Jun 122012


Too many films, too little time! Check out my brief thoughts on two films which I recently watched at Sydney Film Festival – On the Road and Alps.


On the Road

on the road

Adapted from the much-respected novel by Jack Kerouac, On the Road is a story about the extent that artists will go to for inspiration, and the journey to find oneself and one’s voice. Set in post-war America, the film follows Sal (Sam Riley) and his friends on a road-trip that crisscrosses America, as Sal searches for the inspiration needed to write the book that will cement his place as a true writer. Free from the shackles of obligation and war-time, the young friends seek both fun and meaning through their experiments with sex, drugs, and jazz.

While the book has many fans, I haven’t read it so I’m unable to comment on how it is as an adaptation; but I have to assume that there was something more to the characters. The performances are solid all around, but the characters were so shallow, selfish, and utterly irresponsible. I couldn’t have cared less what happened to them. The film is 140 minutes long and it feels every minute of it – there are very few peaks or troughs in the journey. It meanders along at a very sedate pace, with the monotony of the road occasionally broken up by some upbeat jazz music. While the film is quite monotonous, the scenery is not – the beautiful American countryside and cityscape alike is showcased wonderfully by the excellent photography.

I can’t really recommend this one, but I’d be interested to hear what fans of the book think. Check back closer to the cinema release date for a full review.


The Facts

Director: Walter Salles
Writer(s): José Rivera (screenplay), Jack Kerouac (book)
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen, Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley
Country: USA
Runtime: 140 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: October 4 2012; New Zealand: September 13 2012; USA: No date set



From the writer-director of the disturbing, yet brilliant Dogtooth, Alps is the latest entry in the so-called Greek “Weird Wave” genre. Though this film has similar aesthetics to Dogtooth, it is nowhere near as weird or compelling. The Alps are a group of people who offer a very particular service – when someone dies they will replace the departed person so that the lives of their loved ones can go on more or less as if they had never died. They will act as if they are the person, right down to wearing their clothes and imitating their mannerisms. They are directed by a dark and unforgiving boss, who doles out punishment far more freely than praise.

While the idea is compelling, the execution is far from good. The film is neither grounded enough in reality, or out-there crazy enough for audiences to buy in to. There are moments of intrigue that had me wanting more, but for the most part it was just odd, and not in an entirely engaging way. The acting and script are so wooden, that it’s not possible to believe for one moment that people would really hire these people and go along with such a ruse. A few fantastic scenes (including one with some beautiful gymnastics) save the film from being completely forgettable.


The Facts

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writer(s): Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou Starring: Aggeliki Papoulia, Aris Servetalis, Johnny Vekris
Country: Greece
Runtime: 93 minutes
Release date(s): Australia, New Zealand, USA: No date set