Sep 24

Oz Asia Festival – 2016 – Bunny – Daniel Kok & Luke George – Nexus Arts – 5K

By Tom Eckert

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Daniel Kok and Luke George break down traditional theatre formats to create a space more involved with connecting disparate audience from each side of a square than to create a one way relationship between performer and audience.

With a penchant for pop art colors and audiovisual techniques influenced heavily by club scenes the performers demonstrate a command of Shigari and rope bondage techniques, the performers manipulate objectification, by making mundane objects captivatingly novel novel and reducing audience members to submissive objects.

Exploring themes ranging from the disruption of conventional sexual hierarchies and the aesthetics of niche sexual practices to mindfulness and groupthink.

The whole piece could be considered a metaphorical exploration of how we are unaware of our freedom due to our feelings of being limited by the things that bind us, and that with acceptance these same limitations can be adapted to, and made beautiful in spite of these self same limitations.

With meticulous stage craft, pacing and attention to detail Kok and George are able to create a safe and trusting environment where inhibitions can be broken down in those will to engage with the process.

A sublime and uplifiting experience, do not come with an intent to remain detached from what is going on. If you participate earnestly and with abandon, you will be rewarded handsomely.

Kryztoff Rating: 5K

 

 

Sep 23

Oz Asia Festival – 2016 – Election – Johnnie To – Mercury Cinema – 4K

By Tom Eckert

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Johnnie To has created a fast paced thrilling insight into the dynamics of Hong Kong mobsters in Election. The setting was perfect in depicting the underground transactions and businesses run by the tribes – the juxtaposition between raw brutality and loyalty to a family would not have worked as well anywhere else in the world. Similarities to Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs must be mentioned as To brilliantly uses wide single shot takes to encapsulate the audience in the room as the Uncles of the tribe discussed plans or just chatted.

 

A highlight was during the election itself and vital decisions can be put on hold for a tea ceremony. Steeped in tradition this gangster movie is like no other. Loyalty and respect ties the men together as they are bound in a thousand year old tradition, the only difference in their operation is now they have phones. To utilises the modernity of phones as humour as high tension scenes were broken by nothing else than a phone call. Interesting to note that no weapons were used, apart from a knife here and there, but the tribe relied on hand to hand combat and brute force. It was almost refreshing not to see heavy gun fights. The combat scenes were entertaining and quite realistic.

 

To used the characters well, although there wasn’t any formal character development the two protagonists had a perfect dichotomy between them – hothead and brash ‘Big D’ and the calm and collected Lok. The film is entertaining and the constant twists and high stakes will keep every audience member on their toes.

Kryztoff rating: 4K

Sep 22

Oz Asia Festival – 2016 – Under Electric Clouds – Aleksey German – The Mercury Cinema4K

By Tom Eckert

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Aleksey German’s Under Electric Clouds is a sprawling narrative deeply metaphorical and richly referential to the long cultural and political history of Russia it is an intimate examination of the Russian condition on a grand scale.

This two-and-a-half hour epic follows the stories of seven characters seemingly unrelated but proven to be united by a single element in the end. A failed building project of a gargantuan tower abandoned as a mere central framework after its oligarch of an owner passes away, leaving adult children to inherit his fortune and six other individuals profoundly impacted by the fallout, a fallout that could be considered a representation of a failed economic drive and the resultant collapse both morally and fiscally.

Set in 2017, notably 100 years after the Communist lead Russian Revolution, the world is suggested to be on the brink of another cataclysmic war and so life takes on a different quality.

German’s settings are exquisite with vast expanses implied with seemingly endless plains of snow and monolithic industrial ruins, the scenes are made to feel isolate and almost claustrophobic by the ever present ceiling of impenetrable muted clouds and an imposing mist leaving the main course of the action in vignetted contrast with the background. The environments themselves are deeply symbolic with a recurrent setting that ultimately brings the disparate threads together being an abandoned field full or decaying statues of Russia’s past; of Lenin and Stalin and other leaders of the revolution. Another places a Ph.D museum tour guide in full Hussar dress in conflict with the mechanical diggers of the forces of redevelopment in an effort to save the historical site that his life’s work is dedicated to.
German’s palette is consistent throughout with prominent concrete and neutral browns and blacks grey, these are often dusted with light pinks and contrasted with fluorescent glare.

Under Electric Skies pits the proud and unique stoic romanticism of Russia’s history against the forces for progress, capitalism and political corruption.

Kryztoff rating 4K

 

Sep 22

THEATRE – OZ ASIA – The Record – Space Theatre – 3K

ozasia-2016-900x600By Peter Maddern

A girl in her school uniform appears on the stage – a large plywood floor illuminated by diffuse light from above. Accompanied by a barely audible crackle – maybe it’s rain on a tin roof – she assumes a pose, part theatrical, part athletic. After what is an extraordinarily long opportunity for the audience to focus, others appear. They too are dressed as they would in their everyday lives – a young lad ready for the gym, teachers ready for class – and they too assume positions on stage whether by walking or by running.

This is 600 Highwaymen’s Record, a 60 minute performance from, in total, 45 local people. It is, they say, about “what happens when one group of people watches another – a focus on the primal elements of the place, the people, the time.”

the-record-2000x640While there was something engrossing about it all, even the restless seven year old in front of me seemed after ten minutes or so to start taking it all in (or maybe she fell asleep), most of the interest was spurred in no small part by Brandon Wolcott’s synthesised accompaniment to Emil Abramyan’s cello that together reached great heights of drive and compulsion. But just whether the objectives of the Highwaymen were achieved is probably for each patron to judge. Just whether this was theatre or dance is another question for individual taste.

Interesting, worth the trip from home, but not sure I would want to pay to see it again.

Kryztoff Rating  3K

Sep 19

Oz Asia Festival – 2016 – Cinema Program

By Tom Eckert

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One thing that the 2016 OzAsia festival’s Cinema program can be proud of is its diversity, in many facets.

The program respects a wide range of geographical locations from subcontinental India in Psycho Raman, to the mountains of Tibet in Paths of the Soul and the metropolises of Korea in Train to Busan.

This diversity is especially admirable in the context of the modern geopolitical climate. The aforementioned Paths of the Soul notably juxtaposes traditional Tibetan Script with the seal of approval from the China’s State Administration of Press, Film and Television. As well as this there is the fiercely traditional Kazakh film Stranger, critical of past Soviet actions within the country with Russia’s own Under Electric Clouds.

The scale too varies widely. The Chinese Mayor seeks to portray the rise of China into the global powerhouse it is today compared with the microcosm of River (GTSNGBO) which examines Chinese Tibetan rural groups through the eyes of a young girl.

Finally it is also good to see an array of producers from a celebration of the acclaimed Johnnie To, who is even visiting to present a masterclass, to a celebration of up-and-comers both from here and abroad as will be seen in Freshwave where a collection of Hong Kong film makers will bring their work to an international audience. As well as directors from our very own Flinders University students in Continental Shift.

This program at it’s very heart provides ample volumes of what this festival should be about. The celebration of diversity in Australia.

 

Sep 19

Oz Asia Festival – 2016 – Paths of the Soul – Yang Zhang – Mercury Cinema – 4K

By Tom Eckert

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Yang Zhang’s Paths of the Soul is a deeply meditative experience that touches on the deep spirituality of native Tibetans in an idiosyncratic pilgrimage journey of 2,000km to their most holy site made, unbelievably, whilst prostrating themselves to pray every few steps.

The cinematography is simultaneously deeply respectful and awe-inspiring. Keeping his distance, Zhang never allows the camera to invade the space of the people he is filming. This allows them to inhabit their own minds as they undergo their pilgrimage.

Not only this but his representations of the stark Tibetan mountain-scapes are breath-taking. Frequently rendering them in high contrast black and white he lends them an impassive indifference to the trials of those who seek to pass them. This is highlighted by the near tragedies of rock falls and land slides.

The ritual that is portrayed is deeply meditative, inviting the audience to introspection and reflection on the extents they would go to in their own lives. One can’t help but be held in wonder by both the sublime landscape and the efforts of Zhang’s earnest subjects.

Kryztoff rating: 4K

Sep 19

Oz Asia Festival – 2016 – Paths of the Soul – Yang Zhang – Mercury Cinema – 4K

By Tom Eckert

paths-of-the-soul-2000x640

Yang Zhang’s documentary Paths of the Soul is a deeply meditative and privileged vision of an idiosyncratic Tibetan Buddhist pilgrimage ritual that sees them traveling 2,000km to their holy capital whilst throwing themselves prostrate every few steps.

The cinematography is simultaneously deeply respectful and awe-inspiring. Keeping his distance, Zhang never allows the camera to invade the space of the people he is filming. This allows them to inhabit their own minds as they undergo their pilgrimage.

Not only this but his representations of the stark Tibetan mountain-scapes are breath-taking. Frequently rendering them in high contrast black and white he lends them an impassive indifference to the trials of those who seek to pass them. This is highlighted by the near tragedies of rock falls and land slides.

The ritual that is portrayed is deeply meditative, inviting the audience to introspection and reflection on the extents they would go to in their own lives. One can’t help but be held in wonder by both the sublime landscape and the efforts of Zhang’s earnest subjects.

Kryztoff rating: 4K

Sep 18

Oz Asia Festival – 2016 – Stranger – Emek Tursunov – 4K

By Tom Eckert

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Stranger is the completion of Ermek Tursunov’s trilogy examining the Kazakh identity.

Whilst described as apolitical by the director, Stranger is set in the times leading up to world war two after its protagonist defies to Soviet Union by not serving in the military following a situation where his father dies following arrest by Soviet authorities.

This comes at a pertinent time I Kazakhstan as, rich in natural resources including uranium and oil, it is perpetually under threat of annexation by Russia as recently happened in Crimea.

Politics aside, this film is an exploration of the human condition, and especially  the Kazakh culture placed in conflict with authority and ideology incompatible with their nomadic ways.

The protagonist could be considered in one reading to represent these traditions and to be a metaphor for the necessity to resist the influences of the forces that threaten that culture.

In addition to the thematic content, the cinematography is stunning. Eschewing computer generated environments for the real thing, Tursunov provides the audience with a striking palette in the foliage of the Kazakh hinterlands as well as the crystalline ephemera of the snow crusted tundra.

Allowing the audience to touch a more primal element of themselves through the life of his protagonist, Tursunov, despite claims to the contrary, also makes commentary on the current geopolitical standing of his home nation.

Kryztoff rating: 4K

 

Sep 17

OzAsia Festival – 2016 – Psycho Raman – Mercury Cinema – 1K

by Tom Eckert

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Psycho Raman, a psychological suspense film directed by Anurag Kashyap has a lot going for it but unfortunately could have been executed better.

The plot centers around the parallel narrative of a psychopath and the Mumbai policeman whom he becomes platonically infatuated with upon seeing the policeman murder someone with the same weapon he had used to make his first kill just minutes earlier.

The setting is the strongest element of this film. Kashyap uses the labyrinthine  slums of Mumbai to great effect to create tension as well as some excellent chase scenes that have one holding their breath.

This would have been satisfying if the cinematography had not been a little cliche, using standard shaking cameras in stalking scenes and half-screen obscured shots to demonstrate inner turmoil.

The soundtrack was reminiscent of a nightclub that decided it wasn’t worth investing in decent sound gear.

The central premise has some merit, juxtaposing the killer who does so through intent and purpose to the killer who lashes out in passion unable to control their impulses, and perversely manages to make the former come out as the more morally upstanding. This premise however is executed awkwardly through a fallen angel trope made all the less effective by the fact the supposed angel seemed to have already fallen some time prior.

Between a killer determined to systematically tick off the criteria for a clinical psychopath, and a man that between father-issues, a drug addiction and an over fondness of his own appearance  is left with almost no motivations, there is not much to be said for the characterisation.

A curious mash-up of bad American TV crime serial and portrait of Indian masculine values, Psycho Raman dragged at times and was almost comical in others at it’s attempts to create drama.

One caveat I will add is that the reviewer would likely have gotten more out of the film with a deeper understanding of Hindu mythology as the central story struck him as richly allegorical.

Kryztoff rating 1K

Sep 16

THEATRE – A Steady Rain – Lost in Translation – HST – 4K

By Peter Maddern

Two cops working together on the beat in Chicago, one a racist, the other a loner; well, a drive-by shooting would seem inevitable. Keith Huff’s riveting and often disturbing A Steady Rain starts this way when the home of Denny (Nick Fagan) is the target, seriously injuring his two year old son. From there we witness a man spin out of control while his partner Joey (Rohan Watts), with ambitions of his own, starts to fill the voids that Denny is leaving behind.

Things get particularly macabre and taut when one night they both attend to a routine disturbance and leave a naked Vietnamese teenager in the care of his ‘uncle’ who proceeds to devour the lad in the style of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. It is when both are offered the chance to sustain their tenuous careers by dobbing in the other for that cock-up that the brotherly love between them gets its most severe test.

The production works as two interwoven monologues with both players sitting adjoining the other; their times in and out of focus dictated by Scott Cleggett’s lighting. Huff takes us beyond your standard TV police drama into the very human worlds of both men with Denny seemingly overwhelmed by ambitions of self-destruction even though he has the most to lose.

Both Fagan and Watts deliver on their characters. Fagan’s Denny is a fire ball of anger and manipulation while Watts straddles the nuances between his own failings, ambitions and loyalty. It is the best performance I have seen from him. Fagan is perhaps too angry for too long – do we appreciate his sense of helplessness at the end or does it seem more of the same from the previous 60 minutes? His performance may also struggle from an overdone Chicago accent which for even these ears, one who spent five years living in the town and who frequented many of the locales alluded to in the scrip in the age of Ditka, Sosa and Jordan, was often incomprehensible.

This production is a repeat season from its acclaimed first run at this year’s Fringe by Nick Fagan’s Lost in Translation company. His aims are to produce the scripts he has seen and wish he could perform in and this certainly production has certainly been worth his efforts to get the rights to it – for audiences at least.

For intense theatre, the aptly named A Steady Rain delivers a punch and if one missed it in March, do not again now.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

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