Touting Australia as Gone with the Wind on the Northern Territory is a gross exaggeration. Australia is by no means equal to the 1930s film classic. Comparing Lady Sarah (Nicole Kidman) to the feisty Scarlett and the Drover (Hugh Jackman) to Rhett- frankly, my dear i don’t give a damn- Butler is also a stretch.
Still, this is the precious baby of Baz Luhrmann, the man behind Romeo & Juliet, as well as the magnificent Moulin Rouge, and Luhrmann’s signature fun, colorful and lavish style prevails throughout Australia. Australia may not be Oscar material (at least by my books), but it is enjoyable entertainment, lovingly filmed and clearly a proud paean to Luhrmann’s homeland. There is plenty of humour (contrary to her severe appearance, Kidman is a hoot as the prissy, determined Lady Sarah, displaying a surprisingly strong sense of comic timing), plenty of tear-inducing moments (offered by deaths of likeable characters, war, and the amazingly adorable Brandon Walters) and plenty of excitement (galloping horses, evil villains and a perfectly muscled Hugh Jackman). Some parts are ridiculously cheesy and the film falls short of being deeply moving. But on the whole, something quite nice for a Sunday afternoon=)
In contrast to the sizzling romance between The Drover and Lady Sarah, the love between Zhou Yu (Tony Leung and his peepers) and Xiao Qiao (Lin Chi Ling) is subtle, tame and much of a big yawn. Unlike Red Cliff https://aserendipitiouslife.wordpress.com/2008/07/15/red-cliff%e8%b5%a4%e5%a3%81/ which was a spectacular production, the second installment of 赤壁 was a bore. Instead of a more in-depth look into the motivations of the intriguing historical characters, all I got was lacklustre acting (notably by Zhang Zheng who looked as listless as I felt), chill-inducing romantic scenes (Xiao Qiao falling and Zhou Yu catching), very big-budget (read plenty of fire and explosions) but utterly confusing battle scenes and well, nothing much. The only delight was the firm friendship forged between the irrepressible Zhao Wei and her newfound buddy. I was so bored I came out of the theatre with only one conclusion- Lin Chi Ling’s stunning visage and perfect poise will be huge stumbling blocks in her pursuit of an acting career. She is believable as Xiao Qiao because Xiao Qiao is a stunning beauty with perfect poise. How many more of such women can she play?
Also supposedly in the same category of beauties is Penelope Cruz as Consuela in Elegy, which according to Merriam-Webster, means a poem expressing sorrow. Consuela is described as “beautiful and austere with perfect posture”, something i don’t really agree with given that i’ve never been a fan of Penelope’s very exotic looks. Ben Kingsley, sizzling with a sort of grizzled masculinity is David Kapesh, an ageing professor who cannot deal with the inevitable onset of old age. In a nutshell, Kapesh and Consuela get together, break up, and reunite.
Elegy could have been excellent. The cast is impressive and the dialogue provoking. However, Elegy cannot decide on whether Kapesh should be an insecure old man spying on his young love or an old man who simply cannot commit. Elegy is also undecided as to whether Consuela is a femme fatale, or just another typical clingy woman. The ending is what sealed Elegy as a mediocre film- Consuela returns to the arms of Kapesh after the trauma of losing one breast to cancer. A film that could have been an intimate portrayal of ageing- its pain, loneliness, desperation, strength and joy, ends up being a typical May-December melodrama. Elegy is all the more flawed because it perpetuates stereotypes- the man cannot commit until he realises just how close he is to death, the woman, initially headstrong and independent, becomes yet another wimp and the worst: Kapesh finds love and security with Consuela despite their vast age gap only after Consuela loses her glorious head of hair, splendid breasts and confidence to cancer. How very convenient.