beDevil (1993)

Following contemporary women-authored stories set amongst communities within white Australia, like Celia (1989) and The Last Days of Chez Nous (1992), it took artist and photographer Tracey Moffatt to become the first woman of Aboriginal background to make a feature film, one distinctive and idiosyncratic enough that she never did make another. I saw it at Bristol’s Cinema Rediscovered festival, a fantastic long weekend of cinema which is modelled after Il Cinema Ritrovato, and takes place at the end of July each year.


An extraordinarily stylish one-of-a-kind film (not least because director Tracey Moffatt never made another feature), it has a heightened unreality that recalls not just studio-bound 50s Hollywood hothouse melodramas but arthouse experiments like Rohmer’s Perceval le Gallois (1978) or Fassbinder’s Querelle (1982). The three ghost stories share not just this visual stylisation but the way they leap between past and present with ease, for these are not just stories, but collective memories or perhaps cultural touchstones, channelling a sort of Australian mythology that (for a change) isn’t rooted just in white men ‘going bush’, but a wide variety of ethnic identities, not least Moffatt’s Aboriginal roots. It’s quite possible the range of reference points is too specific for me (a non-Australian) to pick up on much of it, but it’s a heady watch all the same, a knowing wink at the audience without the suffocating irony and cynicism that too many directors of the 90s considered cool. Maybe that’s why it never made much of a splash at the time, but it’s ripe (in every sense) for rediscovery.

Film posterCREDITS
Director/Writer Tracey Moffatt; Cinematographer Geoff Burton; Starring Tracey Moffatt, Lex Marinos; Length 90 minutes.
Seen at Watershed, Bristol, Saturday 28 July 2018.

Criterion Sunday 196: Hiroshima mon amour (1959)

When people think about pretentious French movies, I think this is somehow the Platonic ideal they’re thinking about, an ur-text of reflective voiceover, alienated detachment and pain, the possibility (and impossibility perhaps) of cultural rapprochement following imperialist aggression, opening as it does with the conjoining of bodies under the ash of nuclear fallout. It is, as has been far more eloquently expressed by commentators far more engaged than I am, about the complex interplay of memory and desire, but it is also aggressively modernist in its construction and the way it engages with the viewer, so unlikely to be for all tastes. I first watched it 20 years ago, and I’ll watch it in another 20, and I can only hope to catch up with what it’s doing by then.


FILM REVIEW: Criterion Collection
Director Alain Resnais; Writer Marguerite Duras; Cinematographers Michio Takahashi 高橋通夫 and Sacha Vierny; Starring Emmanuelle Riva, Eiji Okada 岡田英次; Length 90 minutes.

Seen at a friend’s home (DVD), London, Sunday 11 February 2018 (and earlier on VHS at home, Wellington, December 1997).

Film Memories: May 1999

One of the side effects of being a big fan of making lists is that I know what films I went to, on what date, where, and who with, going back almost half my life. I recently unearthed a diary listing what films I went to when I was 20 years old, so I thought I would present this with comments on what I can remember about the films in question. I should mention, my memory is terrible: just trying to write up films I went to see a month ago is proving difficult enough, which is part of the reason I wanted to get a blog to record my impressions, so that I wouldn’t lose them in a few years’ time.

Here’s the list of films I went to see last month, 14 years ago, with my memories of them.

My favourite film of May 1999 is Wes Anderson's Rushmore.
My favourite film of May 1999 is Wes Anderson’s Rushmore.

Continue reading “Film Memories: May 1999”

Film Memories: March 1998

Here’s the introduction from my post last month where I looked back at February 1997: One of the side effects of being a big fan of making lists is that I know what films I went to, on what date, where, and who with, going back almost half my life. I recently unearthed a diary listing what films I went to when I was 20 years old, so I thought I would present this with comments on what I can remember about the films in question. I should mention, my memory is terrible: just trying to write up films I went to see a month ago is proving difficult enough, which is part of the reason I wanted to get a blog to record my impressions, so that I wouldn’t lose them in a few years’ time.

Here’s the list of films I went to see last month, 15 years ago, with my memories of them.

Continue reading “Film Memories: March 1998”

Film Memories: February 1997

One of the side effects of being a big fan of making lists is that I know what films I went to, on what date, where, and who with, going back almost half my life. I recently unearthed a diary listing what films I went to when I was 20 years old, so I thought I would present this with comments on what I can remember about the films in question. I should mention, my memory is terrible: just trying to write up films I went to see a month ago is proving difficult enough, which is part of the reason I wanted to get a blog to record my impressions, so that I wouldn’t lose them in a few years’ time. So here’s what I saw last month 16 years ago.

Continue reading “Film Memories: February 1997”