Wednesday, 17 September 2014

FILM REVIEW: JODOROWSKY'S DUNE



Walt Disney Studios Films/Buena Vista

Who knew a documentary about a film that never was could be so entertaining? Even more so, the visionary director with such ambition and passion? That director is Chilean Alejandro Jodorowsky and his passion project that would never be was a big screen adaptation of the Frank Herbert sci-fi tome, Dune.

A surrealist who began his career in the theatre, Jodorowsky enjoyed critical and commercial success as a filmmaker with two films, El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973). This brought him to the attention of French producer Michel Seydoux, who offered to make a movie -- any movie - with the director. Jodorowsky's choice? Dune, the infamous 'almost-making of' which is detailed in Frank Pavich's doco.

Jodorowsky's not exactly sure why he chose Dune since he, and most everyone who became involved in the project, had not read Herbert's seminal novel. But after Stanley Kubrick's 2001, and before George Lucas's Star Wars, Jodorowsky planned (or rather dreamt) of making a film that would expand the audience's mind; producing the effect of an LSD trip sans acid.

Scouring the world for his creative team of "spiritual warriors", Jodorowsky convinced artists and designers like Moebius, Dan O'Bannon, Chris Foss and H.R. Giger to pack up and move to Paris to work on his dream project. He also courted some impressive and diverse names for his cast: David Carradine, Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali, and Orson Welles; the director going to great lengths to secure the latter two.

Most of this is recounted by Jodorowsky himself who, at age 85, is as energetic and enthusiastic as a man more than half his age. There are also talking head interviews with those involved, including Seydoux, Foss and Giger, and glimpses of the storyboards and animation -- beautiful, brilliant, bizarre -- which were the blueprint for the filmmaker's vision.

After a couple of years and with everything ready to go, Jodorowsky and Seydoux took their project to Hollywood; shopping the project -- in a bound book of sketches and panels, from first frame to last -- to every studio. And although met with positive responses, each studio baulked at greenlighting Dune. There is some contention as to whether this was because the budget for such an ambitious film would be too high (by 1970s standards), or that studio heads felt Jodorowsky was too much of a risk. But that's where that film, if not the dream, died.

Dune was eventually made in 1984. Directed by David Lynch and featuring a cast that didn't boast any of Jodorowsky's eclectic choices, it was made on a budget of $40 million and grossed $30m in the States. The film wasn't a huge success -- but has gained cult status in the intervening decades -- and Jodorowsky expresses his delight in witnessing just how terrible the film is.

Of course, there is no admission from anyone interviewed in the doco that the film as envisioned by Jodorowsky would have fared much better. (All signs point to Jodorowsky's Dune being a big fat turkey.) On a positive, some of the creative team would go on to be heavily involved in another seminal sci-fi film, Ridley Scott's Alien.

The greatest film never made? Probably not. But we could do with a few more visionaries like Alejandro Jodorowsky in cinema: filmmakers with passion and "spirit" who dare to dream big. Of course, like an author needs a good editor, a producer with a supportive yet firm hand is required to ensure the dream eventually becomes a reality.

Monday, 15 September 2014

FILM REVIEW: THE INFINITE MAN



Infinite Releasing

Love isn't perfect. And it never will be, no matter how much you plan or how hard you try. And try. And try. And try. It's a lesson that's learnt too late by the protagonist of The Infinite Man, writer-director Hugh Sullivan's trippy, time travel debut feature.

Having planned the perfect anniversary away with his girlfriend right down to the last detail, Dean (John McConville) finds his well laid plans immediately thrown out the window: the motel he and Lana (Hannah Marshall) stayed at the previous year -- close to the beach but seemingly in the middle of nowhere -- is no longer in business.

And not before long, Hannah's ex, Terry (Alex Dimitriades), an ex-Olympic javelin thrower with questionable Greek heritage and an even more questionable grasp on reality, gatecrashes their getaway determined to win Hannah back. And somehow he succeeds? Worst. Anniversary. Ever.

But rather than grieve and move on, Dean refuses to leave the past behind: he's determined to revisit it - and fix it. Somehow Dean fashions a sort of time machine (Sullivan isn't big on explanations) and on the anniversary of that previous anniversary, he invites Hannah back to the rundown motel so they can travel back one year and right the wrongs. What could possibly go wrong?

As multiple Deans and Lanas -- and a Terry or two -- begin to arrive in the middle of nowhere, things become further complicated. Previous events and conversations are viewed from entirely different angles yet even with the advantage of hindsight (or is it foresight?), Dean still can't manage to have events go in his favour. Time is either linear or circular depending on your school of thought, but the human heart is unpredictable and human error almost always inevitable.

The second Australian film this year to play with time travel (after the recent mind-bender, Predestination), The Infinite Man does so more inventively and far more comically. But while the film will invite comparisons to both Groundhog Day and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it has neither the laughs of the former nor the emotional resonance of the latter.

Still all three performances in The Infinite Man are good, particularly McConville's, even if one finds it hard to root for a hero who is such a loser (and a tad creepy). Nor does Marshall's Lana give any real indication as to why two men would be so obsessed with her. But the heart wants what it wants, even if Hugh Sullivan's film is very much an intellectual rather than emotional exercise.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

MOVIE TIX GIVEAWAY: SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR



Co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller reunite to bring Miller's visually stunning Sin City graphic novels back to the screen in SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR. Eva Green stars as Ava, a temptress who enlists Dwight McCarthy (Brolin) in a bid to escape her ex-husband. Joseph Gordon Levitt plays Johnny, a mysterious gambler set on taking down his sworn enemy in a high stakes game of life and death. Weaving together two of Miller's classic stories with new tales, the town's most hard boiled citizens cross paths with some of its more notorious inhabitants. Newcomers Juno Temple and Jeremy Piven join the all-star cast including Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson, Jessica Alba, and Jaime King who will be making their return to SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR.

Thanks to Icon Film Distribution, we have double passes to SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR to be won. Keep an eye on our Twitter feed (@TheLennoXFiles) for your chance to win. (Note: for Australian readers only.)

Only at the movies September 18.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

FILM REVIEW: BOYHOOD



Universal Pictures

Richard Linklater would appear to be a filmmaker preoccupied with time. In his Before trilogy, he followed a couple -- Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) -- over the course of 20 years; revisiting them every nine years to see where they've been, where they are, and where they're headed.

That series culminated in 2013's Before Midnight -- and a tour de force performance by Delpy -- and was an extremely satisfying filmic journey and arguably one of the best trilogies in cinema.

And now in an even bolder cinema experiment, writer-director Linklater has set out to capture a life on film: following young Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age six to 18, from boyhood to his first day of college. The ambitious conceit being that Mason isn't played by three different actors, as would happen in a typical coming of age film, but the one kid; captured on film every year for 12 years: Linklater and his cast gathering for a few days (39 in total) a year, every year over the time period.

Mason (and Coltrane, who has just turned 20) literally grows up before our eyes. There are no title cards to tell us what year it is (the film begins in 2000) or how old Mason is, but the ebb and flow of time is evident in the changing haircuts, his increasing height and his thinning out as Mason sheds his puppy fat and grows into a slim, long-limbed adolescent.

But it's not just Mason's journey we follow. His mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette), who raises him and his older sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director's daughter), is integral to the story, not just as the primary caregiver (she's separated from their dad, Mason Snr., Ethan Hawke) but as a woman trying to better herself (returning to college) and in turn provide a better life for her kids.

That involves some less than perfect marriages, for even someone studying, and eventually teaching psychology can repeat the same mistakes, over and over. But to err is human, and Boyhood is as much a coming of age story as it is a testament to single motherhood.

Essentially about nothing and everything, the magic of Linklater's experiment is just how much we are invested in these peoples' lives. Not just Mason's but his mum's (Arquette is the film's MVP), his dad's (Hawke, effortlessly impressive), sister and friends. People come and go as Mason and his family move homes, towns, and eventually away from each other.

That's life, and its milestones, big and small, are captured in all their banality without any fanfare or concocted melodrama. It may not require its 165-minute run time but your patience will be rewarded: you won't begrudge a second spent in the company of this family and in this boy's life.