"Alone, even doing nothing, you do not waste your time. You do, almost always, in company. No encounter with yourself can be altogether sterile: Something necessarily emerges, even if only the hope of some day meeting yourself again." (E.M. Cioran)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Film Festival Round-up (pt 2)

Life During Wartime was the next movie on the calendar. This was - hands-down - the best film I saw in this year's festival. Todd Solondz's sequel/variation of his 1998 jaw-dropping classic, Happiness, reintroduced us to the three sisters central to the original story - in a post-September 11, suburban United States. I don't know how Solondz manages to venture into such dark territories while still managing to provoke laughter from audiences. There are many cringeworthy moments, such as the 'have-it-all' mother (who, in Happiness, had her world turned upside down after discovering her psychiatrist husband was a paedophile) arriving home from a first date, filled with excitement and hope for a future with her new beau, discussing how it went with her own young son, telling him - with barely-contained enthusiasm - that he had made her "wet". Thankfully, the boy didn't yet realise what this meant and, upon finishing her rapturous spiel about the date, he asked "Are you still wet, Mom?" And there was also the discussion with the same son after he asks "Mom, what is a paedophile?" Priceless. But don't let what I've given away put you off. This film maker is hardly condoning such perversions. Alternatively, he has somehow carved a path through all the hysteria, and found an avenue for comedy there. Solondz displays an amazing understanding of dysfunction - in all its flavours - and the lives of the lonely and misunderstood (or just plain sociopathic) deftly - with humour, empathy and maturity - without making value judgments. Isn't this the role of storytellers anyway? He is known as a controversial film maker - no doubt because of elements of his subject matter - but one who should be taken much more seriously, in my opinion.

Lemmy was next - a documentary about (and starring) Lemmy, the enigmatic lead singer/bass guitarist of legendary punk/metal band Motorhead. He is a fascinating subject and character and seemingly all-round nice guy. There were good interviewees reflecting on their experiences with him (thankfully Bono wasn't in attendance this time!). The music was also great and I was riveted throughout. However, there was a 'cobbled-together' feel to this film and it was a bit long. About 25 minutes before the end, it seemed to be winding down to a conclusion, but instead jolted us right back in again.

The Runaways was one of the most disappointing films this year - and probably the worst I saw. I had been pumped to see this docu-drama about Joan Jett's '70s glam/punk rock girl band, but for all the attitude the music had, the film focused almost entirely on the exploitation of the girls by manager, Kim Fowley. Admittedly, I hadn't initially realised that the film was based on singer, Cherie Currie's autobiography, which I haven't read. Also, the music - as I remembered it - was much crappier than this sounded and that was a big part of its charm. Basically, the film seemed to be going more for the glamour and melodrama than anything else and was quite carelessly gratuitous in places. I got the feeling that the huge, enraptured audience were more interested in the fact that Kirsten Stewart (as Jett) and Dakota Fanning (as Currie) were the stars - and particularly the scene or two where they kissed and fondled one another.
Four more films left - for pt 3...... coming soon.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

In the meantime......

.....browsing the net for old music that I still respect and love very much, try these gems from the late '70s:

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Film Festival Round-up (pt 1)

10 films in a couple of weeks at the Sydney Film Festival. There were some surprises and disappointments. For some reason, I feel compelled to write a bit about this year's lot so, as promised, here's a bit of a round-up of how they came across to me.
First up was Beautiful Darling - a documentary about Candy Darling - glittering figure in New York's '60s bohemia and inspiration to Lou Reed ("Candy came from out of the Island..."), Andy Warhol, Tennessee Williams and Robert Mappelthorpe. Born James Slattery in Long Island, Candy created a star persona that belied an impoverished and often lonely existence. She found fame in Warhol's Flesh (1968) and Women in Revolt (1971), but yearned for the glamour of a Hollywood career. Fellow 'Factory' actors Holly Woodlawn, Jackie Curtis and Penny Arcade are interviewed, as are 'Factory' affiliates Paul Morrissey and Fran Leibowitz. Leibowitz gives the best insights here, but unfortunately Candy was a fairly facile subject for a film and I left the movie with a sense that it hadn't been much more than another exercise in raking over the corpse of the Warhol empire which, despite its significance at the time, just seems more and more vampiric as time moves on. There was too much of this. The film did get me thinking about transexuality and the whole realm of gender identity (and displacement) again though. Also, I suppose Candy (who ended up dying of lymphoma at a young age) would be wrapped to know a film had been made about her. All up, a fairly standard doco, but I wanted more about Candy herself and her struggles with her identity and the recognition of her sexuality. Nice diary excerpts read by Chloe Sevigny and reflections from her devoted and longstanding friend, Jeremiah Newton. This film screened after a great short, Last Address, which simply showed the exteriors of New York apartments of recently-departed NY artists and cultural luminaries, who had succumbed to AIDS. This was simple and powerful in its effect.
Next, was Howl - a docu-drama about Allen Ginsberg, around the time of the publication of his poem of the same name and the subsequent indecency trial it stirred. This was well-handled, with wonderful animation sequences that served to make the words of the poem come alive. Personally, I'd found the poem inpenetrable when I read it. Here, they were reinvigorated and beautiful.
Big surprise was Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, a docu-drama about the life story of Ian Dury, the foul-mouthed 70s rocker, who had been infected with polio as a child. I thought this would be so-so, but was most pleasantly surprised. Andy Serkis, in the title role, was completely believable as Dury. On the whole, the film was loud and profane, but nicely put together and it didn't lack complexity and heart. As a subject, Dury proved to be complex, smart and interesting. Very entertaining.
That's it for today. I'll post pt 2 sometime in the next couple of days.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Film Season

Yes, I've been distracted again - busy with my annual indulgence, the Sydney Film Festival. So many films in such a short period of time, they can tend to blur into one another at times. But it's fun. So far this year, I've seen a bunch of docu-dramas and straight documentaries about music, literary and otherwise fabulous types and some dramas.
I'm thinking that I'll post some reviews this time around, but will do them next week when the festival winds up.
Until then......