7:00 PM, 15th October, 2016
Love & Friendship is based on a rarely adapted Jane Austen novella “Lady Susan”. Unlike last semester’s featured adaptation of a Jane Austen novel, this film does not feature zombies. Instead, director Whit Stilllman reunites his cast from 1998’s The Last Days of Disco, Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny, to navigate Regency England and all of Austen’s deliberations on money and marriage, pining and scheming, wit and wisdom.
The plot is set in the 1790s, as widow Lady Susan Vernon (Beckinsale) arrives unannounced to stay with relatives at their estate. This move is essentially motivated by a need to wait out the recent and colourful rumours about her London dalliances. While there, she naturally decides to find a husband for her debutante daughter Frederica, as well as herself. A joy of this film is watching Beckinsale deliver the classic Austen dialogue and barbed putdowns, which keeps the film feeling fresh and vital.
The beautifully attired supporting cast will be familiar to many, including Stephen Fry, James Fleet, Jemma Redgrave and Australia’s Xavier Samuel as the oblivious young man Susan attempts to wed. The picturesque Irish locations further complement the cast and director’s vision.
Critic reviews have been positive, with Rotten Tomatoes declaring that Love & Friendship “is a thoroughly delightful period drama”. The world premiere of the film was at the Sundance Film Festival and it was the closing night film for the Sydney Film Festival, so if you missed seeing it there, here is your chance to watch this jubilant modern comedy of manners.
8:44 PM, 15th October, 2016
Dheepan is a Tamil fighter trying to escape war-torn Sri Lanka, who forms an alliance with a woman and a recently orphaned nine-year-old girl, and uses passports of a recently killed family unit to emigrate by boat to Europe. They find themselves in a council-tenement in Paris that is controlled by drug dealers and gangsters. Dheepan becomes a janitor for the building, his fabricated wife Yalini obtains a job cleaning and cooking for the dementia-afflicted uncle of one of the gang members, and faux daughter Illayaal struggles to fit into a school system where she hardly speaks the language. Tensions build as they try to assimilate into their new but altogether-too-familiar surroundings of thuggery and violence.
Winning the prestige Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film festival, this new film from director Jacques Audiard (Rust and Bone, A Prophet) is a powerful insight into the refugee experience, albeit from another cultural perspective. On one level, it is a gripping thriller with the background of violence creating a palpable tension (there’s an action sequence late in the film, where Dheepan’s freedom fighter skills kick into gear, that rivals anything that Captain America’s films have offered in the past in my opinion). However, it is also an engaging topical drama, given substance by the flesh-and-blood performances of the central three actors.
A fascinating film, and another worthy winner of the Palme d’Or, Dheepan is an instant classic that has been criminally underseen in Canberra. See it here.