Violence, not knowing, so many feels, adolescence, sexual identity and discovery, teenage angst, and sexual tension. No Griselda, I was not binge-watching Home and Away! Quelle horreur! And I say that with some meaning and cleverness because Being 17 is a very French film. Of course I mean that in the nicest possible way.
Being 17 is a long film at almost two hours, but the story is told very well without being heavy handed, and easily held my attention. (This is no small feat!) It is a gently-paced story that focuses on two teenage boys finding their way in life in a small village somewhere in the French Pyrenees. Part of their journey is their gradual sexual awakening that is accompanied by an increasing desire for each other. It isn’t all smooth sailing and nor is it predictable and full of cliches.
The cast are all well chosen and bring a rare authenticity to their respective roles. The acting from the two young boys is consistently great, even in the sex scene, and their attraction to each other seems very realistic. There are a number of touching scenes and these are all handled very sensitively. (I didn’t end up crying.)
The cinematography and scenery is beautiful, especially some scenes in the snow and high in the mountains, but it isn’t self-indulgent and the camera doesn’t dwell anywhere unnecessarily.
Being 17 was my opening film for SFF in 2016 and it sets the bar pretty high from the outset. I guess the film made me think about my own coming of age and brought up some memories of similarly confusing situations that were probably based around some kind of sexual tension or desire. It was good to see that it was probably a full house. What a shame that we don’t get the chance to see movies like this more often in Australia. They leave the pretentious Hollywood dross for dead.
My Bruce McAvaney Specialness Rating*: 4
1 – Special, but not in a good way.
2 – Pretty ordinary really.
3 – Not especially special.
4 – Most people would think this to be special.
5 – Especially special, or as Bruce would say “Oh, that’s special!”
My rather ambitious list.
Sorry I’ve not been around for a long while. It’s a long story and not really one I can tell right now. At least I can talk SFF. Last year I swore that I would be more selective and not try to see too many films or at least not see too many on any one day. Well, that just didn’t happen. So here is my list with a short explanation about why I selected that film.
Being 17 I’m a sucker for most French films that tell personal stories and this one is about a gay/queer relationship. Unlike many I also don’t mind coming of age stories. I may cry.
(I’m then away for work on the next two days of the festival, 9 & 10 June. Oh no!)
Goldstone I guess this outback noir thriller could bomb, but I’ve liked Aaron Pedersen in most things he has done and it looks interesting. I also like thrillers and it looks a bit eccentric. Hopefully the storytelling will be good.
High Rise “Tom Hiddleston heads a fabulous cast (Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller) …” Well you got me right there. This is also described as a sociopolitical satire, so that too grabs me. I’m sure Tom will forget to put his shirt on at some stage.
It’s Only The End of the World This Xavier Dolan film is sure to be one of the most talked about at the festival, if only because it is a film by Xavier Dolan. I’ve loved and hated some of his earlier work, but who could miss a film with both Gaspard Ulliel and Vincent Cassel? I guess some people could, but I cannot.
War on Everyone I’m a huge fan of John Michael McDonagh. The Guard and Cavalry were both marvellous. Not just for the laughs and the humanity that ran deep through both, but for his fantastic ability to tell a story and entertain with the English language. J.M. McDonagh makes brilliant films and understands what cinema should be able to do!
Goat Pure escapism. Oh, and the James Franco cameo.
Land of Mine I’m a bit of a sucker for good war stories and this one is bound to be surprising and somewhat confronting. It is based on a true story that I’ve not heard or read about so that’ll be good too. I hope I don’t have to cry.
Rosita I wonder whether this will be as good as an old John Clarke film on the same subject A Matter of Convenience? In any case I watch enough stuff on SBS to be a fan of both of the male leads Jens Albinus (The Idiots, The Eagle, Borgen, Everything Will be Fine and Deutschland 83) and Mikkel Boe Følsgaard (The Legacy, Royal Affair and he is also in Land of Mine, above). I like a lot of Danish productions.
Europe She Loves I added this one at the last minute to fill in some time between Rosita and Demolition with a friend of mine who is also going to both. I think this is my only documentary this year. It is said to be a frank and revealing look at four couples in four different countries. Hopefully it is more humorous than gut-wrenching.
Demolition No, I didn’t select this just because of Jake Gyllenhaal! It was mostly because he is said to be good in it, but it also sounds like a decent emotional yarn. And who can resist a sad Jake?
Desde Allá This queer drama from Venezuela looks confronting. I’ve seen a very similar story handled very well in a recent French film (that I cannot remember now but I will eventually), so it’ll be interesting to see how the psychological drama is handled here. I’ve heard good things about it.
The Endless River This one is a bit of a punt, but it was written up as being beautifully shot and brutally realistic, so I’m hoping for an engrossing experience.
Teenage Kicks Selected for most of the same reasons as Being 17, but this queer drama is Australian.
Red Christmas I had to have one horror film and it is in Newtown, so close to home if I get scared. Apparently this Australian film has an axe plus thrills and kills. Little else is required.
Everybody Wants Some!! Richard Linklater’s latest film has had some good press and it looks pretty enjoyable.
Closet Monster Another queer coming of age / coming out film. But this one also has a touch of horror and the young Canadian film maker Stephen Dunn is already attracting critical acclaim. Connor Jessup plays the main character and he was great in American Crime recently. So I’m ending my festival in much the same genre as I began it.
16 films all up. Wish me luck. (I hope my boss allows me to take my annual four days of SFF leave!)
The Invitation is supposed to be a slowburn thriller or a “riveting horror film”, set around a dinner party reunion of a group of friends (plus two others). Our hero Will (Logan Marshall-Green) returns to his old home with his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi), two years after the death of his young son. His ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband David (Michiel Huisman) are hosting a dinner party for a group of old friends. Like most dinner parties, it begins very slowly, someone is late and it is all rather awkward. One of the problems with this film is that there are simply too many characters to be introduced and then ignored. This takes an age, isn’t effectively done and in doing so we are soon treated to a series of odd facial expressions straight out of the early years of Home and Away.
It continues to move along at a slow pace, with very little happening along the way. We know something is going to happen because you know, we bought tickets for a horror flick, but it just isn’t riveting, so I started getting distracted by things. From what I saw of the house, it didn’t look much like a contemporary home. It looked a little like a darkly-lit version of the Brady Bunch family home. Then it seemed that quite a lot of the guests (I won’t name them because most were not memorable) had been dressed by Alice the maid from Mr & Mrs Brady’s old wardrobe. Eden, however, was dressed and made up like the wife of one of those guys who runs tournaments for slaves, gladiators and lions in an ancient Rome TV series. But I digress …
Along the way we are introduced to a cult that has supposedly helped Eden deal with her grief. It was during this period that I started wondering whether this film was the Hollywood film version of an Instagram selfie. Let’s not get stuck there tho’.
Eventually, the ever suspicious Will has his first brain-fart, but his theory about what is happening is quickly assuaged when the missing guest finally shows up. Later on, much later on, after more gnashing of teeth (mostly Will’s), the proverbial does hit the fan and we are all relieved that something did eventually happen. It just wasn’t terribly thrilling and what does happen is left far too late.
Only lasts 90 mins but it seems much longer. 2.5/5
Billed as a mystery, I thought Phoenix was more of a complex exploration of forgiveness, love, betrayal and rebuilding in Berlin immediately after the Second World War. It moves at a gentle pace, allowing tension to build and this is very skilfully accomplished. We are left asking all kinds of questions about the reasons and motives for betrayal, and then perhaps wondering what we’d have done in the same situation. How much does true love influence forgiveness? And ultimately, are there limits to this kind of forgiveness?
It is easy to see the successful rebuilding of Berlin the city and now it is almost impossible to imagine the post-war destruction that obliterated some districts, but what of the people? How long does it take to heal, forget or forgive those wounds and losses? A generation or more? Phoenix made me think about all of this more deeply than my most recent visit to Berlin late last year.
The film is very well produced and presented and the story keeps you guessing right up to the end. It certainly didn’t end as I had expected and maybe that tells you something about how you might have reacted if faced with this kind of moral dilemma.
Everybody I spoke to thought highly of this film. Very well done. 4/5
This film very successfully blends romance, drama, comedy and the supernatural. It has something for everyone! The acting is good, the script is tight and contains some witty dialogue and it is very well shot in some spectacular locations.
My only minor complaint, and it is just a personal preference, is that the monster could have been defined a bit better and behaved more neatly. I prefer my monsters to be more predictable and reasonably good looking like most vampires or werewolves. The monster in this film is particularly messy.
A good night out. 3.5/5
600 Miles does a number of things pretty well. It very effectively explores the absurd gun culture of North America. In this film I think you do get a sense of just how threatening and alarming hand guns and “hunting” rifles are. Even without ammunition. Every time we see someone handling a weapon you are aware of its weight, its mechanism and its potential lethality. The absurdity of gun laws in the US is also demonstrated when a youth buys some cartons of ammunition at a sports store, but is then asked for proof of age to purchase some cigarettes.
The plot is about illegal arms smuggling, and a law man (played well by Tim Roth) who tracks and investigates this, from the US to Mexico. Kristyan Ferrer as one of the young gun runners, captures the law man and then takes him across the border, where both need to rely on each other just to survive.
In Mexico we learn that almost nobody can be trusted, even members of your own family. This made me wonder why the film makers, who seemed mostly Mexican themselves, made all the Mexican roles seem so dark and sinister. Then I remembered that in the early scenes set back in Arizona, whilst the Americans were not all so obviously violent and corrupt, they were complicit in this whole problem and perhaps most at fault. Maybe we were meant to think that the whole world is black. There wasn’t much optimism in this film. Actually, I cannot recall any, even in the disjointed final scene during the credits.
The film only runs for 85 minutes, but the first hour is still pretty slow going and the plot is probably too thin to carry it well. There is a lot of gun violence in the last 25 minutes and then what I thought was a messy and weak ending. I realise that life isn’t always neatly concluded, but we go to the cinema to be entertained, educated, inspired and to escape reality, so I’d really prefer it if more film makers would question the vogue to leave so many loose threads or even the whole story up in the air before the credits start to roll. Sometimes it is as if they got bored with the production and just couldn’t be bothered.
Disturbing and depressing. 3/5
Yes, it is that time of year again. As Jack Thomson nearly said last year: “In the dark, we share our germs.”
Well, these are the films I’ve bought tickets for anyway. There were a couple that I’d like to see but couldn’t because they sold out or clashed with something else I had on. I did want to see Holding The Man, but I figure it’ll get a general release soon. It sold out as I was making our bookings. As my program was pretty long I decided not to try to see The Secret River as we will get to see it soon on TV.
I try to organise a big group of people and we bulk purchase tickets to get a good price. It is a bit like herding cats, but worth it in the end. Sometimes I am going with friends, sometimes alone. I generally take a few days off to enjoy the festival too, so whilst it looks a little ambitious, I’ll be on leave for much of it. So here we go with this year’s schedule:
We Are Still Here. Who doesn’t like a decent chiller? And this session is conveniently in Newtown.
Slow West. A western. With Michael Fassbender and Ben Mendelsohn. It won an award at Sundance. And Kodi Smit-McPhee is supposed to be the next big thing.
Results. Because Guy Pearce.
Mr. Holmes. I love Sherlock and a good mystery. Also, Ian McKellen is coming along nicely as an actor.
Vincent. I love many French films and I’m also a fan of the supernatural in film. So mixing the two could be magic. Or it might be a disaster.
99 Homes. A thriller. Even if it is no good, we still get to look at Andrew Garfield for 112 minutes. Although, he does seem to be sporting a silly beard …
600 Miles. Another thriller. I think Tim Roth is always good and a little under-rated as an actor. My kind of story, so it should be enjoyable.
The Tribe. Sex scenes! And violence. No, really I buy it for the articles. Well it has won heaps of awards and there is no dialogue.
Spring. A romantic drama with some mayhem. Who could resist that? Also, it is being screened in Newtown.
Victoria. A thriller set in Berlin. We have one spare ticket and I love Berlin, so I may go to this.
Phoenix. A post-WW2 mystery: another genre that I love.
54 (Director’s Cut). The unsanitised homoerotic version. It is being shown in Newtown.
The Invitation. Because Horror. And its being shown in Newtown.
A Second Chance. Yet another thriller, from Denmark. Stars the Kingslayer (aka Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).
“German Angst” (a trio of films: Final Girl, Make a Wish & Alraune). Because sex, death & supernatural forces.
I usually try to write up short reviews, especially if I think the film was worth seeing (or not).
This is yet another beautiful film from the Festival. It is very, very well done. A really beautiful portrayal of the impact on children of relationships, like marriage, that simply do not work or have run their time.
I will usually see anything with Julieanne Moore in it and she is brilliant as the terrible mother as you actually feel sorry for her because she keeps adding humanity to her character that makes it real. Onata Aprile is also brilliant as the six year od Maisie. You feel that she really does know what is going on around her and the film skilfully stops short of her character taking control of it all.
The additional attraction is Alexander Skarsgård and I guess I would go and watch any film with him in it, even if he was just playing a chair. He is no hero in this, just someone who also falls in love with Maisie, as well as Maisie’s father’s new wife.
It’s a must-see film if you enjoy stories like this. No special effects, no big star egos getting in the way, no 3D, no stunts or violence, just very enthralling story-telling. 5/5