Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Story of Adèle H. (François Truffaut, 1975)

***** France



The story of Adèle Hugo is uncannily riddled with the clichés of melodrama, yet Truffaut's adaptation of it ranks among cinema's sharpest. He builds a portrait of a ferocious, unwieldy mind that is novelistic in its detail and complexity. In an eerily auspicious screen debut, Isabelle Adjani is bewitching.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Performance (Nicholas Roeg, Donald Cammell, 1970)

***
UK



As a gangster on the lam about to embark on an identity crisis, James Fox tells Mick Jagger: "You'll look funny when you're fifty." Jagger already looks very funny and, nearly forty years on, so does this incense-drenched psych-out.

It's a kind of companion to Blow Up - its phantasmagoric obverse: a swinging dive into late 60s hedonism and half-suppressed ennui, built on a style of excess, baroque decay and sensory assault. It's strained and oppressive, but it comes alive in spurts, particularly in the closing third. And the soundtrack's terrific.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Parallax View (Alan J. Pakula, 1974)

****
USA



A Watergate-era conspiracy thriller with an identity crisis. It's torn between the prestige of a grim social conscience and the release of being able to break into a bar brawl or a car chase when things slow down. Individual sequences are more impressive than the whole, the plot doesn't add up in retrospect and it's ultimately difficult to take the film as seriously as you're asked to take it. But it's stylish, vaguely disconcerting fun while it's on.

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Fat City (John Huston, 1972)

****
USA



John Huston was one of very few old-Hollywood directors to successfully adapt to the loose, pseudo-modernist pessimism that defined 1970s American cinema. In this gritty tale of small-town washed-up boxers, he wrestles with a mannered script and actors of varying styles and skill levels. He lends it an aura of authenticity.

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Arnaud D. - 4 : Goran S. - 0



Arnaud Desplechin's "Un Conte de Noël", starring Catherine Deneuve, Mathieu Amalric and my beloved Emmanuelle Devos has just been officially selected to compete in this year's Cannes Film Festival. It will be up against the latest from Atom Egoyan, Wim Wenders, Charlie Kaufman (directing!) and the Dardennes. Screening out of competition will be a new film by my former compatriot Emir Kusturica as well as Woody Allen's much-hyped "Vicky Cristina Barcelona". The full line-up is here.

One film that didn't make it into the official competition was my own (not quite latest) "Picture of a Good Woman". Earlier this year, it was one of two Australian short films preselected for the main competition by the Cannes film festival scout. I'm not sure what this meant exactly, but I was reassured it was a big deal. So that was certainly exciting. Sadly - though not surprisingly, considering the odds - it didn't make it into the final shortlist.

Anyhow - with my film out of the way, all of my energy will be going into barracking for an Arnaud Desplechin win. He's been up for the Palme d'or three times before: for his soon-to-be-screened-in-Melbourne debut La Sentinelle (1992), for the fresh and intoxicating "My Sex Life... Or How I Got Into an Argument" (1996), and for the very pretty if somewhat stunted "Esther Kahn" (2000). His masterpiece, Kings and Queen (2004), was never in contention for some reason.

Based purely on the cast and synopsis, I already adore "Un Conte de Noël" (2008). Even though it features neither Daniel Auteuil or Audrey Tautou, I sincerely hope I'll be able to see it on an Australian screen some time in the next five years.

The King of Marvin Gardens (Bob Rafelson, 1972)

***
USA



The unwieldy minds behind Five Easy Pieces turned out this intriguing failure as a follow-up. Where 'Pieces' was built on stray vignettes that gained clarity in retrospect, this moody mess unfolds in tentative metaphors for acute alienation that possibly once spoke to a demographic that is now extinct. The actors achieve a certain coherence in their performances, so in all likelihood they were working off a sturdy core objective. But the latter has made it to the finished film only in hazy bits and pieces.

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The Furies (Anthony Mann, 1950)

****
USA



An early, astoundingly ambitious Anthony Mann Western about a relationship with unsubtle Freudian overtones between a fickle cattle rancher and his temperamental daughter. Mann - or, at least, his scriptwriter - overreaches to an extent, but consistently he delivers one startling setpiece after another. And the performances are delicious.

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