A History of World Cinema Course with David Strattonโ€”The Deadly Affair (Sidney Lumet, 1966)

During the latter part of last year, I enrolled in A History of World Cinema, a course taught by David Stratton, which meets once a week at the University of Sydney.1 Arguably Australiaโ€™s preeminent film critic,2 Stratton is best known for having appeared alongside Margaret Pomeranz on SBSโ€™s The Movie Show and ABCโ€™s At the Movies, shows that made the pair a fixture on TV screens throughout the country for almost thirty years.3 Their enduring presence, along with their often-frosty relationship and on-air disagreements,4 made Stratton and Pomeranz an iconic and much-liked duo, in a very Siskel and Ebert sort of way.

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Harrison Bergeron (Kurt Vonnegut, 1961)

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Contains spoilers.

United States, 2081 AD. Amendments to the US Constitution have brought about widespread equality, to the exclusion of no one. That venerated phrase of the 1776 Declaration of Independence declaring that โ€œall men are created equalโ€ has been enacted literally, enforced by the tyrannical Handicapper General and her agents. The society that emerges is an absurdist dystopia whose denizens are hobbled via inconvenient and unwieldy contraptions. Radio earpieces emit shrieking tones to restrict extraneous thought, athletes and dancers stagger beneath sash weights and bags of birdshot, and masks and prosthetics render attractive people hideous, so that no single person might take advantage of their innate intelligence, strength, agility, or beauty.

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Leave No Trace (Debra Granik, 2018)

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Oppositional modes of living collide in Debra Granikโ€™s Leave No Trace. A trauma-afflicted war veteran, Will, lives with his thirteen-year-old daughter, Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie), in Forest Park, an urban forest in Portland, Oregon. Under a makeshift tent, the pair carve out a hermetic existence, subsisting on meagre supplies and Will selling his medication to other vets for income. In an us-against-the-world sort of way, they seem to have things figured out. Shelter, clothes, food, and a few books is about all they need, besides each other. If a Thoreauvian existence is conducive to the good life, Will and Tom are surely closer to it than the rest of us. And whatever our concerns for the kidโ€™s wellbeing (surely she could use some friends her own age?), theyโ€™re contradicted, apparently, by whatโ€™s onscreenโ€”she doesnโ€™t seem unhappy. As she says later, when their idyll is inevitably intruded uponโ€”โ€œWe didnโ€™t need to be rescued.โ€

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Solyaris / Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972)

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Though two of his seven films fall within the genre, Tarkovsky held no particular affinity for science fiction. Indeed, the filmmakerโ€”whose work is characterised by the interior lives of his characters and themes pertaining to faith, artistry, memory, and timeโ€”deeply distrusted the sort of dazzle and spectacle on which such movies depend. One of the two science-fiction movies was Stalker, with which Tarkovsky was pleased. The other, which he came to regard as a failure, was Solyaris.

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Estiu 1993 / Summer 1993 (Carla Simรณn, 2017)

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Reason tends to wither in the face of death. Still, in an attempt to console, itโ€™s often pointed out our tendency to anticipate, with potent dread, the one event weโ€™re uniquely spared from ever having to experience.1 So long as death has meaning only to the living, the true loss we fear is reserved for our deathโ€™s survivors. Itโ€™s fitting, then, that Carla Simรณnโ€™s Estiu 1993 deals with the topic of death solely in the aftermath, through its reverberations in the life of the movieโ€™s six-year-old protagonist, the newly-orphaned Frida.

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Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018)

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โ€œA new generationโ€™s The Exorcistโ€, raves Time Outโ€™s Joshua Rothkopf.i โ€œIn its seriousness and hair-raising craftsmanship, Hereditary belongs to a proud genre lineage, a legacy that stretches back to the towering touchstones of American horrorโ€, gushes The A.V. Clubโ€™s A.A. Dowd.ii โ€œSometimes a horror film comes along that you just feel will change the game [and] Ari Asterโ€™s โ€˜Hereditaryโ€™ is just that movieโ€, predicts The Playlistโ€™s Jordan Ruimi.iii โ€œA raw horror masterpiece [โ€ฆ] that deserves to be mentioned in the same frantic breath as the genreโ€™s greatsโ€, wheezes Empireโ€™s Dan Jolin.iv Critics truly love Ari Asterโ€™s debut feature, which as of now has an aggregate rating of 89% positive criticsโ€™ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and 87% on Metacritic.v

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The Brood (David Cronenberg, 1979)

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Under the care of maverick psychotherapist Doctor Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed), a disturbed patient, Nola Carveth (Samantha Egger), inadvertently gives parthenogenetic birth to a brood of murderous, mutant progeny. Said brood are an unfortunate consequence of psychoplasmics, a radical form of roleplay therapy pioneered by Doctor Raglan through which patients work through acute trauma, manifesting in abnormal physiological changes to the body. Loosed upon the world, the brood attack whoever happens to be the target of the turbulent emotions Nola unleashes in therapy. These strange occurrences are eventually uncovered by Frank (Art Hindle), Nolaโ€™s estranged husband, with whom Nola has a young daughter (Cindy Hinds). After noticing peculiar marks and bruises on the childโ€™s skin following a visit with Nola, Frank at first suspects abuse, but soon discovers a rather more preternatural causeโ€ฆ

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