‘Matthias & Maxime’

A quiet, tender narrative, Matthias & Maxime is the story of friendship, attraction and sexuality. Two childhood best mates – polar opposites in personality – are confronted by an unexpected request. A student film being shot in the house they are staying finds itself without actors. The two friends are asked to step in – and share a screen kiss.

Chaste though it may be, repercussions challenge the basis of their relationship. Uptight Matthias (newcomer Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas) struggles whilst a laissez-faire Maxime cannot understand the distancing that comes between the two. It’s the more poignant as the immensely likeable Maxime (Xavier Dolan – It Chapter Two, Boy Erased) is soon to leave Canada for a year or more of travelling.

More controlled than many of writer/director Xavier Dolan’s earlier works (Mommy, Heartbeats), Matthias & Maxime is a (French-Canadian) dialogue-heavy unravelling of the impending separation of the two young men – and their unexplored feelings for each other.

Rating: 69%


Ursula Macfarlane’s heartrending documentary Untouchable sits alongside the later, three-part Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich as an expose of sexual and economic abuse at the highest levels of power and privilege.

Harvey Weinstein: movie mogul, power broker and serial rapist (he was sentenced to 23 years imprisonment in March 2020). His precipitous fall from grace started in October 2017 when, after years of rumours, several women came forward to accuse him of sexual assault and harassment. The floodgates opened.

There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking contained within Untouchable in terms of the accusations and the background information on Harvey Weinstein. His meteoric rise from Buffalo music promoter to co-founder, with brother Bob, of Miramax, is well-documented. And with success came power. Weinstein believed he was untouchable (and for many years, as this documentary highlights, he was).

But Macfarlane (One Deadly Weekend in America, Charlie Hebdo) chooses primarily to focus on the testimony of a few of his targets, including Rosanna Arquette, Paz de la Huerta and Erika Rosenbaum. But there’s also interviews with former employees and journalists. It’s shocking and gut-wrenchingly powerful – seeing into the soul of a survivor as she recalls, years before, the horrors of an interview in a hotel room or an office. The silence, the vacant stare, the breath, the disbelief, the anger.

Rating: 78%

‘The Vagrants’ by Yiyun Li

A deeply moving portrait of China, post Cultural Revolution, as the small industrial town of Muddy River in a quiet province slowly comes to the realistion that changes are taking place in Beijing. But this realisation – and acceptance that, in the late 1970s, change is taking place – comes too late for many of The Vagrants‘ central characters.

Quietly presented, Yiyun Li’s extraordinarily vivid novel is the story of change, fear, pain and loss as the ageing Teacher Gu and his wife wake on the day of the execution of their daughter Gu Shan for counterrevolutionary activities. A formerly emboldened follower of Chairman Mao, Gu Shan has renounced her faith in communism. As the Democratic Wall Movement in the capital gains ground, pushing for a more open and enlightened society, so the young and beautiful Kai, the privileged official radio news reader, announces only the news sanctioned by the provincial capital.

The Vagrants weaves together the lives of young and old, educated and illiterate, privileged and poor, with Gu Shan’s execution the catalyst for the events that unfold. From the peaceful white paper flower demonstration that leads to hundreds of dawn raid arrests to Kai’s surreptious meetings with counterrevolutionary intellectuals; from banned pagan celebrations for the dead to the young crippled girl, Nini, finding ways to feed her parents and young sisters, The Vagrants is a stunning picture of a historical time. China and its people is a country in flux for the nostalgia of what once was (for many, memory is based on the pre-Revolution, pre-industrial days of an agrarian life in the foothills of the mountains) mixed with the possibilities of futures. Kai sees for herself the abuse of privilege whilst the sinister yet foolish Bashi somehow, for the most part, avoids the authorities and lives a relatively comfortable existence after the death of his grandmother. The Gus struggle, in spite of a lifetime of service, and are treated with suspicion by their longtime neighbours due to the actions of their daughter.

It’s a tale of hardship, love, resilience, pain, sadness, courage, acceptance, despair as neighbours turn on neighbours, husbands distance themselves from wives, children report their parents, mothers sacrifice themselves. But The Vagrants is also about belief, faith and hope. Belief that change will come, faith that change will take place, hope that things change. For some, at the twilight of their lives, it’s possibly too late. But for people like Nini, always on the margins, it’s a beacon.


Hard to believe that this timeless classic is the feature debut of Jean-Luc Godard (Alphaville, Masculin Feminin).

Driving a stolen car on his way to Paris, petty thief Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo – Pierrot le fou, Casino Royale) shoots a policeman. Hooking up with the cool American journalist Jean Seberg (Saint Joan, Lilith), he needs to collect monies owed, avoid arrest and persuade Patricia to flee to Italy with him.

It’s all very free-form and hip as Godard encourages the flow of the narrative to take itself wherever it needs to go. Paris is glorious but the overly intrusive jazz soundtrack is wholly distracting and the jump cut editing plain annoying. A sexy Breathless is one of the groundbreaking films of the French New Wave with its innovation and style, including filming directly on the streets. Yet, 60 years after it was made, there’s a distracting sense of artifice and pretentiousness.

Rating: 44%


A sardonic, disinterested-in-the-world Tallulah (Ellen Page – Juno, Inception), living off the grid in a beat-up old combi, heads to Manhattan having split with boyfriend, Nico (Evan Jonigkeit – Whisky Tango Foxtrot, The Gift). But, given the brush off by Nico’s mom, Margo, a hand-to-mouth existence in NYC is no easy matter. And now she has inherited/kidnapped a young toddler from wealthy Tammy Blanchard, who can’t cope with the demands of motherhood.

Doing the wrong thing for the right reasons – but what now? And where? The answer, naturally, is Margo (a splendidly territorial Allison Janney – I Tonya, Juno), who had no idea she had a ‘grandchild’.

Filmed wholly from a female perspective, director Sian Heder in her feature film debut elicits fine performances from her three leads. Page is deadpan and engaging as ever, a nuanced Janney the perfect balance of steely divorcee and caring mother whilst Blanchard (Into the Woods, Blue Jasmine) delivers a woman on the edge. With these fully developed characters and thoughtful, well written script, Tallulah may not be perfect but it remains an engaging and involving story with more than a dash of humour.

Rating: 64%


The seminal horror film – the iconic shower scene, the music, the (black and white) blood gurgling down the plughole. And then, later, comes Mrs Bates, sitting alone in her bath chair. It’s all rather splendidly contemporary gothic – so much so it can be easily forgotten there’s a full narrative to accompany those macabre scenes!

Janet Leigh (The Manchurian Candidate, Touch of Evil) is on the run – a well respected secretary with $40,000 in her purse rather than in the bank. But we already know she’s not quite that repectable – lunchtimes spent in Phoenix hotel rooms with her married lover, Sam Loomis (John Gavin – Spartacus, Imitation of Life). A California stopover at the Bates Motel, managed by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins – On the Beach, Catch-22) and his mother, is not her best decision. It’s left to Loomis, her sister Vera Miles (The Searchers, The Wild Country) and private-eye Martin Balsam (12 Angry Men, A Thousand Clowns) to piece together those final movements.

It may not have the narrative finesse of Hitchcock’s earlier Rear Window, North By Northwest or Vertigo, but Psycho is a masterful suspense tale, with a truly disturbing performance from a mother-fixated Hopkins.

Nominated for 4 Oscars in 1961 including best director and supporting actress.

Rating: 81%

‘The Angel’

A wholly engrossing true story of Ashraf Marwan (Marwan Kenzari – Old Guard, Aladdin), son-in-law to President Nasser, Egyptian diplomat and a Mossad spy. The Angel is based on  The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel by Uri Bar-Joseph.

A sublime espionage story of intelligence, counter-intelligence, strategies, bluffs and double bluffs as Marwan travels between Cairo and London, disliked by Nasser but valued by his successor, President Saddat (Sasson Gabai – The Band’s Visit, Gett). Money was the initial motivation for Marwan, but diplomacy rather than war to ease tensions in the region was his voiced opinion (a view disdained by Nasser).

Seemingly shot through a fug of cigarette smoke with 1970s dull autumnal tonality to create atmosphere, director Ariel Vromen (Criminal, The Iceman) captures the tensions of the politics, aided by actual news footage of the time. The film is less assured, however, with time spent on the domestics of Marwan’s home life.

Rating: 62%

‘In the Heat of the Night’

Controversial at the time of its making (1967), In the Heat of the Night may be dated in terms of dialogue, but it remains (sadly) relevant and current more than 50 years later.

Waiting for a train connection, Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier – The Defiant Ones, Lilies of the Field) is picked up late one night for the murder of a wealthy businessman in the hicksville town of Sparta, Mississippi. Black and with money in his wallet makes him a key suspect. The fact he is the Philadelphia Police Dept’s number one homicide expert (slightly) embarasses local chief of police, Rod Steiger (The Pawnbroker, On the Waterfront). Poitier finds himself instructed to help out the investigation.

The fact director Norman Jewison (The Thomas Crown Affair, Moonstruck) made his film in Illinois and one brief scene shot in Mississippi saw Poitier sleep at a motel with a gun under his pillow is indicative of the prevalent and dangerous mood of the time. Yet it’s Steiger who carries the acting honours, a superb and conflicted performance: a sultry and menacing air pervades as Detective Tibbs impresses a racist cop with deduction and professionalism.

Nominated for 7 Oscars in 1968 including best director, won 5 – best film, best actor, adapted screenplay, editing & sound.

Rating: 72%

‘A Touch of Sin’

A commentator on contemporary Chinese society, auteur Zhangke Jia (Ash is Purest White, Mountains May Depart) tells four separate narratives across four separate provinces: the common theme that of seemingly random acts of violence.

A miner protesting corruption in his local village (Wu Jiang – Dragon, Father & Hero): the assault of a sauna receptionist (Chinese superstar, Tao Zhao – Ash is Purest White, Mountains May Depart) are the strongest of the four tales. But throughout, Zhangke Jia emphasises the ever-widening disparity between rich and poor. 

A Touch of Sin is a fascinating insight into modern China away from the media politics of Beijing. It’s robust with more than a passing reference to Tarantino, but there’s also more than a hint of pathos with a society steeped in tradition struggling with rapid industrialisation.

Rating: 64%


Hardly binge material, Bump is a pleasant, 10 episode Australian series (a second series has been commissioned) set in inner-city suburban Sydney.

Dux of her year, a totally unsuspecting 16 year-old Oly (Nathalie Morris) suddenly goes into labour at school. But the father is not boyfriend Lachie (Peter Thurnwald). That honour goes to the one-night fling, bad boy Santiago (Carlos Santos). Things are made a little more complicated when it’s revealed mom (Claudia Kavan) is having an affair with Santi’s dad (Ricardo Scheihing Vasquez). The two families are thrown together in ways unexpected as Olympia decides to keep the baby – and Santi (plus extended Chilean family) wants to be part of his daughter’s life.

It’s all very clean and pleasant – comfortable is the word. This is no inner-city public housing with its associated problems. Instead, we have a diverse middle class community where Olympia’s feminist politics are respected, her best friend Safia (Reema) is Muslim and (now ex) boyfriend Lachie is Korean. Throw absent brother Bowie into the mix, off travelling to find himself, and it sets the scene of the safe, idealistic world in which Bump is set. The first couple of episodes draw you into the narrative – the birth and immediate aftermath are handled well. But sadly, the series settles too much into its unchallenging, comfortable groove as it explores family relationships and teenage issues of concern.

A Stan original series.

Rating: 54%