time.
At its Adelaide premiere I thought it stuck out as a really distinctive Australian film - not Sweet Country but valuable in its own right. It is a fascinating example of a film which producers call 'elevated genre', using pop cinema tropes to see the world in a slightly new way.
All the films starting this weekend are on limited release so you will have to hunt for them.
I Kill Giants, directed by Danish short film Oscar winner Anders Walter, is kind of a kids' film but with grown-up appeal. On various sites it is described as 'striking coming-of-age movie that blends magical realism with heartbreaking drama' .. and... ' a well-acted, moving tale of how an imaginative girl handles life-changing family trauma' ... and.. 'Pondering grief and denial, lost dreams and irrevocably altered futures, the director Anders Walter proves you don’t need a giant-sized special-effects budget to conjure enchantment and danger.' That last is the NY Times.
Redoubtable, aka Le Redoubtable is a filmnik treat. It is a drama about Jean Luc Godard in 1968 as he falls in love with Anne Wiazemsky and makes La Chinoise as he transitions from an excellent popular filmmaker to a cinematic revolutionary with no sense of humour.
It cost US$13m to make and made US$1m at the box office, which would have entertained Godard who provided a one line review of the flick - 'This film is a stupid, stupid idea'. It was directed by Michel Hazanavicius, who made The Artist and Nest of Spies. And does have a sense of humour.
Philip Kemp in Sight and Sound probably gets it right:
'...there's a playful irreverence about the narrative treatment that keeps it watchable, and Garrel, often seen as a narcissistic actor, paradoxically gives perhaps his most likeable performance yet as a largely dislikeable character.'
But there is a fair amount of sniffy hatred revealed on Rotten Tomatoes. Heh.
BPM (Beats Per Minute) is a feature film by Robin Campillo, written by him and Philippe Mangeot. It is about the ACT UP campaign in Paris in the early Nineties to get support for people with HIV/AIDS. They were very inventive, full of energy and held meetings which the film manages to make interesting.
The reviews are uniformly positive. Here is Sight and Sound again:
120 BPM understands that conflict is not abuse and that comrades need not be friends. It immerses us in tangled lives of passion and anger on their own terms of tenderness, frustration, charisma, mess, pride, fury, pain, laughter, intimacy and bitterness.
You can also find Royal Opera: Macbeth, Caraveggio: The Soul and the Blood and.. hold your breath.. The Royal Wedding of HRH Prince Harry and Miss Meghan Markle.
Ozdox is running a session on Tuesday 22 May at AFTRS on current issues in archiving called Preserving and Restoring Our Stories. It will also be live streamed.
Breath is dividing audiences. It is defiantly slow because the characters evolve over several years. It feels old fashioned because the women are so underdeveloped; it is not so much a bro film as a picture about adolescent boys from the point of view of adults, but those adults are male.
But it does look gorgeous. The swimming footage is so sensual, and helps to explore the way young boys grow into their bodies. The surfing scenes must have been fiendishly difficult to shoot and I have heard surfing tragics say it is the best evocation of big wave surfing they have ever experienced.
It is an art film and we don't have too many films which reach for those stars. And it belongs in that select pantheon of Australian films which evoke our experience of environment and our slowly evolving understanding of our unique physical world.
We are not sure how long it will last, and it absolutely deserves a huge screen and great sound.
Gurrumul and The Song Keepers are very much worth a look, with a lot of unexpected and mischievous pleasures. Midnight Oil is a lovely study of some really decent men led by an enormous insect who torments himself with the tension between politics and sheer joyous entertainment. It is an icon of its times and rewards cultural curiosity. Again, I really wanted to meet Garrett's family.
Loveless is simply majestic in its mastery of the art form; Isle of Dogs is visually all Wes Anderson and utterly assured; A Quiet Place proves that horror can be satisfying; the Guernsey spud film will make you feel all gooey inside. The Death of Stalin also divides audiences - maybe there is a connection between lovers of Breath and Stalin. Do we need a film called Stalin, Secret Surfer to the Comintern?
Motherhood picture Tully has been doing okay with audiences. The Guardian has several goes at reviewing it and this one is sympathetic. The Roger Ebert site is really sympathetic too. Sandra Hall in the SMH mostly ditto.
Black Panther, The Shape of Water, Phantom Thread, Three Billboards Outside Ebberling Missouri, The Hitman's Bodyguard, Bridge of Spies, I Tonya, and The Big Short are all on iTunes. Check Netflix for them as well.
Anne Tsoulis' film about Gaza, From Under the Rubble, has a parliamentary screening in Canberra on 22 May and then on 25 May at the NFSA Cinema. It is pretty appropriate at the moment, and it is a relatively calm and human story.
The festival of the moment is the St Kilda Film Festival which starts on 17 May and runs until the weekend after next.
We covered it thoroughly on How to Navigate the St Kilda Film Festival.
The American Essentials Film Festival from Palace finishes this weekend In Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra.
From May 22 tp 10 June, the German Film Festival trundles into its place in the same cities plus Adelaide, perhaps as a homage to the Barossa Valley and metwurst. Wim Wender's Wings of Desire is the closing night film.
QAGOMA's robust and challenging Curious Affection film program is in full cry. This weekend is choc-a-bloc.
In Melbourne the Human Rights and Arts Film Festival is running the white helmets film Last Men in Aleppo on Thursday 17 May at ACMI, which is the closing night film.
ACMI is also running Valerie And Her Week of Wonders, a piece of Czech surrealism: 'Horror, surrealism and fairytale combine in this cult Czech New Wave feature and hallucinogenic Yayoi Kusama short'. Also popping up is Wes Anderson's The Fantastic Mr Fox, Redoubtable and Sjankmajers films including Alice in Wonderland. And on a full program this weekend, it has Bye Bye Germany, to which words like melancholy humour, handsome period movie and unusual story are attached.
On the horizon
Three words. Sydney Film Festival.
IMAX Melbourne is happily celebrating its twentieth anniversary, which involves both Deadpool Films, the 1998 IMAX Everest film, Infinity War and the IMAX Original documentary Pandas 3D.
For which there is a featurette, which is so cute I can't resist it.
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