09 Mar 2017
in Film Review
Tags: adaptation of bestseller, alone in berlin, anti-hitler, anti-nazi, anti-war sentiments, berlin, best-selling novel adaptation, bland, brendan gleeson, civil disobedience, convincing performances, coping mechanism, courage, daniel bruhl, determined, elise hampel, elise Quangel, emma thompson, emotion, emotional performances, every man dies alone, fascinating story, fearless parents, film, films, german story, german-accented english, germany, gestapo, heart-breaking, hurt, lacks nuance, movie, movies, nazi, nazi regime, otto hampel, Otto Quangel, pleasant, postcards, protest, real-life events, review, reviews, risking lives, second world war, slow, sombre, son dies on frontline, subtle, subversion, subversive acts, tense, tension, treacherous acts, treason, true story, tyrannous dictator, under-realised, vincent perez, world war 2, world war II
Alone in Berlin is a story from the Second World War and the recent film adaptation means it is likely to be condemned to the history books. The film is based on the international best-selling novel, Every Man Dies Alone, a book about real-life Berliners Otto and Elise Hampel. The film is a slow and plodding affair that is grossly under-realised and lacking in nuance.
The film is directed by Vincent Perez and features actors speaking in English but reading and writing in German. The wonderful, Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson star as a married couple who lose their only son after the youngster is killed fighting on the frontline (in real-life this was Elise’s brother.) The pair put in emotional and convincing-enough performances although it is bizarre to hear them speaking in German-accented English.
After their son’s death in 1940 these two working class parents pour their grief, anger and devastation into some small acts of civil disobedience. They write out postcards with anti-Nazi, anti-Hitler and anti-war sentiments. They would pen almost 300 of these and distribute them to various locations across Berlin. They were careful to take precautions, not leaving their fingerprints or distributing the materials to the same places. The Gestapo were unnerved and furious by these acts, as they viewed these individuals as traitors (Daniel Brühl leads the investigation here.)
By distributing these postcards this couple were engaging in a very dangerous act and they understood that they were risking their lives in order to do this. But they continue to carry out this operation because it’s a coping mechanism for them and it’s a protest against the things that they were witnessing in a country that was ruled by a tyrannous dictator. There is one scene with an elderly Jewish neighbour that is especially heart-breaking to watch.
The film itself is pleasant enough on the eye, if a little bland. The mood is a sombre one and an orchestral, Hollywood soundtrack attempts to ramp up the tension and emotion in the story, but this is ever enough. This is a true story of courage and subversion but it feels like a candle where the light has been snuffed out.
Alone in Berlin is a look at two stoic individuals who protested against the Nazi regime in their own unique way. It’s also a fascinating story that could have been realised and made into a much better movie. This film is ultimately too slow and subtle in capturing the amazing feats performed by two hurt, determined and fearless parents.
***Please note: a free pass to this film was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://entertainment.beautyandlace.net/user-reviews-movie-alone-in-berlin
03 Mar 2017
in Book Review
Tags: absorbing performance, advocate, ambitious lobbyist, ambitious woman, complicated character, corrupt system, determined, elizabeth sloane, exposé of a corrupt system, expose, film, films, flashbacks, formidable, formidable lobbyist, gugu mbatha-raw, gun control bill, icy lobbyist, icy woman, Jack Lacy, jessica chastain, john lithgow, john madden, Jonathan Perera, lobbyist, Mark Strong, miss sloane, motives, movie, movies, not likeable, political, power, power plays, pubic humiliation, review, reviews, slights of hand, steel eyed performance, steely-eyed performance, strong woman, the states, tragicomedy, turns, twists, u.s., united states, zero dark thirty actress
Miss Sloane could be renamed, “Ms Stone.” The film is about an ambitious and icy woman who acts as a lobbyist for a firm that is advocating on behalf of a gun control bill in the States. It’s a tense, political drama with as many power-plays, twists, turns and slights of hand as The Ides of March.
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) stars as the titular character and really carries this film. She is the ruthless Elizabeth Sloane, a woman who survives on a diet of amphetamines, power, the company of male escorts and cheap Chinese food. Sloane is not a likeable character by any stretch but Chastain gives such an absorbing performance that it is hard for us to turn away.
We meet Miss Sloane as she prepares to plead the Fifth Amendment at a senate ethics hearing. The film then tells her story through a series of flashbacks. It shows how she earned a reputation as a formidable, world-class lobbyist and how she defected from a large agency who won a contract from the gun lobby in order to work at a small boutique firm who were advocating for a gun control bill.
Sloane is a complicated character. She enjoys 3am phone calls to her underlings and the public humiliation of people. She also has no qualms spying on her colleagues and competitors, selling out rats and milking the bleeding heart vote by exposing a colleague (Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Concussion)) as the former victim of a high school-shooting. Yet when Sloane defects from her pro-gun agency to the one supporting gun control, there are at least some questions regarding her motives and whether she is taking a moral stance. Another big question is whether Sloane’s over-confidence and cockiness will mean she misses some important fact or find herself exposed to a blind spot or two.
This film is written by first-time screenwriter, Jonathan Perera and directed by John Madden (this is a serious departure in tone from his previous films, Shakespeare in Love and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.) The supporting cast features Jack Lacy, Mark Strong and John Lithgow who put in rather able performances but are eclipsed by the dynamo work from Chastain. Miss Sloane is quite an eye-opening and detailed political tragicomedy and an exposé of a corrupt system and its steely-eyed and determined participants. This film is ultimately a wild ride with the big boys and one strong woman and a game you can’t help but find yourself getting lost in for the most part.
Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Originally published on 01 March 2017 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/film-review-miss-sloane-usa-2016-proves-a-strong-woman-can-play-with-the-big-boys/
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15 Sep 2015
in Fashion Review
Tags: acclaimed fashion designer, adventurous, anna tregloan, antiques, archive material, archives, art, arts, asian themes, australian fashion, australian fashion designer, catwalk shows, celebration, celebrities, celebrity, children's range, clothing, collette dinnigan, collette dinnigan: unlaced, colour, colourful, concept development, cool, dazzling, design, determined, fashion, feminine, floral themes, flowers, innovative, inspiring, inspiring woman, landscapes, modeling, models, museum of applied arts & sciences, museum of applied arts and sciences, outfits, powerhouse museum, re-imagined underwear as outerwear, research, review, reviews, rock soundtrack, sketches, stylish, successful, Sydney, tasteful, travel, underwear, vibrant, vintage clothes, wedding gowns, women's clothing, women's fashion, women's underwear
image credit: Holly Blake/Vogue Australia
Collette Dinnigan is a woman’s designer. Her clothes and underwear creations are always very feminine, fun and romantic. The Powerhouse Museum is currently hosting an exhibition about this acclaimed fashion designer, who is celebrating 25 years in the industry. Ultimately, this is an accessible and dynamic look at one inspirational creator and her wares.
The exhibition is divided up into a series of rooms. In one section patrons can watch a two hour video, which shows excerpts from her catwalk shows as well as a documentary. In another part, kids can sit down and colour-in worksheets to design their own clothes and make models. They can certainly draw some inspiration from Dinnigan herself, as a special room has been imagined and installed by the designer. This is a particular highlight and draws together the countless amount of research, sketches and hours of concept development as well as other things that have consciously or unconsciously shaped her work.
There are also plenty of outfits. One room showcases three different wedding gowns while another looks at the influence of Asian and floral themes on Dinnigan. There’s some special red carpet designs featuring outfits that have been worn by none other than Erin McNaught, Taylor Swift, Miranda Kerr and others. These all have a real “wow” factor as they feature lots of intricate beading and sequins coupled with classic designs.
There is a small section dedicated to Dinnigan’s children’s range (which she launched after the birth of her daughter, Estella). There is also a large room where 100 outfits that span Dinnigan’s career are displayed alongside videos of models walking towards you (as if on a catwalk). This is also accompanied by a hip, rock soundtrack in the background that screams “cool”.
Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced does a great job at celebrating her many inspirations: colour, art, travel, flowers, landscapes and details from vintage clothes and antique things. It also shows how dedicated she is to using the medium of lace, by working with families that have been doing this for generations and still remaining innovative and coming up with fresh, new ideas. One of these was when Dinnigan re-imagined underwear as outerwear. And while some people may find this a bit too out-there it is always done in a tasteful and stylish way.
In all, this exhibition is a testament to this adventurous, determined and successful designer and celebrates this woman in all her dazzling glory. The exhibition is realised by award-winning stage designer and artist, Anna Tregloan and features archive material from Dinnigan as well as the Powerhouse’s own collection. It’s a colourful tribute to an inspiring woman and an important look at some things that should not remain stuck in the closet.
Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced is on at the Powerhouse Museum from September 5, 2015 to August 28, 2016. For more information, go to: http://www.powerhousemuseum.com
Originally published on 14 September 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/collette-dinnigan-unlaced-powerhouse-museum-sydney-exhibition-open-until-28-august-2016
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24 Jun 2015
in Book Review
Tags: a fine read, australiana, australians, authentic, beautifully-written, book, books, convicts, country, determined, endearing, engaging, epic, fiction, first in trilogy, first settlers, free settlers, heart of the country, historic fiction, historical fiction, indigenous australians, lizzie smith, novel, outback, resilient, review, reviews, romance, rural, septimus wiltshire, seth whitby, south australia, strong, tense drama, thomas baker, three generations of families, tricia stringer, vivid, vivid prose
Heart Of The Country is a historical fiction novel that lives up to its name. The book is by Tricia Stringer who has lived in rural Australia for many years and really gets at the heart and core of this great, Southern land. This novel is the first in what should be an extremely enjoyable and promising trilogy and slice of Australiana.
The story is an epic one focusing on three white families as well as some indigenous Australians they befriend. The book begins when Thomas Baker, a naïve but hard-working free settler after he arrives in South Australia. His mother had passed away earlier and his father did not survive the long passage from England. Despite experiencing grief, Baker has a steely resolve and wants to make something of himself in this strange, foreign land.
Baker accepts a job as an overseer at a country property. To work there he needs to buy a horse and he meets a conniving and unscrupulous ex-convict named Seth Whitby (and sometimes Septimus Wiltshire) who swindles the trusting man out of his money. This is not the first time the pair will cross paths but things do improve for Baker once he settles at his new homestead and meets his spirited and single neighbour, Lizzie Smith, who he will eventually marry.
Heart Of The Country shares a few things in common with Kate Grenville’s The Secret River and some of the late Bryce Courtney’s works. Stringer’s writing is very vivid and engaging. She provides excellent descriptions of the barren landscapes while also offering some great characterisation. The characters are all very interesting and in most cases they are very relatable and endearing (with the exception of the rogue Whitby/Wiltshire).
Stringer’s book is a novel but the story feels very authentic and true. The reader gets a real sense of the troubles that the first convicts and settlers faced when they first arrived in Australia and the different relationships they shared with the indigenous people living here. The environment and landscape feel quite brutal and unforgiving and it is inspiring to read about people who were so fiercely determined, strong and resilient, meaning they got through the good times as well as the bad ones.
Heart Of The Country is an excellent fiction book about the community in Adelaide in the 19th century and the love, hate, greed and opportunism they were faced with. The book is beautifully written and very well put together, spanning over three generations of events. The moments of tense drama will hook you in while the vivid prose and descriptions will make you feel like you’re also in the passenger seat. In short, it’s one fine read.
Originally published on 22 June 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/books/book-review-tricia-stringers-heart-of-the-country-2015
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12 Apr 2015
in Film Review
Tags: a royal affair, activist, alicia vikander, beautiful, british, colin morgan, coming-of-age, complex, determined, devestation, drama, extraordinary spirit, feminist, film, films, frontline, gritty, haunt, headstrong, human suffering, independent woman, james kent, kit harington, misfortune, oxford, pacifist, period drama, raw, rebellious, resonate, respectful, restrained, review, reviews, role model, shines, sumptuous, taron egerton, testament of youth, trailblazer, upper middle class, vera britain, vera brittain, volunteer nurse, war, warm, well-crafted, western front, world war 1, world war I, world war one, ww1, wwI
Vera Brittain was a feminist trailblazer, pacifist and activist. Her memoir about World War I, Testament Of Youth, was a detailed account of her coming of age and experience as a volunteer nurse on the frontline.
Her story has recently received its second adaptation (the first was as a TV series decades ago), and while it’s not a seamless transition to the silver screen for director James Kent, it is still a good and worthy story.
This period drama stars Alicia Vikander (A Royal Affair) as the rebellious, headstrong and determined Brittain. Vikander absolutely shines in this role and encapsulates the heroine’s extraordinary spirit with a classy but respectful air as well as showcasing the full extent of her emotional struggles. Brittain is no saint but thanks to Vikander she is portrayed as an amazing, independent woman and role model.
The costumes in this film are quite sumptuous at times and the cinematography is warm and beautiful during the periods of peace, and raw and gritty during the war. Brittain had had a promising career awaiting her after she passed the Oxford entrance exam but she puts this all on hold after her brother Edward (Taron Egerton); his friend, Victor (Colin Morgan); and Brittain’s fiancé Roland (Game Of Thrones’ Kit Harington) enlist and are sent to the Western front.
Testament Of Youth offers a unique, complex and female perspective on the devastation of war. It shows the life of an upper-middle-class British family and lovers struck by tragedy (and the Swedish-born Vikander does a great job with the accent). The film is well-crafted and mostly true to the memoir, and elegant and restrained in its telling. In short, this film is something that will continue to haunt and resonate; a touching reflection on the human suffering and misfortune that is typical of war.
Originally published on 8 April 2015 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/arts/testament-youth
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