The biggest hit from this year’s Scandinavian Film Festival makes a welcome return this month. If you missed it then, don’t this time… Finnish director Klaus Haro’s The Fencer is a gorgeous-looking film telling a tragic story of sacrifice and noble courage. Quite understandably – it’s Finland’s entry in the Oscars.
Set in Estonia during its early dark Soviet years, “Comrade Nelis” (Märt Avandi), is a young man with a past he’d rather keep secret from the communist authorities – the fate of many who survived their nation’s Nazi occupation. He’s a haunted and guarded teacher trying to keep a low profile in a remote town. Gradually he’s drawn out of his frosty shell by his love of fencing and the spirit of the students he teaches the decidedly un-working class (very non-PC!) sport to. Eventually he has to make a fateful decision – his students, or himself.
The kids are just delightful, all impossibly blonde and cute, especially cherubic moppet Marta (Liisa Koppel). Production design and cinematography are sensational and stylish inner westies will be blown away by the fashionable facial hair, the retro glasses and the socialist-era decor. Sadly, some may even like the intolerant politics. Here anyone with a non-PC opinion can expect a very long holiday in Siberia!
PG from Nov 24.
Thanks to Palace Films, we have 5 double passes valid for Monday to Friday sessions to give away.
I, Daniel Blake
As Brexiters and Trump voters, the “white working class” are getting a bad rap these days. Add “male” to the term and you’ve got the most unpopular group of people on the planet today. But not to dear old Ken Loach, bless his bleeding lefty heart…
For decades now his films (Poor Cow, Looking For Eric) have celebrated the daily lives of ordinary working people, usually in northern Britain, and yes, usually white, who only have their good hearts, dry humour and humanity as weapons against an exploitative economic system that grinds them down at every turn. His latest is very much in this mould – passionately committed, and both very sad and funny.
It stars comedian Dave Jones as a proudly self-reliant carpenter, out of work due to an injury and forced into battle with his health insurer and the welfare bureaucracy. Along the way he befriends and helps a young single mother (Harley Squires), so down on her luck she’s forced into prostitution. It’s had a fantastic critical response in Britain, picking up five star reviews and a Palme d’Or win at Cannes. It even reduced the right-wing UK Spectator’s reviewer to tears. Please, can we show this to our treasurer? I really want to see ScoMo cry.
CTC from Nov 17.
Thanks to Transmission Films, we have 5 double passes to give away.
Imagine that – an alien invasion movie from Hollywood that doesn’t involve the total demolition of a major North American city! In fact Canadian Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) has made a cerebral, intensely beautiful and intelligently crafted sci-fi thriller – maybe the brainiest in its genre since Blade Runner.
Amy Adams plays the hero, a linguist whose job it is to work out what the aliens are doing parked on twelve strategic bits of prime real estate around the planet. Turns out those silly-looking giant jelly fish/octopuses are quite a lot smarter than us.
M from Nov 10.
20th Japanese Film Festival
Have you noticed that Asian movies are everywhere in Sydney now – except in the Inner West? Ok then, off to George St for the year’s most comprehensive collection of tear-jerking, heart warming, inspiring sometimes creepy and often decidedly strange Japanese cinema. There’s some older favourites (Godzilla), plus a collection eight classic post-war films with free admission.
Some films do require familiarity with Japanese popular culture, but most are quite accessible. And traditional arthouse audiences will be at home with the opening night’s drama, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s After The Storm. Few directors are better at exploring the emotional terrain of divorce-torn families, and his underrated I Wish did get a local release a few years ago. It was one of Ciao’s Picks then…
At Event Cinemas George St from Nov 17 -27.
Info and bookings: japanesefilmfestival.net
* Reviews – Russell Edwards