“Homesdale will help you to face the truth.” It’s like a secret society summer camp, attended by a group of returning visitors and new guy Malfry. The new guy is upbraided for smoking during the treasure hunt – meanwhile Mr. Levy goes skeet shooting and kills an assistant, and a musician is beheaded in bed. Guess it’s supposed to be a dark/twist ending that Malfry, who never fit in, is a staff member when the next boatload of campers arrives. Pleasantly eccentric hourlong movie, a one-shot deal for most of the actors, though Kate Fitzpatrick appeared in a 1980’s superhero spoof and Richard Brennan produced Gillian Armstrong’s Starstruck.
Oops, we discussed this one but I never wrote anything down about it. Australian period lit adaptation with some lively bits. I completely cannot recognize the Judy Davis of Barton Fink and Naked Lunch (which I just rewatched) in this Judy Davis… both Judys are very good, they just might as well be different people. We very much recognized Sam Neill as her suitor in the latter half, but it’s the odd movie about a woman who chooses to stay unmarried so she can have a career. Along the way we get one of the most well-staged pillow fights since Zero for Conduct.
Linda comes to run an inherited old folks’ home after the death of her mum. Linda’s got a hot boy in town (John Jarratt, villain of Wolf Creek and its many sequels), the family doctor (Alex Scott of Romper Stomper) and a faithful employee who runs everything (Gerda Nicolson of The Devil’s Playground), so everything is green, but an old man dies in the tub, and someone has been sneaking around leaving the taps running and cutting the power, and Linda has flashbacks to her childhood unease with this place, while trying to make sense from her mom’s diary and the home’s patient records.
A family-secrets thriller with red herrings, people admonishing her not to dig into the past instead of helping makes them all seem suspicious. TV’s Jacki Kerin is very good in the lead role, but the night everyone above gets murdered and one of the patients turns out to be Linda’s insane long-lost aunt with her hammer-murderer son in tow, it’s going for Halloween but feels more Scooby Doo.
Appreciated the crazy angles and slow-mo screams after Linda stabs her aunt in the eye (this was shot by Gary Hansen, who died the same year) more than the crappy 1980’s synth music by Dead Can Dance collaborator and huge Richard Wagner fan Klaus Schulze. Cowritten by Michael Heath (My Grandpa Is a Vampire). Tony Williams has one other feature, the imdb description of which calls it “a story that doesn’t really go anywhere.”
Claire (Aisling Franciosi of a Gillian Anderson TV show and a Ken Loach movie) is a poor, doomed to a life of servitude for some past crime, then she has a very bad day when her husband and baby are murdered by soldiers and she is repeatedly raped. It’s a bleak movie, but at least it’s got… I don’t really know what it’s got besides the bleakness. Sometimes there are shots looking straight up at the sky through the trees, but this dwarfing of the action by towering nature only serves to make our heroine seem more trapped and insignificant. Plus, those shots didn’t hold up on the 4:3 DCP projection from my vantage at front of the theater – neither did the forest in general.
She teams up with “Billy,” an aboriginal with a similarly tormented past, to track and slay the soldiers (led by Sam Claflin of My Cousin Rachel), who continue to behave just horribly, betraying and murdering everyone along the way until the soldiers get to a major town and are welcomed by society, so our heroes must got on a final suicide mission to clean up. Harry Greenwood (son of Hugo Weaving) dies first, doesn’t make it to town, but Damon Herriman (I saw him playing Charles Manson yesterday) fights to the end. Kent’s followup to The Babadook, which was Ash’s final movie.
Part three of our True/False Makeup Weekend. A counselor works with imprisoned refugees, while outside, millions of small crabs are freely migrating across the island. It’s a metaphor, you see – an irresistible one, with the bright crabs giving the film more visual texture, something entrancingly alien to cut to between close-shot stories of human suffering.
The movie opens with an escape, a man scaling a fence then hurtling through the woods, a staged version of something we hear about which may not have even happened, since we learn that the authorities are being misleading on purpose. The counselor’s view is that she can’t be helpful from just a single conversation, and there’s no guarantee if or when she’ll get to visit with her patients again. The final scene shows her packing up to leave the island with her family, the whole endeavor possibly a failure.
Mouseover to migrate the crabs:
In an essential article, The Guardian says the filmmaker and counselor Poh Lin Lee are friends, that the film was made from multiple visits over four years, and that interviews conducted on the island were filmed in secret from the government.
Poh Lin uses a tableau of sand and small toy figures to help one woman process her trauma, poetically describing the grains of sand as mountains that have been reduced to their finest form, but mostly she just listens, and listens, and listens. She’s a willing sponge for their guilt, at one point moving over to sit next to and comfort the Syrian man who weeps as he remembers the various separations that have plagued his young life. It comes as no surprise to subsequently learn that Poh Lin is also in therapy.
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.
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.