Pulse was billed as an intriguing mix of sci-fi, teen angst, queer drama and some body swap action thrown in for good measure (from Australia). It was on at Dendy Newtown and that is just a short walk away for me so I selected this film without another thought.
It turned out to be one of the best films that I saw at the Festival this year. It stars the amazing Daniel Monks as our hero. He also wrote the film, edited and co-produced it with the other key driving force Stevie Cruz-Martin who was also the film’s director and cinematographer. The crowd-funded budget for the film was less than $60,000 I think! The film very skilfully and frankly deals with some major issues in contemporary society: developing sexuality, identity and same-sex attraction; discrimination; dealing with a physical disability; and ultimately, learning what really matters in friendships and relationships.
Daniel’s character Olly is in love with his straight best friend at high school Luke (played by Scott Lee), but ultimately he realises that this cannot work out well. Olly eventually opts for a body swap into a girl of the same age which would have the potential to kill two birds with the one stone: his physical disability and his inability to be sexually attractive to Luke. After the body swap Olly’s character in the film becomes the sexually liberated Olivia (played Jaimee Peasley), but Olly’s conscience is still played by Daniel Monk. Putting all of this together without confusing the audience is quite simply a masterpiece in film editing. Is young Daniel the next star of the Australia film industry?
I should also commend Stevie Cruz-Martin’s wonderful and innovative cinematography which gave the film a very contemporary and personal feel.
The only disappointing aspect of this showing was that it was somewhat marginalised in one of the smaller strands of Sydney Film Festival – “Screenability”. Good on them for featuring it in this way, but really, it deserved a much bigger screening at one of the major venues. I saw quite a few big-budget foreign films at sold-out major venues that were nowhere near as good as this film. I hope that Pulse gains more exposure and attracts more attention at future festivals. A beautiful film that is thoroughly enjoyable. 4.5/5
Call Me By Your Name is a gay romance set in Italy. It is gently paced and beautifully set, but I think it runs far too long.
In the clip above you get a good feel for what is not so great and what is great about this film. Armie Hammer first talks about his own reaction to portraying male-to-male sex and then his younger less experienced partner in the film, Timothée Chalamet, really gets to the heart of what makes this film of the celebration of love special – the complete “lack of a violent oppressor or deterrent to this love”. Armie’s character in the film is ultimately uncomfortable with himself, but I think his portrayal also lacks the multiple dimensions that Timothée brought to his role.
I agree with Jordan Hoffman from The Guardian who highlighted the very supportive father-to-son exchange towards the end of the film. It is a wonderful moment and reinforces what Timothée says of the film above. Beautiful, but a little long. 3.5/5
God’s Own Country is a wonderful film from the UK. It is reviewed and promoted as a British version of Brokeback Mountain, but it is actually much better than that film. I loved everything about this film right from the start: the setting in Yorkshire; the stoic nature of the locals; the cast and their acting; the cinematography; the story-telling; the tenderness of the developing romantic relationship between the two guys; the presentation and direction of the film itself; the weaving in of archival imagery; and the realness of such a situation.
I can see the resemblance to Brokeback Mountain, but I found this film to be far more believable and I empathised a great deal more with the leading characters. I thought they were much less wooden in this film. The performances by Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu are amazingly good and starkly different. I hope we see a lot more from both of them. One of the best gay-themed movies I’ve ever seen. Beautiful. 4.5/5
The film begins with a gang of Eastern European boys working Gare du Nord train station in Paris. It looks as though they’re hustling and involved in petty theft, maybe even more. One of the boys is cruised by very determined middle aged man who eventually invites him home, a day later. That turns into a really threatening home invasion by the whole gang who steal virtually every possession he has that they think they can sell on. The gang are led by “Boss” who is played superbly by Daniil Vorobyov. His threatening character looms large over almost the entire film even though he only appears at the beginning and end of it.
Daniel is the older man, realistically played by Olivier Rabourdin and after the home invasion he is visited by the sheepish boy he cruised, Marek (whom we later learn is really Rouslan) played by Kirill Emelyanov. Marek feels guilty about the invasion and whilst his first visits with Daniel are all about sex for money, the pair develop a friendship and eventually love grows, but probably not as you would have thought. This obviously causes tension between Marek and the gang and that comes to a head towards the end of the film.
The film deals thoughtfully with both gay male sexuality and the Eastern European immigration issues that seem familiar in many large European cities.
Eastern Boys certainly leaves the usual multiplex material for dead. 4/5
I saw this at its premier in the Dendy Opera Quays. William was there as were many of those featured in the images like Kate Fitzpatrick and Jenny Kee. George Gittoes was there too representing those from the Yellow House years who could not attend (like Martin Sharp) and those who had passed like Brett Whiteley. I caught up with George after the film as we had spent some time together in Iraq a few years back. He told me he was just back from Afghanistan and introduced me to a friend who was curating an exhibition of his work from those years. So, back to the film …
It is a film that documents one of his live performances, in this case 10/11 “My Generation”. I saw this live in Carriage Works back in 2009 I think and I still love it. I really like the way he carefully provides just enough context for his photographs, preferring to let his images talk for him. William has documented a fascinating period of Australian cultural (and gay) history that features those named above as well as many other significant figures including Patrick White, Jimmy Sharman, Rex Cramphorn, Little Nell Campbell, Margaret Fink, and Linda Jackson. This film is a visual potted history of that part of Sydney in the 80s and 90s.
I think it is wonderful and I think it is also being broadcast on ABC TV on 16 June, so don’t miss it. If you’ve not seen one of his performances and can remember the 80s and 90s it will ring many bells.
5/5 because I loved it and I think William is a national treasure.