Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Victoria.


If there is a problem with Sebastian Schipper fourth feature film its the movies plausibility, if you can ignore its rather incredible plot then I’m sure you will enjoy the movie. Victoria (2015) is really the story of how a wee Spanish girl, Victoria of the title, who loses her innocence over a 24 hour period. She has recently moved to Berlin and has got a job doing the early shift at a coffee shop in Mitte area of the German capital. When this rather lonely young woman leaves a nightclub in the early hours of the morning she meets up with four young lads who are out on the razzle and offer to show her the 'real Berlin' One of which Sonne (Frederick Lau who you may of seen in Die Welle 2008 or 2012's Oh Boy) takes an immediate liking to her. The five of them steal alcohol from an all night shop in which the owner has dropped off to sleep and then go on a tour of the late night city streets and visit their rooftop hideaway to smoke some dope. The movie now develops a change of pace when one of the four lads, Boxer (Franz Rogowski) an ex-con has to repay a debt to a gangster who protected him while he was inside. They are tasked with an armed bank heist in which Victoria (played by the wonderful Spanish actress Laia Costa) is persuaded to drive the getaway vehicle.  When the robbery inevitably goes wrong we witness how this shy lonely young girl take's command of the situation during a bloody shootout with the German police.
 
Victoria and Sonne.

Other than being an enjoyable cinematic experience, well acted by a great young cast where most of the dialogue is improvised, winning lots of awards in a country that makes great movies, it's main claim to fame is the fact that it was shot at night in one long continuous take by Sturla Brandth Grovlen, certainly a difficult task for a film that has a running time of 138 minutes but it work’s and draws you into the story and does not let you go until the credits appear. But as the director has said his movie was intended as a film not a stunt and in my humble opinion he has succeeded.

Monday, 9 January 2017

The Clan.

Film producer, editor and director Pablo Trapero has been responsible for some excellent pieces of what has become widely known as New Argentine Cinema including Familia rodante (2004) a comedy drama about a family who embarks on a long road trip in an old cramped motorhome, Leonera (2008) a gritty film which addresses motherhood in the Argentinian prison system and Carancho (2010) a crime drama about ambulance chaser in search of potential clients for his law firm. His latest film is the award winning The Clan (2015) a film based on a true story about what is said to be Argentina's most notorious crime family and Trapero’s most commercially successful work to date.

Buenos Aires in the early 1980's and we are in the company of the Puccini family. Head of which is Arquimedes Puccini (Guillermo Francella), along side wife and mother Epifania (Lili Popovich) and their five children, three sons and two daughters Alejandro, Silvia, Danial, Guillermo and Adriana. All of which are involved in one way or another in the family business - kidnapping, extortion and murder. Without giving too much away, which would spoil the film, on the surface the family seem quite normal, living in what would appear to be a wealthy suburb, with the eldest son Alejandro becoming a well-known rugby player, the eldest daughter Silvia is a school teacher, with the two youngest children are still in school. Its when Arquimedes, who worked for the states intelligence service until the end of the Falklands war in 1982, becomes unemployed that he decides to turn to crime to maintain the families living standards.

Inter cut with shots of Argentina's political history and some great soundtrack, the film offers us no real insight into the motivation behind the families crimes other than perhaps money or maybe the fathers political background as part of the governments death squad and where as he thinks his is 'protected' which as you may imagine turns out not to be the case. It’s a story that's hard to believe if it was not true. On one level a cracking drama on the other a look at a countries complicity in murderous crimes.




Friday, 23 December 2016

This is My Street.


Scottish born Sidney Hayers worked in both television and feature films as a director, a writer and producer. His TV credits include such popular series as The A-Team and The New Avengers while his feature film career included the 1961 British noir Payroll. Two years later he went on to direct the kitchen sink drama This Is My Street (1963). Based on a novel written by Maidenhead housewife Nan Maynard with a screenplay by Bill MacIIwraith whose career started when he wrote the script for Linda (1960) which was a short film that starred Carol White, which played in the cinemas as the supporting feature to Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.

Jubilee Close, Battersea is a shabby suburban London back street which houses amongst its drab rundown terrace properties a cross section of working class families. Married to Sid (Mike Pratt) a man she does not even like, let alone love Margery Graham (June Richie) lives a life of drudgery with only her five-year-old daughter (Sheraton Blount) to break the monotony. In the next identical 2 up 2 down lives her mother who rents out a room to a flashy salesman and co-owner of a night club Harry King (Ian Hendry). King is constantly making passes at the bored housewife who at first ignores his advances but as her marriage deteriorate even further she gradually begins to fall for the philandering King. But when Margery's sister Jinny (Annette Andre who appeared opposite Mike Pratt in Randall and Hopkirk) comes home from college Harry begins to turn his attention away from the now doting Margery with some unexpected results.


An appealing drama of its time, which to the scripts credit includes some interesting and realistic characters (look out for an early appearance from a young John Hurt) and not just the ones that fill the leading roles. Well filmed and well acted it revives the acting partnership of Richie and Hendry first seen together in Live Now, Pay Later (1962). It also highlights the sordid squalor and poverty that was associated with the back streets of London in the 1960's and for that reason could be described as a forerunner to TV drama's like Up The Junction (1965) and the ground breaking Cathy Come Home the same year and not forgetting feature films like Poor Cow (1967).

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Croc A Dyke Dundee -The Legend of Dawn O'Donnell.


Cast your mind back to the 1994’s comedy drama The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. You will remember the opening scene of the movie that takes place in The Imperial Hotel, which is located in Newton a suburb of Sydney's inner west district. The reason director Stephan Elliott chose this location was because the hotel was owned by Dawn O'Donnell a prominent Sydney entrepreneur but far more importantly she was a pioneer of Sydney's LGBT community back in the days when it was illegal in Australia to have same sex feelings or even for an man to wear woman's clothes. O'Donnell has been credited with changing all that nonsense.
 
Dawn O'Donnell and her partner.

Dawn the celebrity. 

Born in in a suburb of Sydney in 1928 she was a convent girl who become a professional ice skater and travelled the world. It was while appearing in an ice show in Paris she had her first intimate romance with another woman. She returned to Australia in the 1950's as a penniless lesbian. But by the time of her death in 2007 she had built a gay empire of bars, clubs, steam rooms, sex shops and drag shows. Croc A Dyke Dundee -The Legend of Dawn O'Donnell (2015) is a fascinating documentary about a larger than life woman who was suspected at various times of being a partner of Abe Saffron a major figure in Australia's organised crime, an arsonist, burning down her properties to raise the insurance money, she was also said to have been implicated in a number of murder’s!  But there's no doubt that she was a shrewd businesswoman and a champion of gay rights in a country that did not respect woman or gays.



Dawn with some of the LGBT community.


Fiona Cunningham-Reid's entertaining documentary is well worth an hour of your time and can be purchased as a double DVD coupled with another of Cunningham-Reid's documentaries Wine Woman and Friends (2012) about two women who set out to produce excellent wine's in an industry that is normally the preserve of France males, building a business and a community within a community. 

Dawn O'Donnell with Elton John.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

High Rise


It’s very appropriate that the last words in this 'unique and dazzling vision of dystopian Britain' are from the wicked witch herself Margaret Thatcher. Directed by Ben Wheatley and adapted from J.G. Ballard's 1975 novel of the same name by Amy Jump, High Rise is vividly brought to life from the pages of a book that depicts an architecturally designed 40 story block of luxury flats within which we witness the deterioration of human behaviour. A story about the downfall of social class and the hierarchy that underpins its own weak structure which in turn leads to the release of the inner being and thereafter a collapse into violent chaos invoking a war footing between the haves and have-nots. The whole thing symbolic of today's society where the rich get richer and the poor sink ever lower into the traps that poverty sets.
 
 Lang.
Shot in Belfast in Northern Ireland the film stars Tom Hiddleston, as the doctor of Physiology Robert Laing an eligible bachelor who is the newest resident of one of the luxurious apartments and whose lofty location places him amongst the upper class. Laing quickly settles into high society life and meets the building’s eccentric tenants: Charlotte (Sienna Miller) a seductive bohemian single mum who is his upstairs neighbour; Wilder (Luke Evans), a charismatic documentarian and sexual predator who lives with his long suffering pregnant wife Helen (Elisabeth Moss); and Mr Royal (Jeremy Irons), the reclusive architect who designed the building. Life seems like paradise to the solitude-seeking Laing. But as power outages become more frequent and building flaws emerge, particularly on the lower floors, the regimented social strata begins to crumble and the building becomes a battlefield in a literal class war.
 
Charlotte.
This vision of Britain could have been lifted from today's newspaper, the suffering of working families at the hands of the moneyed classes and their political lapdogs, the grim reality of people’s lives and the decaying political system that blames the weakest in society for the countries problems. We now follow a world system that sinks further to the extreme right and will decay even further unless the 'high rise' is demolished!
 
Wilder.
I digress from the movie, but that's the affect that this movie has on me, and I imagine many other people of sound mind. The characters are vivid and real, the soundtrack is exceptional, especially the fantastic haunting interpretation of the 1975 Abba hit SOS by Portishead and of course Ballard's story interpreted by Wheatley and Jump is strikingly graphic. If like me you missed this at the cinema it’s now available on DVD. Enjoy while your still able too my friends - its getting ever blacker outside.