FILM REVIEW: LOVING

 

Loving is a film that shares a few things in common with A United Kingdom. They are both based on true stories and at the centre of each film you have a married, interracial couple who just want to live together as husband wife and leave the politics out of the bedroom. Loving is a beautifully-shot and subtle drama about one inspiring romance.

The film is named after the real-life couple, Mildred and Richard Loving. Ruth Negga is really sensitive and expressive in her Oscar-nominated performance as Mildred and she shares a noticeable chemistry with our very own Joel Edgerton who plays Richard. These two actors should be commended for their respectful and convincing performances.

The Lovings were married in Washington in 1958. They married here because they feared they would encounter problems by getting married in their home-state of Virginia. The latter state still had a draconian law that was a relic from a bygone period (where slavery was the norm) that banned mixed-race couples from marrying. The couple were dobbed in to the authorities and eventually arrested.

Mildred and Richard Loving were released without having to serve prison terms because they agreed to leave their home-state and extended families in order to live elsewhere. The pair initially agreed to this proposal and lived in Washington. But they eventually returned to Virginia because they were homesick and they just wanted to live a quiet life and not bother anyone.

The couple that were the inspiration behind this film were also rather reluctant civil rights activists and stars. Richard Loving was a man of few words. Joel Edgerton dons a blonde buzz-cut and portrays him as a quiet and devoted construction worker who has a keen interest in drag-racing. When asked what he wants his lawyers to say in court in the couple’s defence he simply responds, “Tell the judge I love my wife.”

The Lovings were also rather reserved and dignified throughout the entire ordeal. Mildred would write to the then Attorney General, Robert Kennedy seeking an intervention and eventually the American Civil Liberties Union took their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967. Director and writer Jeff Nichols’ (Mud) script does not take cheap shots and nor does it play up the melodrama, the courtroom tactics or other histrionics involved in this case. Instead, Nichols leaves the audience to witness the quiet moments of tender domesticity between these two lovebirds as their love grows and they build a house, family and life together while also tackling the U.S. bureaucracy.

Loving is not a film that is filled with beat-up drama or other unnecessary bells and whistles, instead it is quiet meditation on true love, courage and commitment. This story about racism and politics remains an important one today as the government continues to try and wield power over who can marry (to think that Australia still does not have gay marriage is utterly deplorable). Loving is ultimately a subtle and nuanced domestic drama that is a study in the true power of love.

Originally published on 12 March 2017 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/sxsw-film-review-through-the-repellent-fence-usa-2017-uses-art-to-make-an-important-political-statement/

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BOOK REVIEW: MARTIN SIXSMITH – AYESHA’S GIFT

ayesha

 

Ayesha’s Gift is a book that could also be called “Ayesha’s Curse” because it is brimming with sorrow. It’s the fictionalised account of the real-life events that saw Philomena author and former BBC foreign correspondent, Martin Sixsmith assist in investigating the death of a British-Pakistani man. The book is ultimately a rather multi-faceted detective tale where a murder is solved, cultures collide and a kind of quiet respect, empathy and trust is forged between two unlikely main characters.

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201702/224417

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BOOK REVIEW: CAREK STELSON – SACHIKO – A NAGASAKI SURVIVOR’S STORY

sachiko

 

The story of Sachiko and other hibakusha are important, as they chronicle a fundamental part of history. This book also supports Yasui’s work as an activist for peace, as it is a cautionary tale about nuclear weaponry, but also one of hardship and human resilience. At 144 pages there were elements that could have been elaborated on further, but it remains a well-researched piece of narrative non-fiction and essential reading for anyone interested in learning from the perils and tragedy of war.

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201611/207492

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DVD REVIEW: THE STORY OF GOD

the-story-of-god

 

Morgan Freeman has played God before. In the documentary series, The Story Of God it does what it says on the tin. It sees Freeman travelling to a number of different countries to explore religion and God. It’s a respectful and informative series that suffers because it is rather short for such a big subject.

The program itself is split into six separate episodes. The first looks at life beyond death and the realm of grief. It was Christianity and Christ’s crucifixion that gave people hope of life after death, while the Hindus believe in reincarnation and karma. There is a look at the Egyptian tombs and the day of the dead ceremonies as well as how death could be dealt with in the future. It shows that there may be a possibility for robotic androids to have our thoughts and feelings as input.

The apocalypse episode looks at the importance of the city of Jerusalem in Christianity, Islam and Judaism. It also examines the Roman army battles of the past and the radical extremists of today. There are also scenes showing Buddhists seeking enlightenment as the true revelation of God. There is also a quick look at the doomsday cults where its members meet the grisly end of mass suicide.

Freeman also looks at topics like creation, who is God, why evil exists and the idea of miracles. This series also dedicates time to other religions besides the major ones and touch on the Aboriginal dreamtime and Zoroastrians, to name a few. Freeman is a charismatic, inquisitive and reverent interviewee despite his own self-proclaimed atheism. It doesn’t matter if he’s interviewing the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Social Sciences, Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo or a reformed radical extremist turned educator. The list of talking heads is impressive and broad with professors, archaeologists, anthropologists and scientists offering very informative commentary.

The Story Of God is a hopeful one. It highlights the commonalities between religions and offers up an insightful perspective on the different belief systems that exist both today and in history. Rather than drowning itself in dogma or being overly sanctimonious or preachy, this film is a fascinating watch. The series also boasts gorgeous videos of time-lapse photography and sweeping Go-Pro footage as well as Freeman’s gentle narration and affable and inquisitive nature that often proves rather infectious. Watch this and there is no doubt you will walk away feeling enlightened.

Originally published on 2 September 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/story-god-dvd-review/

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FILM REVIEW: TESTAMENT OF YOUTH

testamentofyouth

 

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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FILM REVIEW: THE CIRCLE (DER KREIS)

circle

 

The Circle (Der Kreis) was a gay magazine produced in Switzerland and distributed internationally between 1932 and 1967. It is also the name of a docudrama film by director, Stefan Haupt. The film tells the story of a couple who were members of this underground movement that went on to become Switzerland’s first legally-married couple in 2003. The story is an interesting one but it is let down by some problems with its execution.

After World War II many gay people went to live in Switzerland because the country was one of the few places in Europe that had not outlawed homosexuality. Despite it being legal, it was merely tolerated and at times many homosexuals were closeted and repressed because they were scared about losing their jobs. Things worsened when an openly gay composer was murdered by a rent boy because this lead many members of the police to turn on the members of The Circle, who were used as scapegoats so the cops could justify being cruel and violent.

The story looks at the early days of gay rights, much like in the film, Milk. But the most important story told here is the romance that unfolds between the beautiful, cross-dressing cabaret performer, Röbi Rapp and the shy and closeted teacher, Ernst Ostertag. The film actually cuts between archive footage/photos and interviews with these two men and their acquaintances as well as recreations of various events from the past (the young men are played here by Sven Schelker and Matthias Hungerbühler, respectively). This means that the film has a stop-start feel and it is jarring to have so many disparate elements thrown in together. The Circle could have been one of about four different movies and these would’ve succeeded as separate entities far more than this whole.

The Circle is an important story that is told respectfully. It is one that was worth telling but it could have had a greater emotional impact if one of the plots and genres had been focused on, perhaps a biopic about just the couple’s love story. As it is, the plot is rushed but it’s an engaging chapter in history that remains timely, personal and resonant. In short, it’s a good but not great film.

 

Originally published on 22 March 2015 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2015/03/22/melbourne-queer-film-festival-review-the-circle-der-kreis-switzerland-2014/

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FILM REVIEW: DEPARTURES (OKURIBITO)

departures

 

Departures (Okuribito) is a simple, Japanese film about some big subjects: love, life and death. This existential family drama was the winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2009. It is also a subtle and nuanced story where a Zen-like air means that even though the final message is poignant and meaningful, it is clouded by the slow and repetitive rituals that precede it.

The film is directed by Yôjirô Takita and shows a talented but newly-unemployed cellist, Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) returning to his hometown. This will allow Kobayashi to live in the house he inherited from his mother with his wife, Mika (Ryôko Hirosue). Daigo soon discovers an advertisement in the local newspaper. The job is described as “Departures” and he assumes he will be working for a travel agent. Instead, Daigo is shocked to discover the job is for a nokanshi or coffiner- a person who washes, dresses and makes up a deceased person before they are cremated in a gentle ritual that is performed before the grieving parties.

Daigo initially dislikes the job but eventually he comes to be a master at his profession and appreciate the closure he helps to give to families. This is largely thanks to his deadpan boss (Tsutomu Yamazaki who puts in an excellent performance). In time we learn that Daigo is dealing with his own loss, as his father (Tôru Minegishi) walked out the family when the former was a boy. Daigo grapples with this as well as the growing disapproval regarding his occupation from the people he knows (especially his wife).

Departures is a beautiful, understated and heartfelt film that gradually reveals some rich characters as they deal deftly with a taboo subject, death. The film is subtle, gentle and emotional, but there was also room for it to be tightened in order to create a bigger impact. Because despite having a reverential affair and dealing with a sensitive topic with grace and elegance, this film is ultimately too low-key and soft-paced in its quiet observations to have the profound affect it should have.

 

Originally published on 13 July 2014 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2014/07/13/japanese-film-festival-encore-review-departures-okuribito-japan-2008/

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DVD REVIEW: BRIAN MAY & KERRY ELLIS – THE CANDELIGHT CONCERTS – LIVE AT MONTREUX 2013

brian may

 

Queen guitarist, Brian May and West End and Broadway songstress, Kerry Ellis are no strangers to touring together. The pair first performed shows together in 2011 and have since gone on to release a single and play more dates in the UK and Europe, and all of this culminated in a show at Montreux Jazz Festival in 2013. The concert was recorded and filmed and will now be released on CD, DVD and Blu-ray.

The Candlelight Concerts – Live at Montreux was designed to be like having two talented artists performing together in your house. The backdrop on stage and the set has some candles and the night begins with a reverential air. This subsequently closes in to transform the Stravinski auditorium into a warm and intimate space with the process seeming like a large hug. May and Ellis do an excellent job of engaging the audience with engrossing and informative dialogue that only adds to the close, family-like atmosphere of the proceedings.

The pair perform a raw, stripped back set with May playing mostly acoustic but occasionally the electric guitar and they are joined by Jeff Leach on keys. The group perform Queen songs plus old standards and covers. There is a great chemistry between the artists and this translates into a good sense of feeling and emotion underpinning this beautiful and atmospheric pop/rock music.

May does an excellent job of wringing all sorts of emotion out of his guitar playing while Ellis’ gorgeous voice is full of theatrics (no doubt a result of her day job). ‘I Who Have Nothing’ is a romantic start to the show and a sweet ballad before the prophetic and profoundly sad Kansas cover, ‘Dust In The Wind’. May and Ellis then perform their charity single, ‘Born Free’ (a track made famous by Barbara Streisand) which is accompanied by excerpts from a video featuring animals filmed in Africa. Animal conservation and welfare is a topic that is close to both of the stars’ hearts and this is especially obvious during “Nothing Really Has Changed” (this song appears twice with the second version being a bonus track).

The classic Beatles song, ‘Something’ is performed well, as May plays some sublime acoustic  guitar but sadly Ellis has changed the lyrics so that she could sing it about a man (rather than George Harrison’s then love, Pattie Boyd) and this makes it a tad hollow. The Brian May solo staple and instrumental, ‘Lost Horizon” is also performed and while poignant and sad in its build-up, it does at times verge on indulgence. The numbers that received the best reception of the night were undoubtedly the Queen favourites, ‘Somebody To Love’, ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ and ‘We Will Rock You’ (the latter an all-stomping sing-along for the Queen fans in the audience).

Brian May and Kerry Ellis’ performance at Montreux is an engaging show that is full of sensitive and touching moments, especially when they play such respectful tributes to some late, great musicians (like Freddie Mercury and George Harrison). This intimate concert is a grand spectacle that is full of feeling and above all, has an amazing atmosphere. This means it is the sort of show that people will want to enjoy and share more than once.

 

Originally published on 3 April 2014 at the following website: http://sfmedia.com.au/brian-may-kerry-ellis-the-candlelight-concerts-live-at-montreux-2013-dvd-review/

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