Review Wrap Up

There have been a few flicks recently that I’ve reviewed for the ABC but neglected to post here. So here they are: THE VISIT, TANGERINE and THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY.

For my interviews with M. Night Shyamalan of THE VISIT and Sean Baker of TANGERINE, go to

The_Visit-e14294761719141The Visit ** (out of five)

M. Night Shyamalan’s self-funded (five million dollar) mockumentary The Visit is a strange brew of humour and creepiness that seems to be intended for the teen market. Shyamalan has said that he recommends the youngest viewer be fourteen or above; I recommend the eldest being seventeen or below.

Australian child actors Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould play two (American) kids who go to stay with their grandparents whom they’ve never met. Trouble is, the grandparents are creepy, and as the kids discover more about them, the more they start to fear all sorts of terrible things.

The film is heavily padded and really lags, like a short story stretched to novella length. DeJonge and Oxenbould are both great (they are in every single scene, as the film is shot as though by them – it’s supposedly a documentary being directed by DeJonge’s character) but neither Deanna Dunagan nor Peter McRobbie are nearly scary enough as the grandparents. The film isn’t scary enough, and its uneasy blend of comedy and horror is jarring.

It could be that I’m simply the wrong audience; perhaps Night has crafted a perfect, safe little horror flick for teens. But as an adult entertainment, it’s not worth visiting.

Tangerine *** (out of five)

Sean Baker’s fifth, very independent movie Tangerine is a queer odyssey, the story of a couple of trans (gender? sexual?) street prostitutes on their sometimes separate, sometimes united quests across Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve. Sin-Dee (the dominant Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) is out in full force in search of her pimp and boyfriend, who, she’s heard, has been doing the nasty on her while she’s been in the nick (from which she’s just been released). The much more reserved – and much more sensible – Alexandra (Mya Taylor) is on a quest to fill a room – she’s performing torch songs that night at a bar and she needs an audience. Both girls are in desperate straits, and the hot sun, some dodgy johns and general apathy among the street denizens all stand in their way.

The film was shot on iPhones and been treated in post to exude a golden-orange glow that may explain its title (nothing else does, unless I missed something, which is possible whenever Sin-Dee is talking, because she talks fast and with sass). It’s funny at times, sad at times, and certainly a window into an exotic (and not in the fabulous way) world; it’s no masterpiece, but it is original, and these days that always counts for something.

dob-concept6lrgThe Duke Of Burgundy

***1/2 (out of five)

British über-auteur Peter Strickland follows up his wonderful and esoteric Berberian Sound Studio with this loving and exacting homage to late-70s soft-core sapphic porn. Borgen’s Sidse Babett Knudsen and Studio’s Chiara D’Anna play a couple whose erotic world centres around the playing of highly deliberate and ritualised games of sadomasochism. While seemingly deeply satisfying, things may not be as idyllic as it seems on the surface.

This is a film all about surfaces, appearances, truths and fabrications. Its very existence is as artificial as a film can be, being so much a pastiche that, if you aged the film a little, you could pass it off as the real thing, a relic from 1978. Everything is completely at odds with reality; the ladies live in a European town of the imagination, populated only by women, many of whom also seem to favour BDSM, and all of whom either teach or study Lepidoptera. That’s right, the entire town – the film’s entire universe – is into butterflies and moths. And BDSM.

It’s an exercise, a strenuously intellectual one, with hot bondage and discipline to go with the endless self-referentiality. It will appeal to a limited group of high cinephiles, and those who always got off on the kind of fantasy soft-porn the film so dutifully replicates, and most of all, to the subset of folk who are both. That would be me.

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