Sydney Film Festival: Final Day Wrap

Henry Selick's Coraline, Soderbergh's Girlfriend Experience

by | June 14, 2009 | Comments


Seven years in the making, Henry Selick’s Coraline is a mind- boggling feat of stop motion animation. Presented in glorious 3-D as a Sydney Film Festival first, Selick’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s award winning 2002 novella harks back to the spooky traditions of the Brothers Grimm.

In classic fable lore, Coraline is the story of a girl moving to a new home with her neglectful parents. Discovering an alternate world where her ‘Other Mother’ dotes on her, Coraline delights in this greener grass until she realises that all is not what it seems.

Thematically and visually, Coraline is like a delightful cocktail of Alice in Wonderland, Fantasia and Pan’s Labyrinth, with a sprinkle of Psycho and a dash of Beetle Juice. Selick — who has The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach to his name — is clearly in his element. He unapologetically subjects his pint-sized protagonist to the dark, Grimm story of a dream disintegrating into a nightmare. Indeed the film strays far into the shadows, despite looking like a kids film.

Breathing life into Selick’s magnificent animation is the talented voice work of Dakota Fanning (Coraline), Teri Hatcher (Mother/Other Mother), Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders (as the batty burlesque duo Miss Forcible and Miss Spink). Ian McShane rounds out the cast as the captivating circus type Mr. Bobinksi. It is a testament to the these actors and Selick’s adaptation that you come away from the film wanting to spent more time with this colourful cast of characters.

Colourful they most certainly are, thanks to Selick’s marvellous team of animators. The visuals are, quite simply, magic and fortunately they chose to avoid using the 3-D in a kitschy way, opting instead for the effects to be seamlessly woven into the world of Coraline.

Fascinating too is the reflexive use of animation. As the film careens towards its climax, the alternate world literally crumbles under Coraline’s actions in a way that seems to investigate the art of animation itself. A world so long in the making being dramatically unravelled — back to a blank canvas — just as easily works for the story as it describes the filmmaking process.

However this undoing occurs a little too abruptly. For a film that spends so much time establishing not one world but two, Coraline‘s climactic ‘game’ feels rushed, which almost threatens to undermine the central conceit created by the old adage: ‘the eyes are the windows to the soul.’

Despite this concern — which again stems from a desire to spend more time in this world — Coraline is a beautifully realised, modern day fairytale. Following in the footsteps of beloved classics, Gaiman and Selick privilege the macabre over the saccharine to create a familiar fable for future generations.

The Girlfriend Experience

“Did you like the movie?”

“It wasn’t what I expected.”

Sex and lies are back on videotape in Steven Soderbergh’s latest cinematic experiment, The Girlfriend Experience. In his second low budget digital feature for HDNet (the first being 2005’s Bubble) Soderbergh offers us a slice of life from high-class escort, Chelsea (Sasha Grey) as she navigates clients, business and love amidst the tumult of the Global Financial Crisis and the 2008 Presidential Election.

At the festival to introduce the film, Ms. Grey revealed this backdrop was really a coincidence and that the film is, “responding in real time” to the economic collapse. This can only add another feather to Soderbergh’s stuffed cap — that he was able to shift gears to capture the Zeitgeist in such an intimate and powerful way.

In fact this portrait of Chelsea is probably more about the real whores of Manhattan — the corporate elite — who are captured in all their narcissistic glory as Soderbergh cuts between dates, life and a group of guys en route to a lost weekend in Vegas. Although shot in chronological order, Soderbergh creates a tapestry of referential edits, where a word or a throwaway line can trigger a cut to another scene. Chelsea’s emotional arch is probably the one through line, though ’emotional’ is certainly not the word you’d use to describe Grey’s performance.

Indeed Chelsea is so aloof, with cold eyes and a reluctant smile that one wonders what kind of girlfriend experience she was trying for. Her flat affect only accentuates this — even in her quasi declaration of love — that one can only presume this was Soderbergh’s intention, rather than Grey’s inexperience in mainstream filmmaking. It could be that Chelsea is a cypher, a non-entity upon which men can foist their own girlfriend experience. This certainly seemed the case, where Chelsea asked her dates about their lives (and their wives), or sometimes merely sat in silence across from client’s litany of woes.

Countering Chelsea’s steely professionalism is real-life film journalist Glen Kenny’s turn as the erotic connoisseur. In the post-screening Q&A Grey disclosed Soderbergh’s directorial note behind Kenny’s hilarious and improvised dialogue: he should act like Harry Knowles.

However the real scene-stealer is Soderbergh’s cinematography. From the mix of warm and cool tones in the mise-en-scene to the almost omnipresent Arco lamp, it is Soderbergh’s composition, and particularly his use of focus, that is truly a joy to experience. Shot using available light, this film is assuredly a more-than-money-can-buy advertisement for the luminous capabilities of the Red Camera.

In a world where acronyms abound, Soderbergh brings us an intelligent, provocative and uniquely cinematic combination of the GFE and the GFC.

Tag Cloud

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