Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cinematheque and Fahrenheit 451

Last week (or last post) I talked about my very first theatre-going experience, going to the Sydney Theatre Company's 'Stockholm'. Now I have another first time experience to share, which made me realise how much of a cultural/arts virgin I am.

I went to my first cinematheque screening at the Chauvel Cinema in Paddington, which I think exceeds any other cinema in Sydney (cough*hoyts*cough) in terms of their awesome-ness, taste in film, kindness of staff and cinema atmosphere. I want to live there. I'd love to camp out in the projection room, surrounded by canisters of film and fall asleep to the gentle whizzing sound of the reel whilst being comforted by the faint dialogue of (insert title of a cult/foreign/arthouse/indie film here).

I was overly excited and dying of anticipation during the short wait outside the cinema. I nearly puked when the doors were finally opened and my hands were shaking as I handed my ticket to the gate staff. This was my cinematic devirgination. My long-awaited exposure to the works of god-directors including Kurosawa, De Sica and the aptly named Jean-Luc (God)ard. The times of queuing for mindless blockbusters and lifeless comedies were over, that night I queued for a cinematheque.

I was finally baptised.

Fahrenheit 451 (UK) (1966)
Directed by Francois Truffaut
Starring Oskar Werner and Julie Christie
Plot summary here

My excitement for my first cinematheque was overwhelming, but this film, I'm sorry to say, was a bit underwhelming. I've read the book and never really understood why it was a classic, sure it's an interesting premise - firemen setting fire on books instead of putting them out, the realisation of a grossly sanitised society. But I've always thought that I missed something because most of the chapters bored me out of my mind. I thought this adaptation would ignite my interest, unfortunately though, it was just as dull. I blame it on the characterisation of the protagonist, Ray Montag. What a boring, boring man. I hated him in the books and I detested him on the film. I never really felt his passion towards the books he was desperately saving, I felt my own passion for the books and was deeply saddened by montages (superbly done by Truffaut) of classic books being burned to ashes. But not once did HIS passion resonate from the screen, not even during that pivotal scene of him reading a book to his conformist wife and her friends.

On the other hand, the film was nicely paced and was fairly faithful to the book, but I still can't decide whether that's a good or a bad thing. A part of me wants the exact story from the novel translated on screen but another part of me wanted Truffaut to take a chance and change some bits and create something new, while still retaining the essence of the book.

A fairly clean and safe film and worth the watch if you're a fan of the book, or fans of books in general. A bit of advice: Read the book first.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sydney Theatre Company's Stockholm and discovering my love for theatre

Haunting and Unsettling. Two words that critics used to describe this magnificent piece of theatre and also the two words that made me rush out to see it. I love to be haunted and I love to be unsettled, don't you?

I want a play to drag me by the hair and pull me out of my comfort zone. I want to shift uncomfortably in my seat and worry about what my friend, who is sitting next to me, is thinking when a rather disturbing scene is playing out right in front of our eyes. I want to feel the pain in my body when characters on stage become inflicted with physical violence themselves. It's much more fun to watch something like that. Agreed?

'Stockholm' is a story of two people who appear to be madly in love with each other (keywords: "appear" and "madly") but as the story unravels, we slowly see things go downhill. We witness supressed emotions violently expressed and seeds of anger into relentless rage. Then we see the cheeerful atmosphere set up in the opening completely obliterated. Then we (finally!) become helplessly uncomfortable. The fun starts.

British physical theatre Frantic Assembly collaborated with the Sydney Theatre Company to create a powerful piece of hybrid theatre, using dance and spoken word, to illustrate a story of an abusive relationship fuelled by both passion and paranoia.

I must confess that this is the first stage production I have ever seen, apart from musicals, and I was completely blown away by it. How on earth did I manage to exist in this world for 17 years and not once experience the power of theatre? I walked out feeling like I missed out on something so great, and I was hungry for more.

I wasn't sad or upset, I was relieved. I found another passion, and I was happy. I walked out feeling the same way I walked out of a screening of Michael Haneke's 'Funny Games' and realising that film can be more than just entertainment, it can be challenging. The same feeling I had the first time I listened to a Bjork song and realising that a singer's voice can be beautiful despite being otherworldly. The same feeling when I realised that burst of colour on a canvas is not just there to be pretty, but to tell a story too.
There's an incredible rush of energy through your body, not adrenaline, something more potent. It's a curious feeling but I know now that it's an indication of a new found passion, a way my body tells me that if I do this for the rest of my life, I'll die a happy man.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The last top ten films of 2009 list you will see online

I know that I'm a couple months late but this list took a long time to compile. I didn't want to just choose a handful of titles and make a list. No. I wanted to do it like a reality tv show. I rewatched all the movies I saw in 2009. This was like their audition, I picked at every single flaw of each film and shouted at the screen whenever something felt wrong. Some films cracked under the pressure, stopping halfway through while others literally cracked. The DVD itself actually cracked. I then placed all of the dvds (ones that survived) on the table and handpicked my top twenty like how they do it in American Idol. Then I voted out ten of those titles to the "Honourable Mentions" list, which is like the exile island in Survivor. Then I arranged my top ten - which will be revealed after this break.

I am of course kidding.

All I did was go to the always handy IMDB and looked up all the movies I gave a 10 or a 9 star rating to that was released in 2009, according to imdb - so even though I saw 'Let The Right One In' in 2009 it doesn't count because IMDB says it was released in 2008 (don't worry, I'm sure this film would make my 2008 top ten). But I decided to make an exception for The Hurt Locker which was released in 2008.

So the top ten are as follows:

1) The Hurt Locker - Katheryn Bigelow
2) The White Ribbon - Michael Haneke
3) Samson and Delilah - Warwick Thornton
4) An Education - Lone Scherfig
5) The Cove - Louie Psihoyos
6) Up in the Air - Jason Reitman
7) Inglorious Basterds - Quentin Tarantino
8) (500) Days of Summer - Marc Webb
9) Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire - Lee Daniels
10) A Single Man - Tom Ford

..and honourable mentions are as follows:

11) Drag Me To Hell - Sam Raimi
12) Bright Star - Jane Campion
13) Up - Pete Docter
14) District 9 - Neill Blomkamp
15) The Hangover - Todd Philipps
16) The Spetember Issue - R.J. Cutler
17) Avatar - James Cameron
18) Zombieland - Ruben Fleischer
19) Coraline - Henry Selick
20) Antichrist - Lars von Trier

Now some FILM MUSIC ART awards.

Best Picture
Obviously The Hurt Locker

Best Director.
Katheryn Bigelow. Go female directors!

Best Leading Actor
Colin Firth. Never liked him in other movies. Blew me away with this one.

Best Leading Actress
Carey Mulligan. I was so sad when her awards momentum slowly dissipated nearing the Oscars.

Best Supporting Actor
Christoph Waltz. No competition here.

Best Supporting Actress
Anna Kendrick. Made me laugh, cry and sympathise. Loved her performance in Up in the Air

Best screenplay (original)
(500) days of Summer

Best screenplay (adapted)
An Education

Best cinematography
The White Ribbon

Best editing
The Hurt Locker

Best art direction
A Single Man

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Directed by Tom Ford
Starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore
Synopsis here

Have you ever had the pleasant experience of sitting in a darkened theatre and a high fashion ad plays? And you wished that it would play a little while longer? Yes and yes? Then Tom Ford's directorial debut A Single Man might be your cup of tea.

The film opens with an underwater shot of a naked body swaying and moving artistically in the depths of the ocean (though I do believe he was meant to be drowning). One would expect the name of Dior or Gucci to appear slowly on the screen announcing a new line of fragrances. It doesn't. Instead we find ourselves in more fashion ads, every scene seemed like it was advertising a dress or a suit, but after being immersed in this world, you forget all about that and you focus on the story.

Call me superificial, but I found myself longing to live in this 'world' that Ford creates. Even for a little while, for a vacation maybe. There was no hair out of place, no shoe mismatched with a dress. Fashion policing is dead here. And everything is breathtaking

Colin Firth was sensational here, he took this film to another level. I was never a big fan of him, mainly because I couldn't get Mr Darcy out of my head, but this performance was heart-stopping. He made subtle changes to his face, eye movements that told a story, creating a performance that made the audience feel, what his character was feeling.

It's a film possessing both inner and outer beauty. The stunning visuals never distracted from the story or the emotional intensity of the film, they worked side by side together. It's a dramatic punch wearing cashmere Chanel gloves.

Some people criticise A Single Man for being TOO beautiful. That is not a valid point, nothing is ever too beautiful in my opinion. Ford brought something new to the table, he was able to show that you can have a film that is over polished and super pretty but still have the strength to carry the emotional weight of the narrative. I can't wait what he does next.

Photo from here

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My current obsessions

Well... umm... I kinda..err.. started watching GOSSIP GIRL. There, I said it. Embarassing I know, but I don't really care because I freaking love this show. It's like heroin. I actually gave up time to watch Damages, Glee and True Blood just so I could get through the Gossip Girl seasons.

I've always wanted to move to New York since I was little. Gossip Girl made me want to move ther NOW! If only I could just pack up and go, I would. Unfortunately, I have high school to finish.

Minimalism posters. That's my other obsession at the moment. I want to purchase a whole stack of these and hang them up my walls. The following are designed by Exergian.

It took me a while to figure out what the True Blood one meant, until a friend pointed out that they represented fangs. (DUH!). That's why I like these, some of the poster's meaning register to you straight away, while some you have to take a step back and take some time to figure them out.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Argento Double Feature at the Chauvel Cinema

Chauvel cinema (the one and only surviving arthouse theatre in Sydney, sad I know) is playing four of Argento's classic horror films in the next four weeks. I attended the first one last friday, it was a double feature of Argento's Suspiria and Romero's Dawn of the Dead.

I'm ashamed to say that I have never heard of Dario Argento until now and was pleasantly surpirsed by Suspiria. Argento knows his visuals. In every scene, despite the cheesy special effects, Argento was still able to evoke terror from within me through his masterful use of shots. The things that were happening did start to get ridiculous at times but I do love a director who is unafraid of giving us absurd, which I think produces a much more entertaining film as opposed to having it held back.
The plot is the film's weakest element, but it is also irrelevant. I didn't care about the story, I just wanted to sit back and marvel at the visual feast emanating from the screen. The music by the Goblins fits perfectly into the film, it's unsettling and creepy and althought it played excessively throughout the film, not once did I ever get tired of it. The dialogue is hilarious but I wasn't quite sure whether it was intentional or not. The opening scene was jaw-droppingly good, the visuals, the colour, the shots used and the sound were all balanced and played harmoniously together, creating a scene that I think would make Hitchcock and Coppola proud.

Dawn of the Dead, was the weaker of the two for me (I have a feeling some would disagree with me). It was funny, but it wasn't hilarious. There wasn't really any tension for me, probably because I never really cared about the characters in the first place. On the other hand, I do think that the film holds an important message, the film is an allegory of the consumerist values of the 70s American society which, in my opinion, is still relevant to the wider society today. There were some gruesome scenes, which I can imagine would have created quite a stir among audiences who saw it on it's original release. But overall, I just did not find the movie entertaining and I found myself checking my watch constantly, and actually hoping for the credits to play.

Next Friday, I might go see another Argento screening (they're playing Tenebre with the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre) or wait another week for Phenomena or Wes Craven's Last House on the Left. But I'm more excited about the Scorcese classics screenings which begins near the end of March, might finally get to see Raging Bull.

Photos from: 1, 2 and 3


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