peteg's blog

Trishna

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As with all the others recently, this movie has been on the pile for ages. Delayed Winterbottom, Thomas Hardy and Riz Ahmed completism. I always thought of Ahmed as having Pakistani and not Indian heritage, and capable of more subtlety than he manages here; there is some colour in his initial bro, but it's all gone by the time we get to Mumbai. Freida Pinto struggles to make much of an empty role. Winterbottom claims to have adapted Tess of the d'Urbervilles but he only retained some shapeless highlights. The cinematography is quite good, so it sort-of works as a high end tourism commercial.

Roger Ebert saw more in it than I did, and observes how combining two of Hardy's characters in Ahmed's explains the general formlessness. Manohla Dargis.

Far from the Madding Crowd

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More (delayed) Carey Mulligan completism, and similarly for Thomas Hardy. She does her best here with a story that has been reduced to soap opera and blanched of Hardy's usual preoccupations. She marries poorly, and almost entirely out of character. Michael Sheen does what he can with even less. It is well shot. It's not a patch on Winterbottom's Jude.

A. O. Scott worked hard to make his word quota.

Tim Winton: The Turning.

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Kindle. I've had in mind for a while that I should rewatch the movie from 2013. Instead I picked up its source material, which is good in its way. Since its release Winton's autobiographies have made its origins more transparent, and perhaps the whole thing redundant.

There's been a deficit of specifically Australian stories these past several years, or maybe I haven't been looking hard enough. Either way this seems unlikely to change with the virus and the eternal pursuit of world city status.

A Hidden Life

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Malick revisits the Christ story, framed by World War II; I think he wishes he'd made The Last Temptation of Christ as well as The Thin Red Line. The plot is no more than what it says on the tin: an Austrian farmer cannot bring himself to swear fealty to Hitler. The cinematography is as awesome as ever, but it took me several goes to slog through these three hours as it completely fails to grip; more precisely, the beautifully impressionistic opening half enthralls until we're on that railroad to an execution in Berlin. It proves Zeno right about time in that way. I feel the mix of English and German is a mistake, as is having the bereft wife wife kicking fences and rending grass, where Malick seems to forget that these are stoic Germanic people.

Richard Brody thinks that it's time Hollywood stopped putting the Nazis on film. A. O. Scott.

Theatre Y has a YouTube channel.

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It's not at all like being there.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

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It's taken me an age to get to this one. Turkish, directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Feted in 2012 (Grand Prize of the Jury at Cannes, etc.). It's a snoozefest. Beautifully shot and fantastically framed with pretences to deep musings. Perhaps the frustration of the police chief, at the lack of progress in the search for the body, is supposed to internalise or co opt the audience's experience. This sort of pacing can be OK if there is any kind of payoff anywhere along the way.

Roger Ebert. I can't say I watch movies to "live along with [the] characters as things occur to them." I picked it up on the strength of Dana Stevens's top-10 for 2012. Manohla Dargis.

The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well

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A random pointer from a post-Parasite list of Korean movies from the New York Times. Directed by Hong Sang-soo. 1996. Song Kang-ho has a minor role. The subs I had were not great. It's a droll days-in-the-life-of. Not great.

Call Me by Your Name

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Another on Leon's recommendation. Also I've somehow got the impression that Armie Hammer is worth watching, but for the life of me I can't remember why, beyond The Social Network. Third time around with Timothée Chalamet I think: previously Lady Bird, Little Women. Ah, also Interstellar, so completely flushed from my brain.

The first thirty minutes of this coming-of-age flick is pure montage. We're in postcard Northern Italy, circa 1981 (the reviewers say 1983). Things are peaceful and there's a vast amount of archaeology to do, so much that it occupies about five minutes of film time. The older grad student decides to get it on with the supervisor's son. The supervisor is very wise about it all. Things get a bit American Pie. The stations of the love affair are mostly stock and awkward in the usual ways. The cinematography is lush. The smoking is of the old school. There's a sequel in the offing, and I can't imagine what it has left to say.

Dana Stevens. Manohla Dargis observes the class structure.

Arthur Phillips: The King at the Edge of the World.

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Kindle. Dominic Dromgoole sold it to me. The premise is rich: an educated Muslim in the royal courts of England and Scotland around 1600 CE, apparently a time of Queen Elizabeth I and James VI/I. My history is too weak to have gotten all the allusions; I spent most of the book waiting for an account of how the highly ambiguous and underdrawn James came to commission the King James Bible, which — I'd've thought — did more for his claims to Protestantism than anything presented here. It's a bit Visit of the Royal Physician, a bit A Gentleman in Moscow, and the ending is entirely 25th Hour. It's too repetitious; the early foreshadowing worked well, but at some point he just needed to get on with it. A decent edit might have cut 15% and yielded a taught philosophical thriller.

Roma

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On Leon's recommendation. I feel like I'm missing whatever it is that gets Alfonso Cuarón so feted. Like Gravity, the black-and-white cinematography here is lush — some early shots overwhelm with detail; it's a bit like Control — while the plot, or narrative drive or whatever, is feeble. We've seen this upstairs/downstairs sort of thing so many times before, for the most part. The servant class are separated from their middle-class Mexican masters by race, language, geography and temperament. The lead actress does her best as things mostly happen to her, which is of course one of the central points. Set pieces ensue — a pregnancy, a forest fire, the beach. Substantially humourless. Liquid hits the floor, repeatedly, in that Chekhovian way. In two sittings as it failed to grip.

Dana Stevens. It would've been better seen on the big screen, sure. Manohla Dargis. Michael Wood found some things funny; I guess I just saw them coming in, yes, that Chekhovian way. Ultimately the story, the characters, the events: they're all too insufficiently novel.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

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Again with the trawling for movies that I haven't seen, and having seen, wish I still hadn't. This is Spielberg's take on friendly aliens who do kidnap people but apparently to no effect at all; witness those Navy men from the 1940s. It's the fag end of the space age (but who was to know that) and American consumption and abundance are front and centre: the family home is epically overflowing with stuff, there are all your American favourites (Maccas, KFC, dodgy scifi, references to classic movies, the Midwest), while the family itself is shown only so it can be broken. Things start off funny but quickly become humourless as the horror movie tropes — "Halloween for adults" — run rampant from a child's point of view: Spielberg's usual vantage. While the man looks at the world the woman looks at the man. The security state response lacks fangs but is otherwise all-American. As a McGuffin bug hunt it's got nothing on the roughly contemporaneous The Shining or Alien. Linking music (John Williams did the score) with hand gestures with aliens ends up making an empty fist. The visuals tried to outdo 2001 but little thought was put into what's going on.

Roger Ebert loved it. According to that I did see the 1980 revision, though I don't remember seeing the inside of any space craft. The alien looks a lot like E.T. J. Holberman at its 40th anniversary.

Rain Man

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I haven't seen this before for, for vague anti-Hoffman reasons, and I can't say I'd regret not seeing it now. In two sittings as it failed to grip. Tom Cruise is a bit much. Hoffman is Hoffman. Oscars all round. I was even more disappointed to find it is a generically teleological yet aimless road trip.

Roger Ebert.

Good Time

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A jag from Uncut Gems; this is by the same directors, the Safdie brothers, as observed by Dana Stevens (her review of this one). Also from Robert Pattinson in The Lighthouse. It's something like Mike Leigh's Naked shorn of philosophical musings, which is to say a bit of an empty vessel. There's a fair amount of unmotivated crazy which is initially justified by a desire for some kind of self reinvention and the (exploitative) love Pattinson has towards his brother (one of the directors) who has an unidentified mental disability. Jennifer Jason Leigh does her usual tough but oblivious thing in a minor role. Stevens is right about the obtrusive soundtrack.

A. O. Scott reckons there's no there there.

Aravind Adiga: Amnesty.

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Kindle. Not great. A Tamil student-visa overstayer from Sri Lanka in a Sydney dated by the pre-Opal card Travel Tens and those green machines (which, incidentally, didn't require a swipe off and so there's no timestamp for that), a pre-lockout Kings Cross as a red-light district, the Coke sign when it was neon. Conversely the bushfire smoke and release date made it feel like this past summer. There are heaps of books on the experiences of South Indians being exploited in the Middle East (e.g. Temporary People, Goat Days); fair enough that it be Australia's turn. Unfortunately this is no more than an aimless tour of the touristic parts of the city, a generic rumination on the plight of guest workers/illegals (what about the Pacific islanders?), and a long way from great; things get very repetitious, like circling a drain.

Dwight Garner sold it to me; I did keep reading and it didn't get any better than those opening scenes. Juan Gabriel Vásquez.

Only Angels Have Wings

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Howard Hawks directs, Cary Grant stars alongside Jean Arthur and Rita Hayworth, future and past lovers respectively. Not very gripping: some dicey flying of dicey planes with dicey cargo out of the fictional town of Barranca, South American somewhere. Not screwy, but there are some funny one liners; more Wages of Fear than His Girl Friday. Excess details at Wikipedia.

Frank Nugent wasn't that impressed back in 1939. He says Ecuador. Bananas are mentioned, and ships carrying them to the great northern markets.

True Detective (Seasons 1-3)

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More time-soaking TV. The first series is as good as everyone says; imaginative, well acted, well shot. The shootout is a classic. The second series is more of a stock breaking-good police procedural with a generic shootout. The third series is a bit of a return to the good acting but is soporifically paced; it's Gone Baby Gone, stretched thin. So yeah, the first one is all of it.