Short Take: The Hunter
The Hunter, based on director Julia Leigh‘s novel, shows us an Australia that isn’t like the desert-like outback that we’re not used to. Here we have Tasmania’s vast greenery, hiding himself among trees, silver like rock formations and caves. It’s a visual work although it has more to do with what’s in front of the camera instead of how director Daniel Nettheim frames it. Most of the movie is comprised by these sequences where Willem Dafoe‘s titular character, Martin David has two-week stints searching for a Tasmanian tiger, a species thought of as extinct since the 1930’s, because of a toxin that it’s supposed to have. This forest and the town near it are contentious places. Martin poses as a University professor and in a way he is, the way he walks through the area makes him seem more like a civilized, thorough researcher as opposed to a ‘hunter,’ who sees the animal to feed either his survival or sadism. Outside the forest, his new life is laced with sections of contrivances. He has inadvertently allied himself with the environmentalists with whom he’s living and angering the townsfolk who depend on logging for their economy. One of those environmentalists is his temporary landlady (Frances O’Connor), a woman recovering from a prescription drug addiction. He becomes a de facto partner to her as well as a detective, trying to discover what has happened to her husband who is also missing in the forest. While watching this I’m appreciating Dafoe’s subtle performance, a departure from the crazy roles that he’s known for in mainstream movies. And I understand that Martin is enthusiastically taking on his multiple roles within his new society, but these new-found connections feel like a reach. Not even the climactic ending, great as it is, can make me forget the falsified tensions that came before it. Image via eone. 3/5.
- The Hunter: Willem Dafoe Versus the Tiger of the Mind (seattleweekly.com)
Vimy Week Movie: Gallipoli
War movies use the image of the young man through exaltation. It’s a cinematic method that wouldn’t seem fitting for a genre with a predominantly masculine audience unless we realize that this male-on-male gaze, more dominant in the last three decades’ box office returns, is a fantastical version of the innocence we thought we used to have. Similarly, contemporary filmmaker Peter Weir’s Gallipoli, co-written by David Williamson, starts with the picaresque backyard stories of blonde Archy Hamilton (Mark Lee), who would have otherwise existed if Katharine Hepburn and James Remar had a love child. In his Australian home turf he gets challenged twice, by his uncle training him to be a medal-winning runner and by a cowboy who conventionally thinks that he can ride a horse faster than Archy can run.
The second face is young Mel Gibson’s as a Archy’s tougher and more cynical counterpart Frank, who goes through multiple transformations, job titles, states of dress and occasional undress depending on situations he faces mostly without reluctance.
The two of them meet in a running competition and become unlikely friends, both craving the adventures that bigger cities like Perth and Cairo can offer. Archy treats the war as a way to see the world like his grandfather did, despite his uncle’s protestations of a world that has changed for the most dangerous. Nonetheless they race more than once in the movie, each challenge becoming more fraternal, treating, as the cliché would say, the world like their playground which is more of Archy’s philosophy than Frank’s.
Our first impressions of these epic actions are, again, Archy’s face and the surprising determination from his lean figure that we forget that he didn’t want to wait for the train and made Frank cross the desert to Perth with him, a difficult feat that in which he succeeds effortless. Frank stumbles before Archy does and the latter comes to save him and continues to do so no matter what country they’re in. It’s a character building experience yet both men survive that trial almost unscathed – instead of chapped lips and un-moisturized faces like those in Sergio Leone movies, all they have are dusty clothes. And during the trip he convinces Frank to join up, inadvertently promising women’s admiration and his prolonged friendship.There’s a subtext of class warfare more voiced out by supporting characters and minor plot lines and I even watch out for times when one young man is winning a race over the other but these two major characters disregard that, belonging within this story which is simply about two people who make each other happy.
In other words Archy has the same spirit of his English forebears, that optimistic underestimation that they try to hold on to for as long as they can. Their titular destination isn’t as well-known in their and this part of the world, bearing a name that the characters can hardly pronounce, which surprisingly attracts them to conquer it. They don’t heed warnings of their superiors of Cairo’s liquor and women, as if that’s the only source of their downfall. Weir thankfully allows them to have their fun, accusing a store for overcharging them for Egyptian knickknacks and hiring local prostitutes, bearing this philosophy that they should do these things if they die the next day. Both runners race again to the pyramids. Ironically, Weir sees Egypt as Australia’s twin country, both being arid locales. Because of the heat he outfits his characters with light pastel colours and later with uniform shorts, looking more like boy scouts than military men.
Being one of Weir’s earlier work it’s easy to see his signature, more of an epic movie and a more colourful tribute to David Lean thanks to Russell Boyd’s cinematography. Instead of choosing to portray destruction, Weir is more concerned more about the myth of invincibility. His depiction of the desert or the sea his glossy yet mostly survivable for the men of our past. Even when he gets to the movie’s perfunctory ‘waste of war’ section, he directs his actors with care, playing off Lee’s smiles with Gibson’s blossoming expressiveness, one of the only directors in memory who doesn’t satirize and instead, lets complexity shine through a mask of optimism, which is a mask we can live with. Image via horroria.
Hunchback of Notre Dame ’86
Mom came home with a DVD of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Not the Disney one, the Charles Laughton one nor the silent one. Turns out it’s from a Australian company that released the movie in 1986 and the guy who does the voice for Quasimodo is this Canadian guy who has a lot of acting work in Australia. His Quasimodo sounds like Laughton too. I like the shaded-in quality of the colour, which isn’t the way animation does colour today. The colours that dominate the movie are mostly brown and gray, depicting a Paris gritty like every Medieval European city, centuries before it became fashionable. And the way they coloured the bell is amazing.
This is my first time seeing a full adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel. There’s Quasimodo and his damsel of distress Esmeralda, fighting against the mob who judge them for their appearances. Oh, and where all the male leads have to do is talk funny and people think they’re great, Angela Punch McGregor has the difficult task of playing Esmeralda, and she fails. Her tone doesn’t change whether in distress or not. She doesn’t even sound convincingly in distress when needed.
James Mason: Age of Consent
Powell made “Age of Consent” in his later years and it seems like he’s trying to make his aesthetic more “groovy.” Instead of the manicured beauty of “The Red Shoes,” “Age of Consent” has a documentarian’s approach, finding beauty in accidents. I found the shot of animals frolicking in vegetated areas having the same spirit as the cherry blossom shots in “Black Narcissus,” that latter of which I only have a vague recollection of. Imagine “Age of Consent” as a movie directed by Sister Ruth, with a primal, natural approach. Yet I wonder what I would be thinking if I didn’t know who the director was.
In a way Age of Consent goes within the same thread as the “Narcissus” or “The Red Shoes” where a person of power goes into another land and has a complex relationship with the ones he’s technically subjugating.
James Mason and Helen Mirren are thus entwined within this creepy rendition of Pygmalion and Galatea, just like any good Pygmalion narrative. If they were the stars of “My Fair Lady,” that would have been a better film. A bland Australian painter (Mason) finds his muse, Cora (Mirren) when he goes back home to an unpopulated beach. Mason has his most mentally balanced roles in this film, while Mirren, at the top of her game is at her most beautiful while straddling the boundary of classy and trashy. Mirren will again tap into both around a decade later in “Caligula,” and after that, almost never again.
Despite of what I said about Mirren, better writing could have helped her character. In one moment she’s the perfect muse, even giving artistic suggestions to Mason, in another she’s a catatonic child who wants romance from a guy she met just weeks ago. There also should have been more direct protestation against their relationship. Having Cora’s alcoholic, abusive grandmother as the only one pointing out how sketchy this relationship is just feels a little inconsistent.