Mystery Road Webpage Debuts, Sydney Film Festival Continues, New Hugo Weaving Photos

Note: this is an archived entry. Some links might not still work, but I have tried to ensure scan and video embeds are still in place. If any linked material is unavailable, please let me know and I’ll attempt to find a copy in my personal archives.

The Sydney Film Festival continues, as do Hugo Weaving sightings as Hugo sets aside promotional duties and gets down to film viewing in his role as Jury President. (Most years he’s “merely” doing so as an enthusiastic film fan.) 😉 So far he’s been spotted at screenings of three very different films: the Park Chanwook gothic thriller Stoker, the Indonesian war atrocity doc The Act of Killing, and Wadjda, which is the first film made in Saudi Arabia by a female director. I can’t say which of these he saw because they’re official festival selections and which he would’ve seen anyhow, or what he thought of them… In the past I might’ve said such matters are none of my business, but recently Hugo has taken to blurbing various Australian films, and almost always mentions a few recent favorites in recent interviews, so it’s not a subject he considers off limits. That and he has the power to hand out prestigious awards this time around. 😉 I suspect two of the above films are potent, provocative viewing while this other is an unabashed guilty pleasure. I’ll let you guess which are which. (Yes, I’d love to see Hugo work with Park Chanwook. Ideally in a Korean film. And not JUST because it’d shut up all those pedants still complaining about Boardman Mephi in Cloud Atlas.) 😉

But enough speculation, on to the news updates. Mystery Road’s new webpage went live yesterday, as did its Twitter feed, to go along with the Facebook page that’s been up for several months. Ivan Sen and David Jowsey’s promotion continues to be wonderfully laconic and understated. You can download a press kit and a passel of wonderful, sepia-tinged stills from the film from the site. Though the webpage synopsis gives the minimum away, the press kit goes into a bit more detail, though only minor plot spoilers. (Nothing on the scale of Little Fish or The Tender Hook, both of which had full plot synopses– including character deaths and ending spoilers– revealed on their production companies’ websites AS THE FILMS WERE BEING SHOT. Yes, seriously!) This reminds me a lot more of the promotion for Last Ride, which was first-rate, though that film didn’t get the wide international distribution it deserved. Mystery Road will almost certainly fare better, as it’s already found a US distributor with plans to open the film a few months after its Australian run.

Here are the webpage stills featuring Hugo:

Hugo Weaving as Johnno, Damian Walsh-Howling as Wayne

Hugo Weaving as Johnno, Tony Barry as Sergeant

Here are the latest photos from the Sydney Film Festival:

Hugo Weaving, Pia Marais, Kath Shelper and Paolo Bertolin (the SFF Jury) pose with Saudi director Haifaa al-Mansour (center) at the June 7 screening of her film Wadjda  Photo: SFF Facebook page

Hugo with Haifaa al-Mansour (center) , Kath Shelper (right) and SFF Director Nashen Moodley (far left) at the Wadjda premiere  Photo: Hopscotch Films Facebook page

And I’ve officially begun calling the “double denim” look “The Weaving Tuxedo”. And I don’t wanna hear any fashion snobs sayin’ nothin’ about that. 😉

Hugo poses with fan/fellow festivalgoer Hannah  (@Hannacramb via Twitter)

Another photo of Hugo with Stephanie Langridge in designer Natalie Chapman’s SFF flag dress  Photo: SFF Facebook page

There’s also an entertaining YouTube video about the making of that dress, and the mileage it got on the Mystery Road red carpet:

There are several seconds of Hugo footage starting at 1.30… also love the creative repurposing, and the fact that Ms Chapman chose a model with a va-va-voomy figure rather than one of those standard issue catwalk coat-racks. 😉

And here’s an older one, a great photo from last November’s Wellington Hobbit premiere that I hadn’t seen before:

Photo: dandireyes via Flickr… larger version here

I’ll augment the photo section as more new images appear. There are a few of new reviews as well: two very positive, one more mixed.

Blake Howard, Graffiti With Punctuation: “[Ivan] Sen and star [Aaron] Pedersen have crafted a pitch perfect indigneous noir detective mixed with soul for the modern western (No Country for Old Men, Red Hill). It’s finally a role that Pederesen (Water Rats, East West 101, MDA, City Homicide) has been able to truly shine in. The stoicism and resolve that Pedersen’s Swan outwardly displays does have its cracks; and it’s in those peeks into his soul that he’s even more impressive. As he’s driving through the maze like streets, his eyes confess his internal turmoil to the open road.

The supporting cast does a phenomenal job. The highlights for this reviewer in the all star Aussie ensemble were Hugo Weaving; whose skill with portraying ambiguity makes his Detective character a particularly elusive entity. He has past indiscretions that still influence his approach. [And] Ryan Kwanten is electric as the overtly racist Kangaroo hunter, that’s suspect number one in Swan’s investigation. This is yet another potent performance for the increasingly incredible performer.
Mystery Road is an unravelling enigma haunted by the spirits of the Australia’s indigenous and colonial past. It positions ‘civilisation’ alongside the outback and it’s inescapable ochre stain. It’s Australia’s answer to No Country for Old Men. ★★★★ and a half (out of 5)”artemisprojects: ”

Mystery Road is packaged neatly (and cunningly) in the genre of a detective film, itself a gentle parody of a white man’s paradigm, though the detective in this film is Aaron Pedersen’s Jay Swan, an aboriginal detective who is encouraged by his uncle, played by the charming Jack Charles in a memorable performance, to ‘keep it dark’….Mystery Road is a modern parable of how wrongdoings come back to haunt us…it is gentle, patient, yet unrelenting and merciless.

It has already won itself a unique and fundamental place in the history of Australian film.”

Lynden Barber, SBS: “Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road, an Aboriginal police procedural cum modern Western set in a small outback town, was a canny choice for the gala opening night feature. I liked it with reservations. Apart from a terrific cast (headed by Aaron Pederson as the cop just returned from the city), the good part is that after his smell-of-an-oily-rag Toomelah, Sen has re-found the spectacular eye that marked out his earlier short films and debut feature, Beneath Clouds. This is a director who knows how to frame a shot (and he does all his own, often spectacular, cinematography).

While I suspect Mystery Road will be enthusiastically reviewed, I predict it will struggle to match that approval at the box office, and for understandable reason. While Sen has addressed the need for his feature film to look boldly cinematic, his under-developed plot derives essentially from television…To my mind, Sen would have been better off working with a screenwriter to more satisfactorily develop the script and turn this into a high-end TV teleseries. In this form it could have retained its cinematic virtues (as our new large-screen televisions allow) while satisfying more deeply on the narrative level. ”


I don’t think the TV comments are insulting, and in the cases of some films, I wonder the same thing: some plots (especially the “slow burn” variety) and characters are better-served by the broader narrative parameters of television, particularly the sorts of artful miniseries/limited run series now being developed by Sundance and other cable networks: Top of the Lake (co-directed by Jane Campion) and Rectify were particularly fine recent examples. (Hugo’s friend and periodic costar Aden Young starred in the latter– possibly the most remarkable performance I’ve seen from an actor yet this year. Seek it out if you haven’t seen it already.) That said, I’m glad Mystery Road is a film, because I don’t have an 80″ LED screen and cinema-quality sound system yet, and I really want to see this in a cinematic context.

One of the heartening things about seeing Cloud Atlas in a theater several times was being able to chat with others who loved the film as much as I did, which countered a lot of the pseudointellectual internet smarm I had to slog through in covering the film for the fan community. I bet a lot of people now discovering that film on DVD/Blu-Ray/On Demand etc wish they’d seen it on a giant screen.  😉 But I could definitely see Hugo doing a limited-run series for Sen or another director of his calibre. One could easily argue that in the US, in particular, the television is often of a higher quality than the films in recent years, though there’s still too much “reality” TV garbage out there. (But all countries produce their share of the latter.)

You can read other articles about the Mystery Road premiere, and its US distribution deal, at The Age, Twitch Film and FilmOFilia.

The Hobbit Trilogy
There are a few minor updates on the second installment of The Hobbit: The Hobbit Movie website posted some speculative clues about what might appear in the sequels. I suspect that Battle of Five Armies will be saved for the third film, as many actors have confirmed it hadn’t been filmed yet before the recent additional shooting began in New Zealand. Still no word on whether Hugo will be needed for additional scenes/shooting, or whether he’ll appear in all three films. Several websites have speculated that the first trailer for The Desolation of Smaug might appear before screenings of Man of Steel, but this isn’t confirmed by any official sources. Anyhow, the trailer will certainly be posted online no matter which films it’s attached to. So you don’t have to subject yourself to Zack Snyder. (I’d probably be ejected from the theater for cheering on Michael Shannon too loudly. Yes, my favorite actors are inevitably cast as villains in these things…) 😉

Peter Jackson hasn’t shared any new dispatches from the set, though he’s promised something soon… he did share an amusing behind the scenes video made for the An Unexpected Journey DVD and New Zealand tourism, which covers all of the locations used in the first film. And insists none of the scenery was photoshopped (though PJ wryly reveals that the Hobbiton set used in the LOTR trilogy was “made of polystyrene”.) No Elrond/Hugo footage,alas, because Rivendell was completely filmed on sound stages. But it’s well worth a look if you’re a fan of any these films.

The Gift

Hot on the heels of his well-received Sydney Theatre Company debut in Fury, Harry Greenwood has taken on another challenging role, portraying a young man with cerebral palsy in the short film The Gift, directed by Lloyd and Spencer Harvey. There are a trailer and making-of video posted to Vimeo which I’ll try to embed below if LJ will cooperate.

While the plot isn’t wholly original (it reminds me slightly of the excellent short film “Wish 143” and the feature film The Sessions) the treatment does seem unique, dealing with the protagonist’s family and the complications his wish provokes.

I’ve been asked a few times if I’m going to cover everything Harry does just because he’s Hugo’s son… the answer is “no”. I don’t cover everything Hugo does, nor am I a big fan of nepotism.  None of the online fan blogs or pages are official in any way, and, since they are fan pages, there’s no sense in pretending they’re objective. Yes, Hugo’s work gets the benefit of the doubt in most cases, but not all. I like to think I try to balance the vast bulk of online Hugo Weaving pages, which focus on a small number of his roles and often ignore his most interesting work. Similarly, I’m only going to pass on the word about Harry’s projects if they impress me. If he starts doing soaps like his cousin, I’m not going to say too much about that… but he’ll probably find a huge, young female following who are more than happy to do so. I’m pleasantly surprised he’s doing the less-lucrative but more interesting projects he’s chosen. If he reaches a certain level of fame, someone else will probably take on Harry Greenwood fan-blogging full time. I do question if I should mention his projects or just stick to Hugo News… I predict he’ll have enough fans in his own right soon enough. 😉


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