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Analysis and Comment (31)

Blues singer Marlene Cummins is the subject of Rachel Perkins' latest film, Black Panther Woman. MIFF

A blues song to break the silence: Black Panther Woman at MIFF

I sing this song. I sing it for my sisters. For I feel the backbone of our struggle in this country, Trying to keep it together.Koori Woman – Marlene Cummins Rachel Perkins’ latest documentary, Black Panther…
Jodorowsky saw Dune as a chance to bring 1970s avant-garde ideas to mainstream audiences. MIFF

Jodorowsky’s Dune: an acid trip without the acid at MIFF 2014

One of the big attractions at the Melbourne International Film Festival this year is Frank Pavich’s documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013). The film retells the story of cult Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s…
By telling the stories of Boni, Titi and Ho, Jalanan brings to the screen the hardships and precarious lives of marginalised people in one of the most economically promising Asian countries. Courtesy of Jalanan Movie Team

Jalanan: Busking and dreaming in the city

Daniel Ziv’s documentary feature Jalanan (Streetside), currently screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival, is a film that seeks to move its audience. Documentaries sometimes invite viewers…
Australian poet and dramatist Christopher Barnett is the subject of These Heathen Dreams, a documentary screening at MIFF. MIFF

These Heathen Dreams: rage and tenderness at MIFF 2014

I met the Australian poet Christopher Barnett in Nantes in 2009. He strode the narrow streets in his long leather coat, occasionally crossing the road in front of cars, staring drivers down. When I asked…
New Indian documentary cinema: Children of the Pyre. MIFF

Death begets life in Rajesh Jala’s Children of the Pyre

Rajesh Jala’s Children of the Pyre (2008) is one of seven documentary features in the India in Flux: Living Resistance strand at the 2014 Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF). The film is a finely…
A still from Pablo Mazzolo’s Photooxidation, one of the films on the Experimental Shorts program at MIFF. MIFF

Seeing sounds, hearing images: Experimental Shorts at MIFF 2014

The nine films that comprise the Melbourne International Film Festival’s Experimental Shorts program confront viewers with questions about image, form and genre. The Experimental Shorts program is an annual…
Marion Cotillard stars in Two Days, One Night, currently screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival. MIFF

Two Days, One Night: working hard for the Dardennes brothers

Audiences familiar with Belgian directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes won’t need any recommendation to see their latest film, Two Days, One Night, which is on the program of the Melbourne International…
Rinko Kikuchi stars in Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, currently screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival. MIFF

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter enchants at MIFF 2014

For the most part we live in disenchanted times: everyday life and the political landscape seem increasingly dried of their magical possibilities. Instead they are filled with dross and drone, the relentless…
Brave New Clan presents the “X-factor” us mob see among ourselves all the time to a wider audience. Foxtel 2014

Indigenous Australia is deadly – and Leah Purcell shows it

Urban skyline, as seen from inside a medium-density apartment block, opens Australian director Leah Purcell’s Who We Are: Brave New Clan (2014), which was broadcast on Foxtel’s Bio Channel last night…
Guy Pearce plays Eric, alongside Robert Pattinson as Reynolds, in Australian director David Michod’s second feature film The Rover. Sydney Film Festival

The Rover brings unremitting fury to the Sydney Film Festival

The Sydney Film Festival Offical Competition this year has featured a range of male (and a few female) protagonists who are either without domicile, or whose domicile is severely threatened. I have already…
It’s impossible to overstate the way this kind of viewing makes Altman’s ouevre newly accessible. 3 Women, Sydney Film Festival

Framing Robert Altman at the Sydney Film Festival

For me the most exciting way to negotiate the ample program of the Sydney Film Festival (SFF) is to focus on its retrospectives, and this year the lens is on the American film directors Robert Altman and…
The differing depictions of ‘captaincy’ play key roles in the film. Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Captain Phillips finds depth in human detail

This article contains spoilers. Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips advertises itself as little more than a tense, claustrophobic thriller – a dramatic re-telling of the 2009 incident in which Somali pirates…
Unsimulated sex often breaks the natural flow of fiction, disrupting our enjoyment. Magnolia Pictures/ Christian Geisnaes

Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac and the oddity of real sex on screen

According to the American actor Shia LaBeouf, instead of having an audition for Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, he was asked to email a photograph of his penis. While Labeouf supposedly leapt at the opportunity…
Meryl Streep - Oscar worthy? Dominic Lipinski/PA

August: Osage County is less than the sum of its parts

This article contains spoilers. John Wells’ film August: Osage County tells the story of a family which has gathered for the funeral of its father. Ostensibly, they are also there to help its ill and drug-addicted…
Sometimes too much is just too much. Martin Scorsese’s latest film is swamped by its excesses. Paramount Pictures

The Wolf of Wall Street is a howling disappointment

The Wolf of Wall Street is Martin Scorsese’s Scarface – and that isn’t meant as a compliment. I watched Brian De Palma’s 1983 film again recently. I had been looking forward to it: the Blu-ray edition…
Avatar, the most commercially successful film in history, has a strong environmental message. Flickr: rxau

Cinema classics: the best energy & environment films

The motion picture was born of industrial revolution, the first image in history whose base materials were electrical and chemical energy. Cinema exhibited the laws of motion on a white rectangle for all…
HG Wells (left) with actors on the set of Things to Come, a 1936 adaptation of his futuristic novel. James Vaughan

Cinema classics: five of the best science and technology films

Cinema did not emerge from a eureka moment, but rather through the incremental innovations of pioneers such as the Lumière brothers, Étienne-Jules Marey and Thomas Edison. So it is unsurprising that filmmakers…
It’s a film about the vision and style of Cormac McCarthy – but does it work? Twentieth Century Fox

Review: The Counselor, a film that talks like a book

The Counselor is a collaboration between one of the last century’s literary greats, novelist Cormac McCarthy, and one of the filmmakers who has helped define contemporary, mainstream American cinema, director…
The Brad Pitt zombie action thriller World War Z has a strong enough premise to give us pause to think. Image from shutterstock.com

Tipping the balance towards humanity in World War Z

Could a dire new infection sweep the world in a matter of weeks? Might the disease be so strange that it alters the behaviour of people beyond recognition, making them predatory and fearless? Could a great…
Chasing Ice is trying to get us out of the climate change hole we’ve dug for ourselves. EPA/Baard Ness

Chasing Ice bewitches eyes but won’t change minds

Science seems to be failing to change the minds of those who are sceptical about the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Chasing Ice - a film by Jeff Orlowski, playing in Australia currently - tries…
Ageing couple Gorges and Ann Laurant (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) negotiate illness and death in Amour. EPA Claudio Onorati

The thorny issue of home care in Michael Haneke’s Amour

During our lifetime, we face a series of developmental tasks that are universal to the human condition. The last of these stages comes in our final years, when we face our mortality, reflect back upon…
Bradley Cooper as Pat Solitano in Silver Linings Playbook. Roadshow Publicity

Romcom’s silver lining is its portrayal of mental illness

From Psycho onward, film portrayals of the mentally ill have contributed to the stigma faced by people with these conditions. Films tend to create and reinforce stereotypes of the mentally ill as “homicidal…
Pi finds a strange and beautiful island where life can’t survive. wildfox76/Flickr

Life of Pi’s acidic island a warning for our warming world

The recently released film Life of Pi directed by Ang Lee and based on Yann Martel’s novel of the same name, is a fable for our climate change times. Much of the plot involves the struggles of a teenage…
Landscape is the star in The Hunter, but science plays a respectable supporting role. Matthew Nettheim

The Hunter: bioethics and extinct DNA in the Tasmanian wilderness

All over the planet, a new wave of exploration and exploitation is taking place. Bioprospectors are searching for new and useful biological samples and compounds from previously unstudied animals and plants…
Jude Law as Alan Krumwiede in the thriller “Contagion”. Claudette Barius

Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion: sounding alarm for the next pandemic?

One touch and you’re infected. By the next day your muscles ache, you have a fever and the beginnings of a headache. You don’t know it yet, but you only have a one in three chance of survival and you’ve…
We don’t know which storms will turn into deadly tornadoes. RAGardner4

Tornado Alley 3D: an authentic storm chasing experience

Everyone loves a good storm. Rolling thunder, a spectacular light show and fat drops of rain that make the earth smell like summer. Although thunderstorms are far more belligerent than your average cloud…

Columnists (2)

Belaboring the Big Black Brute

It was a matinee screening in a small town in Massachusetts. I’d stayed for the credits, feeling an odd need to confirm that I’d heard Dido on the soundtrack. Only one other person had been in the cinema…

This is a summer of truly awful blockbusters

I’m trying to figure out why I’m so disheartened with the movies this summer. It’s true that the season began badly. Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a disappointment. The aerial sequences at the…