biography

Loving Vincent

November 2, 2017
Not quite Vincent...

Loving Vincent is one of those films that leans heavily on its novelty value. Alan Crosland’s The Jazz Singer was the first talkie; Alexander Sokurov’s The Russian Ark was the first feature to be shot in a single take; Thor:Ragnarok is the world’s first Kiwi superhero comedy; Loving Vincent is the world’s first fully painted … More


The Final Portrait

October 6, 2017
Smile for the camera, James & Alberto

In Paris in 2006 I dined with James Lord in the restaurant of L’Hotel in rue des Beaux Arts. It’s the hotel in which Oscar Wilde had expired in an upstairs room, losing his final battle with the wallpaper. Many years after Wilde’s departure, Lord established himself in an exquisite apartment on the other side … More


Victoria and Abdul

September 15, 2017
The Monarch and her Munshi

One marvels at the undying appeal of Queen Victoria for latter-day filmmakers. Along with two features: John Madden’s Mrs. Brown (1997) and Jean-Marc Vallée’s The Young Victoria (2009), there are dozens of movies in which the Dear Old Queen makes an appearance. She’s usually portrayed as a stern but lovable grand dame who strikes an … More


Maudie

September 1, 2017
Maudie & Everett get hitched

In every bio pic one can’t help wondering what the subjects of the film actually looked like. Unless it’s a movie about another movie star it’s unusual for the lead actors to closely resemble the people they’re playing. In the case of Maudie it seems that director, Aisling Walsh, was never interested in getting leads … More


Neruda

May 25, 2017
Pablo Neruda, a poet unafraid of eye liner

Poetry has become a sadly rarefied activity. In the not-so-distant past many people could recite favourite poems at will. Figures such as Byron and Shelley were the pop stars of their age, and continued to exert an influence long after their deaths. In the late 19th century, when Tom Roberts or Charles Conder went out … More


Rules Don’t Apply

May 5, 2017
Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 9.29.51 am

Does anybody remember Howard Hughes? Rules Don’t Apply, Warren Beatty’s fictionalised portrait of the eccentric billionaire, was reputedly decades in gestation. In the meantime we’ve had The Aviator, Martin Scorsese’s bio pic of Hughes’s early life, with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, winning five. Thirteen years … More


Hidden Figures

February 24, 2017
Janelle Monáe, Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer in Hidden Figures (2016)

Hidden Figures is yet another movie “based on a true story” that exercises Hollywood’s time-hallowed right to improve on the truth. The time-line for the events portrayed has been subject to a cut & paste job, while real-life characters have been given a makeover – or in the case of Kevin Costner’s Al Harrison, stitched … More


Jackie

January 20, 2017
Natalie Portman in Jackie (2016)

Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot. In an interview with Theodore H. White of Life magazine one week after her husband’s assassination, Jackie Kennedy insisted that no-one should forget Camelot. It was the song Jack loved most, the lines he … More


The Founder

November 24, 2016
Michael Keaton in The Founder (2016)

There are characters that can’t be made sympathetic no matter how many hardships they endure. One such is Ray Kroc, the “founder” of the McDonalds fast-food empire. In almost any other film we would warm to this story of a 50-something battler who succeeds in making it big through his commitment to unstinting hard work … More


Snowden

September 22, 2016
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 'Snowden' (2016)

Snowden belongs to a peculiar new genre: the fictionalised re-make of the successful documentary – in this case, Laura Poitras’s award-winning Citizenfour (2014). The question for viewers is whether director, Oliver Stone, has brought anything new and vital to the mix that was not canvassed in the real-life film. The answer is ‘no’, unless we … More