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Tag Archives: cultural cringe

Lapland Odyssey

Introducing his film at the Canberra International Film Festival, director Dome Karukoski talked about the Finnish cultural cringe, and my first thought was that this would relate well in Australia, where our national identity is also commonly defined by our deficits. Lapland Odyssey is a hilarious romp through a landscape that’s about as foreign to Australia as it is possible to get, but its characters and humour will be as familiar to audiences of Australian films as sunshine and barbecues.

Karukoski is suitably cynical of the saleability of a comedy that starts with five suicides, but this black opening sets the tone perfectly for the hapless Janne. In his all-night search for the digibox he needs to secure his marriage, Janne leads his two hapless friends into Finnish Lapland wilderness amongst blizzard conditions, Russian tourists, the Aurora Borealis, animatronic deer and not a few boobs.

If I have to watch a formula film, the road movie is always my favourite. The formula, at its best, lends itself to a strong and consistent plot arc, excellent characterisation and endless laughs. Lapland Odyssey has all these features and is a model of the genre.

It puts me in mind especially of what I think is one of Australia’s best comedies: Lucky Miles. Also a road movie, it is set in our most extreme landscape and finds humour in the imperfections of our national character. Lapland Odyssey does much the same in a Finnish context, and is also funny as hell!

You may have missed your chance to see this as part of the 2011 Canberra International Film Festival; for a taste, the trailer is here.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 4 November 2011 in Film, Finnish Film

 

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Four Flat Whites in Italy

I suspect this may be the first time I’ve seen a New Zealand play on an Australian stage. It’s a novel irony to hear actors we know to be Australian making disparaging remarks about Australia in a New Zealand accent!

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 

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The Sweetest Thing

Growing organically from its warm minimal set in the cozy downstairs theatre at Belvoir, The Sweetest Thing is a sad and funny story about the intersection between love and family. Playwright Verity Laughton weaves a complex tale that focuses on the emotional journey of its characters very strongly thanks to being relieved of the burden of chronology. Despite a dynamic plot arc and potentially confusing time changes, the story of Sarah, played by the wonderful Diana Glenn shines through with excellent clarity.

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 12 November 2010 in Arts Radar, Australian Stage, B Sharp, Belvoir

 

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Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom poses that age-old question about how many blood spatters are too many. I suspect that the creators were attempting to use blood spatters as a visual motif, as most of the spatters were of a similar consistency, evenly spread across a contrasting surface, but ultimately they just echoed the naff nature of the film generally.

There was a lot of potential here. After a slow start, the film did engage, and it did manage to take me to that serendipitous point at which you have to know what happens next, and the screening environment just melts away. A magnificent cast with a wealth of experience is admirably lead by newcomer James Frecheville. His treatment of the morose character he landed is remarkably compelling, and I think the cast is this film’s saving grace.

But overall, this is a truly disappointing film; not because it represents nothing of value, but because it really had a lot of potential that it didn’t live up to. An engaging story and some of Australia’s best actors are let down by a slow treatment in the editing suite and mundane cinematography. This one’s definitely worthy of a remake, perhaps even with the same cast, but it needs a more compelling treatment by the creative team.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 28 May 2010 in cultural cringe, Porchlight Films

 

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I Love You Too

I was one of the privileged hundreds to get free tickets to Limelight Cinemas‘ preview of I Love You Too, with writer Peter Helliar in attendance. After some inane and worthless chatter from morning radio hosts Scotty and Nige, who ‘interviewed’ the rather more intelligent Peter Helliar, this unfortunate train-wreck of a film was underway. Perhaps ‘train-wreck’ is a little harsh; I think this film is more like a series of minor derailments, causing some mayhem on the commute to great Australian cinema.

The plot, although a little cliche, is nonetheless engaging, following the story of Jim, a commitment-phobic man in his early thirties who is threatened with losing his girlfriend. It suffers, however, from that age-old scourge of the comedian-writer; being interspersed with one-liners, which may be hilarious at the time, but seriously interrupt the progression of the plot. It is a problem that may have been resolved, had the writer been an unknown, but perhaps there wasn’t a dramaturge available who could confront Peter Helliar with the awful truth that some of these one-liners should have been ditched to protect the integrity of the narrative arc.

Admirable performances from Brendan Cowell, Yvonne Strahovski, Peter Dinklage and even Peter Helliar himself (who struggled to keep a straight face at times) couldn’t save the compromised script.

Australian film went through a period of producing only one genre of film. It was a cross between comedy and drama that worked very well for the period we were in, but our industry has matured, and our films are now more complex, influenced by a wider range of international cinema, and reflecting a more diverse Australia. I Love You Too does none of this. It harks back to a naive and self-centred Australia from sometime in the 1990s. It has some redeeming qualities, most notably its engaging plot, but it just doesn’t come together as a unified work, and is sorely disappointing.

 

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The World’s Fastest Indian

The Kiwis are an amazing bunch of creatives, and are certainly punching above their weight as far as film is concerned. The World’s Fastest Indian is a magnificently-crafted piece of cinema that showcases the country’s talent and attention to detail perfectly.

It’s the true story of Bert Munro from Invercargill, who has spent decades carefully modifying his 1920s Indian motorcycle, and in 1967 travels to Bonneville, Utah to run it on the salt flats in the annual Speed Week competition.

Anthony Hopkins gives a splendid performance with a surprisingly appropriate accent, not only for the character’s New Zealand origin but also his age and personality. And the precision of his performance is simply a footnote to the carefully composed script that really demonstrates the characteristic strengths of the New Zealand mind.

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 30 January 2010 in 2929 Productions, Film, New Zealand Film Commission

 

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Lucky Miles

If I told you I had watched a film based on trues stories about boat people entering Australia on the northwest coast, you’d probably yawn. I expected something more like a docudrama when I sat down to watch Lucky Miles, but was pleasantly surprised to encounter a comic drama set in the outback.

There is no sense of that superficial ocker-ness to this film, just a great story, impeccably filmed, and filled with dry, cackle-till-my-throat-hurts humour. Kenneth Moraleda gives an excellent performance as something of a straightman who balances the sardonic humour of the rest of the characters. He provides that balance between comedy and drama that Australian film makers have perfected.

This was a lucky find: I never heard about Lucky Miles when it was in cinema release, but wow! How do the greatest films always seem to miss out on media coverage? It’s a crying shame; find the DVD!

 

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