By Glenn Dunks
May 21, 2013
There’s a wide world of cinema out there, and Quickflix’s Glenn Dunks is on the ground in New York City bringing you the titles that will soon be seen in Australian cinemas, and eventually available on home entertainment.
What does I do once I’ve returned from a film festival on the other side of the country where I got to judge the prestigious FIPRESCI prize from a selection of world cinema titles? Why, I just keep on going to the movies is what! There’s never a shortage of supply here in New York, that’s for sure. Last weekend alone I managed to catch Baz Luhrmann’s hip-hop reinvention of The Great Gatsby at The Ziegfeld (one of the last remaining single screen movie palaces), watched Noah Baumbach’s black and white ode to female friendship Frances Ha on a chilly Lower East Side rooftop, and saw Terence Nance’s experimental blend of fiction, documentary, and animation, An Overestimation of Her Beauty, at the beautifully modern Lincoln Center. Eclectic? Yes.
Greetings from Tim Buckley: Billed as a semi-biopic about Jeff Buckley, whose sole album Grace remains a pinnacle of the 1990s music scene, Daniel Algrant’s film suffers from acute cinematic bipolar disorder. So unsure of who it wants to be about (Jeff, or his dad Tim?), but also entirely oblivious to its strengths, the feature ultimately flounders. There aren’t even any Jeff Buckley songs on the soundtrack!
Gossip Girl’s Penn Badgley stars as Jeff in his pre-Grace days, who agrees to perform at a memorial concert for the father he barely knew. Badgley is actually a real treat, and his singing sequences show a great range that forgoes all accusations of stunt casting. It’s just a shame the director didn’t know what to do with him, saddled as he is with a rather run-of-the-mill romance with the perky, under-written Imogen Poots. Ben Rosenfield isn’t given much to do either in flashbacks as Tim Buckley, despite these scenes providing the most dramatic depth to be found. Greetings can’t make up its mind, but I can: what a disappointment! (Playing the Sydney Film Festival in June, with a national release on August 1.)
Lords of Salem: After the dire one-two punch Halloween and H2, surely there was nowhere to go but up for rock star-cum-director Rob Zombie. Alas, along comes Lords of Salem to prove me wrong; a flick of such genuine incompetence and lazy regurgitation that it’s hard to fathom what I ever saw in House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects. Zombie’s fifth feature (only his second that isn’t a sequel or remake) is an experience in extravagant dullness. No matter how hard he tries – and boy does he try – he just can’t wring scares out of repetitious tracking shots, naked senior citizen witches, midget men with turkey arms, and Sheri Moon Zombie (the heroine) riding a demonic goat.
Zombie is clearly indulging in his Stanley Kubrick and Roman Polanski fetishes, with references to The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut, and Rosemary’s Baby very evident. What he lacks is the fundamental abilities to turn them into anything more than flat pastiche. The story, such as it is, is a lame-brained attempt at updating witch mythos that starts with potential, but eventually goes in circles; its ridiculous final act a mere nail in its proverbial coffin. There’s nowhere to go but up, right? Oh… (No local release slated at this time.)
What Maisie Knew: The filmmaking team of Scott McGehee and David Siegel have never been able to recapture the complex magic behind The Deep End in 2001. Their adaptation of Henry James’ What Maisie Knew sees the pair wading back into the murky waters of tangled family relationships, yet it ultimately fails to spark outside of the acting showcase of its central cast. McGehee and Siegel are far too pre-occupied with being tasteful, classy, and wrapping everything up in tidy bows that they forget to really explore the messy side of its fractured story of a child trapped in the middle of divorce.
Julianne Moore stars as an aging Shirley Manson-esque rocker chick in a freefalling relationship with the father (Steve Coogan) of her daughter Maisie (sublime 7-year-old newcomer Onata Aprile). The girl soon becomes the pawn in a selfish grudge match, all while her parents’ new relationships splinter into surprising directions. Apart from the fine work of the cast, the longest lasting impression What Maisie Knew makes is that Alexander Skarsgard is just getting prettier. Orderly queue, ladies. (Playing the Sydney Film Festival in June, with a national release on August 22.)