Monday, July 30, 2012


I love foreign language films. What I enjoy the most is the diversity; learning something new about another country, culture and their people. Also, you often realise behind the differences of culture that the people are not unlike yourself. I always go into foreign films with my mind wide open and ready to discover.

Elena was no exception, a slow moving character piece by Russian director, Andrey Zvyagintsev, bleakly set in his country.

Elena is married to Vladimir who is older, demanding and cold. It is their second marriage and they each have adult children from previous marriages. Elena's son is struggling and has a family to look after, and she manages to take money to them, even though her husband does not approve. Vladimir is estranged from his daughter, but an illness brings them together again. Elena can see the inheritance, that she had hoped would give her family a better life, disappearing. She decides to take matters into her own hands. The misery and bleakness turns even darker, but you feel for Elena and her situation.

Ultimately Elena is a sympathetic character, but you will question her morality...or maybe not! This is what I like about these types of films, they leave you thinking long after the credits have rolled.

Elena is not a comedy, it is a serious drama, and the tone and direction depict this perfectly. It has a slow, seemingly mundane pace that fits with the life the characters are leading. The pace gives you time to consider what is not explained within the film, there is not a lot of detail to their back stories, you need to read between the lines. This is not a failing of the film, indeed it makes it more do have to use your brain.

Elena is not for everyone, it is subtitled, dark and very dramatic. However, if you do like to delve into the lives of other people and cultures, or like to think about certain aspects of life, you will appreciate this film as I did.

Bravo to The Tower Cinemas for showing us the myriad of cultures this world has to offer through their superb foreign film selection.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Last night I attended the premiere of the Australian film, The Sapphires at The Tower Cinemas. It was part of their Launch 2012, and was a fabulous evening. The Towers (as I have always called them) are becoming the definitive destination for films in Newcastle. Taking over from our beloved Showcase Cinemas, by being brave and embracing foreign and independent cinema along with many exciting film festivals, The Towers is going from strength to strength and having a bit of a makeover along the way. Not only do they have new refurbishments (new seats on the way) but their refreshments are pretty impressive too - a licensed bar with a cheese and antipasto menu.

After some speeches, including the history of the cinema, we all settled in for the main feature.

The Sapphires is set in the late sixties, and is the story of four Aboriginal singers. Whilst entering a talent contest at the local pub, they meet Dave, an Irish musician. Dave sees their potential, and before they know it they are headed for Melbourne to audition as entertainment for the troops in Vietnam. Over the course of the film the girls move from singing country songs, to being polished performers similar in style to The Supremes. The fabulous Chris O'Dowd is perfect as Dave, and Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, and Miranda Tapsell are simply stunning as the girls. Jessica Mauboy shines as the youngest sister and lead singer, with a voice that is a mix of angelic and sultry. However, Deborah Mailman is sublime as the complex oldest sister with a sad secret. Her performance is electrifying and moving - she steals every scene she is in.

Based on a stage musical, which itself was based on real events, The Sapphires mixes humour and music against a backdrop of drama. Filmed in Australia and Vietnam, the drama encompasses racial tensions, feminism, sexuality, the stolen generation, and the Vietnam War. It is a visually stunning film, from fields in the outback, to the fields of Vietnam, to the shimmy of the sequins on the stage. The other star of the movie is the music. Soul classics such as I heard it through the grapevine, Who's loving you and I can't help myself are sung by the girls along with tracks by Creedance Clearwater Revival and Sam and Dave will have you dancing in your seats!

No wonder this charming film wowed them at Cannes, it wowed us Novocastrians at The Towers last night! Applause at the end of a film is always a good indication, so make sure you head in to The Tower Cinemas and see the Sapphires when it opens next Thursday.