Film Reviews

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Breath

May 4, 2018

With literature everybody has their blind spots. Tim Winton is one of mine. For decades I’ve listened to apparently rational people raving about his books but whenever I’ve dipped into a novel I’ve found it so banal, so relentlessly uninteresting, that I dipped right back out again. It reads like literature for underachievers, for those … More


Loveless

April 26, 2018

“Do you think the world is about to end?” one of the characters in Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless asks a workmate. “Definitely!” comes the reply. It’s as close as this ruthless portrait of contemporary Russian life gets to comedy. Zvyagintsev’s enemies accuse him of taking a “negative” view of Russia, but what are the positives? Thirty … More


Spanish Film Festival 2018

April 20, 2018

A lot of agua has flowed under the bridge since 1992 when Bigas Luna made Jamón, Jamón, with the 22-year old Javier Bardem and 17-year old Penélope Cruz. The Movida Madrileña (The Madrid Scene) – a new wave of post-Franco art, film, music and literature – had been raging for more than a decade. Pedro … More


Isle of Dogs

April 12, 2018

It may be the Year of the Dog but the Japanese are definitely cat people. Until recently Fido held his own against Kitty as a domestic pet but now the cats are in the ascendency and are surging ahead. It could hardly be otherwise with the ubiquitous Maneki Neko (“Hello Kitty!”) waving its paw in … More


The Other Side of Hope & Paul: Apostle of Christ

April 6, 2018

In pre-Enlightenment days ‘history’ was a mass of tall stories, myths and rumours. Authors were happy to recount tales of miracles and supernatural events, readers were happy to believe them. In the mid-1800s it was still scandalous when writers such as David Strauss and Ernst Renan began to challenge the historical basis of the Bible, … More


The Death of Stalin

March 30, 2018

It’s conservatively estimated that 20 million people were murdered during Joseph Stalin’s reign.“So why were they all killed?” asks Simon Sebag Montefiore, in his devastating book, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. Nadezhda Mandelstam, who lost her poet husband, Osip, gave a succinct answer: “for nothing”. Montefiore suggests that under Stalin the supreme offence … More


Mary Magdalene

March 23, 2018

Of all the figures in the New Testament, Mary Magdalene has been the most misunderstood. This is partly because early commentators found it hard to distinguish between Mary of Magdala, Mary of Bethany, and the ‘sinful’ woman in the Gospel of St. Luke, who anoints Jesus’s feet in Simon’s house and dries them with her … More


Human Flow

March 16, 2018

Human Flow is a relentless film about a relentless problem. There have always been refugees – people displaced from their homes by war, persecution or natural disaster – but we are living through an era when this activity has accelerated in many different parts of the world. Ai Weiwei takes us on a global tour … More


The Square

March 9, 2018

As another Sydney Biennale looms one wonders why there aren’t more satires on contemporary art. The reason perhaps, is that reality routinely exceeds the wildest imaginings of the satirist. The beauty of Ruben Östlund’s The Square, which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes last year, lies in its understatement. It presents one bizarre scenario after … More


A Fantastic Woman

March 2, 2018

Imagine being born on the wrong side of the gender divide, living as a woman in a man’s body or vice versa. We’ve come to view so-called ‘identity politics’ as social theatre but for every transgendered person who strikes a militant pose there must be hundreds who simply crave normality. Marina, the protagonist in Sebastián … More


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