Farewell My Queen

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Wake in Fright John Grant (Gary Bond) is a civilized man doing a stint as a schoolteacher in the Australian outback, but trouble arises when he tries to head home to Sydney and never quite makes it. His layover in a small, forgotten town leads to new friends and a night or two (or three) of drunken debauchery, gambling and animal cruelty. This lost then found again classic of Australian cinema is a dread-filled descent into a sun-baked and alcohol-fueled hell. Bond does a fine and frightening job moving from responsible man to lost soul, but it’s Donald Pleasance who stands out as a disreputable doctor with one foot in the crazy house. Director Ted Kotcheff captures deranged desolation to perfection and marks ’70s Australia one of the most terrifying places on earth. That said, the kangaroo hunt is barbaric and painful to watch (or even to fast-forward through). Also available on DVD. [Extras: Commentary, featurettes, obituary, trailers, 28-page booklet]

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Editor’s note: Farewell, My Queen is opening in limited theaters this week, so please enjoy this re-run of our review from the Berlin Film Festival, originally posted on February 9, 2012. The realm of 18th century France is a dusty one. Period dramas, especially lofty costume dramas, are so numerous that you can barely toss a powdered wig without hitting one. With Farewell, My Queen (Les Adieux à la Reine), writer/director Benoît Jacquot tears off the wig, pulls down the drapes and sets fire to both. The wonderfully un-stuffy film stars and is told through the eyes of Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux) who acts as a cipher for the manic last few days of Marie Antoinette’s (Diane Kruger) reign in the late 1700s. It’s Laborde’s story, meaning it’s the story of a voyeur who watches from doorjambs as the business of being extravagantly wealthy and powerful becomes not only meaningless, but fatal.

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There’s a solid chance that you haven’t heard of most of these movies. Yet they exist – out there somewhere as a thorn in the side of movie fans trying to see as much as possible. Nuggets of potential waiting to be picked up from the movie orphanage by a distributor and given a warm home with cup holders in every seat. The European Film Market is fascinating for that reason and for the way people attend it. Tickets this year were around $600, but that’s a reasonable price for companies sending representatives trying to find the next moneymaker for their company or the hot movie to bring to their festival. That means screenings come complete with people on cell phones and unimpressed buyers walking out after ten minutes to hustle next door to see if the other movie playing has any promise to it. It’s a bizarre way to watch movies, but it makes a kind of sense given the massive size of the movie list compared to the tiny amount of time to see everything. There were upwards of 675 movies in the EFM this year, all of them with their own selling points. Here are the 87 most interesting-sounding with descriptions found in the official catalog. For the most part, I haven’t seen these movies (and didn’t even know about many of them until the Berlin Film Festival), but they all have something going for them that should earn them a spot on your radar.

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Echoing throughout the concrete of the subway between Stadtmitte and Potsdamer Platz is a young man slamming out a guitar chord like it owes him money and singing out “I want to see the movies of my dreams.” His droning twang sounds more like it was unearthed from the soil of North Carolina, but the Euro coins in his case and the writing on the wall prove he’s in Berlin. His sentiment is a powerful and timely one as the red signs everywhere shout out the presence of the Berlin International Film Festival. Just a dozen feet above that young man’s head is the shuffle of mud-covered feet swishing through snow as more of it falls on the ground. An ice cream parlor is inexplicably still open and doing good business nearby. It’s 21 degrees outside, but it feels like 8, and that creates a kind of energy. People are moving quickly to both to keep up with the lazy first day rush and to keep their bits from freezing off. Maybe that will make getting into a darkened (and heated) theater all the sweeter. At least that’s the hope on the largely movie-less, paper work-heavy start to the Berlinale.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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