Dead On: The Life and Times of George Romero

11 08 2008

Dead On: The Life and Times of George Romero ( MIFF, IMDB ) is a solid documentary about the remarkable film maker George Romero.

It’s hard to review documentaries as the subject matter biases the whole thing. George Romero is an interesting topic for a documentary and this film does a good job of describing him, his films and his impact. Most of the documentary is interviews with George Romero. Other film folk are also interviewed, those who worked with Romero like Ed Harris and a heap of other people who enjoyed his movies talking about what they like including John Waters who is particularly good.

The actual screening was annoying. The film was shifted from the Forum to Greater Union. But unfortunately they didn’t get the projection right so the names of all the interviewees would be very hard to read. Also, the guy snoring next to me didn’t help.

The only think about the film that irked was that the opening sequence was too long. Someone had gotten carried away. But other than that, it was a well done documentary about an interesting film character and the genre he created.

3.5 / 5


Cargo 200

10 08 2008

Cargo 200 ( MIFF, IMDB ) is the bleakest, darkest film I’ve seen in a long time and possibly ever. It’s a well made film but the subject matter is so dark that it is hard to stomach. It’s like watching Dostoyevsky crossed with Silence of the Lambs and where there is a undercurrent of political commentary.

The film tells the story of a drunken night and its aftermath. An academic, amusingly a professor of Scientific atheism is visiting his brother and mother. His car breaks down on the way to see his mother and he stops at an illegal vodka distillery. His brother’s daughter’s friend slightly later hooks up with a shady young man who drives her to the same spot. The academic has left by then, but has an idea of the place. After this, things become really, really horrible.

A policeman then terribly abuses the huge authority that the government has in a totalitarian society. The ‘cargo 200’ of the title also comes into play. This was the title given to the coffins of Soviet soldiers that were coming back from Afghanistan.

The film shows the dull grey awfulness of an industrial town under communist rule. The walls are always cracking, there is smoke everywhere, the streets are potholed. It looks dire. The music is deliberately loud and abrasive, it is optimistic Soviet pop in contrast to the dire reality of underground anger of music of the period.  Power comes from the government, you have to be in the police, a senior administrator or in the army to have any standing. There is something of the future mentioned in the film, the shady young man is a black marketeer and at the end of the film he is seen talking to son of the academic about how to make more money. It gives the feeling of what would come after the collapse of the USSR.

This was a good film, but it’s a good film because it present horrible events, based on a true story apparently, in a way that shows another side to how awful Soviet Russia was. It’s hard to recommend it though because it is just so dark.


In Bruges

9 08 2008

In Bruges ( MIFF, IMDB ) is a really strong film. Martin McDonagh wrote and directed the film. He’s a wunderkind and is a successful playwright.

The film is about two assassins, Ken and Ray, who go to Bruge after Ken has had a job and botched it. They have been told to lie low. Ken is young and a bit of hothead. Bruges bores him. Ray finds it enchanting.

And then adventures ensue.

It’s hard to say more about the film without removing some of the amusement of seeing all the things that happen in it. Suffice to say this is the best film I’ve seen at MIFF and the one I’d recommend to anyone who enjoyed Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Snatch or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

The dialogue is crisp, the plot is clever and amusing and the shooting of the film is well done. This is a really excellent film.

4.5 / 5

With Gilbert and George

7 08 2008

With Gilbert and George ( IMDB, MIFF ) is a fine documentary about the artists Gilbert and George ( wikipedia ). The documentary was made over about 20 years by Julian Cole who was originally a model for the pair. He also attended the screening.

The two are great documentary material. They look distinctive and are interesting and amusing. Apparently they had a reputation for being hard to interview. This may be because their work was strongly attacked for a long time by critics.

However, the pair have changed and have made their mark. They have won the Turner Prize, a fact somewhat oddly elided from the documentary and they have had a huge exhibition at the Tate.

The two men are really funny as they discuss how they make their art from turds and where they are going to put the brightly colored, often naked, often blasphemous figures into their art. The film goes from their living sculpture exhibits in the 60s to their images that they began to create in the 70s and on and that they are now best known for.

It’s a great documentary about two of the contemporary art world’s leading lights.


Jack’s Wife

6 08 2008

Jack’s Wife ( MIFF, IMDB ) which is also known as Hungry Wives or Season of the Witch is a George Romero film without zombies.

It’s about Jan, a woman whose daughter has grown up and is becoming independent and whose husband is more interested in his business than her. She lives in a nice house but has become bored and unhappy. We see her talking to her psychiatrist and discussing her life. She becomes involved with a friend of her daughter’s and also starts talking to a friend of hers who is a witch.

The film has a lot of dream sequences that feature men in masks and grating electronic music. There is quite a bit of walking through the forests of Pennsylvania as in other Romero films and in The Blair Witch Project.

To spoil the film, it’s left deliberately ambiguous as to whether her witchcraft is working or if she has just gone nuts. It’s a nice way to deal with the subject.

The film however really doesn’t work which is a pity, because the idea is clever and the way it does seem realistic is cool. But the film isn’t well enough shot isn’t well edited and the lead actress is not that good. Perhaps someone will remake the film, the material is there.


West 32nd

5 08 2008

West 32nd ( MIFF , IMDB ) is a crime thriller film set in the Korean community in NYC. It’s about John, a Korean American lawyer who is trying to further his career. He manages to get a case where a young Korean kid has been accussed of murder.

He meets the family of the boy, including his sister, played by Grace Park who is best known from Battlestar Galactica. He also meets Mike, a young gang member. He and Mike become uneasy friends.

The film is interesting in that it looks at Korean culture in the US. The successful lawyer John is contrasted against the gang member Mike and his cronies who have adopted much of African American culture in their mannerisms. Mike doesn’t speak Korean, so he’s not really one of the ethnic Koreans. Mike is shown in a salon where young women accompany men in drinking and singing Karaoke where he doesn’t fit in.

The film has a good premise and it’s not bad, but far from great. Despite being billed as a thriller the film suffers from not being particularly exciting.The acting isn’t bad, the story is OK, but the film fails to exploit the territory that it enters.

2.5 / 5

Of Time and the City

4 08 2008

Of Time and the City ( IMDB, MIFF ) is a documentary, montage and personal narrative about the post war years in Liverpool. Terrence Davies, director of Distant Voices, Still lives and other films combines documentary footage and his own narrative to tell a personal tale about Liverpool.

The directory from Liverpool (does this make him a Scousese? ) talks about growing up at the time. He emphasizes the bleak nature of the way many people live in Liverpool. He talks about the small pleasures that seem so little compared to our wealth now.

There is a lot of footage of the housing of the poor initially in small brick terraces and then in the push into larger tower blocks. He shows the tower blocks when they were built and then as they declined in the late 1960s and beyond.

He also shows a lot of footage of church and catholic rites that clearly matters a great deal to him and talks briefly about his homosexuality and how that was repressed by the church and society.

The film makes you realise how much better things have become and how wealthy Australians are.

3.5 / 5