The Big Issue : Edition 534
FILM 38 THEBIGISSUE7–20APR2017 Adapted from Melanie Joosten’s novel, Cate Shortland’s Berlin Syndrome is brilliant and terrifying. The story is simple and familiar: a young woman backpacking in search of “life experience” finds lust in a foreign city, which leads to danger. Thankfully, the execution is anything but standard fare. Clare (Teresa Palmer) is not the generic female victim that thriller and horror films so often depict – à la Taken (2008) and Hostel (2005), which turn women into devices of plot development and slabs of meat for bloody slaughter. The director of female coming-of-age tales Somersault (2004) and Lore (2012) metaphorically castrates the abusive male protagonist and gives the story completely to Clare. Finally, audiences can watch a thriller without fear of torture porn or explicit rape. Instead of having the suspense ride on what a man might do to a woman, the tension lies in the thought and action of Clare’s responses. A true nailbiter, with a stellar performance from Palmer, this is smart and scary filmmaking, without malice. TARA JUDAH THEIR FINEST In a small German town just after WWI, a young woman (Paula Beer) mourns her dead fiancé, Frantz. She lives modestly with his elderly parents (Ernst Stötzner and Marie Gruber) and, like the walking wounded, they comfort each other with solemn routines. Then, a mysterious French stranger (Pierre Niney) appears with flowers at the graveside. How did he know the soldier on the other side of the trenches? Written and directed by François Ozon (Swimming Pool, 8 Women) and loosely based on Ernst Lubitsch’s 1931 melodrama, Broken Lullaby, Frantz is mostly filmed in lustrous black and white, with colour bleeding into some transcendent moments to suggest how art, music or nature might invigorate the characters. This is a film that seems simple and almost flat at first, but opens up into new and unexpected layers, gradually revealing secrets and lies. Surprising and wise, Frantz of fers satisfyingly complex insights into the nature of grief, love and forgiveness. ROCHELLE SIEMIENOWICZ FRANTZ BERLIN SYNDROME LONG BEFORE THE YouTube supercut, Tracey Moffatt and Gary Hillberg began collaborating with video montages. The memorable mashups they produced are paeans to Hollywood in all its trash and splendour. When I asked Moffatt how the project started, she recalled meeting Hillberg at a party in 1998. “We played a movie quiz, and I met someone who was better than me,” she laughed. What began w ith Lip (1999), which shows black servants giving sass to their white employers set to Aretha Franklin’s ‘Chain of Fools’, has now canvassed such themes as the repulsion and attraction of exoticisation in Other (2009) and the tormented genius’ urge to destroy their creations in Artist (2000). There are eight montage films in total, currently showing as The Full Cut at Blacktown Arts Centre, Sydney, before continuing on a country-wide regional tour. Moffatt started out as a filmmaker, breaking ground with the stunning short Night Cries (1990), a contemporary reworking of 1955’s Jedda, and was the first Indigenous director to make a feature film, beDevil (1993). Both premiered at Cannes. But The Full Cut is Moffatt at her most playful, encapsulating a wicked sense of humour. They splice everything from classics to tele- melodramas, with a keen awareness of both genre and film editing cliches, but what makes them genius is their ability to transcend their trickery. Moffatt and Hillberg understand what makes movies mythic, often finding something human and true beneath the gloss. REBECCA HARKINS-CROSS > Film Editor At the height of the Blitz in WWII London, advertising copywriter Catrin (Gemma Arterton) is tapped on the shoulder by scriptwriter Tom (Sam Claflin) for a potentially war-winning job. Seems the War Office has decided a film is needed to raise British morale, and for once a woman’s perspective should be considered (though still paid less than the chaps). Sent to investigate twin sisters who took their drunken father’s boat to Dunkirk, Catrin finds a family in the crew that turns that story into a film, including charming old ham Ambrose (Bill Nighy). An entertaining mix of let’s-put-on-a - show teamwork, movie-making jokes and wartime romance – will Catrin’s marriage to a crippled artist (Jack Huston) survive her workplace bond with Tom? – Their Finest is too smart for war movie cliches even as it revels in them. Thankfully this consistently funny film never gets too meta; while the old-timey movie production is often hilarious and the romance solidly predictable, in the end both turn out to be surprisingly moving. ANTHONY MORRIS CINEMA RELEASE STREAMING THE FULL CUT GOES TO A PINEAPPLE CANNERY.