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Review / ‘Living Is Easy (With Eyes Closed)’ (M) ***

THE main element of the title of Spanish filmmaker David Trueba’s prize-winning film begins the second stanza of “Strawberry Fields Forever”, which John Lennon composed in 1966 while tripping on substances. The title’s parenthetical part offers several possibilities from which filmgoers may choose a purpose. One is the obstinate determination of Antonio (Javier Camara) who […]

Review / ‘Hector and the Search for Happiness’ (M) ***

THE box office will determine whether this German/African co-production, the first film based on one of Francois Lelord’s novels about small-scale hero Hector (family name not stated), has the grunt to initiate a series. Since its August release, IMDb users have rated it 7 on a scale of 10. It arrived in Australia with little […]

Review / ‘Son of a Gun’ (MA) *** and a half

WRITER/director Julian Avery’s feature debut can stand proud beside any other filmmaker’s work as it visits a prison full of really hard cases, the WA goldfields, underworld environments in state and territory capitals, and a population of characters whom you’d really not want to invite home for a barbecue. At 19, JR (Brendan Thwaites) is […]

Review / ‘A Walk Among the Tombstones’ (MA) *** and a half

IN Scott Finlay’s adaptation of a novel by Lawrence Block, Liam Neeson plays a former NYPD detective gone private for reasons that emerge during the film. Scudder reluctantly accepts a commission from Ortiz (Maurice Compte) to find the men who yesterday kidnapped his wife. Only after paying the ransom did Ortiz learn that the lady […]

Shorts tonight at NFSA

TONIGHT’S the night for “short::seasons spring 2014,” the FREE short film festival focusing on showcasing the work of filmmakers from Canberra. It’s a non-competitive festival held twice a year with the aim of demonstrating the strength and quality of the work of independent filmmakers who live and work in the ACT. With each festival named […]

Review / ‘Siddharth’ (M) ****

HURRAH! A feature set only one level above the nadir of Indian society. Why hurrah? Writer/director Richie Mehta spurns Bollywood’s shams to tell it like it is among one-man micro-businesses supporting families for whom any tiny scrap of fiscal independence beats working in somebody else’s sweatshop. Meet chain-wallah Mahendra (Rajesh Tailang), who walks along narrow […]

Review / ‘Advanced Style’ (PG) *** and a half

IN this engaging documentary, tyro writer/director Lina Plioplyte teams with blogger Ari Seth Cohen to introduce seven New York women whose eclectic personal styles and vital spirits have guided their approach to ageing. The oldest at 95, taken to hospital during a function to announce the new public face of a well-known fashion house, died […]

Review / ‘Dracula Untold’ (M) **

THE historical figure whom Bram Stoker took for his vampirism hero was Vlad Tepes (1431-1477), Prince of Wallacia. Posthumously dubbed Vlad the Impaler for his charming practice of impaling captured enemies on stakes, there is no credible evidence of his indulging in vampirism. History’s first recorded human vampire, Elizabeth Bathory, lived a century later (40 […]

Review / ‘The Immigrant’ (M) ***

THE plaque attached to the plinth supporting the Statue of Liberty quotes from Emma Lazarus’s sonnet “New Colossus”. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Writer/director James Gray’s intense drama opens with a shot of Liberty shrouded in fog. The next two hours are spent demonstrating a microcosm of […]

Review / ‘The Little Death’ (MA) ** and a half

THE title of writer/director/actor Josh Lawson’s film is the literal English translation of the French colloquial expression for orgasm. No love-making should finish without at least one each. In Sydney, partners in hetero couples confess their secret yearnings for special experiences to enhance orgasmic intensity. While convention might consider the centre of human sexual satisfaction […]

Film festival that ‘likes to have fun’

“DOESN’T  film really bring out all that passion, all that emotion?” board member Kate Ingram asked rhetorically at today’s launch of the 2014 Canberra International Film Festival. She was talking to true believers, evidently delighted by the snazzy festival trailer created by Canberra’s Wildbear Productions and the colourful new logo by Giraffe and Some Cowboy. […]

Review / ‘Sin City: A Dame To Kill For’ (MA) **

IN Robert Rodriguez’s violent, angry filming of Frank Miller’s cartoon strip fantasy views of the underbelly of American society, this city sleeps by day and wakes after sunset. Power, lust, greed, hatred and ultra-violence resume scattering their nefarious influences among men who know not how to contribute to healing society’s illnesses and women whose bodies […]

Review / ‘We Are The Best’ (MA) ****

IN Swedish filmmaker Moodysson’s dramatisation of a cartoon strip by his wife, schoolgirls Bobo and Klara, soon to start climbing puberty’s upward slope, want to become a punk band but neither has any musical skill. They have devised pejorative lyrics listing their reasons for loathing sport. They have worked out that that business about God […]

Review / ‘Wish I Was Here’ (M) ***

IN his second film after “Garden State” (2004), director Zach Braff plays aspiring actor Aidan, upon whom life’s burdens, while individually relatively minor, are steadily piling up. The Jewish school is threatening to bar his children (Joey King and Pierce Gagnon) unless outstanding fees are promptly paid. His retired father (Mandy Patinkin) needs all his […]

Arts / Crooner’s story to open festival

“FROM Italy with passion” is this year’s slogan for the Italian Film Festival; an apt tag for a festival opening with a biopic about a Calabrian-Belgian crooner and ending with Sophia Loren in “Marriage Italian Style”. When I talk to 76-year-old singer, composer, accordionist and grandfather Rocco Granata by phone to Antwerp, I’m already humming […]