Archive for October, 2009
So after 10 weeks, which seemed to have flow by, the drama classes were to draw to an end with each of us performing our monologues in front of a live audience. I thought I would be really nervous but on the day felt remarkably calm. The week before when we did our last class I was thinking “how the hell am I supposed to do this in front of an audience” but as I said on the day I was feeling ok about it. I had lots to do in the office that day so maybe this helped as I did not really have time to think about it. I had put some time aside in my diary to make sure I reviewed my lines one last time, but unfortunately got caught up in a meeting so never had the chance.
I left work a couple of hours early so I had time to go home shower and “get into character”, unlike some of the mothers on my course I had not really given all that much thought to a costume so had to raid my wardrobe for suitable clothing. My character was a mid-thirties misfit that is a bit of a geek, naturally I was worried about not having enough “boring and geeky clothing” to suitably dress my character, but as it turns out I didn’t struggle… clearly time for my wardrobe to have a makeover.
I got dressed and went round to a friends apartment where a few of us were meeting for a glass of wine (for the nerves), and on arrival was told how “old I looked in costume” , at this stage should I have told them I was actually wearing my own clothes and the glasses I had on were also mine!? One of the other actors was walking around the apartment in character, and the other actor was putting in far more effort than I did in getting ready, I sat on the couch with a glass of wine thinking maybe I should be doing more, and was still strangely calm.
We took a nice pleasant stroll to the theatre (ok community centre) and when we got to the venue our drama teacher was running around like a headless chicken and lots of our fellow actors were stood about practicing their lines in various sates of stress, at this point the atmosphere in the room was palpable, and I got my first flutter of nerves. We had just enough time to do one final run through, no stopping between monologues to talk about how we did. I had been word perfect for the past few weeks so was not unduly worried about having to get my lines right, it was more doing it in front of strangers that worried me.
So off we go, with our collective nerves having gone from death-con 1 to death-con 3, my performance was in the middle of the running order, I listened to each performance with adulation at how well everyone was doing, everyone seemed to have risen the bar a notch. Then it was my turn, I listened for my prompt and took centre stage, and began “Diana, look at me Diana…….”, Oh fuck what’s next? I completely forgot my lines… I fumbled through by simple making it up, the gist of it was there with the odd line being correct but I rewrote the script as I spoke!!!! How the hell did that happen? I had known the words for weeks, where did they go? Now I was nervous as hell, my little heart was pounding as I tried desperately to avoid the pitiful looks from my fellow performers.
I was still stood there in shock when were we were all herded off so that the audience could be let in and we could get ready to come on and give the performance of a lifetime. I went into a dream like state and just kept thinking “what are my lines?” I was drawing a complete blank, could not think how they went, was still trying to conger up my lines when suddenly there I was, centre stage again, light on me audience waiting expectantly…. And out they came, I could hear someone speaking my lines, oh it was me, I was doing it, I was performing, and before I knew it was over… I’d done it and I was as high as a kite on the adrenalin. It worked, it all came together at the last minute and I felt great. The last ten weeks had all been worthwhile for that one moment.
I set out doing this course because I wanted to do something that would challenge me, put me out of my comfort zone, and it did just that and more. I actually enjoyed it. I’m no Laurence Olivier, but I think I did ok, and am now signed up to do the next course….
Filmed in 33 days on a budget of $5 million, this debut film has been described by its director, Duncan Jones, as ‘indie science-fiction’. Thumbing his nose at current sci-fi genre trappings (action, space ships, aliens), he has purposefully returned to the tone of the ‘70s and early ‘80s, seeking to tell a ‘human story in a future environment’ – think Silent Runnings or Blade Runner, not Star Wars.
It is the near future and astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is living on the far side of the moon, approaching the end of a three year contract mining Earth’s primary energy source, Helium-3. Alone on the planet with satellite communication with his family disrupted, his sole source of company is the lunar base’s computer, Gerty, dryly voiced by Kevin Spacey.
Sam’s health starts to deteriorate and he begins to hallucinate, leading to an almost fatal accident in a lunar rover. As he recovers back at the base, his reality is challenged by an enigmatic visitor who looks somewhat familiar.
This curious little film is one that requires patience, but if you are in the right mood for an intriguing conundrum with existential overtones, then step right up. Director Jones poses a big question – if you met in person, would you like yourself? – and is overall successful at engaging his audience throughout a series of mind-bending scenes that are played completely straight instead of for laughs.
Rockwell is onscreen for pretty much the entire running time and impresses in a role that could have been too clever for its own good. Is it just me, or is there something a bit sexy about this strangely likeable actor? He’s alternately grimy and healthy here and doesn’t overdo it with the crazy tics. It’s a brave, potentially exposing performance with no other actors to interact with, and frankly, it’s what makes the film work. Without the goodwill Rockwell engenders, much of the audience would probably be alienated by the detached air that prevails during early scenes – we need a hook to drag us into this film, and he is it.
The screenplay is smart and economical. You’ll need to watch and listen carefully if you don’t want to lose your way, but if you run with this, the latter parts of the film manage to conjure up quite a bit of emotion from what initially seems to be a chilly little brain-teaser. One scene in particular will have you clutching at your pearls as a painful truth is revealed to our protagonist.
The production design is pleasingly old-school. The interior of the space station has the same white chunky décor as the original Alien and the exterior scenes and model-work feel pleasingly retro compared to the CGI vistas we’ve grown accustomed to in recent years. Special effects are used throughout the film, but they are often the invisible kind, as opposed to a look-at-me spectacle. The sound design is effective and the music is just right. There’s a strange tension here, ratcheted up as the film progresses. This is not quite sustained in the final stretch, but it’s still an unnerving experience, leaving the audience feeling distinctly uneasy at times.
To say more would be to reveal too much – part of the fun is found in unravelling the mystery here. And I’m not quite sure that everyone will buy into the central twist. We’re not in Shyamalan territory, but suspension of disbelief is definitely required at times.
So this is by no means the best film you’ll see this year, or even this month, but it is refreshingly different and it does manage to intrigue for most of its 97 minutes.
Reviewed by: The All Knowing I
I love the word titivate a transitive and intransitive verb:
1. To make decorative additions to; spruce.
1. To make oneself smart or spruce.
In recent months, Aussie film pundits have been talking up 2009 as a vintage year for local product. Samson and Delilah, My Year Without Sex, Beautiful Kate – not just high quality, these were home-grown films that punters were actually going to see. The latest addition to the field, Blessed, is a surefire contender for the strongest Australian film of the year, but – here’s the catch – one which may struggle to find its audience.
Directed by Ana Kokkinos, helmer of the highly acclaimed 1998 feature Head On, this film started life as a play in Melbourne – Who’s Afraid of The Working Class? Don’t let the theatrical origins put you off. The screenwriter has done a great job of transferring this story from a dialogue-based medium into a celluloid world where powerful imagery and moments of silence are as impressive and emotional as the gritty script.
It’s deceptively simple. The first half of the film, titled ‘The Children’, follows the different exploits of seven children over the course of 24 hours. We wander with them through various situations, gradually beginning to understand the motives for their behaviour as backgrounds and family ties are revealed.
Midway through, the film switches perspective and we are presented with ‘The Mothers’, seeing the same situations through the eyes of the five mothers of these kids, each with their own story that provides vital context for the viewer.
Each half of the movie stands alone as a portrait of disenfranchised working class families struggling to keep their heads above water – in emotional terms as well as financially. But seen together, the cumulative impact is enormous, creating a hugely moving whole that will resonate strongly with anyone who has experienced complex familial entanglements (that’s all of us, right?).
Performances are terrific. The kids are naturalistic and convincing – equal parts obnoxious and endearing with not a sniff of a stage-school brat among them. Of the mothers, my money is on Frances O’Connor receiving most of the plaudits in her against-type role as a welfare-reliant single mother who neglects her kids, smokes while pregnant and seeks solace in a series of failed relationships with unsuitable men. Deborra-Lee Furness and Miranda Otto also shine, injecting some real warmth into two potentially unsympathetic characters.
Handheld camerawork forces the viewer onto intimate terms with these people and the unglamorous Melbourne locations further contribute to a strong sense of realism.
The score is quite beautiful, reminiscent of Decoder Ring’s Somersault soundtrack and used brilliantly to underpin some of the quietly emotional moments.
Since Head On played at gay film festivals around the globe, SameSame readers won’t be surprised to hear that there is a queer strand to this web of interconnected lives. We aren’t given, and we don’t need, the full background to share the confused isolation of gay teen Arthur, known by his family as Roo.
The scene where he takes part in an amateur porn film might be confronting for some audiences, but it’s an astonishing sequence – depressingly real and ultimately heartbreaking. You’ll just wanted to reach into the screen and rescue this kid.
Okay, so this is not straightforward easy entertainment, but it is soulful and rewarding and easily worth 17 bucks and 112 minutes of your time.
Blessed has a lot to say about ordinary people leading ordinary lives and despite the overwhelming tragedy of the closing section, this is not a misery-fest – there are real moments of warmth and poignancy here, if you look for them.
See it with someone you love – you’ll appreciate a big reassuring hug afterwards.
Reviewed by : The All Knowing I