There’s a lot of new material to post, so I’ll get to it without further ado; most of it is promotion for and reviews of Tim Winton’s The Turning, which opened its 2-week “Special Release” in select Australian cinemas. Viewers attending these showings will receive the much-discussed 40-page glossy promo booklet detailing the characters and the various actors portraying each one. Our valued Australian correspondent Yvette posted images from her copy of the pages which feature Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett’s characters (Bob Lang in “Commission”, Carol Lang in “Reunion” so those of us not lucky enough to attend these special screenings can have a taste of that experience:
Again, my thanks to Yvette for sharing these.
Here’s a scan of the more positive recent reviews of the film, from the Courier Mail:
There are two new video clips Hugo fans will be interested in: the first features Hugo’s interview with Mark Fennell for The Feed/SBS2. Though I still wish interviewers in general would stop adding jarring musical accompaniment to these things, the interview itself is intelligent and the interviewer clearly knows Hugo’s work beyond the blockbusters. (Always nice to see someone stand up for Cloud Atlas too.) 😉
The second clip is a video of Robert Connolly’s ABC Radio interview from September 20 interspersed with comments from the film’s directors and cast (including Hugo) and film footage:
Thanks to both networks for posting these clips to YouTube so I can embed without hassles. 😉
Inside Film and The Sydney Morning Herald (2nd SMH story on ticket sales here) have reported that the “special release” strategy has reaped huge rewards for the film, with many showings sold out and the film garnering positive buzz and likely AACTA nods. You can read production notes for the film at Femail.com.
The film continues to receive mostly positive reviews, and I haven’t read any that were wholly negative; some critics preferred some segments to others (which is natural), and some disliked the central concept of separating the stories by cast and director instead of a more uniform approach, which they felt made the film more confusing or diffuse than the novel. I’m less sympathetic to complaints that the film lacked a unifying “message” or that it was too long. I’ll post a sampling of recent review quotes under a cut, followed by additional review links.
Sandra Hall, The Sydney Morning Herald: “The film uses all 17 of the stories, each given form and colour by its setting – the small, Western Australian coastal town where Winton grew up. Most of the recurring characters have spent their youth here and a few have stayed on. Others have returned after years of fishing in busier waters. An unarticulated sense of yearning hangs over the place. Sometimes the action is propelled by frustration and disappointment and occasionally, the clouds are parted by a burst of laughter or a sudden flash of glee as inhibitions fall away and tensions dissolve…
David Wenham handles Commission, in which the adult Vic (portrayed by Josh McConville) seeks out the father who abandoned him and his mother when he was a teenager. As the father, an ex-cop broken by the corruption he had encountered among his fellow officers, we have Hugo Weaving, giving a performance that packs half a lifetime into 15 minutes…
***Rachael Mead, INDaily: “This film adaptation of Tim Winton’s short story cycle The Turning is being promoted as a “unique cinema event”, but even this level of praise fails to do it justice….Tim Winton’s The Turning is a beautiful and thoroughly Australian film that is every bit as addictive as the book. Winton’s characteristic depiction of life in the fictional West Australian coastal town of Angelus is brought to life in these short pieces, which follow the experiences of a cross-section of its townsfolk. These films build on each other, gathering momentum and suspense as they explore dark themes such as domestic violence, alcoholism, homicide and police corruption…
Tim Winton’s The Turning is unquestionably a landmark in Australian filmmaking. While it demands substantial concentration from the audience, this elegant and suspenseful epic more than rewards the effort.”
Kate Jinx, Six Thousand: “I’ll be honest. I haven’t read The Turning. I feel ambivalent towards most short films. I have to will myself daily to keep up a longstanding optimism about the Australian film industry. And this, THIS is an almost three hour film adaptation of Tim Winton’s novel, as presented by 17 different directors. As I took my seat for this much touted ‘cinema experience’, the odds did not look good. I bloody loved it…
There are moments of ‘WA winery commercial’ in there, sure, but there are also perfectly realised shorts that shine. Both Mia Wasikowska’s and David Wenham’s directorial debuts stand out, as do pieces by more experienced film-makers Warwick Thornton (Samson and Delilah) and Justin Kurzel (Snowtown). The list of actors is similarly impressive, including Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Richard Roxburgh, Wayne Blair, Robyn Nevin and Hugo Weaving.”
Hugo Weaving as Bob Lang in Commission (all film stills from The Turning’s Facebook page)
Pamela Cook, Flying Pony: “I’m a Tim Winton fan from way back. Cloudstreet is my all time favourite novel and The Turning, my favourite short story collection. So when I saw it was going to be released as a movie I jumped online and ordered tickets for the preview for my daughter (also a fan) and myself…
And we weren’t disappointed.
What followed was three hours of beautiful cinematography, inspired directing and acting, in adaptations that captured the spirit of Winton’s writing…
My pick of the bunch would have to be Commission, starring Hugo Weaving and directed by David Wenham. Weaving’s portrayal of the emotionally tortured Bob Lang meeting his adult son Vic for the first time in fifteen years, was truly mesmerising. And of course the casting of Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh and Robyn Nevin in Reunion was absolute genius and a joy to watch.”
Ron in Lausanne, Rob On The Sunshine Coast: ” Winton’s book, The Turning, is a complex compilation that explores the tricky coming of age years and then the fallout of the broken dreams that can eventuate, no matter how successfully you had navigated the pain of puberty. The imagery in these stories can be ‘like through a glass darkly’, but they are also hopeful, set in landscapes that are wild, dangerous and beautiful. Tim Winton seems to possess the ability to see life as the Australian Aborigines do, where people, landscape and spirit are inescapably intertwined as one…
***Colin Delaney, Something You Said: “Commission sees Hugo Weaving as Bob Lang, an ex-cop with a stoic exterior suffering demons that resurface when Vic tracks him down in an outback shack. Wenham uses a light touch and lets Weaving reveal through bare character subtleties. It’s an attribute in line with the director’s view of Winton’s text: ‘[He] has the ability to strip anything extraneous from his characters and stories. His unique skill allows him in each instance to simply and directly locate the kernel of truth.’…
Due to its niche market distribution model, it won’t capture the word-of-mouth growth that Red Dog and The Sapphires enjoyed the last two years. Similarly it doesn’t have those films’ escapism so it’ll be another local offering passing the masses because its bogged down by ‘depressing’ social-realism….However, if you’re one for bold, cinematic experiences that go beyond 3D and in-your-face explosions, to meditate on the minutiae of the human condition, The Turning is engaging viewing.”
Alana Foster, Paper Persuasion: “The story is evocative, and I will boast nothing but praise for its unique and complex narrative. I’m a huge fan of Australian productions, and this embodies everything that is creatively genius about Australia. The use of landscape and culture with iconic and emerging Australian talent is fantastic. Notably most directors were debuting for the first time, coming from other creative disciplines. Keep an eye out for Rose Byrne who completely transforms herself into possibly the best character portrayal I have seen her perform…
This cinema experience is unlike anything I have ever seen before. It is screening for two weeks only at selected cinemas across Australia. The whopping 180 minutes of screen time has a scheduled intermission, necessary so the audience can come up for air – it’s intense….
However thinking about the film, the stories, the interweaving of themes and the sheer depravity of single events and how they were depicted is brilliant. If by no other reason than curiosity and my personal recommendation, see this film immediately.”
Hugo Weaving and David Wenham on the set of Commission
James Robert Douglas, Junkee: “There was a moment, about two hours into The Turning – when Hugo Weaving strode onto the screen, luxuriantly bearded, and planted himself in the centre of the frame like a sturdy eucalypt — when I finally felt like I was in safe hands, if only for a short while…
One Short Story = One Short Film seems like a simple formula, but the demands of adaption are more complex. Clear narratives and concrete dramatic situations are usually an important component in satisfying movies (even David Lynch movies), but they are not always ingredients in successful short stories, which might take the form of artfully brief studies of character, or place, or history…Some short works, also, are so elegantly compressed that they truly do require a feature length running time to unpack….Not having read Winton’s book, the pieces in The Turning that lost me were those that preoccupied themselves in trying to untangle the delicate, internal emotional and psychological states that can be confidently expressed in prose, but tricky to externalize on film….
Which is why, in a film of small performances, Hugo Weaving’s presence is a tonic. Weaving has years’ experience chewing the scenery in blockbuster productions like The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and in David Wenham’s ‘Commission’, he feels fully in command of the screen. Even when he’s not speaking his jaw works silently, chewing the air, demanding attention. He has the confidence to go broad without going over the top. It’s a performance with something to say about the difference between good screen acting and being entertaining. It helps, also, that Wenham has surrounded him with crisp, cinematic compositions, and given him a well-formed character to deliver.”
Philippa Hawker, The Sydney Morning Herald: “These are tales of loss, failure, connection and redemption, and they have things in common: recurring images and themes, locations with a particular significance, pain and disappointment that stretches across generations. The filmmakers of The Turning worked independently, but there’s coherence, as well as difference, in the way the stories play out…
Hugo Weaving and Josh McConvilleDave Cerewe, CCPopCulture: “Last night I went to a preview screening of Tim Winton’s The Turning, presented by director and producer Robert Connolly. The book it’s based on is a collection of seventeen short stories from one of the Australia’s greatest authors, stories set on or around the Western coast of Australia; stories about childhood and parents and siblings and the bush and the sea, all imbued with a sense of dark poetry, a wounded core of regret and loss. It’s a heavy, rewarding read and would seem on the surface to be practically unfilmable as a movie; there’s simply too many stories to be told, and while some are inextricably intertwined, others are only related by theme or emotion. To excise some stories might allow for a film adaptation to comfortably inhabit a two hour running time, but would cut away at the core of the book’s power….Winton’s writing requires excellent actors to capture his stories’ emotional nuance, and thankfully the filmmakers here have collected some of Australia’s best actors. Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh lend an authenticity to Reunion, a tale of a modest family Christmas and the healing power of a bottle of cheap champagne. Rose Byrne is astounding as Rae in the titular The Turning; glamorous actresses are often asked to conceal their beauty in movies, but Byrne’s performance as a battered, despondent housewife (well, caravan-wife) goes further, capturing the bruised soul at the core of her character. Hugo Weaving demonstrates understated power in Commission (written and directed by David Wenham), which tells the sad story of how Weaving shaved off his beard (there’s a little bit more to it than that). This is only a short list: Susie Porter, Miranda Otto, Matt Nable, Dean Daley-Jones, Callan Mulvey and a host of talented child actors produced memorable performances…
Ultimately, this is the effect of The Turning; it would be impossible to leave this experience unmoved. The presentation is not without its flaws – some stories really rely on having read the book to truly appreciate them, and it might benefit from a reshuffle of the order of the stories. In particular, before the intermission, the three most emotionally heavy stories (The Turning, Sand and Family) are told consecutively; this is fine in a book, where the reader can choose their own pace, but it’s a little overwhelming in a film. Breaking these up with one of the lighter stories (either Long, Clear View or Reunion) would’ve better suited the rhythm of this medium. But such minor issues should not distract from an event that warrants the adjective “unique.” The Turning is a significant achievement; a memorable, moving work of art.”
You can read other new positive or mixed but well-written reviews at ABC Online (video review), LetterboxD/Alexandra, ABC Brisbane, Twitch Film, Catholic Church Australia, Hope 103.2, and The Film Pie. The online version of the Leigh Paatsch review in the scan is at News.com.au. And Madman Films and The Turning’s Facebook page had a bit of fun with a Hugo Weaving film still as part of their effort to distract potential viewers from football playoffs. 😉
The bulk of promo material for Ivan Sen’s film is probably gong to appear in coming weeks, as the film’s general release (in Australia) in October 17. As I’ve noted before, there will also be festival screenings in London (LFF), Korea (Busan), Austin, Texas and Toronto (ImagiNATIVE Festival).
There’s a new profile of Ivan Sen in The Sydney Morning Herald, and a video interview of Sen, Aaron Pedersen and Ryan Kwanten (from TIFF) on YouTube. The Sydney Morning Herald also lists Mystery Road among its Most Anticipated Films for October.