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Film Review: Leonardo Live (2012)

21 Feb

By Mia Robinson

Documentary, 90 minutes.

 Leonardo Live is a documentary on the Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan exhibition currently delighting gallery-goers at the National Gallery in London. This Blockbuster art exhibition, intends to make us “imagine how da Vinci thought” – such an exercise proving to be enigmatic and worthwhile. For those of us who can’t make it to London, Leonardo Live captures the magic on screen. It presents as an enjoyable blend, that of viewing the works in the gallery with commentary from various experts, to interviews with the gallery managers on the progress of setting up the exhibition and what’s involved in transporting and displaying the da Vinci pieces.

Observing the reactions and theories from the different experts was a very satisfying element. This is the first time that such a large collection of daVinci’s works have been in the one gallery at the one time, including one never seen before painting and two versions of The Virgin of the Rocks. Being able to view his works side-by-side, reportedly has a different effect on the viewer than experiencing pieces individually.

The effect of experiencing da Vinci’s works through the medium of film was very moving, even for someone relatively uneducated in the realm of art history such as myself. Therefore, I can only imagine how inspiring the real-life experience would be. I left the cinema a believer, in what – I’m not entirely sure… perhaps it’s that da Vinci is eternal, he continues to communicate with the world through the eyes of his paintings and through the eyes of us, his audience – and his medium.

Leonardo Live opens nationally on 18 February.

MIFF 2011 Film Review: The Day He Arrives

5 Aug

A Review by Mia Robinson

Korean with subtitles, drama, 79 minutes

Written and directed by Hong Sang-soo, The Day He Arrives is a strangely amusing, refreshingly different and at times dull and tedious film.  Shot in black and white, along with clunky and obvious camera work, this film feels like a throwback to the “golden years” of cinema.

The film follows middle-aged, boyish in spirit, retired filmmaker Director Yoo, also known as Sang-Joon, as he spends a few days in Seoul to catch up with a close friend.  He also has several run-ins with people from his past and others who recognize him for his work.  For most of the film, we watch Sang-Joon with a friend or two – talking, eating and drinking.  During his stay in Seoul, he frequents the same bar and restaurant, walks the same streets and repeated moments are played with and built upon creating a groundhog-day type effect.

This film is ambiguous and largely left to interpretation; it explores notions such as coincidence and subsequent imposed meaning.  The superficial similarities between people who communicate on a surface-level are exploited and cause an enjoyable laughing-at-yourself-as-you-relate-to-the-characters type humour.

7 out of 10.

MIFF 2011: The Future

3 Aug

Review by Mia Robinson

Drama – 91 minutes

The Future is written and directed by Miranda July (Me and You and Everyone We Know).

Sophie (Miranda July) and her boyfriend of four years Jason (Hamish Linklater) make for a peculiar and likeable couple – each with their own quirks, their idiosyncrasies make them seem ideal for each other.  Living in a bit of a bubble, their comfortable routine lives change when they decide to adopt an old cat – Paw-Paw, who only has a few months to live.  They have one month until the arrival of Paw-Paw and decide to use that month as a catalyst to change their lives for the better.  They both quit their rudimentary jobs and attempt to become the “successful” people they had envisioned themselves as.

Scenes involving Sophie and Jason are intercut with scenes of Paw-Paw (who talks to the audience) waiting to be taken home with his new owners, and it becomes clear that their journeys are parallel.  The film is largely successful in using a mix of realism and magic-realism to express various ideas.  There are some amazing scenes that use magic-realism to play with and explore perceptions and experiences of time and space.  The story-line can be viewed as a bit confused about what it wanted to achieve, leaving the viewer a little unsure of what the film was really about, however, this does not in any way detract from the enjoyment of the film.

8 out of 10.

The Future is out through Madman Entertainment.

MIFF 2011: The Giants (Les géants)

31 Jul

By Mia Robinson


84 minutes

French with subtitles

Directed by Bouli Lanners (Eldorado and Ultranova), The Giants could be described as a Belgian art version of the classic coming of age film Stand By Me.  However, the breathtaking Belgian setting and the performances by the three main characters bring originality to an otherwise familiar tale.  Left to fend for themselves, two teenage brothers along with their sidekick friend look for ways to score pot, make money, and survive on their own.  They decide to rent out their mothers home to a local drug dealer and conflict arises as they are taken advantage of and bullied by the scumbag adults that they deal with.

The film captures the spirit, naivety and sense of adventure of being a young boy.  Many comic moments instil sentiment for a time in life when playfulness reigned, risks were taken without worrying over the consequences, and your actions could still be innocent.  And as a viewer, a sense of resistance is also felt as the boys face the need to grow up in order to survive.

If nothing else, whilst watching this film, the fact that there was audible synchronised gasping from the audience as the camera scanned the amazing Belgian mountains and forests should speak for itself.

7 out of 10.

The Giants is out through O’Brother.

MIFF 2011: 33 Postcards

26 Jul

By Mia Robinson

97 Minutes, Mandarin and English.

Director Pauline Chan presents a beautifully told, original story with 33 Postcards.  

Mei Mei (Zhu Lin) grew up in an orphanage in China.  Sponsorship from Australian Dean Randall (Guy Pearce) meant that she could receive an education and a sense of family that care for her, however remote.  The orphanage choir travels to perform in Sydney, and it’s Mei Mei’s one chance to meet the man who has been sponsoring her and writing to her for years.  Once in Sydney, she runs away from the group and endeavours to meet Randall.  Along the way she meets and befriends Carl (Lincoln Lewis), falls in with some bad company, has a few Aussie adventures of her own, and all beliefs about Randall’s supposedly “Brady Bunch” life (as depicted in his letters) are confronted.

This is a story that deals with belonging and redemption, but most importantly it explores what these two people from very different worlds have in common – a feeling of being alone.  Mei Mei’s demonstrative nature develops as a perfect balance next to Randall’s restraint.  An Australian and Chinese co-production, the film employs iconic imagery of Sydney and the countryside of China, along with a wonderfully melding of Australian and Chinese music.  However, 33 Postcards should not be limited to either nationality, it’s a universal story that is sure to please any audience.  You many need to take a tissue.

7 out of 10.

For trailer please visit:

33 Postcards is out through Titan View.  It should get a general release in November.

Film Review: Sleeping Beauty (2011)

28 Jun

By Mia Robinson 

Written and directed by Julia Leigh (a renowned Australian novelist) Sleeping Beauty is her first feature film attempt.  A technically flawless film, offering beautiful cinematography by Geoffrey Simpson – the content of the film, however, leaves much to be desired.

Lucy (Emily Browning) is a young university student struggling to make the rent. Between jobs as a waitress, working in an office, as a laboratory subject and with the occasional “party trick” on the side, she seems to scrape through.  Deciding to make better use of her “talent”, her “beauty” leads her into the hands of Clara (Rachael Blake), and she begins working as a lingerie waitress at private dinner parties.  This in turn leads to more “sinister” work, where she takes on the role, literally, of a “sleeping beauty”.  During these drug induced-sleeping sessions, she doesn’t know what happens other than that men pay to sleep with her whilst she is unconscious.  Curiosity gets the better of her and she endeavours to find out what happens whilst she is asleep.

We delve into this life of Lucy, a stoic, seemingly detached girl, however, we don’t find out much about her, nor about any of the other characters.  It seems she has a complicated relationship with her only friend Birdmann (Ewen Leslie), of which not much is revealed either.

This is a relatively slow, tiresome film, marketed as “sensuous” and even aspiring to scenes of eroticism.  Sure, it has nudity, however, scenes that threaten to be “sensuous” and “erotic” just pull short, instead presenting as a bit stifled and pretentious.  Any potential eroticism (something that often exists in the withheld, something that can be suggested but that can also left to the viewer’s imagination), is largely dispelled with the revelation and full exposure of the male clients’ fantasies.  Most of the characters present as sad, desperate and lonely, an exploration of which may have produced for a more interesting story.  Aside from the masterful cinematography, I left the theatre feeling cheated.

Sleeping Beauty is out through Paramount Pictures.  It opens at cinemas June 23rd.

Film Review: Here I Am (2010)

24 May

By Mia Robinson

87 minutes

Written and directed by Beck Cole (First Australians), featuring Warwick Thornton (Samson and Delilah) as cinematographer.

Karen (Shai Pittman) is a single mother and a lost soul.  We follow her journey as she is released from prison with nowhere to go.  She attempts to reconnect with her mother, Lois (Marcia Langton) who has taken custody of her daughter.  Karen’s real struggle is in convincing her family that she has changed and being forgiven for her past involvement in drugs and abuse.  The film also portrays the cycles of behavior in the family unit and the challenge to break this cycle.  Taking refuge in a women’s shelter, Karen connects with other women in circumstances similar to her own.  This is a film about motherhood and trying to reform ones life, and having the strength and self-esteem to do so.

Focusing on the plight of Indigenous Australian women, it portrays the hurdles that women of this background have to deal with.

Watching a drama of this sort, I would hope that the film would help me to see something with a different perspective, or at the very least portray an original character or an original narrative.  Instead of writing to a stereotype, I would like to watch something that rewrites and plays with the stereotype.  Whilst this film did not deliver on these levels, it was enjoyable enough and had many some touching and funny moments.

Set in Port Adelaide, the film’s strength is the cinematography; its portrayal of old pubs and buildings and a broken-down town instill an idyllic sensation in the viewer.  In this regard, the crippled but surviving town seems to mirror the plight of the struggling characters.


For trailer please visit:


Here I Am is in cinemas nationally June 2nd, 2011.

DVD Review: Summer Coda (2010)

14 Apr

By Mia Robinson

(Drama/Romance 113 mins)

Australian writer/director Richard Gray delivers an impressive feature debut with Summer Coda.

Hitchhiking her way from Melbourne to Mildura, Heidi (Rachael Taylor) gets picked up by Michael (Alex Dimitriades).  We learn that at the age of seven Heidi’s parents divorced and she left Australia with her mother.  After twenty odd years living in Nevada, she returns to Australia for the first time to attend her father’s funeral. It’s here that Heidi meets relatives for the first time and tries to reconcile the memory of her father.  Opting to stay with Michael on his gorgeous, sprawling orange farm, rather than with the estranged family, the tension of a possible love affair begins brewing. Continue reading

La Mirada Film Festival Review: También la lluvia (Even the Rain) (2010)

4 Apr

By Mia Robinson

Spanish with subtitles

103 minutes

Written by Paul Laverty, directed by Icíar Bollaín, Even the Rain is set in Cochabamba, Bolivia, during the “Water Wars” of 2000.  It tells the story of Spanish film director, Sebastián (Gael García Bernal) and film producer Costa (Luis Tosar), who travel to Cochabamba to shoot a film about Christopher Columbus’ exploitation and genocide of the native peoples. Whilst shooting the film, the town of Cochabamba becomes involved in dangerous protests against the privatization of water, with one of the leading actor’s also helping lead the protests, causing problems for Sebastián’s production. Continue reading

DVD review: The Secret in Their Eyes (2009) Review #2

30 Mar

By Mia Robinson

Argentina: in Spanish with subtitles

124 minutes

I was dubious about this film after learning that it had won the Academy Award in 2010 for “Best Foreign Language Film” over nominees including Haneke’s The White Ribbon (2009).  However, personal bias to Haneke aside, once the film started my scepticism soon dissipated. Continue reading