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A confronting, but important, film
I've read "Spleen's" review of this film on this site and think that to counterbalance his review, I should say some good words about this film. I don't feel that it is irresponsible to make a film about a real-life violent person, although done in certain ways it could be. I think the valuable function of this film is that it holds a mirror up to Australian society and serves to highlight the role violence plays in social interaction. Where the film works is in showing down and out criminals and junkies for the type of people that they really are - like the heroin-addicted traitor Jimmy and the drug-dealing Neville. It's true the film is extremely difficult to watch at times - especially the ears bit - but it is also evocative and really brings home the futility of crime. It also works well as a document of Australia in the 1980s - a society on the make where everything was new and developing but people were far more mono-cultural and intolerant. I think the film is worth watching - not likeable but stirring.
Lucky Jim (2003)
Could do with a different leading man
Unlike other reviewers, I haven't read the Kingsley Amis book that provides the basis for this movie. Therefore, I can't comment on whether Tompkinson fits the character drawn in the book. However, I would say that what I felt was a major weakness of this movie is that I couldn't find myself empathising with Tompkinson's character - I didn't want him to get the girl or keep his job, because he didn't come across as someone you wished well. His character was not particularly likeable - especially in the scene where he was drunk at the professor's house, where he came accross as obnoxious. His speech was more painful that funny to watch, though that may have been the point. I think a lead actor slightly less wooden may have created more empathy. Helen McCrory is very good, and Robert Hardy is always good to watch.
Chinese Box (1997)
Much better than many people say.
I don't know why, but people on imdb and elsewhere have been very critical of this film. Personally, as someone living in Hong Kong, I think it is both a well made and important film. At the end, the analogy of Gong Li's character starting again, as Hong Kong is starting again, worked well. I think perhaps the only drawback is Maggie Cheung's character, as it seems a little pointless. However, I like nearly everything Jeremy Irons is in - he is really one of the world's best actors. His characters are always people that I can somehow empathise with - they're always very believable and he really carries the film's themes. The idea of setting the film in the six months leading up to Hong Kong's July 1, 1997 handover works well. As Irons' character dies, so does British sovereignty - the Union Jack goes down, the last Governor cries, Gong Li shakes off her long-time sugar daddy. It's a captivating and well-told story of which the Director should be proud, although I read an interview with him a while ago, and he didn't want to talk about the film, since it's upset some people in Hong Kong, I think. This film is certainly better than most rubbish that's made in Hong Kong. I urge you to find a copy and see it.
Killing Time (1998)
Not as bad as other reviewers have said
I saw this on cable TV in Australia and I actually quite enjoyed it. I tended to think it was slightly tongue in cheek. The cop (Craig Fairbrass) arranges for this hit woman to kill someone for him, but just in case he gets found out, he hires a bunch of amateurs to make a hit on the hit woman. Hilarity doesn't quite ensue, but it was very watchable, although mainly for 11pm on a weeknight when you've got a day off the next day. Worth seeing but don't go out of your way.
Holy Smoke (1999)
It takes an Australian to hate this film
I saw this at the cinema here in Hong Kong and what a waste of money it was. As I say, it takes an Australian to hate this film, which I am. The reasons? 1 - There was absolutely no need to set the film in the outback, this was most likely a US studio idiot's decision, made no doubt to make it fit an Australian stereotype. 2 - Why did Kate Winslet's brother have to be gay? This appeared to just be another gratuitous case of The Piano meets Priscilla Queen of the Desert, which added nothing to the plot. 3 - Why did the Keitel and Winslet have to end up lovers? This was at odds with the professionalism of Keitel's character initially in the film. 4 - Why did Winslet's character's mother have to be such a moronic suburbanite? She was a complete caricature - drawing one-dimensional characters detracts from the message of the film.
All in all, I think this was a very shoddy piece of work which merely showed that Campion had caved in to US money interests and had been forced to produce barely watchable colour-by-numbers dross. Avoid like the plague.
The Pillow Book (1996)
A feast for the eyes
This is a beautiful movie visually, but you need to keep concentrating on what is happening. Don't ask why too much with this - the effect of actions is reason enough to take them. Vivan Wu is very good, as is Ewan McGregor, in a different role for him. It reminds you also of what are some of the best things about Japan, and what are some of the worst things about men. Well worth buying the DVD and watching over and over.
Blind Justice (1988)
Would be worth finding
I watched this TV series around 10-12 years ago on TV in Australia, and would really like to watch it again. It was an excellent drama about a small firm of lawyers or barristers in London. It showed up the dark side of British justice and highlighted it's shortcomings - judges indifferent to mercy, political interference and the extent to which people can get as good a defence as they're willing to pay for. There were two episodes which stick in the memory - one was about a man dealing with guilt of his child molestation. This wasn't overly smypathetic to him - it simply told it how it was - that he was incredibly ashamed of himself for the terrible thing he had done. The other was an episode where a group of Irish republicans are basically framed on a charge of conspiracy to blow up a government building. Their leader put it the right way - he was getting imprisoned for thinking something in his head. It's a shame this doesn't appear to be available on video or DVD.
8 ½ Women (1999)
Not Greenaway's best by a long way
I am a big fan of Peter Greenaway movies - I respect the fact that his films are exercises in intellect and visual art, and he can take cinema to a higher plane. However, this movie is simply too difficult too watch. Father/son incest - initiated by the son - is just too disgusting a topic for even the most broadminded and dispassionate. Not that that one scene particularly dominates the movie. What dominates the movie is the pointlessness of why this new widower and his son get eight women (and a half) to share their mansion in Switzerland so that can all have emotionless sex, then eventually the women all start to leave and the leads are killed off. It's not so much silly as annoying -there must be some point to it all. Perhaps Greenaway will tell everyone one day. Stick to watching Draughtman's Contract, The Cook and Belly of an Architect.
A Greenaway film you can understand
I love Greenaway films, and I think this is nearly the best of them, and I think his most commercially successful as well. It involves a gangster played by the marvellous Michael Gambon and is set in the 5-star restaurant he owns. His wife, Helen Mirren, is a kept woman who clearly is suffering through her life. Then she sees a man in the restaurant, and they become lovers inside the restaurant itself. The rest, I'll leave to your imagination. The music and cinematography and costumes and visual effects in this film are magnificent. It is simply beauiful to watch and superbly written as well, with much witty dialogue. I would say this is an absolute must see- but maybe not for very young children or the puritanical.