Film review – The Human Resources Manager (2010)

23 May 2011
The Human Resources Manager (Mark Ivanir)

The Human Resources Manager (Mark Ivanir)

When a foreign worker is killed by a suicide bomber in Israel, the large bakery she worked for comes under attack for failing to notice her absence. A bureaucratic bungle (ironically due to an act of compassion) results in accusations of corporate heartlessness and exploitation. To diffuse the growing PR disaster the bakery’s HR manager accompanies his ex-employee’s body back to Romania.

While it takes a while to find its rhythm, The Human Resources Manager evolves into an enjoyable road movie about self-discovery. The various characters accompanying the HR manager during parts of the journey provide comic relief, antagonism, a contrast to his wearied reluctance and even eventually spiritual companionship. Journalistic integrity and corporate ethics are challenged throughout the film, with the dead worker frequently being reduced to an object of political leverage or an administrative burden.

A light drama with some tilts towards droll comedy, The Human Resources Manager is ultimately a very humanist film, offering a commentary on the way modern life has become so regulated and routine. It reveals our potential to form meaningful relationships and discover compassion when circumstances compel us to look beyond our limited worldviews.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 380, 2011

Thomas Caldwell, 2011

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Film review – $9.99 (2008)

5 October 2009
Albert (voiced by Barry Otto) and Angel (voiced by Geoffrey Rush)

Albert (voiced by Barry Otto) and Angel (voiced by Geoffrey Rush)

Based on a series of short stories about the meaning of life by Israeli writer Etgar Keret and featuring silicon puppets brought to life with stop-motion animation, $9.99 is a sort of animated, metaphysical Short Cuts. A homeless-man returns to earth as an angel, a slacker with girlfriend issues hangs out with his three miniature friends, a repossession officer dates a model who has a disturbing fetish and an unemployed 28-year-old discovers the answer to life in a mail-order book. All occurring within the same apartment block, these stories, and a few more, are skilfully weaved together by New York based writer/director Tatia Rosenthal.

$9.99 is an Israeli-Australian co-production so while the impressive local voice cast (including Geoffrey Rush, Anthony LaPaglia and Claudia Karvan) are Australian and while the script has been adapted to suit the Australian vernacular, the look, setting and themes of $9.99 don’t belong to any specific part of the world so are universal in their neutrality. The animation is unfortunately a little ugly, which distracts from the final product, but it does facilitate the blend of Magical Realism, macabre and whimsy that distinguish this curious film.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 338, 2009

© Thomas Caldwell, 2009

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Film review – Waltz with Bashir (2008)

23 September 2008

Waltz with Bashir begins with the arresting image of a pack of savage dogs hurtling through the street, terrifying onlookers. It is an exhilarating and unsettling opening and like the rest of the film to follow, it is completely animated with bold brush strokes that give an almost hallucinogenic quality to what is appearing on screen. This sequence, which is grounded in reality but looks like something straight out of a dream, is a fitting introduction for a film that magnificently blends reality and fiction to become the first ever animated feature documentary.

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