comedy

Florence Foster Jenkins

May 6, 2016
Meryl Streep in 'Florence Foster Jenkins' (2016)

Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944) entered my consciousness in the early 1990s when I first heard her rendition of the Queen of the Night aria from The Magic Flute. This shrieking, tuneless performance of one of the most challenging pieces in the soprano’s repertoire is the stuff of high comedy. In 2003 Naxos issued an album … More


A Month of Sundays & Pawno

April 29, 2016
Anthony LaPaglia in 'A Month of Sundays' (2015)

‘Fun’ is not a term one associates with contemporary Australian cinema, which has mistaken humourlessness for high seriousness. I’m not pining for slapstick comedy, only for films that can hold an up-tempo mood for more than a minute at a time. The Dressmaker came close last year, while Last Cab to Darwin – a film … More


Eddie the Eagle

April 29, 2016
Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman in 'Eddie the Eagle' (2016)

Eddie the Eagle may be the year’s most shameless piece of feel-good filmmaking. Many viewers, myself included, usually feel pretty bad at the prospect of another feel-good film, but it would take a special kind of wowser to deny the entertainment value of this tale of glorious failure. What do I mean by a “feel-good” … More


The Lady in the Van

March 10, 2016
Maggie Smith in 'The Lady in the Van' (2015)

Casting Maggie Smith in anything is a reliable way of collecting a few favourable reviews and a tidy sum at the the box office. Make it an Alan Bennett script and the percentages keep improving. And so we have The Lady in the Van, a likeable film with a few fanciful touches that should elicit … More


Alliance Francaise French Film Festival 2016

March 4, 2016
Catherine Frot in 'Marguerite' (2015)

Last year’s French Film Festival reprised three classics, including Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion (1937). This year the retro special is Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (Le Mépris) (1963). By coincidence this is a film I watched again only recently, after reading Alberto Moravia’s A Ghost at Noon (1954) – a book that is chiefly known today … More


Hail, Caesar!

February 24, 2016
George Clooney in 'Hail, Caesar!' (2016)

“Comedy deserves to be taken seriously,” wrote Aldous Huxley, in 1924, before going on to denounce those “lesser exponents” of the genre who specialise in “triviality, ugliness and vulgarity.” Three years later The Jazz Singer ushered in a new era of ‘talkies’ that would change the way Hollywood made comedies, as slapstick and sight gags … More


Anomalisa

February 4, 2016
Charlie Kaufman's Stop Motion 'Anomalisa' (2015)

It gets progressively harder to argue with Ecclesiastes 1:9: “there is no new thing under the sun”, but Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson have shaken my faith, with Anomalisa. It is the story of a dour, middle-aged Englishman named Michael Stone who has lived in the United States for many years without losing his accent. … More


Looking for Grace

January 28, 2016
Odessa Young in 'Looking for Grace' (2015)

Looking for Grace is yet another Australian feature that makes a virtue out of vagueness. A small, quirky film, it unfolds like a detective story that never builds up dramatic momentum. The script is permeated with deadpan comedy that echoes the disjointed, inarticulate way so many Australians interact, but there are no great insights to … More


The Hateful Eight

January 22, 2016
Samuel L. Jackson in 'The Hateful Eight' (2015)

Each new film by Quentin Tarantino generates a storm of anticipation. We know what to expect, but initially The Hateful Eight took me by surprise. It is a long movie, divided into chapters, with an old-fashioned intermission. Instead of the usual gore fest the first half is all dialogue and scene-setting. If this appeals more … More


The Bélier Family

January 6, 2016
Louane Emera in 'The Bélier Family' (2015)

For a people convinced of their intellectual superiority over the rest of the planet, the French have an incurable fondness for low-brow comedy and feel-good stories. Perhaps they’re just like us, after all. This year’s box office smash in France was La Famille Bélier, a comedy, like The Intouchables (2011) that finds humour and inspiration … More


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