Deborah Mailman & Jimi Bani
COURTESY ABC / MATT NETTHEIM
TOP PICK \ TV
Mabo \ ABC1, Sunday June 10, 8.30pm
An important piece of recent history is brought to vivid life in this moving telemovie. Eddie Koiki Mabo rises from rail worker to nation shaker, taking on state and federal governments to win land rights for Torres Strait Islanders.
Mabo is played here by Jimi Bani, most recently seen in disappointing drama The Straits. It’s a pleasingly complex portrait, offering a reminder that great men are rarely easy to live with.
He is, in effect, a man trapped between two nations, banished from one and rejected by another. We see him chafe against the casual racism of 1950s Australia, refusing to submit to the expected segregation. His determined attempts to get a beer in a country pub recall the famous stand taken in 1955 by Rosa Parks in Alabama.
The film covers the long-running case in a brisk fashion, but the real meat here is the relationship between Mabo and his wife Bonita (Deborah Mailman). The big stuff is painted with small, powerful pictures. We see the strain Mabo’s commitment to his cause puts on his family, to the extent that he is forced to wonder if he’s spent his life worrying about the right things. The final scene between the pair is a delicately constructed slice of pure heartbreak.
The fast pace means crucial events occasionally pass without as much drama as they deserve, but there’s no mistaking their importance. The Australia seen at the film’s end is an undeniably improved nation. But, as the credits roll, we’re left wondering if we still have a long way to go.
In our heads \ Hot Chip (Domino) www.hotchip.co.uk
Hipster favourites Hot Chip dance their way onto the main street with this, their fifth album. While they’ve lost none of their edge or idiosyncrasies, the London group are working with a new clarity. The opening trinity of tracks are so perfectly formed – effortlessly fusing funk, electro and ’90s house – that they’re guaranteed to bring rhythm to the clumsiest of feet. Put simply, it’s a record that’s tricky to describe without succumbing to superlatives.
Its real success lies in the fact that, more so than Hot Chip’s previous work, this is a pop album. It makes the most of its tricksy production but doesn’t rely on it. Beneath the shimmies and stutters and samples are some classic, catchy melodies. Indeed, it’s a record that feels curiously premixed. It’s no stretch to imagine Motion Sickness or Don’t Deny Your Heart as extended-play remixes of classic ’80s power-pop.
David Lyons and Emma Booth
Swerve \ opens June 7 (rated M. 83 min)
When a cash-carrying crim crashes his car, witnesses Colin (David Lyons) and Jina (Emma Booth) find themselves on the run in this low-key Australian thriller. It’s an enjoyable enough tale, even if it never lands any killer blows. Both leads give us as much as the thin characterisation allows, but we end the film without learning much about either of them. Although Booth is an alluring, gutsy actress, Jina never feels like much more than a photocopy of a film-noir temptress. Jealous husband Frank (Jason Clarke) is more interesting, if only for the way that his character swerves unpredictably between hardboiled realism and Bible-quoting superhuman villain. The film runs a similarly haphazard path. For the most part, it feels like a light, curiously upbeat TV movie. Any sense of danger is largely muted, feeling more farcical than thrilling. The setting lends a bit of red dirt and grit but, when the climax attempts to veer into action-movie territory, it trades any hard-won realism for cartoon silliness.
Glory Box \ fortyfivedownstairs, June 7-July 1, 7pm, $46-$66
Moira Finucane returns to Melbourne this week with an irresistible showcase of top-notch cabaret. International sword swallowers, divas and handkerchief strip artists will rub sequined shoulders with local stars such as hoop-spinning showgirl Anna Lumb. We’re promised the cheeky, the exotic, the guignol and the disco. For the uninitiated, it’s the perfect entry point into the lush world of burlesque. For those in the know, it should still be the highlight of this year’s cabaret calendar.
Listening \ Sam Sparro Return to Paradise. Smart, sassy Australian funk that deserves favourable comparisons with Prince.
Watching \ Mad as Hell (ABC1, Fridays). Shaun Micallef’s answer to The Daily Show could be less silly and more sharp, but it’s still the funniest Australian show in yonks.
Attending \ Encore screening at Cinema Nova of Frankenstein. Astounding “live” take on the gothic classic, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller.