Sydney Film Festival: Final Day Competition

Bryan Brown in Beautiful Kate; plus, Peruvian plateaus

by | June 14, 2009 | Comments

Beautiful Kate

Refashioning the return of the prodigal son, Beautiful Kate is a provocatively visual look at family, memory and sexuality. In her debut feature, Rachel Ward has adapted Newton Thornburg’s 1982 novel, transporting this American story in time and place and transforming it into something uniquely Australian.

A family wrested apart by death comes together to gather around its dying patriarch (Bryan Brown). Unwilling to face his family alone, successful writer Ned (Ben Mendelsohn) drags along his latest fling, Toni (a scene-stealing Maeve Dermody), to cushion the impact. Welcomed by his serene yet long-suffering sister, Sally (Rachel Griffiths), Ned is eventually deserted by both women and forced to confront his father and his past, albeit with an alcohol-infused clarity. Pivoting around the compounded loss of his brother (Josh Macfarlane) and his twin (Sophie Lowe), Ned teases out the memories, the anger and his culpability in the event that claimed his beautiful Kate.

Andrew Commis’ cinematography is awe-inspiring. The Flinders Rangers provide the dramatic yet desolate setting that his camera clearly relishes. This cinematic landscape is matched by Ned’s flashbacks, told in an evocative visual style, full of focus pulls and lens flares. His bright but unfocussed memories contrast with the sharp and darkly shadowed dam scene: here not everything is shown, but everything is remembered. This scene must be what has drawn the Bill Henson comparisons — though while it utilises his chiaroscuro style and youthful subjects, being cited alongside this sexual act may only fuel the recent furore surrounding Henson’s photography.

Perhaps Ward has chosen to leave the questions of morality up to the audience and instead focused on exploring the visual themes evoked by stories of sexual awakening and death. She and her amazing crew, led by Mendelsohn’s masterful performance, are clearly giving it their all to bring this story to the silver screen. But while Beautiful Kate is undoubtedly beautiful to look at, the lack of character exploration in a film that feels rushed to conclusion doesn’t come across as cathartic so much as cryptic.


Altiplano is a magical film. From the opening image it displays a striking splendour that only intensifies as the film unfolds. From the high planes of Peru, Altiplano takes the real account of a mercury spill that occurred in the Andean town of Choropampa in 2000 as the departure point for a visual investigation of spirituality, grief and sacrifice.

Peruvian beauty Saturnina (Magaly Solier) is devastated by the loss of her fiancé and seeks revenge against the resident Western communities in the mines and visiting doctors. The ripple effect of these events reaches Belgium, where traumatised photojournalist, Grace (Jasmin Tabatabai), is crippled by her own loss, before finding the courage to reconnect with the world.

Altiplano‘s narrative is really only half the story in what is a profound cinematic and cultural experience. Husband and wife team Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth bring us their second feature together after the 2006 award-winning Khadak. As they did in Mongolia, the pair brings their documentary and anthropological sensibilities to Andean communities, capturing indigenous rituals that are all-too-quickly fading away. Their remarkable gift is an ability to infuse the real with the spiritual, and to portray their story through beautiful, cinematic tableaux.

Solier’s stunning face seems to be an inspiration for many of the images. The film revolves around her passionate performance, which is perhaps symbolic of the Peruvian people. “Without an image, there is no story,” Saturnina declares in her climactic scene. On the other hand, Grace and her eye-doctor husband Max (Olivier Gourmet) create windows into this world for the Western audience. “You should read more history, Max,” one of his colleagues wryly comments.

Altiplano is a magnificent warning that we, the audience, should inform ourselves. From Francisco Gozon’s glorious cinematography to Michel Schöpping provocative score and haunting, operatic soundtrack, Brosens and Woodworth succeed in communicating that grief and acceptance — both secular and spiritual — are not unique to the thin air of the high planes, but rather unite people around the world.

Tag Cloud

jurassic park biography reviews free movies 007 renewed TV shows The Walking Dead X-Men History Apple Character Guide rotten movies we love comiccon Summer cults RT21 Nickelodeon Exclusive Video twilight hidden camera Animation popular Comedy joker cinemax TV Acorn TV 2020 sag awards golden globe awards Television Academy fresh comics binge Spike casting CMT Oscars Kids & Family versus Disney Plus Arrowverse Holidays Warner Bros. cars Women's History Month Showtime Binge Guide Video Games Schedule Sneak Peek slashers nfl docuseries unscripted Apple TV+ PaleyFest Disney CBS anime Esquire Rocketman Disney Channel Sci-Fi Tumblr transformers sequel all-time Comic Book Comedy Central adaptation miniseries Superheroe james bond GLAAD 93rd Oscars Spectrum Originals festivals television spinoff screen actors guild witnail APB halloween tv women documentaries series french ABC Winners Super Bowl Food Network black Grammys worst Marvel 2017 movie blockbuster SXSW The Walt Disney Company Calendar Trailer spy thriller italian Vudu cancelled television Disney+ Disney Plus USA Network Mudbound Bravo IFC Britbox concert latino comedies Teen venice scorecard Black Mirror disaster kaiju TV Land Anna Paquin rt archives Travel Channel Hallmark Christmas movies stand-up comedy psycho The Arrangement Discovery Channel Cosplay TNT Amazon Prime Video Netflix DC streaming service 4/20 Amazon Studios best LGBTQ Year in Review franchise rotten social media Reality Television Critics Association thriller Best and Worst CBS All Access boxoffice Mary Poppins Returns ratings Creative Arts Emmys new star wars movies theme song superman TLC historical drama robots Opinion FX on Hulu San Diego Comic-Con Heroines 2019 Cannes diversity 2018 Reality Competition Pride Month Valentine's Day American Society of Cinematographers boxing RT History Mindy Kaling emmy awards Music Infographic obituary ITV Alien Marathons 20th Century Fox australia MCU MTV OWN batman talk show ID 71st Emmy Awards Comics on TV adventure Peacock war 2021 trailers Sundance Now Song of Ice and Fire Awards Tour Baby Yoda scary movies Turner ABC Signature video Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Fox News nbcuniversal Premiere Dates pirates of the caribbean heist movie science fiction natural history Rom-Com period drama Sundance movies OneApp jamie lee curtis indiana jones child's play Sony Pictures films The Witch football documentary toronto TCA blockbusters crime sequels Tubi sports tv talk Pet Sematary Endgame Certified Fresh hollywood The Purge Family critics Red Carpet Hear Us Out Captain marvel cats book adaptation ViacomCBS Masterpiece Action Ellie Kemper elevated horror romance E! National Geographic WarnerMedia Emmy Nominations Syfy DC Comics Hulu Musicals Thanksgiving TruTV BET Awards Shondaland USA 72 Emmy Awards Ghostbusters deadpool Stephen King spanish YouTube Red video on demand cancelled laika Toys blaxploitation First Reviews zero dark thirty cartoon police drama screenings 21st Century Fox discovery hist GoT CNN foreign TV renewals The Academy asian-american Crackle Set visit First Look MSNBC parents true crime Interview Marvel Television PlayStation Emmys Lionsgate rom-coms BAFTA Quiz ghosts BBC One Columbia Pictures travel Nominations FXX book TCA 2017 canceled cooking docudrama saw The CW comic books strong female leads 45 razzies superhero christmas movies reboot TCM Paramount Plus FOX political drama werewolf LGBT finale richard e. Grant name the review chucky space 99% psychological thriller indie die hard PBS medical drama green book HBO politics crime thriller Pop Film Festival quibi Chilling Adventures of Sabrina VICE a nightmare on elm street Star Trek Elton John Netflix Christmas movies prank Lifetime Christmas movies serial killer vampires Election stoner Pirates DGA HBO Max President Rocky 2015 mockumentary Hallmark Pop TV Drama revenge Podcast Trophy Talk monster movies Mary Tyler Moore fast and furious Academy Awards based on movie A24 Rock Biopics crossover Writers Guild of America HBO Go universal monsters dark kong NBC facebook streaming ESPN criterion Paramount hispanic worst movies zombies dramedy Pixar 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards what to watch Trivia Paramount Network Amazon Watching Series harry potter justice league romantic comedy spider-man Western Mystery Countdown Superheroes Spring TV Funimation Broadway anthology Avengers TBS Musical Disney streaming service TIFF 2016 Star Wars sitcom teaser WGN nature award winner singing competition Freeform halloween archives Country SundanceTV doctor who GIFs Photos Mary poppins Chernobyl Tomatazos Film YouTube Premium Holiday Shudder BBC DC Universe BET news CW Seed 24 frames YouTube TV One SDCC Logo Crunchyroll dceu cops classics Epix japanese Winter TV Awards E3 technology Nat Geo game show TCA Awards Legendary VOD canceled TV shows mutant ABC Family Turner Classic Movies festival FX Lifetime Marvel Studios Extras telelvision mission: impossible breaking bad independent south america Christmas comic zombie AMC YA DirecTV dc Box Office golden globes New York Comic Con Brie Larson Walt Disney Pictures kids Tarantino Fall TV remakes Polls and Games composers aliens spanish language dragons TCA Winter 2020 Dark Horse Comics BBC America Universal Sundance TV spain NYCC godzilla El Rey crime drama game of thrones animated Fox Searchlight toy story high school Cartoon Network See It Skip It A&E Fantasy Adult Swim cancelled TV series Starz Lucasfilm stop motion supernatural Classic Film cancelled TV shows Ovation Martial Arts children's TV IFC Films dogs Horror directors satire Apple TV Plus king kong Black History Month VH1 Amazon Prime