Sydney Film Festival - A Talk with Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton

This year at the Town Hall,as part of the Sydney Film Festival, Australian film reviewers and national treasures, Margaret and David talked about films that they felt were under appreciated or underrated. Here are the movies they chose:

Margaret – Running On Empty (1988)
Directed by Sydney Lumet. Starring Judd Hirsch, Christine Lahti, River Phoenix, Martha Plimpton.
Blurb from IMDB: The eldest son of a fugitive family comes of age and wants to live a life of his own.

David – Storm Center (1956)
irected by Daniel Taradash. Starring Bette Davis, Brian Keith, Kim Hunter
Blurb from IMDB: A small-town librarian is branded as a Communist by local politicians when she refuses to withdraw a controversial book from the library's shelves.

Margaret – In The Cut (2003)
Directed by Jane Campion. Starring Meg Ryan, Mark Ruffalo.
Blurb from IMDB: New York writing professor, Frannie Avery, has an affair with a police detective who is investigating the murder of a beautiful young woman in her neighbourhood.

David – Blessed (2009)
Directed by Ana Kokkinos.  Starring Frances O'Connor, Miranda Otto, Deborra-Lee Furness
Blurb from IMDB: Seven lost children wander the night streets while their mothers await their return home.

Margaret – Festen (1998)
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg (uncredited). Starring Ulrich Thomsen, Henning Moritzen, Thomas Bo.
Blurb from IMDB: At Helge's 60th birthday party, some unpleasant family truths are revealed.

David – Across the Universe (2007)
Directed by Julie Taymor. Starring Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson
Blurb from IMDB: The music of the Beatles and the Vietnam War form the backdrop for the romance between an upper-class American girl and a poor Liverpudlian artist.

Margaret – All Is Lost (2013)
irected by J.C. Chandor. Starring Robert Redford
Blurb from IMDB: After a collision with a shipping container at sea, a resourceful sailor finds himself, despite all efforts to the contrary, staring his mortality in the face.

David – In The Electric Mist (2009)
Directed by Bertrand Tavernier.  Starring Tommy Lee Jones, John Goodman, Peter Sarsgaard
Blurb from IMDB: A detective in post-Katrina New Orleans has a series of surreal encounters with a troop of friendly Confederate soldiers while investigating serial killings of local prostitutes, a 1965 lynching, and corrupt local businessmen.

Margaret – 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
Directed by John Singleton. Starring Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Cole Hauser
Blurb from IMDB: Brian O'Conner and childhood friend Roman Pearce are re-united by the FBI to bring down a Miami drug exporter in exchange for clear records.

David – The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012)
irected by Mira Nair. Starring Riz Ahmed, Liev Schreiber, Kiefer Sutherland
Blurb from IMDB: A young Pakistani man is chasing corporate success on Wall Street. He finds himself embroiled in a conflict between his American Dream, a hostage crisis, and the enduring call of his family's homeland.

Classic Film - Three Days of the Condor

Recently I watched the 2012 Robert Redford movie, The Company You Keep. It was excellent with a cast that was so rich that even the one scene roles were played by actors such as Sam Elliot and Richard Jenkins. I was immediately reminded of one of my favourite Redford movies, Three Days of the Condor (1975) with its mixture of a chase anchored by beautiful quiet moments. 

The movie is based on the 1974 novel, Six Days of the Condor by James Grady, and it is very much of its time with the Cold War backdrop, the lack of trust in the bureaucracy and/or the American government and an element of realism and bleakness that was prevalent in 1970s US cinema. It was filmed on location in New York City giving it immediacy and authenticity. Styles and buildings may have changed over the years, but New York City remains the same. Fast paced, noisy and crowded. It becomes a great supporting character in the film.

Redford plays Joe Turner, a CIA analyst, who finds himself out on his own when he is the only survivor an attack on his office and the mechanicians of his CIA superiors make it dangerous for him to come in from the cold. He kidnaps a stranger, Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway) and coerces her into providing him with a safe place to stay while he figures out what to do next.  These are straightforward plot points for the film, but what makes it a classic is the tension that is built because of the situation but also the very realistic reactions of Joe, who finds himself out of his depth. What will make or break the film for you is if you find the relationship between Joe and Kathy plausible or not. This is the element of the story that could have gone awry, however, Sydney Pollack finds an honesty between the two characters and brings out a strong connection between them based on the great chemistry of Redford and Dunaway. Both Redford and Dunaway are great in this film and in the hands of a lesser actress Kathy would have been an aside in the film.  Sydney Pollack and Robert Redford worked together on six movies through the 1970s and 1980s andThree Days of the Condor was their third movie together. It is not a partnership between actor and director that is much heralded as Pollack was not seen as an auteur like Martin Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola, but I think that is a disservice. He is a very good director that made a combination of comedies, thrillers and dramas throughout his career. Possibly his commercial success detracted his critics from recognising how good he was. We are definitely missing the types of movies he made today. There is not much scope for the medium sized budget movie aimed at adults these days. 

There are many other political thrillers of this time such as The Conversation, All The President's Men (another Redford and Pollack pairing) and The Parallax View, however Three Days of the Condor brings an element of sex that is lacking in the others. That spark is why the film is referenced in a conversation between escaped thief Jack Foley (George Clooney) and FBI agent Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez) in the boot of a car in Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight (1998), another great movie. I recommend watching Three Days of the Condor it holds up and it is a much better than many thrillers that I have seen in the last five years.