Films I loved in January 2018

30 January 2018
Sweet Country

Natassia Gorey Furber as Lizzie and Hamilton Morris as Sam in Sweet Country

Sweet Country confirms yet again that Warwick Thornton is one of Australia’s most important filmmakers. Steeped in Australia’s brutal colonialist past and evoking other contemporary classics such as The Proposition and The Tracker, Sweet Country continually defies and undermines genre expectations with its masterful command of film style and its confronting tale of racism and injustice.

I, Tonya

Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in I, Tonya

I, Tonya touches on many themes – including living in the media spotlight, competitive sport and class in American – but at its core it is film about abuse, resilience and obsession. The filmmakers skilfully manage the shifting tones and the often outrageous details in Tonya Harding’s story; oscillating between dark uncomfortable humour and moments where the tragic human face behind the sensationalism is revealed.

The Shape of Water

Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito in The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro’s best film in a decade, The Shape of Water is wonderful fantasy-horror-romance film that provides a new variation on one of my favourite tropes: the misunderstood monster. Reminding me of both Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton at their best, this is still distinctively a del Toro film where the horror, grief and beauty of humanity is expressed through a dark fantastic tale of love and desire.

Faces Places

JR and Agnès Varda in Faces Places

Faces Places is one of the end results of a glorious collaboration between iconic French filmmaker Agnès Varda and photographer/muralist JR. Following the pair as they create giant portraits of people they meet by chance in regional France, this sweet, moving, funny and playful film is an exploration of friendship, the artist process, personal identity and embracing the new.

Brawl in Cell Block 99

Vince Vaughn as Bradley Thomas in Brawl in Cell Block 99

I’m still not sure if Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a nightmarish right wing nationalist fantasy or a brutal condemnation of the nihilism and toxic masculinity sweeping the USA under Trump. Either way, this ultra-violent descent into hell where a brooding self-righteous man fights his way through the prison system to protect his wife and unborn child, is a breath-taking visceral spectacle of shattered bones that I couldn’t take my eyes off.

Thomas Caldwell, 2018

Film review – Samson and Delilah (2009)

5 May 2009
Delilah (Marissa Gibson) and Nana (Mitjili Gibson)

Delilah (Marissa Gibson) and Nana (Mitjili Gibson)

You won’t be alone if you come out of Samson and Delilah in a dream-like state, as the mesmerising power of this new Australian film is overwhelming. Once you come back to your senses you may find yourself becoming suddenly aware that such a film is long overdue. Cinematic representations of contemporary Indigenous Australians are extremely rare, yet alone representations of the communities living in abject poverty in central and northern Australia. However, Samson and Delilah is not a didactic, social-realist issue film with an axe to grind, but a skilfully crafted teen romance that is as beautiful as it is confronting. Set in an isolated community in the Australian desert, Samson and Delilah is about the growing understated love between two Indigenous Australian teenagers. While Delilah looks after her ill grandmother, Samson spends his days sniffing petrol, begging and generally being a nuisance. They have little in common but after both becoming victims of violence they team up, leave their community and head to Alice Springs to fend for themselves.

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Warwick Thornton and Kath Shelper interview (Samson and Delilah)

2 May 2009

On Tuesday 10 March 2009 I interviewed writer/director Warwick Thornton and producer Kath Shelper in the JOY 94.9 studios in Melbourne. The pair had just begun promoting Samson and Delilah, a film that has since generated an enormous amount of interest and was recently selected to screen in Official Selection at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

Listen to the interview:

Writer/Director Warwick Thornton

Writer/Director Warwick Thornton

Thomas Caldwell: Samson and Delilah is being described as a love story and yet it is not exactly what audiences expect when they hear “love story”.

Warwick Thornton: It’s an Indigenous story from Central Australia. What’s the best way to see a film about teenagers living in an Aboriginal community than through love? Because with love there are no barriers, there are no walls, it’s not black and white, it’s not male or female. Love works absolutely across the board. It’s soul rather than issues. As far as getting a film about the kids in Alice Springs out there to a wider audience, I think love is the best place to set it.

Thomas Caldwell: Is that where you are from originally? Alice Springs?

Warwick Thornton: Alice Springs born and bred and I live there still today.

Thomas Caldwell: And the film was obviously shot on location.

Warwick Thornton: Yep.

Thomas Caldwell: I can’t imagine how else you would get those incredible visuals.

Warwick Thornton: Yeah, we went to LA and the whole thing was done in a studio –

Thomas Caldwell: – in a massive postproduction house. If you look closely Nicholas Cage is in there somewhere.

Warwick Thornton: He has a cameo as Gonzo.


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