Partisan movie review

Featuring: Vincent Cassel, Jeremy Chabriel
Director: Ariel Kleiman
Writers: Sarah Cyngler, Ariel Kleiman
Movie website: www.partisanfilm.com.au/
Australian release date: Thu 28 May, 2015

Reviewer: rolanstein
Verdict: A compelling expression of controlled rage at tyrannical abuse of power and corruption of innocents.

Review:
This audaciously impressive off-the-edge feature film debut from Australian director Ariel Kleiman drops the viewer smack into the perplexing insular world of a weird, dilapidated hidden commune. No clue is given to its location, and to add to the sense of geographical confusion, the characters speak with a mix of accents, predominantly French. The place has the appearance of an abandoned apartment complex. It is cut off from the outside world, access being via a series of concrete tunnels and shafts with secret entrances unconvincingly camouflaged. In the distance is a shitty-looking town, basically a gathering of grim high-rise apartment blocks. It’s a strange, logic-defying, disorientating set-up, post-apocalyptic in feel, and never explained.

With exposition kept to a minimum throughout, we learn via the natural unfolding of events that the patriarch of the commune, Gregori (Vincent Cassel), leads a commune of mothers he has recruited from oppressed, miserable lives. He has raised their children as his own virtually from birth, moulding them in service of his utopian vision, which is not elaborated upon. Some might find this avoidance of ideological detail frustrating, but in effect, Kleiman is shrewdly refusing to be pinned down by any real-world allusion; he is depicting an everyman cultist micro-society. The point is that regardless of the brand of “utopia”, all cultist organisations normalise the abnormal, working through a power structure that assigns the leader God-like status while necessarily subjugating his/her followers, and demonising all challengers (including, of course, the entire world outside the cult).

Thus, Gregori casts all outsiders as evil threats to the sanctuary of the commune. He teaches the kids to read and write, grow their own vegetables, raise poultry – and assassinate nominated targets in the nearby town for reasons that are not divulged.

The star assassin is Gregori’s favourite “son”, Alexander (played by Jeremy Chabriel, who puts in an arresting performance). About eleven years of age, he carries out his murderous missions with chilling efficiency, unaffected emotionally, unquestioning of Gregori’s orders… until something happens that undermines his trust and resurrects the compassion that has been conditioned out of him. Blind faith turns to doubt, and Alexander begins to challenge Gregori’s authority. The stage is set for a once-impossible showdown that can have only one winner – and that features a stunning and profoundly articulate image of Alexander brandishing a gun while holding his baby half-brother, whom he has fitted with ear protection (there is genius in that detail).

Partisan works as a tense, whacked out thriller, but it is more than that. It is a compelling expression of controlled rage at the tyrannical abuse of power and corruption of innocents that is at the core of any and every tyrant-led organisation, whether that be a family with a despot at its head, a criminal organisation, a religious order, a totalitarian state, or terrorist scourges like ISIS. Mark down Ariel Kleiman as a writer/director to watch. He’s an exciting prospect.

For other Boomtown Rap movie reviews, see Movie Review Archives

Ex Machina movie review

Featuring: Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac
Director: Alex Garland
Writer: Alex Garland
Movie website: www.exmachinamovie.co.uk/
Australian release date: Thu 7 May, 2015

Reviewer: rolanstein
Verdict: Gripping and discussion-provoking sci-fi driven by thought rather than action, and no less entertaining for that.

Review:
When whizz computer programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a prize comprising a week in a remote Alaskan lab assessing the results of his mega-wealthy boss Nathan’s (Oscar Isaac) artificial intelligence experiments, he is understandby elated. Turns out Nathan is an enigmatic mix, on one hand an eccentric tech genius, on the other a hard-drinking gym-junkie whose buddy-buddy manner jars with the sense that something dark and vaguely threatening lurks beneath – as evidenced by his callous attitude towards his non-English-speaking Japanese maid cum sex slave. Caleb doesn’t know what to make of him or his hi-tech hideaway, which offers luxurious accommodation and facilities, yet feels increasingly like a prison. Continue reading

Clouds of Sils Maria movie review

Featuring: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz
Director: Oliver Assayas
Writer: Oliver Assayas
Movie website: www.pinnaclefilms.com.au/Product/Details/82a72c76-eefb-4576-8997-a34800c30281
Australian release date: Thu 7 May, 2015

Reviewer: rolanstein
Verdict: Slow-moving, dialogue-driven, intense and sometimes oblique, this accomplished piece of filmmaking offers reward for effort for those prepared to take the film on its own terms.

Review:
This new work from French auteur Oliver Assayas focuses on the mercurial relationship between an acclaimed middle-aged actor (Juliette Binoche) and her young live-in publicist (Kristen Stewart). It is slow-moving, dialogue-driven, intense and sometimes oblique – quintessentially Euro ‘arthouse’, in other words. Patience and concentration is required of the viewer, then, but there is reward for effort for those prepared to take the film on its own terms. Continue reading

Testament of Youth movie review

Featuring: Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Taron Egerton, Emily Watson, Hayley Atwell, Colin Morgan, Joanna Scanlon, Alexandra Roach, Dominic West, Miranda Richardson
Director: James Kent
Writer: Juliette Towhidi (adapted from Vera Brittain’s memoir of the same title)
Movie website: www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfilms/film/testament_of_youth
Australian release date: 23 April, 2015

Reviewer: rolanstein
Verdict: Falls short of greatness as a film, but as an anti-war statement is about as emotion-charged and powerful as it gets.

Review:
Based on Vera Brittain’s memoir of World War 1, Testament of Youth personalises the brutalising of a generation whose youthful innocence was forfeited to the ravages of a war of unprecedented scale, horror and destruction. Continue reading

The Age of Adaline movie review

Featuring: Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Kathy Baker, Ellen Burstyn
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Writers: J. Mills Goodloe, Salvador Paskowitz, Allison Burnett
Movie website: www.theageofadalinemovie.com/
Australian release date: !6 April, 2015

Reviewer: rolanstein
Verdict: Emotionally under-powered, but romance fans will probably still enjoy this. Not enough is made of the immortality sub-theme to sustain other viewers.

Review:
This is yet another movie that launches off the concept of immortality. It doesn’t bring anything to the table that hasn’t already been served up, but it’s a romance with a bit of fantasy worked into the mix, not the converse, so expectations of imaginative and philosophical acrobatics are unrealistic. Indeed, not much is made of the immortality bit, which functions mostly to lend novelty to an otherwise traditionally shaped romance narrative, and support the guiding thesis of the piece – that love gives life meaning and requires commitment, m’kay? Oh, and that quality trumps quantity. Continue reading