REVIEWS


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Weighing evil in the wake of nuns' war terror

2 Comments
16 May 2017 | Tim Kroenert

'Faith is 24 hours of doubt and one minute of hope,' says one of the nuns at a 1945 Polish convent. Soon Red Cross doctor and avowed atheist Mathilde learns the details of the predicament: of the terror wrought at the convent by Russian soldiers at the end of the war. Over the coming weeks, she oversees the health of those who fell pregnant during the intrusion. Gradually she wins their trust and, in the process, has her mind opened to a brand of faith that, in such circumstances, can be anything but blind.


Ghosts of grief in modern, secular Paris

1 Comment
18 April 2017 | Tim Kroenert

Cynical about the prospect of any kind of afterlife, Maureen nonetheless spends time holed up in an old Parisian mansion, trying to commune with the spirit of her dead twin brother. She is employed by a difficult and demanding fashion model as a personal shopper; literally, she spends her paid working days buying clothes, shoes and jewellery for someone else. The juxtaposition of the pure materialistic focus of this work, and her doubt-riven incursions into the spiritual realm, is intriguing.


Life before suicide

1 Comment
29 March 2017 | Tim Kroenert

A film about a lonely widower who repeatedly attempts suicide seems like a grim proposition. Ove has suffered one too many blows in his life, the latest being the loss of his job. He finds himself at a loose end, if not purposeless. He is the self-appointed overseer of the gated community where he has lived for years, enforcing protocols of behaviour among his terrorised neighbours. Now he's had enough, and decides to join his beloved wife Sonja, in eternity. But dying doesn't come easily to Ove.


The time-traveller's strife

21 March 2017 | Tim Kroenert

All stories that deal with time travel will come up against paradoxes. Generally the success of the story will come down to how capably these paradoxes are dealt with, and how consistently with the story's internal logic. Otto Bloom turns on the concept of time as an extension of the physical dimensions. If time is as tangible as physical space, then all events in time are occurring simultaneously. That we perceive time as moving in a particular direction is a feature of our human consciousness.


Penetrating the cult of secrecy and abuse

1 Comment
14 March 2017 | Tim Kroenert

The power of Jones' film comes from bringing us the faces and voices of the victims in the present day; to hear in their words and see in their manner the ongoing trauma of those experiences. It is a timely and illuminating exploration of the impacts of child abuse, arriving during a period when many of our Australian institutions, religious and otherwise, have been facing the probing spotlight of a royal commission for behaviour that was at times equally as secretive, and traumatic.


Interracial romance's antidote to cultural appropriation

2 Comments
07 March 2017 | Tim Kroenert

Mildred would later say of Frank that 'he always took care of me'. Yet this telling of the story shows a more mutual exchange of strength and support than such a statement might imply. The Lovings' entanglement with the state of Virginia would ultimately lead to constitutional change in favour of interracial marriage, and Loving portrays Ruth as the main agent of the battle. At a time when cultural appropriation has become much talked about, this film by a white filmmaker shows a different way.


Faith is torture in Scorsese's Silence

6 Comments
21 February 2017 | Tim Kroenert

It is the story of two 17th century Portuguese Jesuits who travel to Japan to locate their former mentor, who is said to have renounced his faith, and to spread Catholicism. They find the local Christian populations have been driven underground, under threat of torture and execution. The lesson they come to learn against this fraught backdrop is that the living out of religious faith and the strengths and limitations of ordinary humanity cannot be considered in isolation from each other.


Space race saga's Black history through White eyes

1 Comment
13 February 2017 | Tim Kroenert

There's a gag about sitting in the back of the bus, the realities of segregation dismissed with a giggle; references to university sit-ins and firebombings come via the eyes of a cartoonishly earnest character. Meanwhile the White characters are either the object of contrived sympathy, or too thinly drawn to invoke genuine menace. Accusations of 'cultural appropriation' might be uncharitable, but the short shrift given to the real, continuing hardships of Black experience raises questions about objectives and authenticity.


Fences and co. fight back against Oscars racial bias

1 Comment
07 February 2017 | Tim Kroenert

The Academy, it seems, has listened. After the #whiteoscars furore of past years, three of this year's Oscar nominees for Best Picture, Moonlight, Fences, and Hidden Figures, are films with predominantly (if not entirely) Black casts, and focused on the experiences of Black characters. Cast and crewmembers from all three have been nominated in various categories. To be fair, all three films would have demanded attention, with or without the recent controversy around awards season racial bias.


Race, addiction and sexuality by moonlight

2 Comments
31 January 2017 | Tim Kroenert

The chaos embedded in these characters' world is made clear through physical symbols - Chiron flees from bullies into an abandoned drug den, where he finds a used syringe and holds it up to the light like a talisman - and by the camera, which trails and circles the characters, or locks onto their faces, a conduit for their grief or desperation or lust or rage or joy. Bursts of actual violence or dramatic confrontation are rare. Where they occur it is their emotional content that is most confronting.


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