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.


The Other Side of Hope

Why do I love Aki Kaurismaki? Because he makes films like this!

Films of compassion and generosity; films with plain people looking the world in the face and saying what they want or think using as few words as possible.

I love his colour template and his interior designs; his furniture that hovers in the space between vintage and Salvos reject. I love his emotion free dialogue all delivered with a deadpan face and tonight at the Sydney Film Festival I saw perhaps the last film he will ever make.

Wikstrom, a middle-aged man packs his bag and leaves home one morning depositing his keys and wedding ring on the table where his wife sits painting her nails and drinking scotch.

Another man in the belly of a cargo ship, lifts his coal-smeared face from the hold and creeps onto the port. Khaled is an asylum seeker from Aleppo.

This film tells of these two men’s lives and how Wikstrom and a group of ordinary people try to help Khaled while another group of right-winged fascists try to hurt him.

This is a very moving timely film and I would recommend it highly.

The music is fabulous as well!!

The Party

Only the British can make films as dark and as funny as this. A small group of friends gather to congratulate Janet, a politician ( Kristen Scott Thomas) on her promotion to Minister for Health. Her husband sits alone in the lounge room with a half empty glass in his hand and a look of desperation on his face while he plays his records loudly as Janet fields congratulatory calls from friends and perhaps someone who might be her lover.

One by one her friends arrive and what should be a party turns into a gathering of individuals with life-shattering announcements of their own to make. The dialogue is superb, particularly from April (Patricia Clarkson) Janet’s best friend….. and the ending is delicious. A timely film considering the UK elections of yesterday!


Ali’s Wedding will become a classic- there’s no doubt about that.
Even the title warns you that this is going to be a bit of a romp-
“This film is based on a true story…. unfortunately”.

Osamah is the son of a Muslim cleric who is highly regarded in his community. The family has been through the war in Iraq and finally settled in Melbourne. Osamah is studying to enter medicine as a post-grad while he works at a petrol station in the evening. He falls in love with the daughter of the fish and chip man but becomes engaged to another gorgeous young woman at the same time.

This film is a hoot in many ways… there are some great one-liners, some endearing characters all set in a mostly harmonious Muslim community. This film presents a different view of Muslim Australians than the media does …… and in many ways reminded us of The Castle. 
Go see it, you will love it. (Don McAlpine was the cinematographer… another plus point).