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Archive for the ‘Filmed in Australia’ Category

Winter of Our Dreams

08 Sep

Winter Of Our Dreams — directed by John Dulgan. Drama. 78 minutes. Color 1981.
★★★★
The Story: A suicide brings together a prostitute and a reporter, separated and gripped by what they have in common.
~
This is Judy Davis young.

She is one of the great actresses of motion pictures, isn’t she? Woody Allen said she was the greatest actor he had ever worked with. She won the AFI Award as Best Actress for this film. She won the 13th International Moscow Film Festival Best Actress for it also. As for me, I stand by my loud first sentence.
Setting accolades aside, I also love something else about her.

And that is her mouth.

Great film stars have in common that their audiences are enthralled by what their mouths express. Not the words said. Not the way those words are said. But their mouths. The mouth muscles natural to them express the actor’s nature to us and, by those muscles, the truth.

These mouths help make them great stars. For their mouths give us a locality of a bullseye to mesmerize our eyes — which is what we come to do when we go to a movie. We come to be lost. And entrancement works — for enthrallment is medicinal to certainty. You know this when you buy your ticket, and it’s what you buy your ticket for. You want it. Mouths give it. To know what’s going on on the screen, you — willingly captivated by them anyhow — watch mouths.

Not eyes.

An actor’s eyes are to listen with — for an actor’s task is not emotion but attention.

So you don’t watch their eyes for the truth any more than you watch their ears. Again, it does not matter so much what words they say — or do not say — or how they say them, but how their mouths move, especially when still.

Indeed, the truth from their mouths comes often when they’re not talking — how golden an actor’s silence is! — that’s when their allure is most encouraged. In their silence you watch. That’s when you see it.
The fascinating mouth is not learned. Not taught in acting class. Not found in practice nor in rehearsal. Nor in performance. No. Intriguing mouths are inherent to such actors. You don’t give such actors credit for them. These are the mouths actors were born with.

Natural to them — just as natural to them as it is natural for all of us to watch these mouths. Indeed to watch mouths is part of movie audience rubric. For just as the craft of acting has its rubric, its inherent laws, so does the craft of being an audience have its laws, the rules it must follow and does.

Katharine Hepburn — don’t you first watch her mouth? This is not to say she has nothing besides it to gear up your attention. But her mouth is the first to command it, isn’t it?

You may demean Joan Crawford as an actor if you like— and she certainly could not play comedy — but her mouth will tell you what is going down with no two ways about it — and what is more winning than her grin?

A gift of a screen actor’s mouth makes the actor’s face eventful — the event being truth. And provides a place to lodge our fascination and with this fascination- know-how we unwittingly but naturally and collectively create the following that makes a star.

For an audience, the truth gets known by something around an actor’s mouth.

Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Clark Gable, Bette Davis, James Dean, Jennifer Aniston, Cary Grant, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lee Pace, Rita Hayworth, Humphrey Bogart, Louise Brooks, Marlon Brando, Judy Garland, Mahershala Ali, Garbo.

Their truth arrives to us through a certain idiosyncrasy of their mouths.

his truth turns to fallacy with “television-acting” — where the actor makes quivering play with his lips to “convey” — what? — an emergency emotion to wallpaper the vacancies of the writing? Such actors think their mouths are an acting instrument. They’re not. For your mouth has rules of its own, which cannot be faked, and which you were born with whether you have a naturally interesting mouth or not. The good actor imposes nothing and, when tempted to, lets the audience do the job. (Which is not to say the character you play is not imposing.)

Bryan Brown is in the movie with her — this film dates from their early years as Australian film actors — and you can immediately see the difference in their talents. Brown plays everything in C sharp major. He plays very well in that key, but he has no modulation. Judy Davis has modulation galore.

Watch her mouth. Its truth is so subtle it’s impossible to miss it.

The camera watches.

We watch the camera watch We the voyeur watch the voyeur voyeur the actor.

Unable to distinguish the camera eye from our own eye.

Made one lens.

Hypnotized.

As by a cobra.

At the spectacle of human truth— by being made fluid made manifest.

By a mouth.

Watch it.

Watch acting. Watch it acutely.

It is so human, it is divine.

Both acting itself.

And the watching.

 

The Rover

22 Jun

The Rover – directed by David Michôd. Crime Chase Drama. 142 minutes Color 2014.

★★★★

The Story: 10 years into dystopia and world chaos, a man seeks justice, and justice seeks him.

~ ~ ~

One of my two favorite actors in the world, Guy Pearce holds the screen with a focus so intense, you stay with him through thick and thin, although you have no idea what, if anything, is at stake. If you want to know what it takes to carry a movie, watch Pearce here. He scarcely moves a muscle, he scarcely shows a feeling, because what he has in mind must be – mustn’t it? – more precious than his life. With Pearce it is not, and never has been, that less is more. It is a question of him somehow having subtlely mainlined a character, and then honored the essential.

In saying this I am speaking of a talent that cannot be learned. I don’t know how it is done. Perhaps he doesn’t know either. It is probably inborn. But he does know how to do it. As you can see as you watch him be Houdini, or Edward, Prince Of Wales, or the detonation expert of The Hurt Locker, or Andy Warhol, or the cad husband in Mildred Pierce, what you see is a character brought into being with a minute shift. Pearce may appear as he appears, he may sound as he sounds, but the soul-flavor of the other person is in him, and that is what is being given. He knows how to do this, naturally, as some people know how to sing – which he happens also to know how to do, if you have ever seen him in The Slipping-Down Life. He is the one modern actor I suggest you watch and study and enjoy. He is not often cast in comedy, although he did not long ago play the petty villain in a Walt Disney Dog Movie. As with any good and interesting actor, I would love to see him in one of those Restoration Farce roles Olivier took such delectation in.

While the story here focuses on him, you are willing to put up with your own ignorance as to what is at stake – but as soon as he is joined by Robert Pattinson, an artistic wreck takes place. You get a consummate master faced with a consummate ham. The story drains as soon as this actor appears playing the backward brother of the fleeing antagonist.

Pattinson, like bad TV actors, makes much play with his mouth. Will it never stop thrashing about? He makes much play with his body, which flies flaccidly in all directions. He makes much play with his eyes, which never stop roaming except when they do long enough for you to wonder when they will start roaming once more. He withdraws focus from his eyes. He slurs his speech – which is never forgivable because never necessary – so you cannot understand what he is saying. What’s more – and this is the quandary beyond all quandaries – he plays an Australian low-life with an accent from Lil’ Abner (although Pattinson himself is from England.). All this with heavy makeup on his teeth and a half beard and you have?  You have a pitch for pathos, that’s what you have.

The excess of effects is just galling. And the result is that attention is distracted from the story – for you cannot feel compassion for him as a human being – and that is the actor’s job in this part, because the story is exactly the same as the story of Maleficent; that is to say, it is the story of a person who hates someone eventually coming to care for them. You’ve got to see how someone can come to care for him, and you can’t. The startling and beautiful ending to this movie is lost in the anarchy of Robert Pattinson’s show. All an actor needs do is one thing. For this part all Pattinson needed to do was play: To survive I Don’t Need To Know Right From Wrong; I Just Need To Believe What You’re Telling Me — Is That Right? Instead he does nine things, none of them available to the audience because none of them entertainable by them.

 

In Her Skin [I AM You]

17 Jul

In Her Skin [I Am You] – Written and directed by Simone North. Family Drama. A lovely 15-year-old girl goes missing, and her family refuses to give up on finding her, while a neighbor girl knows where she is all along. 108 minutes Color 2009.

* * * * *

Guy Pearce is the finest male actor his age, meaning 42. Essentially he is a character lead, remarkable in The Hurt Locker, The Factory, Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, rather than a leading man or matinee idol, and he is not usually cast as a pater familias, but here he is. The role is essentially a silent one, and one wonders why he took it. The noisy part is given to Miranda Otto who is very capable as the mother of the daughter who disappears. It is a true story, and all the originals, but one, are alive, and all but two were available for Otto and Pearce to meet and learn from. Sam Neill is first class as the father of the neighbor girl. He makes the man as understanding and forbearing as anyone could be. For no human being could put up with this girl or know how to treat her or wish to be with her: she is a creature of murderous self-indulgence. Ruth Bradley, at 21, plays this remarkable human, the 19-yar-old Caroline, the neighbor girl, and the company was lucky to have this actress, and by what miracle they secured her I cannot imagine, for she is Irish, and the film was shot in Australia. She bares herself to the role above and beyond the call of duty. The remarkable family to whom this catastrophe happened appears in the extras, which offer interviews with Sam Neill, Miranda Otto, and an extensive one with Guy Pearce. You will cease to wonder why he took the role when you come to the scene of hyperventilation on the bed. There are moments in films which penetrate me; such a moment occurs later on the same bed as he slowly places a kiss on Miranda Otto’s temple. You may not find it so. But for me a great actor is one who in the odd moment always finds exactly the right thing to do.

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Animal Kingdom

11 Mar

Animal Kingdom – directed by David Michod – Gangster Drama. A family of bank robbers and their mother welcome their nephew into the den. 113 minutes Color 2010.

* * * *

The inexcusably bumbling director on the Extra Features explains that this picture was meant to be large in scope and also austere. I could crown him. If the film were as phony as he is, I would, but the picture holds one’s attention because it does not spell out what it can let the audience gather on its own, and because of the Michod’s excellent writing and direction and because of the players who support the lead. Alas, the lead is played by an actor histrionically inert. He is means to be a David Copperfield character, a fill-in-the-blank person whom we are supposed to supply with ourselves. But the actor is too sleepy, too withdrawn, too dull for us to be or to want to be in the character’s shoes at any time. But this does gives one a chance to observe the various levels of performance around him, which range as they range in experience, the more experienced being the more telling. Every level is a high: level 1: Ben Mendelsohn, Sullivan Stapleton, Joel Edgerton as the gangsters. Level 2: Jacki Weaver as the Ma Barker of this group. Level 3: Guy Pearce. All Guy Pearce has to do is to quietly appear on screen for the entire artistic purpose of the film to take shape before one’s eyes. Here he has a scruffy and therefore un-menacing moustache in the role of the detective, which is a role within a role, since the profession of detective requires one already to play a role. Pearce’s task is largely one of inquiry, and nothing more needs be said about his performance but the fact, clear and simple, that as you watch him ask questions you can see that the character does not know the answers to them even though the actor does. This draws one into the situation, it produces suspense, it provides story. We, the audience, know the answers and the truth. And so we must wait out the issue of all of this until the end. This is an example of the enormous contribution this actor makes in movies in which he appears. The opening scenes of The Hurt Locker are a prime example of it. The rest of that film could not take place if he had not played those scenes the way he does. Fascinating.

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The Man Who Sued God

01 Mar

The Man Who Sued God — Directed by Mark Joffe — Comedy. A fed up lawyer quits and buys a boat which is demolished by lightning. Because the insurance company won’t pay for an Act Of God, he sues God.  97 minutes Color 2001

* * *

I rented this to see the inestimable Judy Davis. For she’s a always tonic. Billy Connolly is not a tonic. I have seen him elsewhere only in Mrs Brown. I do not find him inviting. I liked the theological arguments of this piece and I wish they had been set forth with the space of greater confidence and less speed to get them over with. The piece is a mildly amusing Thirties type comedy set in a fishing village near Perth Australia, which is pleasant to eye-visit. I always have low expectations so I am seldom disappointed. Judy Davis has comic gifts which here go unexploited, however. I guess she is going to stay in Australia now, playing sexy mothers with the wrong lipstick and a poor dye job. Pay no attention to me. I do not recommend or dis-commend pictures. I simply rattle on  a bit about what I see. Or do not see. As in this case.

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Muriel’s Wedding

02 Feb

Muriel’s Wedding — directed by P.J. Hogan — a dumb Dora wants to be in the in-group, to which end she strives to be married, but she is such a mome no one will date her. She lies, cheats, and steals to achieve her goal. Good for her!  106 minutes Color 1994.

* * * * *

An Australian Georgie Girl, this ruthless satire on money, men, marriage, and mammaries brings into our welcoming sight the gifts of Toni Colette, as its forebear once did those of Lynn Redgrave. Colette brings to bear her wonderful bovine eyes and cowed head to play this moronic phony to the nines. She never lets up not getting it. Her cries of dismay are the dismay of the world and her cries of delight the delight of the world. So this is a really big conception for an actor. It’s a conception by an actor with nothing to lose and Toni Colette risks everything. For the difference with this ugly duckling is that in this version she is crowded out and nearly drowned by the other ducks. Colette makes her such an oaf that the brow-beatings bend her face to the mud but do not break her. Watch Colette “take it”, and come back for more. Into this concentration camp of cruelty rides Rachel Griffiths in rare form as a high-riding tomato, and it’s good to see her in one of her less nefarious sex-killer roles, for no actor male or female can threaten like Rachel Griffiths. This vengeful resentment is in play only later, as the story switches hands over and over. But until then, she displays a zest for fun and comedy and play that is a delight to see, and into it Colette dives with her, her character almost convinced that this fairy godmother’s rescue is real. See it, oh, see it!

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The Everlasting Secret Society

29 Oct

The Everlasting Secret Family –– directed by Michael Thornhill –– a teen- age boys contrives to remain forever young as a weapon of power. 94 minutes color 1994.

**

The life of the homosexual is depicted as nasty, manipulative, and snide –– once again. It depicts homosex itself as kinky and controlling and fatal –– once again. In doing this, it exerts a condemnation of homosexuality –– once again. The picture purports to be an expose of corruption in politics, but that is really a put-up-job, for what it really wants to do is revel in a certain type of supposedly entertaining gay temperament, and by that I do not mean camp, of which in this movie there is not a trace — but rather the temperament of The Bitter Pill Of Homosexuality. A middle-aged politician easily and impenitantly seduces a teen-age boy. This boy, fearing to lose his grip over the politician and for that matter anyone else who appears before him, starts taking youth shots. Thus we have the theme of the homosexual mania for the young and beautiful. But it is impossible to identify with this theme, because here a mania for youth and beauty is limited to lust — love never enters into it — and because an itch for youth and beauty is natural to all orientations anyway. The problem is that the boy is never innocent and never vulnerable and never less than as evil as the corrupt souls around him. Moreover, the young man’s beauty is ugly. For one is asked to endure the revolting job of beholding his face continually distorted by arrogance, cunning and fifteen different hair-dos. Arthur Dignam is quite good as the older man. Cut out his performance and paste it into your scrapbook, but put the rest of the film right down there in the trash.

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