My Mistress (2014)

my mistress

Sometimes when I go over on to IMDB after a film to see what others have thought of it, I wonder if I’ve actually seen the same movie. With all the fuss about Fifty Shades of Grey (which I still have yet to see), perhaps there was an audience expectation that the Australian film My Mistress would be more of the same – certainly the trailer suggests that the film would be more explicit and, let’s be honest, kinky than it actually is. And yet, if you watch the trailer without getting excited at the bare flesh, it’s easy to see that is not going to be a raunchy effort and is going to be far more reflective and under-stated than that. It appears most online comments missed that fact and, when they watched the film, got disappointed that there wasn’t more…well…handcuffs and whipping.

Harrison Gilbertson stars as 16 year old Charlie as he becomes fixated with a middle-aged French woman who has moved in to a house close to where he lives. By accident, he finds out that she provides “services” of the fetish kind to men in the area, and becomes even more besotted by her, and the two begin a rather strange relationship. But there is more going on here, Charlie’s fixation has occurred during the weeks immediately after the suicide of his father, and the woman, Maggie (Emmanuelle Beart), has suffered her own loss of a different kind.

This isn’t a film about whips and chains, although they appear briefly at various points, but about grief and loss and, in some ways, the need to be noticed and understood during those times. There are very few films that deal with grief in a realistic, non-depressive way. We’re either faced with morbid Haneke-type films or movies where someone dies, a funeral takes place, and everything goes back to normal. But that’s not how life is. In fact, I remember being particularly impressed with, of all things, the second Tobey McGuire Spiderman movie, for the wonderful scene in which Aunt May explains how much she misses her husband even though it had been two years since he died. My Mistress only covers the first month after the death of Charlie’s father, but it does deal with how grief and loss can change the way we would normally act – even if that means getting involved with a woman twice your age and being handcuffed in your boxer shorts to a horse from a fairground ride.

My Mistress is hardly the most fast-paced film in the world, but it is beautifully photographed and the performances by GIlbertson (who also impressed in the horror film “Haunt” last year) and Beart are truly stunning. Australian cinema has often been one of the most fascinating of national cinemas through the last five or six decades, and this movie shows why.

Just Pals (1920)

just pals

It’s quite a while since I’ve written about film here, particularly silent film, and so time to put that right.

Many people are familiar with the 1921 Charlie Chaplin film, The Kid, but not so many will have heard of Just Pals, a 1920 film directed by John Ford that has much in common with the more well known film.  Just Pals stars Buck Jones as Bim, the “village bum” according to the intertitles.  Here, he makes friends with a young boy, Will, who enters town on a train that he has stolen a ride on.  Together they find themselves caught up in multiple adventures.  As with The Kid, moves are made to take the boy away from Bim, although this takes up less time than one might expect.  Elsewhere Bim and Will find themselves accused of stealing money, not once but twice.  Buck Jones has never been more likeable in a rather atypical role for him, and he has a natural relationship with George (aka: Georgie Stone), a prolific child actor of the time, who plays Will. Stone left films in 1923 at the age of 14, and died in 2010, aged 100.  John Ford, meanwhile, still at the beginning of his directing career, keeps the film moving along at such a quick pace that it makes this fifty minute movie ideal for those only now discovering silent films.  What is perhaps most surprising is how the mood of a film from the period can change with almost shocking rapidity.  Here we have a light-hearted film in the main, but then a sequence involving an attempted lynching before moving back to lighter fare.

Motion Picture News wrote that “it is the human touches, both of comedy and pathos; the well created atmosphere of the Montana town; the very natural dialogue; and the picturesque character of Bim that will win favor for this picture” – and that still stands today.  In a sign of how things have changed in the last 95 years, Film Daily said the film didn’t make enough jokes at the expense of the country “hicks,” but elsewhere they find it “a pleasing bit of entertainment along the type of Huckleberry Finn.”

Just Pals is available on DVD as part of the John Ford Silent Epics boxed set.

Bobby Darin: A Listener’s Guide – Now available


I’m pleased to announce the publication of my book Bobby Darin: A Listener’s Guide, which is available in Amazon stores in paperback and Kindle formats.

Bobby Darin made more than 500 recordings during his short lifetime and this book examines all that have been released, from those he made during his short tenure at Decca to performances from the 1972-3 TV series.  The book works through Bobby’s recording career, session by session, song by song, providing a new commentary on the songs and their performances.  Alongside this runs the story of how Bobby and his recordings and performances were discussed in newspapers, magazines and trade journals at the time, referencing over 200 articles.  The book runs to 346 pages, and includes appendices covering a lifetime discography, a list of Darin compositions performed by other artists, the most complete list published to date of Bobby’s television appearances, and more.

Please note that the “see inside” preview feature on the Kindle product page on Amazon currently contains an error involving font sizes (switching back and forth from one to the other).  The book has been downloaded to 2 different Kindle devices, the PC Kindle app, and the Kindle app for Android phone, and the issue is NOT repeated on any of them. Amazon are working on correcting the preview page.