Languid, reverent shots of nature shimmering at magic hour – Terrence Malick is back. The auteur behind the impressionistic odes Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Lineand The New Worldhas finally released his impatiently anticipated fifth film – and she’s an absolute beauty. Tree of Lifeis arguably his boldest in scope, as Malick uses the story of a 1950s Texan family as an anchor to quite literally zoom out to capture the majesty of the cosmos, and whisper to God. This visual microcosm/macrocosm duet is echoed in the clear thematic dichotomy between the forces of “nature” and “grace”, each personified by Mr. O’Brien (Brad Pitt) and Mrs. O’Brien (Jessica Chastain) as they are remembered by their eldest son Jake (Sean Penn and Hunter McCracken). Malick’s films epitomise the cinematic experience, and Tree of Lifeis no exception. In fact, many of the film’s impossibly intricate montages would be at home in an art gallery. Questions… Access our paywalled content and archive of magazines, regular news and features for the limited offer of $3 per month. Support independent journalism. Subscribe now or log in to continue reading.
It’s easy to see why Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beautywas invited into the Cannes film festival’s prestigious official competition, a rare honour for a directorial debut. Understatedly strange, erotic, quietly surrealistic and slightly disturbing, it’s a striking film that immediately marks out its Australian writer-director as a confident new cinematic voice. The simple though often deliberately perplexing tale finds beautiful university student Lucy, played with magnificent self-possession by Emily Browning, taking on a part-time job where she allows herself to be drugged and sexually used by rich, elderly men for reasons that aren’t completely clear. In content and style terms the film is so unlike 99.99 percent of those released it’s tempting to call it boldly original, though Leigh’s ambiguous co-mingling of reality, the subconscious and sexual desire owes much to the dreamscapes of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shutand David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. The perverse female sexual parables of France’s Catherine Breillat (whose last film interestingly was also called Sleeping Beauty) are…Access our paywalled content and archive of magazines, regular news and features for the limited offer of $3 per month. Support independent journalism. Subscribe now or log in to continue reading.
Based on the heart-rending history of forced child migration and the English social worker who committed her life to uncovering the truth, Oranges & Sunshineis a compassionate and deeply moving account of this controversial period in British and Australian history. Directed by Jim Loach (son of British auteur Ken Loach), the film focuses on the experiences of Nottingham native Margaret Humphries (Emily Watson), who in the mid-1980s stumbled upon unfathomable stories of post-war child deportation, her research revealing this practice claimed 130,000 children and took place up until 1970. Margaret becomes the voice of these “Lost Children of the Empire”, criss-crossing between dank England and dusty Australia in an effort to reunite families and find answers. Hugo Weaving and David Wenham amplify Watson’s big-hearted performance as two of the adult orphans, each haunted by their past and desperate for the truth. Weaving is haggard to Wenham’s bristling rage, while a larger ensemble cast also share hair-raising tales of abuse and deprivation. But…Access our paywalled content and archive of magazines, regular news and features for the limited offer of $3 per month. Support independent journalism. Subscribe now or log in to continue reading.
There’s a scene near the start of this Aboriginal drama when a muscly indigenous man gets into a vicious bar-room fight. For a moment it looks as if director and co-writer Brendan Fletcher’s debut feature is going to turn into an Australian answer to 1994 Kiwi hit Once Were Warriors– an unflinchingly powerful “social problem” picture focusing on the indigenous underclass. Actor Dean Daley-Jones even looks remarkably similar to that film’s male lead, Temuera Morrison, who played a Maori given to fits of domestic violence. But soon the energy levels relax and the film turns into a gentle road journey in which TJ (Daley-Jones) travels from Perth to the remote Kimberley to see his estranged son Bullet (Lucas Yeeda). In a parallel plot strand, Bullet is arrested for a petty crime and sent to a training camp where juveniles are taught traditional desert survival skills. The film suffers from its too-understated narrative instincts, which see the twin stories often drifting and allows tuneful song…Access our paywalled content and archive of magazines, regular news and features for the limited offer of $3 per month. Support independent journalism. Subscribe now or log in to continue reading.
Shakespeare’s final play has inspired several films, including the science-fiction Forbidden Planet, Paul Mazursky’s contemporary Tempest, and versions by Peter Greenaway ( Prospero’s Books) and Derek Jarman. Now comes a new version from Amercian director Julie Taymor, known for her visually supercharged productions The Lion Kingon stage and, on film, Titus Andronicusand the Beatles-inspired musical Across the Universe. You could be forgiven for anticipating a visually rich experience. After all this is a play set on an exotic island filled with strangeness and magic. It’s disappointing then to see how bleak Taymor’s vision so often looks, and feels. Breaking cleanly away from her trademark extravagance, Taymor conjures up an island that’s nothing but craggy rocks and wind-swept desert. Balancing up the ledger are some imaginative visual effects and bold casting decisions. The protagonist becomes Prospera, played splendidly by Helen Mirren. Russell Brand makes a lively Trinculo in the comic sub-plot, and the casting of African-born Djimon Hounsou as Caliban…Access our paywalled content and archive of magazines, regular news and features for the limited offer of $3 per month. Support independent journalism. Subscribe now or log in to continue reading.
Based on a novel by Japanese-born British author Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Gois an intelligent science fiction story that steadfastly refuses to obey genre rules and instead plays out as the high- toned literary adaptation it is. The film is set in an alternate version of England during the 1970s through to the 1990s, a country in which most major diseases have been banished via a social mechanism that only gradually becomes clear. Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley play pupils at a very strict but undeniably strange boarding school. It takes a while to figure out the truth of their situation but discover it they eventually do. The casting is first-rate (Charlotte Rampling plays the girls’ strict headmistress) and the scenario powerful and thought-provoking. At first the film’s subtlety works in its favour by lending it an enigmatic creepiness. In the longer term, however, it tends to stifle the drama. Mark Romenek’s cautious direction is one cause, but you can also blame characters who too often surrender to their preordained fates – they have little to do dramatically other than act out a conventional lovers’ triangle (Andrew Garfield plays the linchpin). Only when the girls team up does the…Access…