November Film Reviews: Folk music and folklore

Ben Elton reached international fame for writing for the absurd television comedies The Young Ones and Blackadder. This was before he came to Australia and married Fremantle musician Sophie Gare. Living in Fremantle for much of the time, he often attended the folk music festival at Fairbridge near Pinjarra with his extended family of musicians. In his second feature film Three Summers (★★★★1/2), the writer/director uses Fairbridge as the location and casts a satirical eye over the campers and glampers for his fictional Westival Music Festival.

Community radio announcer Queenie (Magda Szubanski) tells everyone to have a folking good time as they return to the summer music festival three years in a row. It is fantastic to watch the shy teenager return as the rebellious Goth, the traumatised foster teenager venture into the world and make friends and the delinquent Aboriginal youth become a confident dancer. Some people don’t seem to change, such as the talented Ruby (Home and Away’s Rebecca Breeds) and her alcoholic father (John Waters) whose Irish folk band is a big hit with young and old.

When Ruby stumbles into a workshop run by pretentious Theremin player (Misfits’ Robert Sheehan), sparks literally fly. The romantic stand-off between the down to earth, fiddle-playing folk-rock chick and the passionate elitist techno musician lasts for the three years while the surrounding characters show Australia’s diversity and bigotry. Cantankerous Morris dancer (the legendary Michael Caton) clashes with indigenous dancer (Kelton Pell); counsellor (Deborah Mailman) conducts AA sessions in the former watering hole and Rake’s Kate Box is hilarious as the officious security guard who meets her match with the former private school girl (Jacqueline McKenzie).

This Aussie Folk tale with larger than life characters has many laugh-out-loud moments as it challenges some of political hot potatoes such as the treatment of refugees, Indigenous unrest over celebrating the colonisation and normalising alcohol dependence. Although it is wrapped up too neatly at the end, it’s the belly-laughs that win out in this feel-good romantic comedy that is sure to become a classic.

Marvel’s latest film Thor: Ragnarok (★★★★1/2) is directed by New Zealand comedian Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do in the Shadows). Filmed mainly in Australia and chock full of Australian and New Zealand actors, this superhero movie is the funniest ever. Waititi even appears as the minor character Korg and the audience just cracked up every time the guy made of rocks opened his mouth.  

According to Waititi, eighty percent of the dialogue in the film was improvised to create a “very loose and collaborative mood” among the cast. Two years after Avengers: Age of Ultron, Chris Hemsworth is taking the piss out of his character the God of Thunder. Even though it is prophesied that his homeland Asgard will be destroyed, there are plenty of light moments as he battles Hela the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett as the first female villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), fellow Avenger Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and duplicitous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

Another first for the MCU is Tessa Thompson’s assertion that her character Valkyrie, who dated both men and women in the comics, is bisexual. Basing her character on Sarah Connor from Terminator 2, she said that “She’s bi. And yes, she cares very little about what men think of her. What a joy to play!” Balancing action and drama, CGI effects with great up-close acting and with a huge dose of humour from a cast that are clearly enjoying themselves, this is what comic adaptations should be like.

Lezly Herbert

We have EIGHT double passes to see Three Summers ready to give away! Click here to enter.

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