Mike Nichols is as close to a William Wyler as the New Hollywood (post-1967) gives us. His movies are both impeccable and emotionally taut. They feature the very best production values and impressive acting. And they take chances carefully, which isn't actually an oxymoron. Carrie Fisher writes dialogue like nobody else in show business and she outdoes herself with this semi-biopic about her life growing up in the biz with her actress Mom, Debbie Reynolds.
Luke Skywalker is not the only member of the Star Wars gang with parent issues. Carrie Fisher, the actress who played Princess Leia, channeled hers into a novel that became another winning Mike Nichols domestic comedy, "Postcards From The Edge."
Fisher's "emotionally autobiographical" clever Hollywood-dream-factory send-up of a script gives MacLaine and Streep plenty of great lines that pop off the screen like bombs. "Instant gratification takes too long," Suzanne whines. "I know you don't take my dreams seriously, even when I predicted your kidney stones," crows Mom.
Meryl Streep, cast against type in a comedic role plays Suzanne Vale, an actress struggling with drug addiction and a difficult relationship with her alcoholic has-been singer/actress mother played by Shirley McClaine. The film starts with Vale, making a film, high as a kite and making a mess of her scenes, then she overdoses and is put into rehab.
Following her rehab stint, she is forced to live with her mother in order to be able to keep her job on a new film. Her mother tells her that she is making all the wrong career moves, stays up all night waiting for to come home from a date and generally otherwise makes her life very difficult. I won't give away anymore of the plot than that. Streep and McClaine are amazing here, and suprisingly, Streep can sing, very well. Also especially good is Gene Hackman in a small supporting role and a cameo by Rob Reiner.
"Postcards" is most effective when it focuses on the paradox of how these people perform so well in the limelight and so clumsily outside of it. "We're designed more for public than for private," is how Suzanne puts it at one point. Some comments here complain of too many musical numbers, but of course entertaining is what these women live for. Watching Suzanne watch her mother sing "I'm Still Here", realizing for an instant that a throwaway line in the song is really a cry of pain over Suzanne's way of life, and finally responding, silently but in a nakedly emotional way, communicates all you need to know about how much these two people love each other, beneath their banter and blame.
Such subtle touches allow Streep, MacLaine, and Nichols to keep the longer dialogues crisp and funny. You may have a hard time understanding the lives these people lead, but you will enjoy their company.
It's visually stunning, realistic, has great characters, action, suspense (and how!) and even humour. That's right, even in WW1 soldiers found time to crack the odd joke.
Oliver Woodward (Brendan Cowell) is a late inductee into the campaign on the front who must prove himself to his fellow Aussies who have been in the trenches for some time. It's literally hell on earth. But these soldiers belong to a special unit. The tunnelers. Their job, to subvert the enemy from beneath. They are soon sent to one of the great Fronts of WW1 in Belgium, to an area known Hill 60 which is currently dominated by the Germans. There is a plan in place, but can they pull it off? It's claustrophobic. It's tense. There is constant shelling. The guns shots come from nowhere. You can understand how many were driven mad by it and why PTSD was then called Shell Shock.
This film works on so many levels. A brilliant taut script by David Roach based on the actual diaries of Woodward who shows us that there is more at stake here than gaining mere inches of ground. There is the tenacity of man. The blunt simple-mindedness which is required to get the job done, but which can also blind some men from the truth. War is stupid. It's a game. And yet they are not merely soldiers. We get an insight into their lives, predominately through Woodward himself, which juxtaposes how horrific war is. We get an idea of the German position too. Often they are faceless enemies but here we get a little insight into the men on the other side of the muddy walls.
It's a suspenseful film, directed with real flair and mastery of the medium, by actor Jeremy Sims, (whose first film, Last Train to Freo was rather an languid affair). Once again he works within an tight budget, (like all Australian films, except for that unmentionable one), but he puts you into the mud and the water and the darkness underground.
Brendan Cowell looks rather too old for the part (he' s supposed to be 25). But really he plays Woodward to perfection. The supporting cast is also first class. Steve Le Marquand shows his depth and is totally believable. It's welcoming to see John Stanton back. We don't see him enough in Australian film. He has a strong presence and that amazing voice. He is an underused icon. I barely recognized Jacqueline McKenzie, who looks ten years younger than she is. She is always a pleasure to watch. Her on screen daughter played by Bella Heathcote is a real talent too though Aden Young's brief odd appearance seemed unconvincing. The tunnelers themselves, all work together to bring a on-screen camaraderie and presence. Credit must go to Sims and Roach for this collective working dynamic. Also noted are the chillingly effective 5.1 sound effects and a classy score by legendary composer Cezary Skubiszewski.
See the trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYOpCJCl5L4
This movie opens on a most impressive intro. Flames and smoke come up from a furnace, and as the titles jump on and off the screen, we hear a harrowing music theme by Maurice Jarre (the melody is close to Dr Zhivago's, but played with a frantic rhythm). The English/French title, "The Damned ", is far more appropriate than the Italian/German one which is "The Fall of the Gods". As the intro suggests, we are entering an inferno, and the characters we are going to see are the sort who will not hesitate sell out their soul to the devil in exchange of power and glory. "The Damned" is certainly a horrific movie, but as artfully made as can be.
In this film director Luchino Visconti forced his sweaty, hysterical visuals into a rigid classical structure. The set-up is pure clockwork: one betrayal leading to another; one devastation opening up an even deeper abyss for another perpetrator.
Basically, Visconti is taking on Macbeth here. Dirk Bogarde plays the Macbeth figure, an up-and-coming industrialist who's sleeping with an evil Grande Dame of Nazi finance, Sophie von Essenbeck (Ingrid Thulin, having an absolute ball), heiress to a munitions conglomerate. (The von Essenbecks are loosely based on the Krupps, but don't take this as any sort of literal historiography.) Thulin eggs on her lover Bogarde to commit a few politic murders and a frame-up or two so that he can take over the family business, with herself as the power behind the throne. But she doesn't count on the pathology of her grown son from a previous marriage, the hideous little monster Martin (Helmut Berger, acting terribly but it sort of fits in an Udo Kier-sort of way). Martin is your stereotypical Nazi: a closet paedophile, a drug addict, a transvestite, a momma's-boy, a you-name-it. The scenes involving his seduction of a 9- or 10-year-old girl who lives in a shabby apartment complex are some of the most disturbing that you'll ever see in cinema
The plot is so Byzantine that it defeats a brief summary. Let it suffice to say that Visconti manages to cram his complicated story neatly within the historical context of the period between the Reichstag Fire and the Night of the Long Knives, thereby maintaining a nutty observance of Classical Unities. All the while, he films the thing in Hammer-horror Pop colour, with intense contrast between shadow and light. The first scene, by the way, is a shot of the blasting furnaces of the munitions factory -- a fitting intro to the horrendous vision of depravity which soon follows. Everyone's sweating in this movie: drops of perspiration trickle down temples, and beads of sweat glisten on upper lips throughout, as if the flames of Hell are licking up at the soles of their collective feet. *The Damned* is a feverish masterpiece. You'll never forget it.
"The Damned" was the first screenwork to deal with Nazism so openly, and as such, it abruptly broke a long-lasting taboo. This film has been a trend-setter in many ways, and opened the path to a series of others that hinted to Nazism as darkly erotic and fascinating, a trend that some called "Nazi sexploitation of the seventies". True, the influence of "the Damned" can be traced in many vile under-products, but also in leading works such as "Cabaret" or "The Night Porter". A reaction to that trend came with the ensuing wave of Holocaust movies, which made a point in reminding that Nazism was above all sheerly destructive.
See the trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFRZZ2k2iGk
A very enjoyable night, with Trivia contests and cartoons, as well as our feature.
Next film will be very different: Visconti's The Damned,
When first released, this film suffered from comparisons with “The Wizard of Oz”, some people feeling it was a "rip-off" of the Wizard of Oz which was released the year before because of similarities in the story lines (young girl goes on a magical journey only to find her happiness is truly in her own backyard). It was the 12 year old Shirley’s last casting as a child. She was never as successful in films as a teenager or young woman, retiring at the age of 22. As an adult, she entered politics and became a diplomat, serving as United States Ambassador to Ghana and later to Czechoslovakia, and as Chief of Protocol of the United States.
Shirley Temple plays Mytyl, a young girl who is not happy because her family is poor. She believes that if she were rich and had the luxuries that she has been denied in her life she will be happy. Her parents love her and try to teach her to realize how blessed she is with her loving family, but Mytyl doesn't believe it's enough. Without giving the movie completely away she "dreams" that she goes to a magical land in search for the bluebird of happiness. If she can find the bluebird, then she will finally be happy.
There is a true dream like quality to the film, and the set decorations are lavish and beautiful. Shirley is supported by a wonderful supporting cast such as Spring Byington, who plays her mother, Gale Sondergaard, (as Tylette, the cat) has fun with a typical Sondergaard role, mistress of evil, and Nigel Bruce (usually remembered as Dr. Watson in the Sherlock Holmes movies opposite Basil Rathbone) as Mr. Luxury.
Other cast members that do an excellent job with their material: wonderful old Jessie Ralph as the fairy; Eddie Collins, often very funny as the Dog; Laura Hope Crews, giving a ripe performances as Mrs. Luxury; and Cecilia Loftus & Al Shean as Shirley's lonely, dead grandparents. Some of the minor casting is also very effective, witness Thurston Hall as Father Time, Edwin Maxwell as Old Man Oak & Sterling Holloway, on screen only a few seconds as Wild Plum. That's Scotty Beckett, from the old Our Gang Comedies, as one of the Unborn Boys.
This movie tries to teach that true happiness is not found through riches and things, but found right at home, with the people we love. Both movies are beautiful and teach their lessons in their own magical way. If you have never seen this movie, and especially if you are a Shirley Temple fan, then you must see this movie.
The use of Technicolor is very eye-appealing, although its initial entry into the film lacks the dramatic punch produced in OZ. The forest firestorm sequence is very well done & the Unborn Children scenes have genuine pathos.
The film was nominated for two Academy Awards (Special Effects and Color Cinematography), nominations which were well deserved. The spectacular forest fire is very effective, as are the special effects in general. Summing up, while the whole is not as great as its parts, this is a lavishly photographed film definitely worth viewing.
Not a masterpiece, by any means, but there is much to appreciate and it should not be neglected. As this is a relatively short film we will also be showing a couple of old style Cartoons , a longer Supper break for some catch- up chat, and a Shirley Temple Trivia Competition.
Get a taste of the movie at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pfoXNyHNAw
FEBRUARY 26 THE BLUE BIRD USA 1940
Mytyl and her brother Tyltyl, a woodchopper's children, are led by the Fairy Berylune on a magical trip through the past, present, and future to locate the Blue Bird of Happiness. With Shirley Temple, Spring Byington and Nigel Bruce.
MARCH 26 THE DAMNED ITALY 1969
A Jacobean tragedy of a film about the dramatic collapse of a wealthy, industrialist/Junker family set against the rise of the Third Reich. Directed by Luchino Visconti and starring Dirk Bogarde, Ingrid Thulin, Helmut Griem
APRIL 30 BENEATH HILL 60 AUSTRALIA 2010
The extraordinary true story of Oliver Woodward, a Digger(literally). It's 1916 and Woodward must tear himself from his new young love to go to the mud and carnage of the Western Front. Deep beneath the German lines. Woodward and his secret platoon of tunnellers fight to defend a leaking, labyrinthine tunnel system packed with enough high explosives to change the course of the War.
MAY 28 THE GREAT GATSBY USA 1974
A Midwesterner becomes fascinated with his nouveau riche neighbor, who obsesses over his lost love. This is the second of three films based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel , with screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.
JUNE 25 GOLDEN DOOR ITALY 2006
Originally titled Nuovomondo, and described by one critic as “an ode to migration”, this story is set at the beginning of the 20th century in Sicily. Salvatore, a very poor farmer, and a widower, decides to emigrate to the US with all his family, including his old mother.
JULY 30 THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD USA 1938
A joyous, swashbuckling masterpiece starring Errol Flynn in his athletic prime, with Olivia de Havilland Maid Marian, Basil Rathbone as the dastardly Sir Guy of Gisbourne, Claude Rains as the usurping King John, and directed by Michael Curtiz, music by Erich Korngold. Won 3Oscars
AUGUST 27 HITCHCOCK UK 2012
A love story between influential filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and wife Alma Reville during the filming of Psycho (1960) in 1959. Starring Anthony Perkins and Helen Mirren as the husband and wife team famous for so many memorable films.
SEPTEMBER 24 TSOTSI UK/SOUTH AFRICA 2002
From the novel by Athol Fugard, six days in the violent life of a young Johannesburg gang leader. Our tribute to Nelson Mandela.
OCTOBER 29 THE EDGE OF HEAVEN TURKEY 2007
A Turkish man working in Germany travels to Istanbul to find the daughter of his father's former girlfriend.
NOVEMBER 26 THE SAPPHIRES AUSTRALIA 2012
It's 1968, and four young, talented Australian Aboriginal girls learn about love, friendship and war when their all-girl group The Sapphires are chosen to entertain the US troops in Vietnam.
Now that the State Government's VicNet will no longer host websites for not-for-profit organisations we will be posting all information here.
The old website is currently still visible at http://home.vicnet.net.au/~wfilm/2013Program.html, but I do not know for how much longer. This new website is a work in progress, please check back as it will grow.
Williamstown Film Society
A community of film lovers who gather on the last Wednesday of the month at the