GOLD. Directed by Stephen Gaghan with Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramirez and Bryce Dallas.
A strange one, this. On the one hand, Matthew McConaughey turns in a fine performance as flabby, chain-smoking, high-functioning alcoholic Kenny Wells, whose gold-prospecting dream turns into a high-rolling reality. On the other hand, it’s a bit thin on everything and everyone else, so while the ensemble cast is there, you don’t really get a grip on them. Wells is a brash-mouthed prospector who is, as he says “down on his balls” when he hooks up with geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez). Together they find a literal gold mine in the Indonesian wilds, and turn it into a stock exchange miracle. It’s a great “thumbs up for the underdog” moment.
But the wheels of fate – and foul play – tend to keep on turnin’, and maintaining a stake in the one of the world’s biggest cash cows becomes increasingly difficult. It’s not a hard movie to watch, and McConaughey is particularly eye-catching in an unattractive way: overweight, balding, a heart attack on legs. Let’s just say it’s worth staying until the end, for the final twist. – Karen Rutter
THE SENSE OF AN ENDING. Directed by Ritesh Batra. With Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Emily Mortimer and Billy Howle.
Based on Julian Barnes’ Booker-prize-winning novel, The Sense of an Ending is an elegant study of resentment, regret and reconciliation – none of these over-cooked, but rather handled with some care. It is a delicate offering, understated in many ways. And this is all pretty much within the Barnes literary oeuvre. The tale is of an older man – Tony – who, upon receiving a letter, starts to reminisce about his past, and the people who played a significant role during a certain period.
We go back to his late school/early ‘varsity years, to a group of friends and a girl and the girl’s mother. Back in the present, Tony makes some startling realisations about that time in his life. All well and good, and finely acted by Jim Broadbent as Tony. Thing is, for those who have read the book, it’s not really a great adaptation of the actual narrative. Things are left out, things are added in, and the sum total is rather less than the original work. That said, it’s not a bad film, and rather poignant in its understated sadness. EXTRAS: Doing Right by a Great Book, Power of Memory: Making The Sense of an Ending. – Karen Rutter
SILENCE. Directed by Martin Scorcese. With Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Tadanobu Asano and Liam Neeson.
It’s hard to believe that the director who created the charming Hugo, the gritty Taxi Driver, the quirky After Hours and the seminal Raging Bull, is the same person behind the boring Silence. Reportedly a private passion of Martin Scorcese, who not only directed but also co-wrote the screenplay, Silence tells the tale of two Jesuit priests who travel from Portugal to Japan during the 17th century to find their missing mentor and spread Christianity. The making of the film was itself something of a mission – it took 25 years to plan, the lead actors lost a combined total of 90 pounds to authenticate their roles, and so on – while the end product clocks in at a stately 160 minutes.
So a lot of thought and preparation have gone into the production. But let’s just say it upfront – it is as tedious as all hell. Lovely cinematography, for sure – but. Boring. Plus, the portrayal of the Jesuits and their loyal converts as noble victims facing the unreasonable wrath of the cruel Japanese is just offensive. Basically, two dudes enter a country where their religion is illegal, start spreading their philosophy regardless,and then are surprised when the authorities ask them to stop. The film is supposed to be about faith – but the true test of faith (in Scorcese, perhaps) is whether you watch this one to the end. EXTRA: Martin Scorcese’s Journey into Silence. – Karen Rutter
JOHNNY IS NIE DOOD NIE. Directed by Christiaan Olwagen with Albert Pretorius, Rolanda Marais, Ludwig Binge and Ilana Cilliers.
Adapted by director Olwagen from a stage play by Malan Steyn, the film is the celebrated theatre director’s filmic debut, and he carries over his strong scripting skill to the big screen. The plot follows two timelines – in the now four friends are having a braai on the Sunday after Johannes Kerkorrel committed suicide. As they reminisce about their student days at Stellenbosch University, which were greatly influenced by the new Afrikaans rock they were discovering, they also remember a friend who committed suicide.
Johnny’s soundtrack is central to the story. Olwagen makes personal for these characters the impact of the Voëlvry movement on their political development – which makes the film an effective, yet intriguing way of learning more about the music and its meaning for an entire generation.
Olwagen gathers a strong ensemble cast, but as usual Pretorius steals the show. Touching on friendship, betrayal, sexual and political awakening, Johnny is as layered and nuanced as any of the theatre work Olwagen has worked on over the years and bodes well for his film career. Cinematographer Chris Vermaak’s penchant for the swirling camera does get a bit nauseating, but his use of continuous long tracking shots makes up for it. EXTRA: Behind the Scenes Interviews: Cast and Crew – Theresa Smith