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Miff 2015: She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry

6 Aug

By Jenni Kauppi

The documentary She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry opens in the present day on a demonstration in Texas for women’s healthcare and the right to choose; while women won the right to safe and legal abortion 40 years ago, contraception and abortion is still restricted in most states in America.

It then proceeds to tell the very rousing story of exactly how hard won these freedoms were, outlining the birth of the Women’s Liberation Movement in the late 60s and early 70s that made it happen. It’s expansive terrain: from the restrictive definitions of success for women in the 1950s – husband, children, waistline, spotless home etc. – to the right to control their own bodies, via abortion rights and contraception, to equal pay and childcare. Early feminists in the Women’s Lib movement were the first to put these topics into public discussion, and they were at the coalface for the ensuing backlash from men and women alike.

What could have settled for being a neat little 101 primer of second wave feminist history instead confronts and teases out the complexities that the movement faced, even within itself, revealing a host of growing pains in its attempt to encompass the myriad female experience. It unpacks the misogyny faced by women who were active in the Peace Movement during the Vietnam War, and the unique problems faced by women of colour. And it doesn’t shy away from the complications within the movement for queer women and radical lesbian feminists who agitated over the inherent patriarchy of heterosexual relationships.

Importantly, the documentary is told by the women who were there – the driving forces of the movement – and hearing from the women themselves in present day, spliced seamlessly with mint condition footage and stills of them in action, is a powerful conceit that vividly captures the explosive, hopeful and momentous feeling of the time. We hear from Muriel Fox, in charge of the movement’s public relations, (asked to take the role by Feminine Mystique author, Betty Friedan); Alta, renowned feminist beat poet and founder of feminist press, Shameless Hussey (at a time when only 6% of published writers in America were women) and co-founder of the women’s liberation newspaper, It Ain’t Me Babe; Mary Collins-Robson, who was the President of the Chicago chapter of the National Organisation of Women (NOW), and many other ordinary women who have made it their life’s work to advocate and fight for basic rights that women – even today – can never take for granted.

And while it’s endlessly informative about the broader historical and political context of women’s rights, it manages an intimacy too; ultimately it’s as much a tribute to the activism of that generation, as it is an education to the preceding ones. And by positioning itself structurally in the context of present day ongoing fight for reproductive rights in the USA, it may also be read as a call to arms. But even for those not moved to action, this is a documentary that shouldn’t be missed.

Australia, you’re Missing Out #2: SPRING FORWARD (1999)

12 Dec

By Ben Buckingham (@dissolvedpet)

Ned Beatty is one of those actors who used to pop up all over the place, but rarely got the recognition he deserved.

It hasn’t exactly gotten better for him over the years. You might squeal piggy and never give a thought to Ned’s brave performance as one of the few male Hollywood rape victims. You may cry out that you’re not going to take it any more, and forget that Ned towered above any Satan with his networking skills and commanding presence. In the case of Spring Forward, there is no memorable quote or brash violence. There was also no release in Australia beyond a long forgotten MIFF screening.

It is a great shame for such a confident and beautiful film about the bond between two men.

Directed and written by Tom Gilroy, an actor of straight-to-DVD and TV, it is a skilful, elegant film about a developing friendship over 12 months. Curiously, it was filmed chronologically over the course of an actual year and is divided loosely into four season-bound segments. Spring Forward captures a rhythm of life that is too often missing from dramatic works.

It is, for the most part, a two-hander, Murph (Ned Beatty) and Paul (Liev Schreiber, another actor who deserves more attention) as they live their lives. These men are brought together by a job, working for the Parks and Recreation Department in Connecticut. Murph has been doing it for a while. He has seen many a season come and go, calmly watching the ups and downs of the world pass by. Paul has just been released from prison after serving time for armed robbery; he has had it hard, that he wants to turn his life around.

The basic plot description and the trailer set the wheels of groaning into motion. Your automatic schmaltz deflectors go into action. But this isn’t that film.

There are very few big dramatic scenes and this is no melodrama. Instead, their lives mirror the leaves in the parks under their stead, gradually turning from lush green to vibrant orange and then back again. Despite the stillness, change is ever present. It is a film of precise and empathic performances, with slowly shifting moments of possibility interjecting from outside. While it is a small-scale film, it never feels slight. These two men are full and alive. There is melancholy and joy, and it is a simple, beautiful pleasure to accompany them on this year of their lives.

Due to the ridiculous classification system in America, this film was slapped with an R-17 (our equivalent MA15+) due to some swearing and one scene in which the two characters partake in a joint. There is nothing offensive here, nothing to corrupt or harm, but much to enjoy. It is available on a region 1 disc put out by MGM, very inexpensive. However, if you are in Melbourne, it will be screening at Screen Sect at Bar Open, 317 Brunswick St, on the 19th of December at 7:30pm. Cost is $5 for a monthly membership.

Seek Spring Forward out.

Film Review (1st take): ORANGES AND SUNSHINE (2011)

3 Jun

By Chris Harrigan from ChirspandAllen

I’m not sure who thought up the scheme at the centre of Oranges & Sunshine but they must have been one of those rare Cruella de Vil-esque evil geniuses.

Britain’s welfare system was busting at the seams; meanwhile its colony on the other side of the world was desperate for white immigrants. A lesser villain wouldn’t have a drawn a link between the two problems, but the British Empire was no lesser villain. In a two-for-one special they decided to shift tens of thousands of kids under the care of the state off to Australia, where they enjoyed all the fruits of a regular childhood such as building churches, working farms, and fending off sexual assault. As an added corker, many of them were told (falsely) that their parents were dead. (You just got punk’d, kids!).

It is this miscarriage of justice – made all the worse by the denial by both British and Australian governments that it ever occurred – that Oranges & Sunshine sets out to tell. Or at least purports to. In actuality the film centres foremost on Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson), the social worker whose tireless efforts to uncover the truth reunited thousands of ‘lost children’ with their parents and siblings back in Britain, and brought about an official apology in 2009.

But while Orange’s intentions are good, in focusing so exclusively on Humphreys something of the enormity of the story seems lost. Hugo Weaving is terrific as a recovering lost child searching for his family, and this is where the heart of film should lie. But it’s Humphreys who gets the spotlight, and to the film’s detriment. Her story almost feels like the sub-plot to another film whose main arc has been accidently left on the cutting room floor.

Oranges scatters moments of catharsis amongst the otherwise banal scenes of Humphreys’ bureaucratic work, but the effect is uneven, and many character’s epiphanies are too easily drawn, too lacking in context and delivery; their stories almost told in shorthand. And it’s a shame, because it’s their stories that are not only so compelling, but which need to be told.

Thanks to Nic Scott and the rest of Chirsp’s friends for their eagle eyed editing of this piece. You know who you are.

DVD review: The Secret in their Eyes

25 Mar

By Michael De Martino

(2009, Argentina, in Spanish, Crime/drama, 127 minutes)

The Secret in Their Eyes follows retired judicial officer Benjamin Espósito (Ricardo Darin) who takes a retrospective look at his life in order to write his first novel. The subject of Espósito’s novel is the “Morales case” involving a rape and murder of a young woman he had worked on in the mid 70s that has had a heavy impact on his life. We follow two juxtaposing periods of Espósito’s life; the present time as he writes his novel, and his experiences with the Morales case. Continue reading

Film Review from Japan: Unmade Beds

18 Mar

As a lover of many things Japanese, and with a deep respect for their culture, it is both sad and terrifying to see what they’re going through at the moment. AFR’s thoughts are with them, and we hope they pull through this with the resilience they are famous for. This seemed like a good time as any to publish a review by one of Gram Morris’s students from his teaching days in Japan. Aya Nator’s take on the film makes a nice counterpoint to the panning Jemila gave it a while back.

It was at my friend’s 5th birthday party held at the local McDonalds; we sat with the plastic clownish loner on the bench while smiling at the queer black thingy-ma-jig. Discharging a loud snap, out rolled a piece of card and there appeared a photo in front of our very eyes. Since then, I’ve had an extraordinary fascination for polaroid cameras.

Vera is the female protagonist is a French artist who comes to London after ending a relationship in distress. In her anonymity she relies on the polaroids she takes on her brown SX-70 to snapshot stills of her life. Despite her determination to lead a solitary existence, when she meets the mysterious X-Ray man (who claims to have seen her before at the airport) she finds herself falling into the endless pit of love yet again.

Then there is the male protagonist Axl who discovers “the underground art-rock world of sprawling East London” after flying from Spain with very little money and no place to stay. By day he stalks his said-to-be father and at night loses himself in underground music and alcohol. He lives in a squat accommodated by arty weirdos that come and go, not that it really seems to bother him.

Polaroids, London and indie rock; all seem like grand symbols of modern hipsterism. Technically, they are, and thus this film could be about two hipsters who seek hip at a little club in Hipsterville. Fortunately Vera nor Axl are neither posh nor pretentious, but instead depict the darker and desolate side of self searching. However that still doesn’t mean we don’t get decent music, quirky haircuts and cuddly animal suits.

One could interpret this film as a cleaner version of Trainspotting, but I thought that director Alexis Dos Santos could have also been influenced by The Science Of Sleep. It resembles a similar setting with the Spain-France connection and the way it was shot reminded me of Michel Gondry. Because of the delicate and melancholic nature of the film, words can not describe the unique essence that Unmade Beds has. I felt that the film was not just the usual indie flick but actually had a strong storyline and a really nice but unexpected ending that leaves you grinning and aww-ing at the TV screen.

Heaven’s Gate: Minute by Minute: Part 32

24 Aug

Ever wanted to be in the movies? Hit up Cimino’s Mailbag Simon Godfrey provides the details below.

32 of 229

So much smoke! The combination of smoke from pipes, chimneys and trains,
coupled with the dust kicked up from the road, make it hard to see the scores
of extras. How many people were employed to appear in this film? Everyone?
Was everyone on the planet cast to play characters from “Townsperson 1”
to “Townsperson 4,568,072”, plus the plethora of incidentals that are yet to be
seen? If anyone was alive in the early 80s and didn’t appear in Heaven’s Gate
please write to:
PO Box 32
c/o Cimino Left Me Out
You shall be sent a care pack and an apology for being overlooked. In
the unlikely event that Heaven’s Gate is released in cinemas again, you
shall be digitally inserted into the picture with a silly bowtie. You know, so
you stand out. Plus, I like bowties… on other people, not me. They look
bloody ridiculous. Why would I want to wear one? If you’ve an answer to this
rhetorical question, please send it to:
Mrs. Patti Numark
888 Hooverdale Crescent
Vic, 3083
If she’s in a jovial mood, Patti will throw-up on your letter and then set it on
fire, which is a shame because the smoke will obscure the view of the extras
she’s trapped in her house.

To read parts 1-31, click the link at the top of the page.

Heaven’s Gate (1980): Minute by Minute: Part 31

15 Aug

Incredibly incredible, Simon Godfrey continues his microscopic analysis of credible Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate.

31 of 229

Still at the station.

James’ friend admits between puffs on a pipe that he can’t stand his job. Inside the pipe is a small family who lost their land in a high-stakes game of snap. They are allowed to live rent free inside the pipe, so long as they keep it stocked with tobacco and chocolate. The father, whose penchant for children’s card games lost the family their land, is not a happy chap. He’s almost over his gambling addiction, but lost the nephew who was staying with them in a game of go-fish with the father of the family who live in James’ friend’s hat. He is trying to redeem himself by saving as much money as he can to move his family up in the world and rent inside a sock or shoe. One day, if enough is put aside and the father works hard, he can buy an apartment in a wristwatch.

It’s a noisy place to live, but at least you don’t have someone shoving a lit match through your roof every twenty minutes.

What lies beneath?

Take a puff of parts 1-30 right here

MIFF Review 2010: Blame

6 Aug

This thing is good. It’s a good Aussie flick and a bloody good debut feature.

Thank Christ it’s not particularly derivative of what we’re used to from Oz cinema and doesn’t even feature Ben Mendelsohn. But at the same time it is definitely, definitely Australian.

It’s a thriller of sorts and has moments of “gasp” and “ooohhh” and “ha!” and “what the?”. Not ‘til some time into the film are we really sure what it’s all about but as the plot thickens, the direction skews and the (slightly self-conscious) clues gently piece the thing together.

The film looks sharp. It’s not complex. No sweeping landscapes or elaborate sets or gruesome gore. It’s more about tension and questions. There’s an exploration of character that sheds some blinding light on some disturbingly familiar traits and priorities of people we all know.

The score is built from a violin and a piano and strikes the aptly stark and mysterious chords. At times it interjects too briefly and could have lounged longer as a creepy bed beneath the quandary.

Some flaws will be highlighted by the finicky. Early on it’s chopped up with so many shots you forget where you are. There’s a lot of yelling. And there’s a point where the characters are so unsure of what the fuck to do next that you wonder if the script knows what the fuck to do next. But I like that. Because it ultimately finds its feet.

So I suggest having a look. Get swept along. Wonder why, and where to, and what for. And give this raw, local, first-time cracking effort the eyeballs it deserves.

Sam Aiton

Heaven’s Gate (1980): Minute by Minute: Part 29

5 Aug

Delve into a mind unhinged. Not Abbott, no. We are talking about Cimino. Here is part 29 of Simon’s 229 part review of Heavens gate

29 of 229

There’s a conversation going on between James and an old friend of his, but it’s mostly inaudible. Something about a driving coach… a woman is going to hang… head west… someone else is dead… I doubt the audio for this scene was recorded with microphones, but rather four shaving brushes, yarn and an egg whisk. Innovative, but hardly a crisp sound reproduction. I find if you’re going to create sound recording devices on the fly, it’s best to use good quality yarn. It sounds like Cimino has used inferior thread, possibly from a loose hem or button. Why didn’t the sound guy speak up and insist on using a microphone? The rumour is that Christopher Walken shot him with a rifle to get in character. Method actors, hey – gotta respect their process, but it’s the sound that inevitably suffers.

Simon Godfrey

(see the rest by clicking the link at the top)

MIFF 2010 Review: The Illusionist

28 Jul
This delightful yet melancholic foray into the music hall world asks the poignant question – does magic really exist?

A quirky, emotionally crafted animation based on an un-produced script by pioneering comedy legend Jacques Tati (Mon Oncle, Monsieur Hulot’s holiday), L’illusionniste whimsically invites us to explore the eccentric personalities of backstage Paris, the kilt-flying Scottish countryside and finally Edinburgh, the capital of all things arty.

mmmm arty

Along the way veteran magician Msr Tatischeff (Tati’s real Russian surname) takes pity on young Alice and magically presents her a new pair of pretty red shoes. She stows away in adoration while the magician trudges wearily from one audience-absented-auditorium to another to keep up his struggled pretence.

He’s aging, his stubborn rabbit won’t cooperate and the new young rock stars get all the glory. It’s the story of disillusionment – as the child grows up into a woman she lets go of all things childish; the magician realises he can’t maintain his illusion of money and success. He’s even pushed to get a secret midnight job at the car wash. This beautiful, disappointed fairytale speaks louder than words as we shift into a new era, leaving us in wonder of the bygone days of red velvet theatre, magical men and naughty white rabbits.
Beverley Callow