Allied, Arrival and Elle.

The only cinema in Byron Bay is at the Pig Factory. It’s darling little affair with mattresses and pillows up the front where you can fully stretch out, secure in the knowledge that whatever smaltzy Hollywood fare they serve up, you’ll at least be enduring it from a comfortable vantage. And with the added option of taking a nap if the film is truly appalling.

Jackie and I were in the mood to see a movie that night. Allied was the only thing playing. ‘Brad Pitt can’t act!’ said she. ‘No,’ I countered ‘he just can’t pull off a lead role’. I proffered his performances in True Romance, California and Thelma and Louise as examples of excellent non-leading man handiwork. Tickets in hand we mosied on down to the front of the theatre where there were three spots available next to a solitary man. He eyeballed the two of us and declared there was only one spot available. Sceptical, we meekly took an upright seat instead. His one mate soon arrived and they starfished out taking up TWO seats each. I hissed at Jackie, outraged at their greed and blatant cheek. He kept up the pretense of others arriving by looking back at the entrance doors every couple of minutes even through the opening credits. I fumed.

Allied looks like a heap of shit and it is indeed, a steaming pile of dung. The story is completely implausible, the writing woeful and the acting third-rate at best. It’s clunky, unsophisticated and has a distinct ‘shot-in-the-studio’ feel. And from the director who made the legendary Back to the Future movies and the fantasically dark and bloodthirsty Beowulf animation?? Tsk, tsk…out of 10 I’d give it a 1. Though taking a sledge at that mattress-hogging wiener as the credits rolled somehow made it all worthwhile.

We took in Arrival the next night in pole position. A neat-looking ovoid flying saucer and the representation of aliens as the offspring of an elephant and a giant squid made it possible to endure the pointless performance of Forrest Whitaker, the plethora of dramatic close ups of Amy Adams acting with her eyes and the octagenarian’s pace at which it all unfurled. The central theme was America will be wholly responsible for world peace. Bluurgh. Better than Allied though. We managed to stay awake in our horizontal locus.

I’d seen Elle at the Gold Goast Arts Cinema the week before. Expectations were high as the director was Paul Verhoeven, responsible for the highly entertaining, ultra-violent, smart-sci-fi offerings Robo-Cop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers.

I was struck again by how French movies don’t seem to begin or end, they just are. The true antithesis of your typical Hollywood fare, there are no explanations, no obvious themes and you’re often left feeling discombobulated yet strangely satisfied. Elle was no exception. The plot is bizarre, edging on absurd, but delightfully so. The CEO of a computer-game company which glorifies sexualised violence towards women, is savagely raped in her home but instead of reporting it to the police, goes about her business, seemingly unfazed, even when she realises she is being stalked. Further she is the daughter of a notorious mass murderer who butchered everyone in their street including the pets when she was just a child.

The quirky humour embedded throughout serves effectively as a device to assist in recovery between the grotesque rape scenes, which leave you confused as to whether they are gratuitous or essential to the story. Further, the film doesn’t appear to tender any theme or message: the link between this woman’s attitude to the derogatory nature of her work with regards to women and being the victim of a violent sexual crime is unclear, as is the relevance of her father’s slaughter. A movie that engrosses you, has you recoiling, laughing and well off-kilter, a movie that you need to discuss with others in order to process it, all tied together with a wonderfully strong female lead….now that’s the type of movie I want to watch.

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