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

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

name the review scary movies Binge Guide docudrama japan The Walking Dead Film Pride Month Heroines superhero sequel Universal E! Trivia cults DGA spanish heist movie mockumentary Opinion Rocky BAFTA critics American Society of Cinematographers godzilla Summer The CW cars Netflix The Witch basketball venice 2020 Classic Film Fox News YA Red Carpet Paramount foreign ABC APB what to watch CBS Photos richard e. Grant DC Comics spinoff Best and Worst parents Holiday Marvel cops History disaster politics classics Freeform AMC GIFs high school twilight die hard popular trailers scorecard Baby Yoda theme song jurassic park Reality 2015 spain Masterpiece live action versus Horror pirates of the caribbean dceu stoner rt archives Grammys Marathons blockbuster travel DC streaming service mutant MSNBC Pop TV movies police drama facebook TV renewals Brie Larson war Polls and Games Winners Exclusive Video Adult Swim TNT anthology Captain marvel Starz MCU universal monsters casting 45 Travel Channel Disney Channel Music kaiju indie Britbox Character Guide Holidays rotten movies we love hollywood Chilling Adventures of Sabrina social media Winter TV Avengers 2016 Spectrum Originals 2017 Spike Musicals ESPN Watching Series Academy Awards IFC comics ABC Family Countdown TruTV Warner Bros. stand-up comedy Box Office Fox Searchlight YouTube Premium Pixar book A24 king arthur comic books Women's History Month psychological thriller Shudder BET breaking bad psycho Mary Tyler Moore 20th Century Fox 007 Awards Tour TCA E3 game of thrones dc superman Television Critics Association Amazon Studios films LGBTQ Election adaptation women CNN movie WarnerMedia halloween tv BBC One Lifetime Christmas movies zero dark thirty supernatural marvel cinematic universe crime remakes TV blockbusters El Rey screen actors guild HBO Go robots Elton John canceled Hallmark Christmas movies children's TV quibi chucky japanese Comedy Central olympics ABC Signature festival canceled TV shows OneApp Pet Sematary Calendar concert Mudbound sequels Comic-Con@Home 2021 television FOX Oscars Stephen King GLAAD Kids & Family 90s Shondaland anime Walt Disney Pictures cancelled Dark Horse Comics BBC America emmy awards Country 72 Emmy Awards science fiction RT21 a nightmare on elm street USA Network Western Rom-Com best Arrowverse true crime New York Comic Con comiccon First Reviews Awards video on demand hispanic Anna Paquin Logo australia Epix Pop TV talk show Syfy animated toronto Comedy Food Network Sundance TV asian-american Christmas slashers HBO natural history Animation adenture doctor who Columbia Pictures Rocketman suspense cats RT History BET Awards binge nature scene in color WGN Interview Thanksgiving serial killer fast and furious Trophy Talk Schedule See It Skip It TV One documentaries Lucasfilm based on movie cartoon transformers 2021 Vudu legend The Academy NBC sag awards Disney streaming service ITV batman lord of the rings deadpool Image Comics docuseries Amazon CW Seed Drama Netflix Christmas movies toy story Mary poppins composers telelvision new york nfl technology award winner diversity biography new zealand Marvel Studios FX james bond Pacific Islander dogs Paramount Plus Mystery kids worst movies 1990s Apple TV Plus movies Rock indiana jones Year in Review SXSW HBO Max TIFF hist Comics on TV reboot elevated horror singing competition Chernobyl streaming movies National Geographic Creative Arts Emmys Tubi zombie latino stop motion Super Bowl crime drama Crackle Broadway YouTube Marvel Television south america Legendary news comedies crossover Family FXX Acorn TV Amazon Prime tv talk 99% dragons Turner DirecTV LGBT OWN book adaptation Mindy Kaling The Walt Disney Company MTV witnail Hallmark jamie lee curtis Cosplay Teen green book Alien spanish language political drama Esquire sports PBS Quiz black Funimation festivals Podcast Certified Fresh prank historical drama CBS All Access Hear Us Out Musical medical drama Premiere Dates aliens Lionsgate CMT Sci-Fi football Tokyo Olympics Sneak Peek revenge sitcom nbcuniversal joker streaming ghosts strong female leads wonder woman Fall TV BBC 2019 Sundance Now 2018 laika Reality Competition razzies finale monster movies Hulu Martial Arts aapi President Amazon Prime Video 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards NYCC werewolf Wes Anderson Action boxing christmas movies Tarantino Turner Classic Movies Nickelodeon cancelled TV shows Star Trek Lifetime PaleyFest The Arrangement cinemax target kong thriller Sundance cancelled TV series YouTube Red know your critic space Song of Ice and Fire criterion king kong Peacock TCA Winter 2020 obituary FX on Hulu TCA 2017 boxoffice adventure crime thriller VOD Fantasy Star Wars cooking Video Games TBS game show harry potter all-time X-Men Black Mirror Disney Plus period drama new star wars movies worst reviews Nominations teaser 24 frames Set visit Spring TV Cartoon Network renewed TV shows justice league Infographic DC Universe Showtime VH1 Tomatazos Disney+ Disney Plus SundanceTV Black History Month Mary Poppins Returns free movies ID dramedy zombies blaxploitation Valentine's Day Endgame Comic Book golden globes 93rd Oscars saw Ellie Kemper TV Land Tumblr Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt rotten dark Biopics Paramount Network golden globe awards The Purge VICE SDCC halloween Ovation child's play independent Film Festival directors A&E comic 4/20 vampires miniseries romantic comedy fresh USA Superheroe GoT spy thriller NBA Extras Superheroes ratings First Look TLC San Diego Comic-Con Nat Geo Television Academy video Emmys Pirates screenings Emmy Nominations mission: impossible franchise 21st Century Fox Apple TV+ romance Writers Guild of America french Sony Pictures international archives Discovery Channel ViacomCBS Apple TCA Awards 71st Emmy Awards PlayStation spider-man Trailer rom-coms unscripted TCM Disney cancelled television satire documentary Toys Crunchyroll Ghostbusters Bravo series italian hidden camera Cannes IFC Films discovery