So soon after Moonlight and Certain Women, another movie in three parts. In 1999, Zhao Tao (I Wish I Knew, A Touch of Sin) is friends with sharp-chinned coal miner Liangzi (Jingdong Liang, Tao’s Platform costar) and petulant boss Jinsheng. When the boss decides he wants to marry her, he pulls strings to stay close to her and gets his former friend fired.

2014: Liangzi has health problems and a family in another town, moves back to the city and sees Tao again. Her father dies, and her son Daole visits from Australia for the funeral but barely knows her.

2025: Daole enlists his university English teacher (Sylvia Chang, the boss in Office) to translate conversations with his dad, now a gun dealer, then to Katy’s chagrin, Daole starts sleeping with the teacher. He thinks about visiting his mom, decides not to. Back in China, Mom dances alone in the snow.

N. Bahadur:

Neither man is willing to let Zhao make her own decision, both only desire to possess her. So in this sense Zhao’s sporadic weaving in and out of the narrative reveal both tradition and capitalism stifling femininity.

This had weird similarities with Mountains May Depart, which we watched the night before. It spans about the same amount of time, during which a boy is separated from his mother, moves to Australia and forgets her native language.

This one’s the true story of “Saroo” who gets lost while adventuring with his big brother then accidentally rides a train to Calcutta where he doesn’t speak the language and almost gets captured by a creepy man then ends up in an orphanage from where he’s adopted by Nicole Kidman and the corrupt police chief from Top of the Lake. Years later he is Dev Patel of Slumdog, going to college and dating Rooney Mara when he learns about online satellite-map programs and becomes obsessed with finding his home town, which he’s been mispronouncing all his life, and seeing his real family again.

Besides obviously getting choked up by the climactic family reunion (and the inevitable footage of the real people being dramatized) I got much of the same feeling as Garth’s Top of the Lake – it’s a good-looking prestige pic tackling Important Issues, but when it was over it didn’t reverberate in my head in any meaningful way, just made me wanna go see another movie.

Also: Darth Gavis.

This worked nicely with our True/False documentary theme – a talking-heads interview doc about classic Hollywood costume designer Orry Kelly that also features slippery gossip and actors portraying Orry (Darren Gilshenan, murdered realtor Bob Platt in Top of the Lake) and his mom and others. Armstrong allowed the interviewees to be contradictory, even questioning the purpose of the film. I’m not usually so into the personal lives of stars (had no idea that Cary Grant and Randolph Scott were “roommates”) but this movie was charming as hell and full of classic clips and fabulous gowns, so we dug it all.

First movie I’ve seen by Gillian Armstrong. Note to self: I have never seen her movie Charlotte Gray, starring Cate Blanchett. I always get it confused with Veronica Guerin, also starring Cate Blanchett, which I saw on video and disliked.

“I was a cop, a driver.”

That settles it: the even-numbered Mad Max movies are brilliant and the odd-numbered are just alright. This was mostly a time-wasting attempt to turn Mad Max into a trilogy. I had pretty decent memories of this from watching it on cable in the 1980’s, back when I didn’t know the rules of franchises and licensed properties and believed that all crossovers were possible, imagining Indiana Jones: Beyond Thunderdome, or Care Bears: Beyond Thunderdome. Two bears enter, one bear leaves.

Max is introduced as The Man With No Name, tying him to Eastwood’s trilogy about a loner character who keeps getting in the middle of other groups’ fights. The gyrocaptain returns, making him the only character (not the only actor) besides Max to appear in multiple movies. Over the closing credits I thought “We Don’t Need Another Hero” wasn’t as great a song as I remembered, but then it got stuck in my head for days.

The language is great anyway, with references to the pocky-clipse. But the movie’s a mess – it’s the one in this series where I least understood the characters and the stakes. Bartertown ruler Tina Turner and thunderdome champ Master Blaster are villains… or are they? I liked Master Blaster – The Mighty as a warrior. The tiny Master was Angelo Rossitto (in movies since the 1920’s) and Blaster was Paul Larsson (billed just under John Larroquette in Altered States). The action scenes were still believable, and very well filmed.

Thunderdome MC spinning the wheel of fate:

Max’s death sentence, before being rescued by the tribe of children:

If true, IMDB trivia comes in handy for once:

George Miller lost interest in the project after his friend and producer Byron Kennedy was killed in a helicopter crash while location scouting. That may explain why Miller only handled the action scenes while George Ogilvie handled the rest. The film is dedicated to Byron Kennedy.

NxNW-reminiscent finale:

Opens by telling us that yes, the first movie took place after the Oil Wars, and now we’re in the post-apocalyptic future wasteland, and I appreciate them clearing that up. I’m still not convinced that Max is all that mad, not even in the fourth movie. Gibson seemed madder in Lethal Weapon. That said, the climactic road race is pretty damned mad.

Max w/ flamethrower:

These details aside, this movie is electrifying, with an expert mix of intensity and absurdity. Setting the pattern for parts 3 and 4, Max is out in the desert minding his own business and looking for fuel when he stumbles into a situation where people are being oppressed by an evil authority. Max doesn’t set out to save them because he’s a noble hero – it’s in his own self-interest. Max doesn’t even make friends with the gyrocopter pilot who leads him to the oil town (Bruce Spence, later a Dark City alien), keeps him chained up until needed.

Gyrocaptain and snake friend:

Max has a cool dog, who comes to a predictably bad end:

Villains: hockey-masked sharpshooter Lord Humungus and his rage-filled biker enforcer Wez (Vernon Wells, villain of Commando and Innerspace), who is excellent. Also really good is the eight-year-old boomerang moppet – but not good enough to justify the proliferation of kids in part three.

Wez – there are no bad shots of this guy:

Some advanced Babe-foreshadowing via pigs, like when Dekker put a message from the Monster Squad in Night of the Creeps. I didn’t realize when watching this that Thunderdome would be absolutely full of pigs.

Virginia Hey, later a blue-skinned alien in Farscape:

Toadie reminds me of Dennis Hopper in Waterworld:

“I’m the (k)night rider. The toe cutter, he knows who I am!”

I was immediately impressed with the character names, but also confused by the movie. Max is a cop, and yes his police station looks awfully run down, but it’s not some Tom Petty wasteland future – it’s all pretty much how I assume Australia looked in 1979. So maybe the apocalypse happens before part two, and that’s when Max becomes Mad. He gets pretty close to Mad in this one – give an awesomely dangerous guy a “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” montage showing how much he loves his precious family, and guess what’s gonna happen to that family – but I wouldn’t call his murder-revenge spree against the biker gang that killed his family and his partner and broke his arm a permanent madness.

“Any longer out on that road and I’m one of them – a terminal crazy”

Other Weirdness: the big cartoon music during tense scenes. And Max locks a dude to a bomb, suggests he sever a limb to get free – an influence on SAW? Pretty straightforward, sharp-looking movie. And hey, the baddies only run down Max’s wife and kid – nobody gets tortured or raped, making this one of the more palatable 1970’s revenge movies.

We all know Mel Gibson went on to star in The Beaver and Machete Kills, but who was everyone else? Max’s wife Jessie was in early Nicole Kidman film Nightmaster. Max’s even-madder partner Goose does a lotta TV, was recently in The Great Gatsby. Max’s boss “Fifi” was once in movies called Stone and Stoner in the same year. Lead baddie Toecutter played lead baddie Immortan Joe in Mad Max 4. Shot by David Eggby (not Dave Eggers) who later shot a couple of Riddick movies.

Set at a girls’ boarding school in 1900, shot with dreamy sunlit photography, scored with Zamfir panpipes, and run through with an inexplicable tension. Great mood movie, providing no answers at the end, made fifteen years after unsolved disappearance drama L’Avventura.

The girls go on a field trip to the base of a mountain, are “forbidden any tomboy foolishness in the matter of exploration,” except for mute Sarah who is forced to stay behind at the school, which seems to be a place where rich girls wear all white and learn poetry. During naptime, four girls get up and walk up the mountain, led by Miranda (Anne-Louise Lambert of The Draughtsman’s Contract) and separately I think, a teacher also wanders off. One girl, complainy Edith, runs back screaming. The rest awaken, search until dark then return to the school.

After a days-long search party, rich Michael (Dominic Guard, the lead boy in The Go-Between five years earlier) and servant Albert (John Jarratt, baddie of Wolf Creek), young men who witnessed the girls at one point, begin their own search and come across one of the missing girls, who requires medical treatment and finally leaves the school, never speaking to anyone about what happened or where the others might be.

Albert wearing Michael’s hat:

Principal Mrs. Appleyard (Rachel Roberts of O Lucky Man) tells mute Sarah, whose best friend is still missing, that her bills haven’t been paid and she’ll be sent to an orphanage. Sarah commits suicide, which is the last straw in the school’s quickly failing reputation. Weird detail: Albert is revealed as Sarah’s long-lost brother, though I don’t think they ever meet. In postscript, the school closes and Mrs. Appleyard dies attempting to climb the mountain.

Sarah with Principal Appleyard:

Also in the movie: Jacki Weaver (who I just saw as a murdered aunt in Stoker) as a sexy maid.

V. Canby:

Horror need not always be a long-fanged gentleman in evening clothes or a dismembered corpse or a doctor who keeps a brain in his gold fish bowl. It may be a warm sunny day, the innocence of girlhood and hints of unexplored sexuality that combine to produce a euphoria so intense it becomes transporting, a state beyond life or death. Such horror is unspeakable not because it is gruesome but because it remains outside the realm of things that can be easily defined or explained in conventional ways.

E. Roginski for Film Quarterly:

The use of Gheorghe Zamphier’s Pan Pipes is insidious and mesmerizing. The notes from the pipes, echoing an ageless music of the hills begins early in the film to indicate the powerful presence of something primeval. It is played in counter-point to the sophisticated music of Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto, the music of the civilized world. These two strains of music, then, struggle for attention and dominance throughout the film.

So this is where Toni Collette came from. She plays a loser from a hopeless family in a nowhere town trying to impress her nobody friends, who moves to the city and finally (and convincingly, not all-at-once in a cheap montage) finds herself (alongside dark-haired friend Rachel Griffiths). Writer/director Hogan later made My Best Friend’s Wedding and a version of Peter Pan.

A silent film in the style of 1907 and shot using a hand-crank camera, with lots (oh, lots) of start-stop disappearance effects, not at all like The Artist or the films of Guy Maddin – more of an anarchic keystone homage.

Bald Dr. Plonk has a bearded deaf/dumb assistant Paulus, a “winsome” wife, and a trick-performing dog (appropriately credited with the others in the opening titles).

Tragic calculations! Triple-checked!

Plonk tells the Prime Minister’s advisors (with hilariously fake facial hair) of his discovery, but they don’t believe him – so he invents a time machine (in about five minutes) to travel into our present and find proof of his theory. Meanwhile, Paulus pads the film by taking the dog for walks as a pretense for hitting on married women in the park. Paulus, deaf and not too smart, is put in charge of time machine operation as Plonk mistakenly travels backwards and is set alight by natives.

Paulus is then sent as a test subject and lands a hippie chick, then Plonk continues his experiments, photographing present-day industrial sites, “so this is what the end looks like.” Train gags, era-specific misunderstandings, a slight bit of stop-motion, and an anti-television joke that would make Tashlin proud.

Plonk’s wife keeps an eye on Paulus:

Plonk can’t seem to bring home his evidence that the future is a wasteland, so he brings the game Prime Minister along to 2007, where they find the present-day PM less approachable. It all ends with a madcap chase in a warehouse between plenty of cops and the surprisingly athletic main cast. The former PM gets to sit in a straightjacket entranced by television, while Plonk…

At first glimpse I thought De Heer made this before Ten Canoes, but no, he made it before TWELVE Canoes, the documentary follow-up.