7:30 PM, 2nd September, 2016
Directed by German Werner Herzog (Fitzcarraldo, Aquirre, Wrath of God, Nosferatu the Vampyre), Queen of the Desert is a departure from the genres mostly associated with him. The film is centred on the experiences of the brilliant Gertrude Bell (Kidman) – writer, traveller, political officer, administrator and advisor to governments, spy, archaeologist and Middle East expert, during the early part of her time in the region.
It details Bell’s two ill-fated love affairs: firstly with Baghdad-based junior British diplomat, Henry Cadogan (Franco, sporting a rather strained English accent), and then with Lieutenant Colonel Charles Doughty-Wylie (Lewis, and yes, for fans of “Homeland”, he is English). Franco is the perfect Englishman and Lewis the very model of a WWI British officer, while Nicole does Nicole with her usual style.
While interesting and visually attractive, the movie is disappointing for history buffs and fans of the great Lawrence of Arabia in that it barely touches on what made Bell justly famous – her advisor role to the Allied forces during the World War I Mid-East campaigns – and has tantalisingly few scenes with Lawrence (Pattinson) himself. I was wondering when the real story would begin when the film ended.
Magnificently photographed by Peter Zeitlinger, the scenes of Bell’s desert sojourns meeting local potentates rival those of John Seale’s cinematography on The English Patient and, of course, Freddie Young’s on Lawrence.
9:48 PM, 2nd September, 2016
This Australian crime thriller from director Ivan Sen was chosen for the opening night of this year’s Sydney Film Festival. Sen also wrote, shot, edited and scored the film, which is a loose sequel to his previous film, Mystery Road, with actor Aaron Pedersen once again reprising his role as indigenous detective Jay Swan from that film.
While investigating a missing persons case, Jay finds himself in the small mining town of Goldstone and is soon arrested for drink driving by young, local policeman Josh (Russell). When several people shoot up Jay’s motel room later that night, it soon becomes apparent there are some major criminal dealings occurring in Goldstone. Jay’s indigenous background isn’t hidden but he is put in the difficult position of upholding white law amidst a continually changing political landscape, where indigenous people are being tempted by corruption on a scale never before seen. Jay and Josh must overcome their mutual distrust in order to uncover the true level of crime pervading the town.
A highly watchable duo, lead actors Pedersen and Russell are also joined by a number of Australian film icons in their own right, including Jackie Weaver, David Wenham and David Gulpilil. Combined, they make Goldstone an intelligent, taut thriller that encompasses everything from corruption to politics, the environment, aboriginal tradition and beyond.