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(Update: Blogger hasn't fixed its problem with the "adult warning". Will go back to posting at my WordPress blog)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Dressmaker

A few weeks ago, my lady and I went to see The Dressmaker.  What a wonderful film!  Funny, sad, moving, poignant, clever, pointed ....  Perfect.  Set in western Victoria in the wheat belt, it's a perfect picture of small town life.  Just when you think it's going to go in a predictable direction, it switches track and you are captured again.  When that happens it's sometimes funny but sometimes extraordinarily sad.  It's sumptuous, marvellous and so beautifully done, with some nice echoes of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, including a cross-dressing Hugo Weaving.  Oh, and Liam Hemsworth is ... very yum.  Not that Kate Winslet isn't extraordinarily beautiful.  I can't recommend it too highly.

Despite the director being an (Ozzie) Hollywood great, Jocelyn Moorhouse (How to Make an American Quilt) it's very much not the sort of film made in Hollywood, which will prolly mean, alas, that its sales outside Australia will be low.

Jim Schembri from 3AW says:

We've gone on quite a bit about what a great year it's turning out to be for Australian film, but not quite so far as to use a clumsy metaphor.

So here goes, folks: if the high-quality of local films in 2015 can be seen as an over-sized serving of luxury dessert, then The Dressmaker would be well-cast as the big, fat cherry on top.

It's a winning, whacky, hugely enjoyable slice of Australiana that begins with a whisper and ends with a heck of a bang.

Exuberant and brash, cheeky and sexy, sporting a dry sense of humour and a great ensemble cast, The Dressmaker unspools as a big, boisterous period comedy driven by a thirst for revenge, a desire for romance and - most important of all - a hunger to entertain.

Having been banished from her home town of Dungatar as a child, Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet) defiantly returns in 1951 as a world-travelled fashionista. Accused of a school-yard crime, she is determined to face down the small minds of her small town, exact some justice and reclaim her good name.

But first she has to deal with her fiery, wheel-chair bound harridan of a mother (Judy Davis), who has let the family home deteriorate into a state as haggard as her face. Looking as though she was cloned directly into her clothes, Davis is a delight as she works hard to wrench the film away from Winslet.

Be assured, this is Winslet's film. Her classy combination of steely, single-minded purpose and down-home warmth are easy to embrace and relate to. Coupled to that, Winslet is now one of the most classically beautiful women in cinema, a quality the film's superb cinematography is completely uninterested in hiding.

Though the film's feisty centrepiece, she is surrounded by a heavy-hitting ensemble. There's Liam Hemsworth (as romantic relief), Hugo Weaving (a fashion-loving copper), Shane Jacobson (a shop owner), Sarah Snook (his frumpy daughter), Barry Otto, Shane Bourne, Caroline Goodall, Rebecca Gibney, Alison Whyte, Julia Blake, Kerry Fox, Sacha Horler, Gyton Grantley, Mark Winter and Terry Norris.

It's hard to recall the last time an Aussie film was crammed with so much top-shelf talent. Best thing is, they all get their moment in the sun - or, in some cases, the mud.

In what could easily have been called A Fistful of Dior, director Jocelyn Moorhouse merrily mashes the tropes of the spaghetti western genre familiar to fans of Sergio Leone (The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, etc) with high-key comedy, fashion and the more conventional beats of a romantic period film to deliver a delicious cinematic treat that quickly establishes a giddy hold on its audience and never lets go.

Read more here.  You can watch the trailer here.  And here's an interesting interview with Jocelyn Moorhouse, the director.

You may not get a chance to see it but if you do, go!  It will stay with you forever.

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