David O'Connell

Melbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA

Joined April 24th 2008

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Avid film score collector, film fanatic, reader (crime fiction/modern literature mostly), sports watcher - from a couch! Also review Australian films at www.infilm.com.au


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Only Lovers Left Alive

April 16th 2014 04:03

A resounding return to form after the soulless, clinical miscalculation of The Limits of Control (2009), Jim Jarmusch’s new film effortlessly puts a charge into a wearied, overexposed lifeform – the vampire. Set mostly in the backstreets of Detroit, Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) initially separates the two central lovers: musician Adam (Tom Hiddleston) is lying low in Detroit, contemplating suicide as he hides out from groupies. Rare joy comes from visits from his human friend Ian (Anton Yelchin) who procures vintage guitars for him. Meanwhile, Eve (Tilda Swinton), is doing likewise in exotic Tangier, her source of sustenance being the waning Marlowe (John Hurt). But times are tough for those requiring high quality blood to survive and so Eve treks back to the States to reunite with her immortal beloved.

Though thin in terms of plot, it’s the rich texture of Jarmusch’s film that helps maintain a hypnotic hold. It's drenched in lazy, random rock riffs, swirling, depleted colours and plenty of dreamy visual asides that illuminate the slowly passing lives of these timeless lovers with an eroded poetic grandeur. It goes without saying that the performances are exceptional. Swinton has long possessed an otherworldliness, a fact used to great effect by Jarmusch. And yet the very notion of her ‘alienness’ is turned on its head by Eve’s ‘humanity’, her decency, exquisite taste and capacity to love. There’s a gentle, sustaining poignancy at the heart of the film that’s only enhanced by the most seemingly mundane scenes of the pair cruising the streets at night or reliving centuries old memories with wry observations. Hiddleston, in a less sympathetic role, is equally good as Eve’s man, whilst Mia Wasikowska steals a chunk midway through as Eve’s carefree, troublesome younger sister Ava.

From the perspective of these centuries’ old beings, the humans are the zombies, the wastrels sucking the blood out of one another in mindless pursuit of their own meaningless holy grails. Jarmusch has wicked fun at our expense in sculpting the parameters of this dark void as well as slyly jabbing away at literary and art history with tongue planted firmly in cheek. This ever ironic, idiosyncratic director, thankfully, is back, in a rich vein of form, and even if it doesn’t quite match his finest work, Only Lovers Left Alive is bloody delicious all the same.

Only Lovers Left Alive opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday, April 17, 2014.


How I Live Now (Macdonald, 2013)

April 14th 2014 06:42

Though it bears strong similarities to recent Australian film Tomorrow, When the War Began (2010), Kevin Macdonald’s How I Live Now segregates a small group of young characters in a tranquil setting on the verge of disruption. A sullen, recently arrived young American, Daisy (Saiorse Ronan), sent to live with her cousins by her single-parent father, becomes the main focus as she reluctantly forges connections with her younger relations, including reticent eldest son Eddie (George Mackay) and middle son Isaac (Tom Holland). However, indicators of a looming threat becomes real with a nuclear blast destroying London and leaving the group to their own devices in the deep English countryside. Bereft of the adult figureheads who might devise a strategy for survival, they must instinctively figure out how to push onwards.

Macdonald is a fine filmmaker and though his latest film is curiously underwhelming it does have two fine assets. Ronan, the chameleonic young Irish actress able to adopt a variety of accents with equal conviction, is the first and most important. Even with a chip on her shoulder, Daisy retains our interest, a fleetingly used voices-in-the-head device employed to great effect in illuminating her troubled mind and the guilt associated with the death of her mother upon giving birth to her. The second is a strong visual perception of the world. Unlike other doomsday scenarios, such as John Hillcoat’s The Road (2009) for example – perhaps the bleakest ever committed to film – How I Live Now uses the lush beauty and resplendent manifold colourations of the countryside to negate the implications of a nuclear attack and the shadow it casts over the narrative. A strong scene – though it’s the most obvious metaphor for a sensuous freedom about to curtailed – sees Eddie releasing the pet hawk he trains in the woods to the mercy of the gales; the pair watch on in amazement as it soars majestically, appropriately synching their initially frosty relationship at the same time.

In general terms, the plot is an undernourished one, boiling down to a placid love story between the initially cold, gradually defrosting Daisy and the less substantial Eddie who turns out to be a bit of a drip. They’re separated midway through the film as martial law is enacted, the girls sent to live in a communal home, whilst the young males are sequestered off-screen, horrible fates assumed for them all. Explicitness is withheld for the sake of propriety; don’t expect to see any gut-wrenching after effects or hideous examples of humanity reduced to its atavistic core here, as in Fernando Merelles’s Blindness (2008). This might have been a far more refreshing quality if the screenplay’s characterisations were strong enough to transcend the subject matter, elucidating their plight with some measure of profundity. Ronan’s strong work aside however, the drama feels meek and half-hearted, though not entirely uninteresting. Macdonald’s past work, both fiction – the best of which remains 2006’s The Last King of Scotland - and non-fiction, like 2003’s Touching the Void, has offered far more complexity however, and even if this aesthetically pleasing vision of post-nuclear separation based on Meg Rosoff’s novel is a mildly entertaining one, it’s not enough to save How I Live Now (2013) from holding its form in an anonymous middle ground.

How I Live Now is out on DVD and BluRay from Madman.


Julien Temple’s compelling documentary about a great modern city sifts back through more than a century of memories, opinions and impressions to construct a kinetic, kaleidoscopic reconstructive collage. From the earliest footage available of life in the once startlingly sparse metropolis, Temple begins to layer his film like a painting, but one approached systematically even as it dips freeform between countless cinema clips that illustrate parallel social ills or artfully emphasise points made by contributors. Very few of these are of the ‘talking head’ variety – a welcome approach that allows for an impressionistic flow to relay the overlapping of eras. Others are poetic narrations of poems and other sources as read by a multitude of well-known actors such as Michael Gambon, Bill Nighy and Andy Serkis. Each one evokes a poetic reverie that conveys the presence of haunted voices of yesteryear, lingering like ghosts of so many silently passing generations.

The phases of life and winds of change are vividly captured as London dealt with the brutal reality of war and its devastating aftermath. In later decades, beginning in the 40’s, an influx of ‘outsiders’ saw a revelatory shift in attitudes as a majority Anglo population faced co-habitation with people of differing creeds. Through snippets layered into the general mix of passing years, Temple’s film brilliantly elucidates the open hostility, suspicion and resentment of locals as West Indians, Indian and Irish immigrants began to grow in number, making life especially tough for those in the poorest sectors of the city. This integration however would ultimately help in solidifying the diverse foundation on which modern day London thrives in terms of its international reputation. But of course attendant racial tensions, still flaring with equal fervour today, are as deeply seated as anything else innately human, proving that, in some respects, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Though looser in its definition of the documentary form - and all the better for it - London: The Modern Babylon (2012) offers captivating insights, and not just into the flowering of a single, sprawling entity. This is also about the transformation of life in general as man’s endeavours commit himself to rapid rates of progress and change whilst remaining resolutely indebted and encumbered by the deeds, sins and transgressions of a not always attractive past.

London: The Modern Babylon is now out on DVD through Madman.


The Grand Budapest Hotel

April 8th 2014 05:12

Ginger and Rosa (Potter, 2012)

April 3rd 2014 01:51

The Lego Movie

April 1st 2014 03:47


March 31st 2014 04:31

20 Feet from Stardom (Neville, 2013)

March 26th 2014 03:43



March 19th 2014 03:49


Recent Comments

Comment by David O'Connell
on How I Live Now (Macdonald, 2013)

April 15th 2014 06:34
I've heard that. Would definitely like to read the book at some stage to see how much has been altered.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on In Bob We Trust

October 31st 2013 02:06
Many thanks for the anecdote fog, hope you're doing well these days mate!

And yes, Father Bob is indeed a truly great man! A national treasure.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Kick-Ass 2

August 21st 2013 04:44
Thanks Bryn, you're a harsh man! But I do remember you not quite getting onto the original's wavelength too. The film is superfluous in the extreme - I'll be the first to admit that, but I just can't hate it.
I actually loved Carrey in this but his role is absurdly underwritten; there was real potential there I think for something great.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Antiviral

April 17th 2013 06:01
Hey Bryn, Rialto Distribution have got this. Had the media screening last week and sadly it's only screening at the one cinema - the Nova - down here from the 25th. Hopefully it's getting some sort of a look in up your way too.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Killing Them Softly

April 2nd 2013 01:05
Great to hear that JD. It baffles me though how many people tell me how much they couldn't stand this. Obviously incapable of appreciating its finer, subtler qualities, which is a real shame.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Side Effects

March 10th 2013 10:36
Yeah mate, apparently it's painting and occasional theatre that will occupy his immediate future, perhaps TV work too if it's top-notch. But says he's done with features - a little sad, I love his chameleonic qualities even if his rapid output means he's a little hit and miss. The Limey, Underneath, King of the Hill and Out of Sight will long remain favourites.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on The Woman in Black

March 10th 2013 10:32
Yeah, quite looking forward to seeing this again on DVD Janice, very underrated little film - and a creepy one too despite the conventional, manipulative chills.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Skyfall (2012) - Trailer Included

February 18th 2013 04:27
Audacious choice JD, can't say I'm with you despite enjoying it a lot, but you're a critic of great conviction.

My favourite scene of the film, hands down, is the intro to Bardem's character: that single, long take shot over the tied-up Bond's shoulder, with Bardem descending in the lift at the other end of the building, then delivering that brilliant monologue as he slowly approaches. Magic. Just a brilliant scene in the way it's both devised and executed. So simple and yet, in today's rapid-editing overload how often do we see something similar in a big blockbuster? That's the true benefit of hiring artists like Mendes and Deakins.

I do love Thomas Newman's score too, one of modern cinemas most influential composers really stretching himself in a type of film he's never really been handed before.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Compliance

February 18th 2013 04:17
Thanks JD, really is an interesting and little film - and certainly disturbing in its implications. Passed by in one cinema here without registering a blip on the radar, sadly, as so many smaller films do.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on JDMs Favourite Films of 2012

January 8th 2013 06:15
Great work JD!

Skyfall is a weird top choice alright. Never been a Bond enthusiast though I did surprise myself with how much I enjoyed this - Javier Bardem certainly was a huge part of that. Loved his work here.

Safety Not Guaranteed almost tops my own Best of list too. Loved it with a passion.

Wes Anderson is a favourite of mine and I agree with what Bryn heard about it being one of his most accessible. It is - and one of his best for sure!

Looper was Rian Johnson's third excellent film though I prefer Brothers Bloom I think for its quirkier aspects.

The Master, Killer Joe, The Raid, Cabin in the Woods, Kevin, The Grey - I'm with you on all of those.

Prometheus though I was non-plussed by. Awful dialogue, overblown effects and the dire Noomi Rapace. Fassbender was the one shining light for me - yet another astonishing, commanding performance - even as a droid!
Bored witless by John Carter and The Dark Knight Rises was very good but well below the Ledger-infused perfection of the last film.

Chronicle was definitely a guilty pleasure.

Haven't seen Haywire, Bellflower, Savages, Coriolanus or Django yet.

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