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Film Review: Possum

 

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Is it possible for a film to be too well executed? This is the conundrum presented by Possum, an ambitious and brooding portrait of an individual tortured by demons that may or may not be entirely psychological. First time director Matthew Holness, maps out the nightmarish headspace of a disgraced puppeteer returning to his family home in Norfolk. The result is a remarkable vision of suburban England in decline that evokes Kafka, Poe, Beckett, Lynch and Cronenberg, particularly the latter’s 2002 adaptation of Patrick McGrath’s Spider.

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Film Review: The Seagull

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Unlike Shakespeare or Tennessee Williams, the film adaptations of Anton Chekhov’s plays and short stories have not made much of an impact beyond festivals or art houses. While I still have vivid memories of watching Vanessa Redgrave, Natasha Richardson and Jonathan Pryce in a 1985 West End production of The Seagull, only Sidney Lumet obsessives are likely to remember the director’s curious 1968 version with Redgrave, James Mason and Simone Signoret. Lumet was probably more faithful to Chekhov’s themes of families and fading dreams in Running on Empty, his potent 1988 elegy for the idealism and myopia of New Left radicals on the run.

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Film Review: The Negotiator

Reviewed by Lee Hill

It’s never a good sign when a film first appears at a creative friendly place like the Sundance Film Festival and then undergoes a change of title when it surfaces at your local multiplex. This is the case of The Negotiator, a ripped from “today’s headlines” (well, 70s/80s Lebanon to be exact) thriller, with a hardboiled take on Middle East realpolitk. Originally called Beirut, The Negotiator stars Jon Hamm as Mason Skiles, an idealistic American diplomat in the city circa 1972, whose life is turned upside down during a terrorist attack on his adopted home. Not only does he lose his wife, but he also loses a near adopted son, 13-year-old Karim, who turns out to be the younger brother of a key PLO member on the run.

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Film Review: Pandora’s Box BFI Reissue

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Film critics are known for superlatives with a shelf-life that makes the average fruit fly seem like one of the immortals. As newspapers and magazines became as quaint as brass rubbings, fewer critics make any money from what they do and being asked to contribute a blurb for a sub-adolescent comic book tie-in, paint-by-numbers rom com or earnest biopic now qualifies as a career high, I can appreciate the scepticism that some readers might have when I say Pandora’s Box should be an essential part of any film goer’s diet. This new digital reissue of GW Pabst’s 1929 masterpiece is not just one of the best films of 2018, but one of the greatest ever made.

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LFF 2017: Redoubtable

One of the unofficial laws surrounding biopics is the more complex and rich the subject, the more reductive and superficial the treatment of the life. Redoubtable is ostensibly about a great cinema revolutionary, Jean-Luc Godard, but his life and art are alas interpreted by Michel Hazanavicius, a director who wears his slim talent for pastiche heavily.

Hazanavicius is best known for The Artist, one of the least deserving Best Picture Winners in recent times. The Artist was an amusing idea for a short film inflated into a bland caricature of silent film comedy. Before The Artist, he was best known in France for the OSS117 films, the kind of James Bond parodies that make a rainy Sunday afternoon bearable when there are no real James Bond films on TV. After The Artist, Hazanvicius reached for the stars and fell from his stepladder with an unwieldy remake of Fred Zinnemann’s The Search. Not without ambition (or humility) he now gives the world his take on Godard’s mid-sixties period and marriage to actress Anna Wiazemsky with a few rear-view glances of the political ferment of France in 1967/68.

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Film Review: Sweet Country

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Sweet Country is a sympathetic, but unsentimental look at one of many turning points in the tortured relations between aboriginal peoples and white Australians. Set in 1929, Mick, an embittered and alcoholic war veteran (Thomas M. Wright) buys a station in a remote part of New South Wales. With little farming know-how, he enlists the aid of Fred Smith, his closest neighbour (Sam Neill), a born-again Christian who has renounced violence and treats an aboriginal family led by Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris) living on his land as equals rather than near slaves which is the social norm. When Fred reluctantly asks Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris) to do a day’s work for Mick, this gesture of good will sets off a tragic chain of events. The day has barely passed when Kelly is forced to shoot and kill Mick and escape into the outback with his wife.

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Film Review: Mary Magdalene

Reviewed by Rachael Kaines

Mary Magdalene is a disarming portrait of someone who — the film argues — is an often misrepresented figure. This retelling is unashamedly feminist and augmented by astounding performances from both Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix. Mary Magdalene is not self-indulgent, self-righteous, or gratuitous, and all the better for it, resulting in a deeply profound and humanist revision to a well-worn history.

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Film Review: Finding Your Feet

Reviewed by Rachael Kaines

Finding Your Feet, the new film directed by Richard Loncraine (Wimbledon), features an all-star cast in a predictable, but fun flick. Great performances and funny moments make up for a story that loses momentum partway through. Finding Your Feet is an enjoyable, but flawed comedy/drama.

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