Posts tagged ‘cinema’

8 December, 2012

Bukowski and Waits

(Charles Bukowski read by Tom Waits)

As an Australian who has lived in London but not in North America, I am only now getting to know the work of Charles Bukowski, David Foster Wallace and a host of other great American writers, poets and essayists.

Tom Waits, on the other hand, needs no introduction.

This is a lovely little film of some of Charles Bukowski’s wisdom, read by the inimitable Mr Waits.

8 February, 2012

Happy belated 80th birthday, François!

T’was M.Truffaut’s 80th birthday on the 6th (I’m a little late to the party).

Google celebrated with their increasingly ubiquitous (but no less appreciated) Google doodles.  Three different ones for M. Truffaut, in fact, celebrating his films Jules et Jim, Le Dernier Métro and the wonderful Les Quatre Cents Coups.

I’ll celebrate this weekend by revisiting Les Quatre Cents Coups.

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20 November, 2011


A new film from Studio Ghibli – preferably one in which director Hayao Miyazaki has a hand in (he did not direct Arietty but wrote the screenplay) – is always an event of significance for me.

Thanks to the Embassy of Japan and the Arc Cinema, the inhabitants of the Bush Capital were able to catch Arietty  at the 2011 Japanese Film Festival, ahead of it 2012 commercial Australian release.

On a rainy Sunday afternoon, I popped along to the sold out screening, gleeful at the prospect of losing myself in another of Miyazaki’s lovely, whimsical tales.

Based loosely on Mary Norton’s The Borrowers, Arietty is the story of a family of ‘little people’ who get by in this world by keeping out of the sight of ‘human beans’ and ‘borrowing’ things misplaced or lost by humans.

The eponymous heroine is a fourteen year old ‘borrower’ who lives with her parents in the foundations of a large, rambling Edwardian house.  Things come unstuck when Sho, a sickly boy who comes to stay in the house, sees her and, in a great movie tradition, an unlikely friendship begins.

I adore Miyazaki’s films for his plucky, pacifist heroines (and heroes).  I love his subtle portrayal of the grander emotions such as duty, honour, guilt, sadness, love and the more pedestrian ones such as boredom and frustration. Miyazaki favours characters which are grey, rather black or white, and is particularly adept in showing their spiritual and emotional development .  Though his characters may negotiate war, natural disasters and people out to do them (and their friends and families) harm, they are not merely people of action. Miyazaki seems to delight in showing moments where the characters take time out to simply enjoy a quiet moment, or to reflect on things.

Arietty ticks all these boxes. If I do have a complaint, it is that this movie touches on grander themes such as environmental destruction and extinction of species, but doesn’t explore these issues any further. The film also feels like the first of a series, rather than a complete, self-contained story. As such, Arietty doesn’t have the grand sweeping scale of Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind or Princess Mononoke but it’s always a pleasure to disappear for an afternoon into one of Miyazaki’s worlds.

Oh, and the hand-drawn backgrounds are always beautiful.

(French movie poster taken from here)

(Stills taken from the official UK trailer from here)

23 January, 2011

The Cool and the Pulped

I love January in Australia. Christmas and the New Year might be over, but it’s still summer. The days are long, and hot and spending it in a pool or in a cinema are the only real options to escape the heat. The muted sounds of cricket and/or the tennis on the television provide a comforting drone in the background. And when the evening creeps up, accompanied by the cool change you’ve been waiting for all day, you joyfully throw open the windows to let in the breeze.  The warm temperature, that summery, holiday vibe has even permeated my office.  There are still plenty of things to do but they’re getting done in a slightly more relaxed manner.

A few random photos from the weekend.  Literally, a basketful of apricots from our tree which caused an intense six hour jam-making session on the part of a housemate.  The resulting apricot jam.  The film Gainsbourg.  Apricots, nectarines, muesli and Greek yoghurt for breakfast.

Oh, and I’m a little obsessed with Serge Gainsbourg now.  Beirut’s rendition of La Javanaise is particularly fab.

28 August, 2010


Canberra might be a world away from London, but it has Australia’s National Film and Sound Archives and any number of embassies, consulates etc. keen to showcase their culture. The NFSA are currently running, in conjunction with the Alliance Française, an Alain Delon retrospective of sorts, and I’m taking full advantage of it.

Il n’ya pas de plus profonde solitude que celle du samourai si ce n’est celle d’un tigre dans la jungle… peut être
– Le Bushido

(There is no greater solitude than the one of a samurai, except perhaps that of a tiger in a jungle – Bushido: The Way of the Warrior)

Le Samouraï by Jean-Pierre Melville opens with the above quote, made up by the director himself.  Apt because the eponymous character, played by the felinely handsome Alain Delon (they shure don’t make ’em like that anymore!) is profoundly alone. Only a bird keeps him company as he goes about the business of hired assassin. His alibi (played by Delon’s real-life wife Nathalie Delon) is in love with him, a nightclub pianist (below) bewitches him, the police are out to get him. But even in the midst of all this action, in the midst of a bustling metropolis like Paris, he is, at the core of it, truly and wholly alone. As we all are, in truth. But in le Samouraï‘s case, his work (and hyper-cool) make it impossible to make any sort of connection.

It’s a stunning film and Jean-Pierre Melville’s mastery of stillness broken by the startling bursts of action, and silence, interrupted only by a few carefully chosen words, is absolute. And the film looks fabulous too. The characters are extremely stylish, as only actors in a Nouvelle Vague film can be. And the action (or lack thereof) takes place against a backdrop of dark modish interiors and the grey blue buildings of 1960s Paris.

Le Samouraï‘s apartment. The distressed, eggshell blue walls, the birdcage, the shabby chicness of it all – the look is still going strong fifty years later.

Moroccan-born actor Cathy Rosier is the nightclub pianist with fabulous outfits. My favourites: the shimmering silver dress and a golden threaded jacket and the perfectly cut leopard-print fur coat. All simple. All chic.

*pronounced in the most Gallic of Gallic accents.

(Images are taken from the film)

20 June, 2010

That Haircut

One summer, during university, I cut my hair very, very short. I had just seen Godard’s À Bout De Souffle and I was inspired. And it was easy to manage, barely needed any shampoo or conditioner and I felt a hundred times lighter being freed from my thick, heavy hair.

One day, while I was straightening Loony Tunes t-shirts during a shift at what I can only describe as a horrifically awful gift store (a part-time job) I listened as a mother and her young son exchange words, and then money. Son wanted a t-shirt and Mum was going to buy one for him. “Go give the young gentleman the money,” she told him, giving him a note. He took it and then approached me, a little hesitantly.

I felt myself go a little red, but not as red as Mum when she realised that well – despite my short hair – I was very much female.

“Oh, sorry,” she said hurriedly.

I kept the haircut for awhile but eventually let it grow out. More for the fact that it needed constant, regular upkeep and the income from my casual university jobs didn’t stretch to that.

In any case, here are some images showcasing Ms Seberg’s immutable gamine cool and the haircut which inspired mine.

(The first four from here, the fourth from here and the last from here)

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8 June, 2010

Les Quatre Cents Coups

Les Quatre Cents Coups (trans. The Four Hundred Blows or ‘Raising Hell’) tells of a Parisian youth’s slow spiral into juvenile crime during the 1950s. Directed by one of the Nouvelle Vague‘s leading auteurs François Truffaut, it is one of the movement’s finest films.

I first saw it last year, during its fiftieth anniversary re-release. Truffaut’s freewheeling, Nouvelle Vague-style narrative – an unflinching, clinical examination of the French state school and criminal justice systems interspersed with beautiful, hilarious, poignant moments and its shocking dénouement – remains as fresh, modern and powerful as it did on its initial release in 1959.

It’s also a beautiful homage to La Ville-Lumière of the 1950s.

4 May, 2010

Song o’the Week #18

Zebra by Beach House.

As an interesting aside, the vocalist Victoria Legrand is the niece of Michel Legrand, the French-American composer who provided the soundtrack for two of my favourite films, Cléo de 5 à 7 and Les Parapluies de Cherbourg.

I love connections like that.

Movie posters from here and here.

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29 April, 2010

Ibraheem Youssef

These are rather ace.

More from Canadian designer Ibraheem Youssef here.

30 March, 2010

Les Fragments d’Antonin

Sometimes, synchronicity kicks in and you stumble across a film which ensnares you, even through the fug of a foreign language (French, in this case) and other Net-related distractions.

So it was when sometime last week, I left the television on after the late news on SBS, Australia’s multicultural and multilingual broadcaster, while otherwise distracted.  A sombre, misty credit sequence began and a male voice noted the many people he had killed, and asked: “how long does it take to make a man and how long does it take to destroy him?”

So far, so serial killer – possibly in a World War One context, I thought as the bodies of dead soldiers in familiar uniforms and well-known landscapes filled the screen, and paid the film Les Fragments d’Antonin no more attention.  But I have always found the French language pleasant listening and left the movie on in the background.

But before long, I was captivated by the story of Antonin Verset, a messenger pigeon carrier during the War and by 1919, a catatonic patient at a hospital located in the French countryside, and the efforts of Professor Labrousse to rehabilitate him.  First time writer and director Gabriel Le Boumin does not overlook the battlefield, or the rupture to society’s basic fabric, but his focus is on the savage mental and emotional toll wreaked by the Great War.  Antonin’s rehabilitation is recounted step-by-step, and the causes of his trauma are slowly relayed in surreal flashbacks.

There are no forces of good or evil in this film.  It is simply a world gone mad – an observation made wearily by the steely glass-eyed captain whom Antonin meets during his travels.  And in this mad, mad world, each person must find their own way to survive physically, mentally and emotionally.  Most do not.  Like other characters, Madelaine, a nurse, who is more or less physically and mentally intact, has her own deep, emotional wounds to deal with.

The cinematography is gorgeous; the flashbacks set during the War are recounted in cold greys and blues while the post-War rehabilitation scenes are imbued with warm gold and terracotta tones.

Heartfelt, beautifully and unsentimentally told.  Unsurprisingly, it was nominated for a César in 2007.

Photos from here.