history

The Act of Killing & Rush

October 5, 2013
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There are limits to a social conscience. When a film has attracted every possible superlative it takes on the status of a must-see event, but after about ten minutes you know The Act of Killing will be both sickening and unforgettable. As one deadpan horror follows another in an interminable procession, many viewers will decide … More


Farewell My Queen & Fast and Furious 6

June 8, 2013
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Everyone knows the story of doomed, frivolous Marie Antoinette whose life of pampered luxury was ended by the guillotine. The Queen’s personality was established in filmmakers’ minds by Stefan Zweig’s best-selling biography of 1932, subtitled The Portrait of an Average Woman, and she has never been allowed to deviate too far from that model. Among … More


NO & The Company You Keep

April 20, 2013
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In old episodes of Get Smart, it was not uncommon for Secret Agent 86 to wish that some villain had used his powers “for niceness instead of evil”. No is the movie that applies this wishful thought to the advertising industry. It is 1988, in Chile. The military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet has been … More


Hyde Park on Hudson & Silence in the House of God

March 30, 2013
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Hard on the heels of Lincoln comes another movie about a great American President. But if Steven Spielberg seemed to be sending a message to Barack Obama about being steadfast and determined, it’s hard to know what Richard Michell is telling us about Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Hyde Park on Hudson. Allowing for its Spielbergisms, … More


Lincoln & Elles

February 9, 2013
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It’s impossible to watch Lincoln without thinking how little, and how much, American politics has changed since the days of the Civil War. The same ramshackle cast of opportunists, ideologues, yes men and non-entities sits in the House of Representatives, but nowadays the radical thrust comes from the right not the left. The radicals of … More


Zero Dark Thirty & The Impossible

February 2, 2013
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Zero Dark Thirty arrives at our cinemas with a readymade controversy: “Should director, Kathryn Bigelow, and scriptwriter, Mark Boal, have included the scenes of the CIA torturing prisoners?” Although it was driven home by the scandal of Abu Ghraib, surely noobdy will be surprised to learn the Americans practised torture. Indeed, it would have been … More


Napoleon: Revolution to Empire

August 18, 2012
Napoleon: Revolution

Napoleon: Revolution to Empire, the latest in the National Gallery of Victoria’s popular series, ‘Melbourne Winter Masterpieces’, presents an exceptionally positive view of a problematic figure. Visitors with no prior knowledge of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) might be forgiven for thinking that he and his first wife, Josephine, were two nouveau riche social climbers who went … More