7:00 PM, 11th April, 2015
Fairly typical of Woody Allen’s products of late. A somewhat whimsical and precisely choreographed, ‘genteel’ tale of romance and comedy, and charlatanism.
Set on the French Riviera and in Provence and beautifully photographed, it is true to its (late 1920s) era. An entertaining and enjoyable, if rather pedestrian piece of light frippery. It is a kind of mix of Penn and Teller’s exposés and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, as master magician Stanley (Firth) who performs under the stage pseudonym of a Chinese magician named Wei Ling Soo, is asked to examine and potentially unmask Sophie (Stone), a young ‘flapper’ and professed spiritualist who has the occupants of a well-to-do country house enthralled – and is endangering the remains of the family fortune. Confident and arrogantly assuming that he will have no problems in exposing the fake trickery, a rather pompous Stanley launches forth.
Romance and light comedy ensues. Not necessarily Woody’s finest movie, nonetheless to me Woody can do no wrong (but some might disagree).
8:47 PM, 11th April, 2015
Bitter tales of narcissistic Hollywood types have been done to death. Not only recently; Tinseltown has had an ironic fascination with itself for as long as the place has existed as a collective noun. Enter Maps to the Stars, a film ostensibly about a young lady named Agatha (Canberra’s own Wasikowska) who comes to Hollywood to work for second generation starlet Havana Segrand (Moore in one of her finest performances).
Havana’s star is waning and she spends her days trying to mount a biopic about her mother, a star who died at the peak of her fame. Contrasting Havana’s story is that of teen star Benjie Weiss (Evan Bird), who is fresh out of rehab and ready to lose the plot once more, and his parents; mother/manager Christina (Olivia Williams) and aloof, self-help guru father Stafford (Cusack). When Agatha hires a limo driven by actor-looking-for-a-break Jerome (Pattinson, a seeming wink to his previous collaboration with Cronenberg in Cosmopolis) to visit the burnt remains of the Weiss family’s old home, these disparate tales of horrible people converge in an unpredictable and disturbing fashion.
This is David Cronenberg’s movie about loving your family. Yeah, that sort of loving. Buried underneath a veneer of commentary on celebrity and self-obsession. Maps to the Stars flawlessly blends the bizarre yet fluid narrative of his weird sci-fi horror stuff – such as Videodrome, also screening this semester – with the sexual weirdness of Crash. It all makes for a ride as fascinating as it is disturbing. This is Cronenberg at his best.