Tag Archives: Geoffrey Rush

The Eye of The Storm: You get Big Stars ’cause they can pull a lot of weight

17 Aug

Geoffrey Rush's nose was nearly upstaged by a well-placed purple wig. But they can laugh about it now...

Review by Lizzie Lamb 

  Film-makers directing Geoffrey Rush seem to have difficult time resisting using his voice for their introductory narration. Quills, Oscar and Lucinda, Harvey Crumpet, and now The Eye of The Storm, all feature his unflappable Aussie gentility, flopping its way across the initial vignette. This recitative assures the audience that yes, this film has Geoffrey Rush and his nose in it. He promises to be excessively theatrical and have a lot of fun. Enjoy!

I shouldn’t complain, and I don’t. We here in Australia are lucky to have our own Gerard Depardieu, an ubiquitous actor whose name represents quality in a touch-and-go, small industry. Rush’s turn as Sir Basil and his co-Executive Producer credit with fellow stamp-of-approval and co-star Judy Davis, guarantee a degree of sympathy and interest from overseas.

    And this film of Patrick White’s novel is a good use of that clout. Thoroughly entertaining and pleasing to the eye it’s a film heavily based in its 1970’s context, yet timely in the way of all insightful cinema. The storyline is steeped in themes that will be instinctively familiar to Australians: a ‘classless’ society; the constant effacing of the individual for their ‘set’; the cracks in the façade of civilisation; the basic destructive power of what cannot be said. That makes it sound less droll than it actually is.

   The central trio, ailing matriarch Elizabeth (Charlotte Rampling in fine form, her ostensibly successful, but fundamentally hopeless children Princess Dorothy (Judy Davis) and Sir Basil, stagger under the burden of wealthy expectations. The children have returned from their cosmopolitan, but unsatisfying lives in Europe to their Sydney Family Seat to watch mother die. The children are neurotic, miserable, and oppositional (to everything).

   The psychological idiosyncrasies of these characters are perfectly matched by their physical ones. Sir Basil is a classic ham, so Geoffrey Rush lets loose with the scenery chewing (as well as actual chewing) doing a slightly Aussie Falstaff impression. Dorothy is as bird-like and startled as they come, sexually repressed but with hidden reserves of fortitude.

   It knows how to lighten the mood too. Basil’s chickeny avoidance and bin-scabbing habits of food and sex, and Dorothy’s desperate French exclamations and fraught behaviour, and Mother’s sexual frankness all make for a damn good time. And supporting these three are the mainstays of their privileged existence: the lawyers, maids, nurses and caretakers who do the real work that allows these three to indulge in their ‘White People Problems’. And because Australia is a classless society, no-one is allowed to mention the discrepancy of letting someone wipe your bottom but not letting them date your son. And the supporting cast of Nurses Mary (staid) and Flora (sexy), the family lawyer, their Nazi-persecuted housekeeper and peripheral servants, allow the aging heirs of the Hunter family to live in perpetual childhood: in the world of the rich, you only become a grown-up by dead men’s shoes.

   There are constant reminders to the flaws in their pretty world: blotches, spots, scars, and cracks mar any potential perfection. Often films will project a world that is either exaggeratedly attractive, full of soft hues and peachy light, or a harder, darker, GRITTIER version in aggressive shadows and stark light. Fred Schepisi does no such thing, creating instead a world that looks spot-on: the colours, lighting and tones all depict that elusive feeling of disappointment with the ordinariness of luxury. It’s the feeling you get when you see an opulent, glossy picture of your hotel room, and then arrive to find it’s just a generic room with a tiny fridge and UHT milk. The only safety against disappointment is having the means to do whatever you want. Mother knew it, and over the course of her death her children appreciate it too.

  I’m not saying this is a message of great relevance to the rest of us un-monied sods, but it is an entertaining journey into a foreign but strangely familiar land.

  Plus, y’know, Geoffrey Rush is in it.

In Cinemas September 15

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MIFF 2011: Three

23 Jul

German film Three presents the viewer with Hanna and Simon; middle aged, middle class, bored, and in for a whole lot of changes. Independently to each other they each start an affair with the same man- Adam. Hanna knows him through work (both are scientists though Hanna also has an art program on television, why? Who knows) and art engineer Simon meets him at a pool and later installs a sculpture at his work.

After Simon’s mother dies of pancreatic cancer and he himself goes through chemotherapy for testicular cancer, he and Hanna decide to marry on their 20th anniversary and in the midst of each of their affairs. Naturally things get complicated, very complicated, and as their lives become more and more intertwined all learn that some things cannot be reversed.

Honestly, I was expecting a little more. Tykwer’s previous films (Run Lola Run, Perfume and The International) all seem to have more to them which is odd because Three has a lot of unnecessary sub-plots and general ‘stuff’. It also passes into moments of mental fantasy that is never fully explored or evaluated, disappointing for this is done well in Run Lola Run.

The directing is fine, so is the acting and the music. The use of a split screen throughout works, though it does introduce more clutter into the film. Essentially; whilst the premise is good the execution is lacking.

Melbourne International Film Festival 2011: Program Launch

5 Jul

Waiting for MIFF (Film: Little Furniture)

The 5pm launch of the Melbourne International Film Festival launch was held at the Toff in Town today. We managed to sneak past the 3 bug-eyed publicists (is there any other kind) on the door and straight into the packed room. If they had of stopped us, we wouldn’t have had a problem (because we were totally invited) but I think at that stage they had relinquished to the pushy molasses of black that knew they should be there. Because they were totally invited.

Robert Doyle and Geoffrey Rush both made excellent speeches, highlighting the value of festivals such as this to the cultural life of Melbourne and individual development of its artistic souls. Geoffrey Rush made the telling observation that 3 of his top 10 films of all time, he saw at his first MIFF, in 1972 for those who are counting, and all 10 were seen at festivals. An experience that rung a bell with this writer: Symbol, Funky Forest and Bibliotheque Pascal being 3 of my favourites. All seen at film festivals. None of which were released in the theatres.

Geoffrey is celebrating his 60th birthday this year, as is MIFF. To celebrate the occassion a many tiered cake was rolled out and the media and industry crowd sung happy birthday – in the typically cool way you’d expect from a Melbourne artistic crowd. Still it was nice. Robert Doyle’s preceeding speech highlighted his love for the festival, and misperception of Melbourne as sports mad town, where our top 2 festivals are the Melbourne International Film Festival and the event we we’re all gathered there to enjoy the bar tab of.

MIFF's 2011 Artistic Director, Michelle Carey.

Richard Moore steps aside as festival director this year, making way for long time programmer, and dorkily beautiful, Michelle Carey. Its first female director we wonder (too lazy too Google). Michelle is perhaps known for her taste for films exploring whimsical and explosive nature of youth, such as in her spirited advocation of UNMADE BEDS a few years back (which we did and did not enjoy). We can probably expect a different direction from MIFF in the coming years, though Richard Moore’s solid stewardship will be a hard act to follow. Regardless, it’s likely to continue to offer an irresitable offering of strange, mundane, vibrant, sanguine, controversial, tradtional, factual, fictional films as it does every year. Perhaps a blessing or a curse, MIFF comes late in the film festival cycle, off the back of Sundance, Sydney, Cannes, Toronto -some of the less edible pieces of celluloid have been weeded out by the time late July rolls around.

Michelle Carey’s top 5: Love, Play (Sweden), Project Nim, Jess + Moss and one other that escapes our brain.

Here’s what to expect at MIFF this year:

  •  TELESCOPE: 12 daring films from Europe, culminating in a European Union award of some sort
  • MADE FOR TV: Michelle Carey argued the dilineation between film (good) and TV (bad) had broken down over the last few years on the back of quality long-form narrative from HBO, AMC etc. This new section will explore this and includes the first two episodes from Christ Tsiolkas’ TV adaptation of his novel THE SLAP – cast and crew will be present. The point is valid, yet to be convinced by the need for this new element. Isnt TV to be enjoyed at home? You don’t watch THE WIRE at the cinema. Too many Pee breaks.
  • A number of discussion forums. Some containing Jennifer Byrne. Others containing awkward silences.
  • OUR SPACE is back. Exploring architecture and urban space on film.
  • To look back at the 60 years of MIFF: 2 programs of vintage shorts have been curated, digging out the vaults of ACMI, NFSA and other film archives no doubt. Keep an eye out for SUNDAY IN MELBOURNE, a fascinating early portrait of our little town. There is also a retrospective of a number of MIFF films from the first ever Film Festival back in ’52. On top of this ACMI is hosting an exhibition exploring the festival decade by decade, including vintage posters of the festivals dating back 60 years. Finally, there is a commemorative book for those who can’t wait for the 70th MIFF celebrations.
  • SPOTLIGHT: 6 international films looking at crime on film.
  • NETWORK: films exploring technology and online culture.
  • THIS SPORTING LIFE: 5 films exploring the drive and psychosis of winning. Not just for sports fans.
  • Local premieres include: I AM 11, FALLING FOR SAHARA, X and a new documentary from Australia’s number 1 documentary director, Tom Bradbury, documetanting Paul Cox’s recent troubles. There is also a doco about the recent Tote kerfuffle, and a portrait of deceased Birthday Party member Roland S Howard.
  • David Stratton, Mark Spratt and others will be heading up a lively and tasty discussion on Australia’s censorship culture. Hopefully they’ll put the boot in where necessary.
  • 3 Masterclasses: Compostion, Documentary, and editing. $12 – $15
  • Many TALKING PICTURES events – free @ the forum
  • The 50th MIFF short film awards – Bob Connolly among the judges.

The speeches ended with some trailers of LIFE IN A DAY, EYE OF THE STORM and others. Unfortuntately the Toff was a hopeless venue for this – a third could see the rest of us had to imagine what delights lay on the other side of the collected media scrums head.

Still, we’re excited.