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Archive for September, 2014

Irregular Migration – A Film Review

The Immigrant, review by FP Bluck


PLACE: Paradise Electric, Cinema 2

PIC: The Immigrant

PEEPS: Say half a dozen present, including my old mate and I, seeking entertainment before lunch.  Retirement is really hard sometimes, so packages like the movie and light lunch thing that were advertised look pretty good.

The pretty screen saver, the usual ads for businesses and apartment sales in Acton.  The #$%^ing meerkat.  A slightly interesting ad for what turned out to be some kind of pop-up fashion retail thing at the airport.  A forthcoming Italian film festival that appears to feature a great deal of osculation.  Previews for Gone Girl (old mate has read the book, but was kind enough not to tell me what happened) and a Spanish thing translated as Living is Easy with Eyes Closed  that has apparently won heaps of awards  – a middle-aged schoolteacher in the 1960s wants to meet John Lennon while he is in Spain making a film.  It’s not the biggest plot that could be imagined, but seems an attractive road movie with ill-matched companions.  Not that we’ve ever seen anything like that before.

The Immigrant is set in the early 1920s, a time when the USA was keen enough to take anyone who arrived at Ellis Island, unless there was a good reason not to do so.  Presumably, they hadn’t worked out a Nauru/Manus/Cambodia solution or maybe they were confident enough in the existing society to be less worried about a few thousand, or a few million, extras*.  Ewa is young, Polish and beautiful (she’s played by the luminous Marion Cotillard, which means the beautiful bit is given) who arrives in New York with a question mark on her character and a sister who has TB and must go into treatment.  She’s saved from being deported by corruption facilitated by Bruno Weiss (Joaquin Phoenix), a vaudevillian and pimp who has plans for her that go outside the supposed job description of “seamstress”**.  He is infatuated with Ewa*** and assists her to forward some of her income for Magda’s medical treatment.  With no support from family already in America (the nasty Uncle Wojtek and timid Aunt Edyta), Ewa has few choices.  It gets a little more complicated with the arrival of Bruno’s cousin Emil (Jeremy Renner, channelling Bill Murray thirty years ago) who is also taken by Ewa**** and the plot lurches on to one of the many possible conclusions.

The Immigrant is easy on the eye*****, filmed mostly indoors, in wintry light and at the less-favoured times of the day.  The New York depicted is a place which has many of the bones of the place that exists now, but the attitudes and policies are those of a century ago.  Ellis Island is particularly well used as a location.  Alcohol Prohibition is mentioned, and the lewd vaudeville show is only a little more suggestive than would be seen on many streets in summer.

The film achieves the ambition of depicting a segment of society at a time of change.   The plot is brave enough that the audience needs to adjust its expectations of what will happen on a few occasions; some may see it as lacking shape, but others may recognise the twists and choices that happen in life.  Cotillard does more with a role that could have been a victim than the audience or the producers could expect.  Phoenix and Renner provide reliable support, but are tested by roles that require a measure of ambiguity.

A solid three flat whites.  Chasers of a liquor that was banned at the time.



* – by the way, anyone wondered what would happen if, say, an earthquake happened on the US west coast and their government asked Australia to take quite a lot of displaced people?  We would, of course, send them all to Nauru.  OK, I’ll stop editorialising.

** – I don’t know, maybe they had class 457 visas for seamstresses, but not for some personal services occupations.

*** – I think I mentioned that she’s played by Marion Cotillard.

**** – Yes, I did mention Marion Cotillard.

***** – Not just Marion Cotillard, who has now made it into three successive footnotes.

Charitable Intent – Now Playing at The Concourse

charitable intent


PLACE: The Concourse, Chatswood

PLAY: Face to Face ( part of the Jack Manning Trilogy by David Williamson)  

PERIOD: Closes 27th September 2014


A conniving, narcissistic, backstabbing bitch is the central character in the third part of David Williamson’s Jack Manning trilogy. Bryony (Catherine McGraffin) has been appointed as CEO of a charity and her modern corporate methods cause conflict with the staid, long term members of the organisation. The harmonious operation of the organisation has become dysfunctional to the extent that the board requires a community conference in an attempt to restore balance.

A workplace squabble about organisational direction has spiralled out of control to the extent that there are screaming sessions and unworkable relationships. This scenario resonates well with the audience as everyone is familiar with this or a similar situation. The other appealing feature of this play is having a classic soap opera style nasty bitch as a central character. It is good to have a character that the audience can metaphorically hiss and boo at. Some of Bryony’s lines drew a groan or an intake of breath from the audience.

Williamson’s dislike of management jargon provides much of the humour in Charitable Intent. Much of it comes from Bryony, and she seems oblivious to the meaningless nature of corporate lingo but somehow seems to have captivated the chairman and the board with her management textbook drivel.

Jack Manning is again played well by Glenn Hazeldine. He maintains his pleasant persona through some heated exchanges and captures the right level of restraint and reticence to maintain control. The other central character Amanda is played Fiona Press who has captured the downtrodden and suffering employee who is the victim of Bryony’s cruel and malevolent behaviour. They are ably supported by Chloe Bayliss, Persia Blue, Ally Fowler, Noel Hodda and Jessica Sullivan.

This production of Charitable Intent opened 17th September until 27th September.

Blunder Years – A Film Review



PLACE: Dendy Civic, Cinema 1

PIC: Boyhood

PEEPS: 3 present in a venue that would take a few hundred


Such is Monday, such is Canberra and such is the problem of long and thoughtful films. Aside from the $%^&ing meerkat, of which I have written previously, the usual short Dendy ads. Expensive menswear*, booze in Fyshwick, a restaurant bar with (apparently) about two customers and slightly smeared glassware, pancakes. sushi, a framing gallery**, a club that supports women in sport. Previews for Wish I Was Here (Zach Braff, routine voyage of self-discovery, small role by Jim Parsons), The Judge (great cast – Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D’Onofrio – in a Grishamish, but written by someone else, thriller about a judge charged with murder, his son the feral criminal defence creature, small towns etc) and Love, Rosie (girl and boy, friends since childhood, I think we all know where this is supposed to go). From which one might deduce that Boyhood is about relationships, possibly also involving alcohol, eating and art***. Well done, Dendy. It’s also about three hours, including pre-show, so sustenance may be required****.

I’m not sure my childhood lasted as long as this movie could have been, and it certainly had fewer highlights. Most people know by now that Boyhood has a bit of a Seven Up riff, with filming with the same cast spread over 12 years*****. Ellar Coltrane, who grows from cute little boy to 16 year old young man, is Mason, younger brother of Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). Their parents, who married way too young, are played by Patricia Arquette (Olivia) and Ethan Hawke (Mason Sr). They split and head off on their own trajectories. Both study and work to make the best of difficult lives; Olivia crashes through a tangled series of difficult relationships while Mason Sr gradually turns into the man Olivia thought she was marrying. In the meantime, Samantha and Mason Jr are exposed to emotions and issues that it would probably be best avoided by the young and tender. Their parents compete and conflict over the way the children should behave, the children watch the rawness of hope turning to pain and learn the sorrow of broken promises. Somehow, they make it through the milestones and start to understand those around them and become stronger people, capable of functioning in a world more complex than the generations before (represented by Libby Villari and Richard Andrew Jones outstanding in their small roles).

Boyhood has imperfections, in part due to its episodic structure and lack of a single defining event or resolution. It does not always take the easy way out – there are cues to the passage of time, but they vary and are less obvious than they might be. There is an underlying, and very American, optimism about the capacity to achieve success through hard work that may misunderstand the injustices, rigidities and handicaps inherent in any hierarchical society. For a non-American, studying a map of Texas****** in advance might be advised. Coltrane is solid and confident in his role and Hawke does great things with a talented character who manages to defer everything including adulthood for a time. But it is Arquette who comes through strongest, creating a vivid memory of a good and clever woman trying to find the best way through a life alone. Many will find it hard to watch this engaging actress at times.

Four flat whites, but one of those is just for trying something worthwhile though really hard and doing pretty well at it.



* – it’s one of those success-by-association ads – “Armani, Ted Baker, Hugo Boss, Whoever’s House of Clobber”.

** – amusingly situated near the police station and courts.

*** – there are, however, no meerkats.

**** – before the 11,00 am session, I chowed down on a sausage roll and a pot of tea from the bakery below.  Tastier, if no healthier, than popcorn.

***** – whatever else it may be, this is seriously courageous cinema for that reason if no other.

****** – it’s big and genuinely diverse in geography and population, but it could be difficult to know the significance attached to places that enable them to become shorthand for attitudes.

Face to Face – Now Playing at The Concourse



PLACE: The Concourse, Chatswood

PLAY: Face to Face ( part of the Jack Manning Trilogy by David Williamson)  

PERIOD: On now, closes 27th September 2014


Face to Face is one of David Williamson’s plays from his Jack Manning Trilogy. The Trilogy is based on community conferencing, where victims and perpetrators of a crime are brought together to attempt to achieve a resolution and to avoid the court process. This might sound like good and worthy material for a typical left wing Williamson play and it could be viewed as such but the sharp and intriguing dialogue lifts it to a higher level. As could be expected the boss is exploitative and the workers treated badly but these are secondary issues to the main drama.

Glen Tragaskis, in a catching performance by Andrew Cutcliffe, a young scaffolder has been fired and then rams his car into the bosses Mercedes. A community conference is held to try and resolve the situation and avoid court and gaol. Jack Manning, in an excellent performance by Glenn Hazeldine, starts nervously as he facilitates the conference, but generally directs the conversation assuredly as various unexpected side issues emerge. Bullying and pranking are common practices at the scaffolding site and these lead Glen to reacting violently and consequently being fired. These issues are further investigated and explored in the conference and it emerges that just about all of the characters in the play have acted dishonourably or inappropriately.

Willamson is in his best form writing the heartfelt, emotional and witty dialogue. Sandra Bates’ direction utilises this fine writing to encourage strong performances from the talented cast.

Adriano Cappelletta is excellent as Luka, a workmate of Glen, involved but not a ringleader in the bullying.. Jamie Oxenbould, Erica Lovell, Kristian Schmid and Catherine McGraffin  give strong performances. Warren Jones, Fiona Press and Jessica Sullivan each bring fine performances to the production.

There is a lot to enjoy about Face to Face. It feels as if the conference could erupt into a wild brawl or an all out screaming match, or possibly proceed in the opposite direction and with excessive hugging and crying but Williamson’s well crafted script avoids melodrama and keeps the audience fully engaged.

Face to Face, is part of  Williamson’s Jack Manning Trilogy along with two other plays, A Conversation and Charitable Intent. All three are showing until September 27.



Review by culture vulture, Mark Pigott

John Knowles’ one man show draws extensively from his childhood in Nova Scotia. The rambling monologue features many tales of his father, who ran away from home when he was fourteen to become a cowboy in the Rocky Mountains, his bizarre recollections of his school friends, his mother’s incomprehensible sayings and his many brushes with death. The humorous stories are mixed with some poignant tales, which is initially a little disconcerting considering this show is part of Sydney Fringe Comedy. However, Knowles has struck a good balance which works very well as a one hour piece of entertainment.
Knowles’ father was a larger than life character and as we discover cowboys don’t make good fathers. A good father wouldn’t replace the bow and arrow, which was confiscated after nearly killing someone, with a rifle. This one of John’s many stories that are funny but also quite chilling.
It is amazing that a self confessed nerd was bootlegging when he was in high school, exploding home made bombs and mocking an armed robber. Fortunately, Knowles weaves these events into an engaging and surprisingly sweet narrative. There are lots of quirky stories but the sense of shared intimacy lifts this show to different level.

Storytiller is on at The Factory, Marrickville until 14th September. The Sydney Fringe Festival runs until 5th October.

Gleaming Teeth

What We Do in the Shadows – A Film Review

what we do in the shadows


PLACE: Dendy Cinema 3

PIC: What We Do in the Shadows

PEEPS: About 50 present

I hate the #$%^ing meerkat ad. We got it, along with the usual bunch of short bites (sushi, menswear, framing, gifts, pancakes, booze) and the serious looking one for bar and restaurant that is curiously unlikely to inspire attendance*. Previews for Dracula Untold (lots of CGI and a script that sounds like it came from a random word generator), The Interview (James Franco and Seth Rogen set out to kill Kim Jong-Un who seems to get ridiculed a bit as well**) and Sin City (darkly luscious noir and a big cast that will need a pretty good story to justify it). So, the lesson is that the feature would involve humour, vampires and darkness***.

What We Do in the Shadows is set in the present day in NZ’s pretty capital city, Wellington, although it could be pretty well anywhere with a population in four of more digits. Inside an old house live four vampires with vaguely central European accents – seriously old Petyr (Ben Fransham), old and formerly powerful Vladislav (Jermain Clement), needy and annoying Viago (Taika Waititi) and youthful and lazy Deacon (Jonathan Brugh). They constitute a normal group house, with the usual tensions over housework and visitors that are explained by Viago to a visiting documentary film crew. Sometimes they go out, though they need to be invited into clubs**** and their need to snaffle promising people and drain them dry is a bit of a social handicap; sometimes they have standoffs with Wellington’s burgeoning werewolf community. Sometimes they, or their thirty-something female familiar, persuade people to come to the house where they will be attacked and drained after being subjected to the lads’ limited hospitality. The high point for the supernatural community is the masquerade ball, to be held in fairly ordinary premises. It cannot be an exciting life, but it’s eternal.

It’s not wholly satisfying, though the sketch comedy works well. Think of The Young Ones with very long teeth. Individual tropes work well, though scene endings can be a little ragged and there is not a consistent theme to follow. The script is amusing for the most part, with reactions to the social blunders of a newbie vampire being a high point. A feature film may not have been the right format; alternatively a film may have been better had it contained more unifying material or spent some time exploring the comedy inherent in much documentary-making.

The audience laughed like drains and a 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating (on a small sample) suggests there is a market which will lap it up like blood from an artery.

Three flat whites. Black pudding.

* – I have been to the premises in question, during the daytime when it attracts older people, and thought the place pretty good.
** – I’m guessing they’re not shooting for the Pyongyang Film Festival.
*** – the last two of which go together anyway.
**** – it’s a vampire thing. They can’t just walk in to someone else’s place.

The Wharf Revue | “Open For Business”


Reviewed by culture vulture, Mark Pigott


Open for Business (Back In 5 mins) was staged against a Monopoly board backdrop and floor with a variety of topical squares to land on. Go To ICAC, Australian Water Holdings, Catholic Church, Slush Fund, Salvos and Commission Into Union Corruption were some of the tantalising options on the set.

The Wharf Revue follows a familiar format of sketches satirising, ridiculing and lampooning the Canberra politicians and a few other national figures. The audience were welcomed to the House of Review to the strains of Advance Australia Fair by the speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, played by the fabulous Amanda Bishop, and this was followed by a steady stream of impersonations and ridicule of politicians and media personalities.
The performances by Amanda Bishop and Jonathon Biggins were exceptional and were well supported by Phil Scott and Douglas Hansell. Phil Scott also displayed his considerable skill as a pianist.

Open For Business is not the funniest version of The Wharf Revue produced over its fifteen year history but there many amusing impersonations and some hilarious and very clever sketches. Jonathon Biggins as Bob Brown singing and dancing to Get Back Your Green Thang, Everybody Dance Now was bizarrely wonderful. Inbedded With The Morrisons in which Scott Morrison is in bed with his wife deflecting her questions as if she were a hostile journalist was very clever. Other highlights were a torch song from Miranda Devine and an opera sung in German gibberish but with very funny surtitles. Paul Keating’s speech to his fellow irrelevant Australians and his dance routine with Julia Gillard was classic Keating at his vitriolic best. Lines such as “the brains of the organisation left when Wilson Tuckey retired” are pure gems. However, a lot of the humour is of the Benny Hill ilk and a fair amount is just an impersonation relying on the audiences’ dislike of politicians. The writers may have been so despondent about the dire state of Australian political discourse that they felt it was inappropriate to make jokes about it.

The show will be touring around for the coming months and by the time it reaches The Wharf (Sydney Theatre Company) in October, I expect it to be a funnier more consistent show. The Wharf Revue opened at Penrith’s Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre on Thursday 4th September and after at other venues.

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