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.