Murder on the Orient Express


After having planned to see Murder on the Orient Express with my lovely Helen, I heard a very conflicted review on 702 radio. So despite the warning, we followed through as we both were really impressed with the line-up of actors and I do recall loving this Agatha Christie although I had totally forgotten who the dastardly murderer was.

After a rather cheap and delicious Vietnamese lunch in Kensington Street, we headed off to the new CentralPark cinema. Not bad with a lovely seating area with a bar and cafe looking out over the back where you can watch more and more apartments being built. The last one in the series is called Wonderland. I cannot imagine any sane adult wanting to live in a building called Wonderland unless of course they’re on LSD or are called Alice. What started several years ago as a lovely innovative space in Chippendale is now almost a walled community mainly for international students.

On entering the theatre, we said hello to the sole occupant. He laughed and said he thought he’d be all alone. Perhaps he was waiting for Greta G. After the film started another audience member came in and he ate a curry pie as he watched. A bit too strong a smell for the movies but not as bad as the woman who sat next to Eves and I today at a lunchroom in the CBD applying her enamel nail polish. It almost made us puke!! Two others ladies that lunch asked the waiter to get her to stop.

Back to Murder on the O E … well Kenneth Branagh was amazing, a great performance (as usual) but his moustache was just disgusting…. and I say that sincerely. Thick… ugh… I imagined lice and bacteria living there …… an eco-system of sorts- a real lip-slug. I have been known to pour salt on the slugs that crawl under my back door and have since been wondering what would happen to Ken’s moustache, (may I call you Ken) if he ate a bag of chips.   But I digress once again.

I found the whole movie to be very theatrical and over-styled. I thought most of the scenery had been filmed inside a movie-lot but was truly surprised to see that it had been filmed in quite a number of countries. Well the cinematographer must have gone to the “make all scenes look like a postcard” school of movie making.

I have never gone to a movie and felt so bored that I have started to nod off. Well that time had to come, and it came, alas, during this movie.

It was great to see the fabulous cast; Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Penelope Cruz etc and the poster for the film was really beguiling. Had lots of fun in the lead-up to Murder challenging friends to see who could name the most stars.

To increase the tension/look of the film, Hercules Poirot interviewed the suspects in all sorts of locations- many of which were frankly laughable- under the bridge where the train had overturned, next to a wide-open doorway of an empty carriage teetering on a mountainside. OH &S issues everywhere you looked!

But then came the last third of the film and I was moved to tears, not just by one scene but by the whole last section. All the drawbacks of the first section became inconsequential compared to the truly moving finale. And may I add another plus point; the music by Patrick Doyle, was fabulous…..original and very subtle. There is a haunting song that closes the film; look for the singer and the songwriters. You will be astonished!!





I thought I’d start this review with one of the most anguished songs ever written —you guessed it, Mother, by John Lennon.

I’ve included this version for the photos. What a super-star he was!

Well maybe not the most anguished song of all, as I’ve just remembered Pagliacci’s lament.  Try not to cry.

Now back to the movie, which opens with a heart-breaking shot of a beautiful young woman with a face half burnt staring ahead as a tear rolls down her face. This perfect image encapsulates the film to come.

The film is set in the countryside, in a huge Gothic style house standing alone in vast fields. A once famous poet with his beautiful young wife live here, restoring a house that was destroyed in a huge fire. She repairs, paints, renders the house while he tries to work on his poetry. He locks himself away in his study but no matter how many hours he spends at his desk, he has lost his creative fire. She searches for tranquility and harmony, he to shake his world up for literary inspiration and with the arrival of a man at their door, the terror begins.

Mother! is a mix of many genres, a horror film, a visual poem, a descent into hell, a critique of the media and the ensuing adulation of stars, sexual politics and more. Some reviews have remarked that the director, Daniel Aronofsky, has too many parallel themes, others see it as a biblical treatise on the story of creation, Aronofsky mentions climate change as one of his themes but welcomes all interpretations.

Mother! is a very complex film with some startling images and terrific performances. You will be entranced and repulsed at the same time. I’d recommend it highly but watch out!!

The Trip to Spain

How I love these 2 British comedians/actors. Rob Bryden, plays the restaurant reviewer and actor with a modest career and happy family life, whereas Steve Coogan plays a writer/actor with Academy nominations, and (in his own estimation) an outstanding career and a complicated romantic life.

I watched the first television series they starred in about their culinary road-trip through England then the film through Italy and loved them. The Trip to Spain follows the same formula but the emphasis this time is more on how these two men are dealing with middle-age than the actual food.

As before we have a mixture of fabulous restaurants (usually with views) and a friendship comprised of equal doses of love and sarcasm interwoven with boyish attempts to outperform and outwit one another.

Much of the film is unscripted and often you can see the delight on the actors’ faces when a joke or impression is successful. For this film they visit Cantabria, the Basque region, Aragon, La Rioja, Castile-La Mancha and Andalusia and of course dine at stunning restaurants but it is the relationship and lives of Bryden and Coogan that make this film so charming and funny.



The Beguiled


A very atmospheric remake of a 1970s film from Sofia Coppola starring our Nicole, the ever beautiful Kirsten Dunst (watch her in Melancholia; and Colin Farrell.

Set during the American Civil War, a wounded soldier is found by a young schoolgirl and helped back to the school where she boards with a small group of girls supervised by the headmistress (Kidman) and a teacher (Dunst).

At first, the girls and the two women are cautious about helping this enemy, John McBurney, but decide that “the Christian thing to do” is to help him recover then hand him over to their own soldiers.

As he lies in the music room, he becomes the focus of rivalry, repressed sexuality and jealousy, teenage desire as well as innocent friendship.

The costumes and school setting are super fabulous, the acting restrained which suits the era but as I have seen the original film, my enjoyment was rather spoiled because I knew the fate of the soldier, Corporal McBurney.

Want me to tell you?

Do want to add that the film was rather vanilla in some ways. Coppola did not include the female member of the household who was held as a slave nor the issue of incest.




Final Portrait

Geoffrey Rush, as usual, plays this role as the artist/sculptor Alberto Giocometti with exquisite attention. He was born for this role as you can see from the photos below.

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Giocometti lives in Paris with his wife, Annette, and towards the end of his life, when already a very successful sculptor, he asks an American writer friend to sit for a portrait. The friend agrees and changes his flight and hotel reservation to leave a day later. This movie tells of that rather extended sitting and Giocometti’s turbulent life in particular his relationship with the prostitute Caroline, his wife and his brother.

There is not really much of a story-line in the film, but Geoffrey Rush gives an Oscar winning performance. The film is an American/British co-production directed by Stanley Tucci.

ps I wonder if actors can claim medical insurance from movies that insist that they smoke non-stop during a performance?


A French/Senagalese co-production, this film tells of a week in Félicité’s life as she struggles to raise money for her young son’s emergency operation.

Félicité is really something else- a proud, strong woman; beautiful with the body of an Amazon —- think Xena, warrior princess!!

The township Kinshasa, where she sings in a bar, looks like everyone’s nightmare…. and yet underneath the squalor and the poverty you sense resilience and generosity tempered with a love of music that is joyous. I was going to use the word transcendental but baulked at the last moment!  We listen to the fabulous voice of Félicité and her backing band (think Youssou N’Dour) and then in another part of town, the music of Arvo Part sung by the town’s choir.

Félicité is determined to do whatever it takes to get the money for medical bills and some of the people she confronts to borrow or get money owed to her are tragic, hilarious and redolent of her furious spirit and determination to save her son.

You’ll leave this film giving thanks to our Medicare system, determined to get out your Salif Keita, N’Dour albums again and dance.


Madame is a romantic/black comedy set in Paris at the home of a wealthy businessman and his younger wife, Anne. They are holding a luxurious dinner party for international guests (two of whom are the Lord Mayor of London and his boyfriend) but unfortunately Anne realizes that there are 13 guests so she cajoles her housekeeper, Maria, into being a mysterious Spanish noblewoman as the 14th guest. The scene where Anne (Toni Collette) instructs Maria (Rossy de Palma) on how to behave at this dinner party is both hilarious and terribly cruel.

At the dinner Maria drinks too much, tells risqué jokes and has a life view and directness of communication that intrigues another of the guests, a wealthy, titled bachelor. Thus the theme is set and the story moves on…..

In some ways this movie reminded me of one of those Charlie Chaplain/ Buster Keeton romps so it was great fun to watch.

As Tim texted at the end of the film… “Charmant” …. I responded “Oui. Tres charmant. Comme moi” but alas he didn’t respond.

I Am Not Your Negro





This is a must-see film from the festival. It has already garnered impressive reviews from the New York Times and the Guardian and for what it’s worth I will add my tribute to this.


In some ways I am not your Negro is a love-song to the blacks of North America by the novelist, James Baldwin. James Baldwin is rarely mentioned in the greats of Black Liberation and yet watching this film makes you realise what an eloquent outspoken champion of Black Civil Rights he truly was.

Some of the speeches he made at meetings, in forums, on television and at universities (we had the honour of listening to), are heart-breaking in the simple questions he raises. Go to see this and weep.


We Don’t Need a Map

Parts of this film were quite beautiful but most was a fairly directionless ramble where we watched a film maker being filmed making a film. We Don’t Need a Map could have been cut to about 20 minutes and we would have had an interesting documentary.

I can not imagine why this film was chosen to open the Sydney Film Festival. For much of the film I wanted to scream from boredom. Many around me felt the same. You have been warned!

One Thousand Ropes

There was much in One Thousand Ropes I couldn’t watch and yet I thought it was a fabulous film. I had to close my eyes and peep out quickly quite often during this film. You’ll understand why when you go to see it.

One Thousand Ropes is set in a Samoan community in NZ. A heavily pregnant young woman returns to her estranged father’s house after being violently assaulted. We don’t know if she has been raped and beaten by a stranger or a partner …. as she refuses to name her aggressor.

The father, Maea, is a healer but one who has also led a very violent life. Everywhere in the community there is the threat of violence, teens practise boxing in the parks, co-workers punch each other out for slights, sons fight their fathers and husbands beat their wives.

To add to this turmoil, the father is visited by a ghost who refuses to remain in her grave. She drags her rotting cadaver to his house to sit in the corner.

The film can be a little hard to follow at times but as we link the flashbacks together our understanding is made complete. Dread also haunts this film as we don’t know what kind of punishment the father will mete out on the man who beat up his daughter.

The acting is superb, the setting unique and the theme of protecting our loved ones and our response to violence make this an extremely powerful film.