Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Film Review - "The Iron Lady" directed by Phyllida Lloyd

The Iron Lady (2011)               

Meryl Streep performs an almost one-man show in this insightful Margaret Thatcher biopic. Initially, Streep portrays Thatcher as a weak octogenarian who becomes the central point of the entire film. Although we follow Thatcher’s rise to power from her pre-university life chronologically, the film frequently returns to an isolated and dependent woman reflecting on her past life. With hallucinations triggered by the smallest noise or vision, it’s a question of the extent to which one is formed by their background and past actions.

What the film does well is explore how Margaret Thatcher did not seek consensus in politics. Streep’s deliberative speech and stern expressions portray an assertive and determined public woman. The insight into turbulent parliamentary life, [clearly dominated by men at this time], draws attention to the quieter, more secretive, and dangerous, backchat behind the scenes. The film can be indulgent in the way that there is time to demonstrate how certain decisions were informed at the time, both according to Thatcher’s public and private life.

The position of women, especially those of a lower social class runs throughout the film into the conflicts caused between family and political life. Although she remains in a close relationship with her husband Denis (played by the eccentric Jim Broadbent), there is a period of withdrawal when Thatcher seems to be overwhelmed by the scale of her role as Prime Minister. The interweaving of footage from past and present and various mashed news montages, shows just how influential ‘The Iron Lady’ was on the global stage.

Thomas Newman’s score (Academy Award Winner Best Music –American Beauty, Finding Nemo) adds elements of gravity and sincerity to the biopic. It certainly deserves a commendation of some sort as I felt that it added emotion to a story of a figure who is known for her severity and almost brutality. There is much to admire about the passionate and determined protagonist although the history surrounding Thatcher’s story is controversial. The Iron Lady is a great informative watch which is sure to win awards for its dramatic conviction and filmic complexity.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Graeme Murphy's 'Romeo and Juliet'

The Australian Ballet's summer performance is a showcase of technical finesse and aesthetic creativity. Shakespeare's much-loved play has endured many interpretations over the years but this Graeme Murphy production certainly focuses on the timelessness of Romeo and Juliet.

The ballet opens with typical medieval scenery, set against Provokiev's iconic score, and moves across time and place into an oriental marketplace, Japanese temple and dramatic desert landscape. Set and lighting designers innovatively developed vivid scenery that seemed half-imaginary, especially with projected light displays and smoke.

The dancing is flawless, with the the principals expressing sincere emotion and sensitivity towards the theatric choreography. Leanne Stojmenov played a petite, youthful Juliet and Daniel Gaudiello wooed the audience with his passionate virility. The rest of the cast maintained a sense of character, especially Juliet's nurse during the balcony pas de deux. Mercutio, in fact, was awarded the loudest applause by the audience. Tybalt was played by the talented Chengwu Guo, who previously played the role of teenaged Li Cunxin in 2009's Mao's Last Dancer.

The costume work by Akira Isogawa has received much media attention but it is hard to ignore the material part of the spectacle where colour, crystals and creativity supported the dancers' movements with grace and personality. Murphy's reinvention of a romantic classic was successful in not only exploring the tenderness of first love but also the consequences of greed and conflict to the human existence.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Jimi Hendrix crowned Best Guitarist Ever

On 27 November, Jimi Hendrix's birth date, an expert panel at Rolling Stone chose Jimi Hendrix as the best guitarist of all time. He only lived to 28 but it was enough to leave a mark- including his stage theatrics, psychadelic mood and outrageous fashion sense. He was found dead in his apartment on September 18, 1970, attributed to accidental overdose.

Thanks to posthumuous releases and writings, including last year's 'Valleys of Neptune', the sound of Hendrix remains. This week, he surpassed the likes of Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend to receive the Rolling Stone award. Apple has also launched the "Jimi Hendrix- the Complete Experience App". It can be downloaded for free from the iTunes App Store and allows users to explore Hendrix-related text, images and video.

Hendrix's imaginative lyrics and psychadelic mood has made his sound remain. My favourite performance of his is at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 where he danced with his guitar, played it backwards and eventually set it on a fire. Hendrix is definitely worthy of this week's Rolling Stone award.

Favourite quote: If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Inside AGNSW's Picasso exhibition

A man known for his geometric styling, bold distortions and loud symbolism, Picasso is by no means a small deal. He is heralded as one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. But a new exhibition opening this month at the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW) provides us with a more serious-minded and politically committed Picasso. It showcases his personal collections from the Musée National Picasso in Paris. Director Anne Baldassari has put the exhibition together with Sydney in mind.

Josephine Touma, AGNSW public programs coordinator, says that the exhibition will be among their biggest, and has been in negotiations for a number of years. “I think in the public imagination, Picasso is kind of out there as crux of all things creative, modernism, the 20th century, but people don’t necessarily have a really good knowledge of the vast array of styles that he worked in - the length of his career, the richness of his output,” she says.

Dr Fay Brauer, art academic, believes that the exhibition is arriving during an intense revisionist scholarship of Picasso. She approves of the reworking of his cultural and political relevance and rejecting of many mythologies surrounding him.

Dr Brauer is an associate professor at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney. She also works at the University of London, where she studied along with the renowned Courtauld Institute of Art. Six weeks ago, she engaged in a discussion with Baldassari on the politics of exhibiting Picasso.

“I think we have to think of Picasso as an artist with endless energy and also on an internal quest to investigate at all times in all places. His radar was never turned off,” Dr Brauer says. Picasso’s nature as a prolific artist is demonstrated by the over 150 works travelling to Sydney.

Baldassari curates by considering specific cultural histories. For Australia, she was concerned with the way Picasso engaged with indigenous art. Dr Brauer also discussed her selection of artworks that focus on the hedonistic beach culture of the Cote D’Azur in France, and the way in which that relates to Sydney. Baldassari’s Paris team installs the exhibition and she examines each hanging.

Les Demoiselles D'Avignon (1907)
Picasso was thought to have drawn upon African art and rituals upon creating this work.

“I think educationally, because she’s tried to contextualise Picasso and bring out the Catalan aspects, as well as many other aspects- particularly his political ones, it will prove a highly educational exhibition,” Brauer says.

Picasso’s status as a cultural outsider separated him from Parisian bourgeois decadence. He is from Catalonia, a separate ethnic region in Spain, but travelled to Paris because it was the modernist art centre in the early 1900s. Life as a diasporic artist was hard but helped him devise a new approach to art. Dr Brauer says that the Parisians shunned Picasso at first as an artist etranger.

“Before the First World War he was also very much derided, in fact denounced, for his Cubism - and cubism was seen to be a destructive art form,” she says.

In Australia today, with multicultural policies at work, diasporic artists are valued for their work. Dr Brauer says: “I think Picasso needs to be seen in that light and seen as an inspiring figure because he took on the challenges, and he didn’t capitulate.”

The exhibition exposes the relationship between Picasso’s Catalan background and his development of Cubism through archival material. Most original documentation, including various photographs, accompanies the art. Josephine from AGNSW says that it was a challenge to find space but photographs complement the exhibition. “It’s a great opportunity to see images of that artwork evolving over time and Picasso in a more informal context,” she says.

“What’s often overlooked in Picasso is this remarkable sense of humour, and satire and parody, as well as a sense of the absurd,” Dr Brauer says.

Woman with Pears (1909)
Paintings of Picasso's lover Fernande Olivier were inspired by his strong connection to the Catalan landscape and portrayed in his representation of women.

The exhibition progresses chronologically into periods of Picasso’s career, including blue, rose and Cubist.

The show is part of the Sydney International Art Series run by Events NSW, which will showcase an international exhibition each year. “Never before in Australia have we seen this volume and quality of Picasso’s work up at the one time and the breadth of his career,” Josephine says.

Coming programs include free lectures, extended opening hours and various performances such as the major symposium.

Timed ticketing will not restrict time spent in the show, but visitors will need to pre-book at

According to Dr Brauer, Picasso stands out among the artist greats. “Picasso continuously engaged in challenges. He could have taken the easy option- he never did.”

“He was constantly challenging the parameters of art, constantly expanding them, and even challenging his own practice. And I think that’s a great lesson to learn.”

Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris is at the Art Gallery of NSW from November 12.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Film Review - "Bill Cunningham New York" directed by Richard Press

Bill Cunningham New York (2011)               ★ 1/2

This film deserves four stars simply for its spectacular cinematography and seamless editing. Press brings us right into the world of 82 year old renowned fashion photographer Bill Cunningham- in all aspects of his work and everyday life. We hear from prominent people in the fashion world and friends and colleagues of Cunningham. If anything, the film reminds us of the creative opportunities for fashion and photography in the 21st century.

What's interesting is how Cunningham distinguishes between interesting people and interesting outfits. He sees fashion as art arranged on the body and captures it so. His eccentricities are evident in everything from the minimalist way he lives (no kitchen, no proper bed)- to leaving conversations to photograph something outrageous. The octogenarian travels enthusiastically on his bike around New York, in rain or shine, snapping photos and dodging taxis at the same time. 

A major part of the film also focuses on his appearance at various New Yorkan social events - and it is here that we see how seriously he takes his job. Cunningham insists on not eating, and sends away even a glass of water - so that he can maintain a distance in his photography. The editing provides all sorts of perspectives- we hear from Bill alone, in front of the camera, but also get a sense of what he's like in a social sense.

This documentary rightly celebrates Cunningham's contribution to photography and the arts in New York- and instead of recounting his past achievements, it focuses on the present and his current job with the New York Times. It is really a snapshot of a day in the life of Bill and a great watch for any fan of fashion or the arts.

Visit Bill Cunningham's New York Times online page.

Bill on style: "A lot of people have taste but very few are daring to be creative."
Bill on money: "If you don't take money they can't tell you what to is the cheapest thing. Freedom is the most expensive."
Bill on beauty: "He who seeks beauty...will find it."

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Film Review - "Midnight in Paris" directed by Woody Allen

Midnight in Paris (2011)              

A slightly more whimsical version of Allen's earlier works, this film delves into mysterious Parisian nights, eccentric artistic characters of the 20's and the contradictions of the creative mind. Woody Allen himself does not appear in the film, but we can draw similarities to the protagonist, playwright and francophile, Gil (played by Owen Wilson). Although his character seems at times naive and over-expressive, it's through his eyes that we can understand the fervour surrounding Paris as a city through the ages.

Visiting Paris with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy), the wealthy American style of tourism is exemplified, with the trio preferring to dine in fancy restaurants (they seem to be constantly eating) and watch Hollywood films rather than walk around the city and take it in authentically. The satiric script is great, with the characters almost reaching heated arguments about Tea Party politics and the legitimacy of a writer's lifestyle.

The cinematography is fantastic-the opening shots depict the landmarks of Paris, although a common portrayal it seems fresh and simple. This ode to the city sets up the fim perfectly and brings us into the traditional Paris of the turn of the century which inspires and has inspired many artists. The characters of these past artists are brought to life by a great cast and I think this film carries out what it sets to achieve- an ode to a city and a celebration of creativity.

Favourite quote: “The artist's job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote to the emptiness of existence.” (Gertrude Stein)

Monday, 24 October 2011

Film Review - "George Harrison: Living in the Material World" directed by Martin Scorsese


George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011)                1/2

This film is a must-see for all George Harrison and Beatles fans. I realised that it’s a better experience if you have previous knowledge of the band, as the film doesn’t really go over the main historical background. Running for over three hours, with content spanning four decades, it’s the skilful editing and soundtrack which keeps the audience entertained. Adding to the massive amount on material documenting and commenting on the band, this film displays Harrison’s legacy through not only music but his close personal relationships. Bottom line – he touched those he knew deeply.
            Commentary on the creative process in general runs throughout the film, with grabs from Harrison and his musical counterparts illustrating their outlook on life and how it affects their work. For these artists, music was more than a profit-orientated commodity. It’s interesting how Harrison said that to appreciate the non-materialistic parts of life, he had to reach an excessive level in the material world to realise it. The very title of the film draws attention to Harrison’s constant divide between the spiritual world and that of the western world’s top celebrities.
            Insight into the nature of his personal life is rewarding for the audience, who may not have heard from his brothers, son and wife before. We learn about his characteristics, including over-perfectionism, true love for friends and sacrifice. All material is highly praising of Harrison, with no mention of his womanising or the negative side to his drug use. However, it leaves the audience feeling very uplifted and inspired by the end of the session.
            With a mix of still archival photos, interviews from past and present, from friends, family and colleagues, it is truly a great opportunity to delve into the past and create a profile of the ‘mysterious’ Beatle. A large part of the film is devoted to Harrison’s search for spirituality and his principles gained from eastern religion. It makes us question our own beliefs and forces us out of an idle, desensitised state. A pleasurable experience filled with excellent music and insightful commentary – it’s a music documentary which goes one step further.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

R.I.P. Barry Feinstein

Barry Feinstein, iconic music photographer, died this week at the age of 80. He is known for taking characteristic album shots of 1960s rockstars, including Bob Dylan's The Times They Are a-Changin' and later George Harrison's solo album, in the garden with his gnomes, All Things Must Pass. His editorial work extended to Hollywood actors and other celebrities of the time, usually shot in back-and-white.

Feinstein was born in 1931 in Philadelphia and started taking pictures in his teenage years. He entered the professional world as an assistant for LIFE magazine, but got his break when he became studio photographer for Columbia Pictures in Hollywood. In an attempt to uncover 'behind-the-scenes' parts of Hollywood, he strayed from the typical glamorous shots others sought to take. Feinstein will be remembered for not only his iconic shots but his spontaneous and original approach to photography.

Rolling Stone Magazine has created an online album of his most famous works.

All Things Must Pass album cover (1970)

Bob Dylan, Paris, France, 1966

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Film Review - "Footloose" directed by Craig Brewer

Footloose (2011)              

I was suprised at the little amount of dancing in this year's remake of the old 80s dance classic, but the storyline was very similar. Initially I was confused at how it would still be relevant for dancing to be banned in an American town, but the first few minutes of the movie answer that- after a dance party, five teenagers die in a fatal car crash, and the town's leaders subsequently ban dancing, drinking and going out late.
The cast was credible, at least their accents didn't seem too over-the-top and the two main characters are a more tanned and toned version of the 1984 Ren and Ariel. Ren's angry solo dance was a bit of a cringe in the film, with some country fusion rap soundtrack, but showcased his gymnastic talent. Ariel was a believable character, only because we understood her motives for being so reckless, after the distressing car crash.
With a slight element of predictability in regards to the romantic element of the film, it is an otherwise entertaining look at the problems teenagers face and have always faced with parents and friends. The inclusion of some hip-hop music slightly works in updating the film for today's culture and even the line-dancing scene makes it seem a little bit exciting for the audience. Overall, its easy on the eye and might even make you think about how we judge people.

Favourite quote: I just don't know if believe in everything that you believe in. But I believe in you. (Ariel)

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Film Review - "Crazy, Stupid Love." directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)              ★ 

This film is part of a new kind of American romantic comedy which is wittier, less sentimental and more authentic in its realization than its predecessors. The cast fits together well, with playboy Jacob (Ryan Gosling) opposite dull dad, Cal (Steve Carell) and Emma Stone playing her usual quirky role, as Hannah, a budding lawyer. The film draws attention to conventions of modern dating and 'picking up', which allows the audience to examine each generation of love story in a different way.

The film begins in an unusual way when Cal's wife of 25 years, Emily, (Julianne Moore) proposes a surprise divorce. Setting up young, idealistic love against an established married relationship, with kids and a house involved, creates a sense of perspective. The younger actors weren't as endearing as their adult counterparts, but nevertheless gave heartfelt performances.

There are some uncomfortable moments - when we repeatedly witness 13-year-old Robbie's (Jonah Bobo) professed love for 17-yearold Jessica (Analeigh Tipton). Or when Cal attempts his first one-night-stand with an ex-alcoholic teacher, who is far too emotional around strangers. However, it sticks true to the "crazy" in the film's title. Love does appears to be crazy at times.

Ryan Gosling's performance is impressive. He manages to maintain his cool, suave persona as Jacob -the charming womanizer who understands the bar scene- while maintaining a sense of integrity and innocence. He is definitely a lovable character.

The final half-hour or so becomes overdramatic, with an attempt at a profound speech on love (by the 13-year-old!) at a school graduation, and a family backyard brawl. All the noise and outpouring of emotion becomes a bit overwhelming and breaks the previously cool atmosphere - but it’s an entertaining watch. 

Favourite quote: The war between the sexes is over. We won the second women started doing pole dancing for exercise. 

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Happy Birthday Brigitte Bardot!

Brigitte Bardot turned 77 this week. Most famous for her iconic sixties sex symbol photos, she has influenced the realms of art, music and film and been an inspiration to many, including Lennon, McCartney and Andy Warhol.

Brigitte Bardot, born 28 September 1934 in Paris, has starred in about 50 films, recorded 80 songs and performed in several musical shows. The former model, actress and singer retired from the entertainment industry in 1973 and transferred her passions to animal rights activism.

Bardot changed the way western society sees teenagers by immortalising and celebrating the stylish, youthful teenager. Children became adults with no labelled transition in the early 20th century, but Bardot trigerred the fashion world for les jeunes filles. In time, French intellectuals began to identify her as a symbol of liberal and postmodern France - a provocatively free woman.

Bardot popularised short shorts, bikinis and revealing necklines. However she is known for her stylish French dress and is an icon of the 20th century with her carefree, laissez-faire St Tropez lifestyle.

Brigitte on Brigitte: I gave my beauty and my youth to men. I am going to give my wisdom and experience to animals.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

R.I.P. Robert Whitaker

Renowed British photographer, Bob Whitaker, passed away this week. He was most famous for his controversial Beatles "butcher" album sleeve (Yesterday and Today), where the band was pictured holding mangled cuts of meat, and disfigured baby dolls. His father and grandfather were Australian, yet he grew up in the UK. As well as many photographs of the Beatles between 1964 and 1966, especially during their America tour, Whitaker also took some shots which were later used on Martin Sharp's Disreali Gears album cover for the band Cream. Whitaker passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer at age 72.

Yesterday and Today album cover (1966)

Robert Whitaker photography used on Disraeli Gears

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Album Review - "Junk of the Heart" by the Kooks

Junk of the Heart (2011)               1/2

This week the Kooks' latest album has been released -it has been 3 years since the last (Konk). As one of several big 2000's bands this year releasing a long-awaited album (including RHCP and The Strokes)- I wasn't sure what to expect, if the band would stray from it's catchy songs about love, or experiment. "Junk of the Heart" isn't going to be a major album in the band's career but there are a few singles which stand out.

There is a nostalgic feel to this album, with the traditional Kooks-style songs reflecting on happy times with loved ones, and the newer, more experimental ones delving into semi-psychedelic sounds. Overall Luke Pritchard's voice sounds a little less youthful, less 'naive' and a generally more composed. The album doesn't deal with extreme emotions or sport amazing lyrics, but it seems to be the sort of album that will be enjoyable in summer, or at least should be listened to outdoors on a lazy afternoon.

Title track Junk of the Heart is an upbeat, enjoyable tune with a more electronic feel than previous Kooks numbers but not as rough as Konk. Second single Is it me has the most playful lyrics, I think, in the album: "Bring me a pig's heart and a glass of wine"..."We're both still playing with shadows in our hands."

There is a mix of slower ballads and cheerful, lively songs but the Kooks have not completely disbanded from their love of sixties tunes. Rosie is a fast-paced, old-fashioned style serenade to a girl from afar. Runaway is almost the opposite with an innovative blend of synth and vocals, moving away from their literal storytelling approach to music.

My favourite is Petulia, a quiet achiever towards the end of the album, with its Paul-McCartney-ish soft rock style and smooth vocals. This album is definitely about "junk" or tales from the heart, although most are rather agreeable.

For now, the Kooks may be overtaken by newer, more alternative bands in the British Indie scene but I'm sure that there is a band of loyal followers that will taking a liking to the new album by this bunch of sentimental Brits.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Karlie Kloss for Fall 2011

Karlie Kloss goes mod in New York City for Vogue Japan this month

Karlie Kloss just turned 19 in August and already she has modeled for the likes of Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs, Micheal Kors and Chanel on runway, in countless magazine shoots and campaigns. I admire her unique but classic look and have particularly taken note of her stride at this fall's runway shows. Karlie is famous for cat eyes and arching eyebrows (never mind the endless legs) which see her hired for both fashion and beauty. Her ballerina training lends her a sense of grace and elegance and although she is skinny, she appears strong, not frail. I first heard about her as an emerging schoolgirl model a year or so ago, but since then she has caught my eye with her growing number of campaign contracts. Karlie has headed to the top pretty quickly but her youthful charm and talent in front of the camera convinces me that her career is far from over. We'll be seeing a lot more of this Chicago-born sophisticated girl in the future.

Chanel Runway - Resort 2012

Michael Kors Runway - Ready-to-Wear 2011

Elle Saab Runway - 2011 Couture

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Adele on the Jonathan Ross show

After watching Adele's television appearances this weekend, I've gained a sense of her personality, past the powerful voice (and powerful hair). Her working-class British accent and cackling laugh in between questions makes her presence feel more familiar than a record-breaking pop star, and breaks away momentarily from the vintage-inspired heartbroken soul singer.

Adele signals the return to strong voices and sincere personalities in pop music. Her songs sound real and are a welcome break from the auto-tune effects which many other singers use. She is talented enough to be praised for her voice but also to be played constantly on radio stations around the world.

Adele has just turned 23 this year and already has left her mark on the world. At first, I was a bit tentative about listening to her music, song after song about misery and despair. However, after buying her album 21 off iTunes (less commitment than a CD), I've decided that Adele will stand the tests of time.

Her recent performance at the VMAs was touching, during "Someone Like You" she was close to, if not already, in tears. For an entire album that was written about one breakup, 21 can communicate with many, and it's the mix of both emotional resonance and catchy tunes that makes Adele's music so attractive.

Adele told Jonathan Ross that she'll be back in the studio by November but as there's no man around, it will be interesting to see what we'll be hearing from her next.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Film Review - "Friends with Benefits" directed by Will Gluck

Friends with Benefits (2011)              

This movie tries so hard to remove itself from Hollywood clichés but inevitably ends up becoming one itself. The first half of the movie is promising, with its rejection of romantic comedy stereotypes and almost post-modern commentary on other similar movies. However, it is genuinely funny and light, even as predictable as it seems.

Dylan (Timberlake) and Jamie (Kunis) create the illusion that they can have a no-strings relationship with the sharing of jokes, friendly criticism and a lack of judgement. And in the beginning, we believe them, as one by one they pick out the benefits that not being in a serious romantic relationship offer them in terms of comfort and flexibility.

The New York/LA rivalry is played on a bit too much- you can tell Mila Kunis is not actually from New York as she makes a huge deal of her caffeine addiction (always with a takeaway container in hand), crossing the road mid-traffic and her ability to run surprisingly fast in high heels. Timberlake's character of course is a health-conscious, trendy man of the west coast. However, his LA home, right on the sandy beach is quite enviable.

The film lightly touches on family issues, a key part of many "emotionally damaged" Hollywood heros, however it doesn't particularly match the comic aspect of the rest of the movie. Jamie deals with her careless and impulsive hippy mother while Dylan struggles with his father's case of Alzheimer's. The more serious moments of the film are brushed off, as the mother wakes up in fishnet stockings and the father mumbles about women of his past. Timberlake, however, earnestly tries to act like he is seriously considering turning his life around for this new girl in his life, Jamie, thanks to his father's great words of wisdom.

It doesn't boast much of the stunning New York scenery that other films exploit or have a memorable soundtrack, but the script and delivery is entertaining and pleasant. It's not a must-see for 2011 but a fun night out and a breath of fresh air from classic unimaginative romcoms.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Happy Birthday Julian Casablancas!

Julian turned 33 today - for those of you who don't know he's the leading man of the American rock band "The Strokes". Casablancas and his friends are typically New Yorker and are well-known for reigniting rock music in the 2000's but the band members have a great knowledge of old classics like the Beatles, Sam Cooke and the Velvet Underground which I appreciate.

Here's my favourite video of the band: Live on Letterman 2006 (watch Julian go crazy).

He's also fun to follow on twitter:!/casablancas_j

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Film Review - "Beginners" directed by Mike Mills (Sydney Film Festival)

Beginners (2011)           

This morning I went to the pre-screening of Mike Mills’ film “Beginners” at the Cremorne Orpheum cinema. It is a successful arthouse film, although ambiguous and overly sentimental at times, it is a refreshing break from the super predictable Hollywood films out at the moment.

Ewan McGregor narrates as 38-year-old Oliver, a man losing direction in life. He reflects on the recent death of his father, and earlier death of his mother, and finds that solace is found in close relationships. Christopher Plummer plays a commendable role as Oliver’s dying father, challenging our preconceptions of old age and illness. It is a movie about the healing process, and we follow Oliver through his memories, archival photos and conversations to understand his grievances.

McGregor’s narration is both introspective and sincere, his voiceover illuminates the vintage photographs on the screen and links them to greater issues in humanity- independence, sex, love, hatred, happiness and emotions. There is a melancholy mood to this whole movie but there are comic moments too, especially brought about by his companion dog, brought to life by a few subtitles interpreting its thoughts.

The female protagonist, Anna (played by Mélanie Laurent) is quite an eccentric character with a mysterious background. We don’t quite ever know her properly but that doesn’t mean she isn’t likeable- especially with her gorgeous smile and endearing accent. She ignites Oliver’s romantic side, he tells his father that he wouldn’t settle for anything less than a soul mate: “I wouldn’t settle for the giraffe, I’d wait for the lion.”

As the movie progresses, Oliver’s problems don’t resolve easily but develop and grow throughout the film. As his relationships strengthen we get deeper into Oliver’s emotions and memories and his grievances swell. By returning to the opening scenes later on in the film, we see how the grievance process can illuminate the present, and how present experiences can bring new light and meaning to the past.

The film dips into issues surrounding gay rights but as the film is primarily set in 2003 it doesn’t go too much into the details, outlining the significant figures like Harvey Milk and the various Californian action groups around the 1960s.   

This film doesn’t feature amazing cinematography or dramatic scenery; it is more a human film based on people’s behaviour and minute details. It’s something the French are usually really good at, digging deep into characters with mysterious backgrounds, but Beginners is certainly a competitor.

What I gained from the film was that dependence is not a weakness, in times of need we need people, although many claim to be a ‘lone wolf’, relationships are important to our wellbeing (even if they are with cute, emotional dogs.)

A good watch that requires concentration but reminds us to appreciate the intricacies of life.

Favourite quote: “Once you are REAL, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”