Posts Tagged ‘documentary’

2201

Watch CJ’s review of this film on WATCH THIS.

***1/2 (out of five)

Pete Gleeson’s creepy fly-on-the-wall portrait of mining-country Australia (specifically, the area called Goldfields in Western Australia) is an eye-opener, even as it feels like it’s pulling its punches. It isn’t quite the documentary equivalent of Wake In Fright (or Hostel, for that matter) but it certainly has pungent things to say about isolation, masculinity, alcohol and Australia. If it bends over backwards not to decimate its subjects, it also can’t help it when they implicate themselves.

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Comfortable, lucky, Sydney-based me had no idea that young female backpackers are constantly being given short-term deployments to isolated outback mining-town pubs, where the local workers await their arrival as “fresh meat” (a term literally uttered ravenously by one of this film’s charming denizens). Such is the case with Lina and Steph, who – having had their credit cards stolen and their savings drained in Indonesia – are sent to work on a three-month contract at the insanely named Denver City Hotel in Coolgardie, as isolated and barren a place as might exist on earth (but only 39kms from Kalgoorlie!) There, they are slobbered over by grotesqueries masquerading as men, and, were it not for the sense of camaraderie the viewer feels with Gleeson himself (they’re being filmed, therefore Gleeson is there, and we assume Gleeson is a nice enough guy) we may very reasonably fear greatly for their safety.

There are jaw-dropping moments galore, and not a lot of salvation. Lina and Steph’s journey is not so much towards greater understanding or cultural awareness as it is towards failure and escape. And who in the world could blame them? The Hotel at Coolgardie is hell with beer.

There is one moment where Lina seems in real danger, and the camera lurches forward, as though Gleeson has made the decision to intervene. One can only imagine the moments left unfilmed, in the undocumented version of this story, which repeats itself, in three-monthly cycles, out there in the red dust, where the men wait for young travellers like mangy dogs for carrion.

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***1/2

British TV documentarian Louis Theroux is a very clever chap. He obviously realised that the Alex Gibney documentary Going Clear was going to be the Big Boy of Scientology feature docos for quite a while. Hence the title My Scientology Movie, which is tongue in cheek, certainly, but also implies a different tack and a different take – both of which pay off.

Theroux seemingly feels that if you’re paying to see “his” Scientology movie at the cinema, you’re probably a bit of a Scientology tragic, and have seen enough about David Miscavige, Tom Cruise, John Travolta and L. Ron Hubbard. Thus, instead, we get a film in the company of “Scientology’s most famous deserter”, Mark “Marty” Rathbun – and there’s the rub, because Mr. Rathbun, rather like an ex-Nazi, might not be entirely “clear” of Scientology’s stink at all.

I love stuff about Scientology – the books, the films, the articles – and, after a slow burning first hour – this film really gave me a kick. I would recommend it most to fellow Scientology tragics, since there is that implied assumed knowledge, but that’s obviously the audience Theroux is going for. If you’re new to the hunt, see Going Clear first, then feast on this as a bitterly tasty dessert.