12 Years a Slave

February 1, 2014
Chiwetel Ejiofor in '12 Years a Slave', 2013

It used to be commonplace for directors to cut their teeth in the theatre before moving on to the cinema. In the future it seems likely there will be more directors who begin their careers at art school making videos and installations before progressing to full-length features. Steve McQueen is currently the most prominent example … More

Twenty Feet from Stardom

November 23, 2013
Lisa Fischer in the film "Twenty Feet From Stardom," directed by Morgan Neville.       NYTCREDIT: Graham Willoughby/Sundance Film Festival

One of the features of world cinema over the past decade has been the resurgence of the feature-length documentary. Two outstanding new examples are getting theatrical releases this week: 20 Feet From Stardom, which looks at the careers of some of the leading back-up singers in popular music; and Blackfish, which examines the lives of … More

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