May 2, 2015

There’s a lonely stretch of hillocks: There’s a beach asleep and drear: There’s a battered broken fort beside the sea. There are sunken trampled graves: And a little rotting pier: And winding paths that wind unceasingly. There’s a torn and silent valley: There’s a tiny rivulet With some blood upon the stones beside its mouth. … More

The Water Diviner

January 10, 2015

In the 1960s Anzac Day was routinely criticised as a celebration of war and a debased, drunken spectacle. Nowadays, in a country of far greater ethnic diversity, April 25 is treated with reverence. Indeed, to voice those criticisms that were commonplace in the 60s would be to risk being branded with the ultimate insult: “un-Australian”. … More

A Thousand Times Goodnight

December 6, 2014

When a film begins as powerfully as A Thousand Times Goodnight, the danger is that everything that follows will be anti-climactic. The problem for Norwegian director, Erik Poppe, is to balance the movie’s brief action sequences against long periods of domestic drama in which Rebecca, a leading war photographer, weighs up conflicting commitments to work … More

Beatriz’s War

July 19, 2014

Having finally managed to see Beatriz’s War, I almost wish I hadn’t. This first-ever feature from Timor-Leste is a rite of passage; a catharsis for the wrongs endured during the Indonesian occupation. One suspects it will be a long time before the East Timorese are producing comedies and musicals. There’s too much pain and trauma … More

George Gittoes

June 7, 2014

George Gittoes has given us the most horrible show in Sydney in 2014, or perhaps it’s the year’s greatest horror show. However one defines it, George Gittoes: I Witness at the Hazelhurst Regional Gallery is a harrowing experience. Gittoes (b.1949) cut his teeth in the early 1970s with psychedelic paintings and puppet shows at Sydney’s … More

Half of a Yellow Sun

March 22, 2014

Unlike Saudi Arabia, where there is virtually no film industry, Nigeria is second only to India as a cinematic powerhouse. ‘Nollywood’ routinely produces more than a thousand movies a year but I’ve never seen a single example at an Australian venue. This is one of the reasons why Half of a Yellow Sun, an Anglo-Nigerian … More

The Monuments Men

March 15, 2014

When you see German soldiers with flame throwers destroying works of art in one of the most striking scenes from The Monuments Men, remember that it never actually happened. The Raphael picture we see going up in flames is still listed as “missing” today, not officially torched. One might think the Nazis were bad enough … More

The Book Thief

January 11, 2014

Last month, for the first and only time in my experience, the author of the book behind the film was present at a preview. Markus Zusak has a German father and an Austrian mother, but he grew up in the Sydney suburbs. Zusak published his first young-adult novel, The Underdog (1999) at the age of … More

Mr. Pip

November 16, 2013

Directing the Shrek movies and Chronicles of Narnia may seem a strange preparation for a movie about the bloody conflict in Bougainville in the early 1990s. It would be good to report that Andrew Adamson removes all doubts in his film adaptation of Lloyd Jones’s acclaimed novel, Mr. Pip, revealing himself as a truly versatile … More


March 17, 2012

King Lear has some grim moments, but I’ve always thought of Coriolanus as the bleakest of Shakespeare’s plays. Ralph Fiennes has confirmed that impression with a film adaptation which adds ultra-violence to the singularly depressing view of human nature found in this story. Not only does Fiennes play the role of Coriolanus, the Roman general … More