Opens February 9,
Rated R18+, 101 minutes
Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is charming, handsome and can afford a good suit. He’s also sex-obsessed, spending his nights bedding young women and his days filling his work PC with porn.
We’re never given much reason to like Brandon, but we do. Partly, this is down to his perverse honesty. Director Steve McQueen surrounds him with flawed characters who cling to the illusion of decency. His date Marianne (Nicole Beharie) believes in love despite the evidence, while his boss is convinced he’s a ladies’ man and a family man. But Brandon is a simple creature – he loves sex with the inexorable adoration of a true addict.
Of course, this simplicity comes at the cost of his humanity. Indeed, Brandon seems distressed by anything in the way of an emotional response. He weeps while watching sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) sing and finds his seduction patter shattered on realising he actually likes Marianne. Both moments see him seek solace in his addiction. The more human he feels, the further he runs for shelter.
To McQueen’s credit, the film is fiercely unglamorous, but assembled so artistically that we never feel mired in grimness. Neither does the plentiful sex feel particularly prurient. These are the implied obsessions of our society – where sex is used to sell everything from kids’ clothing to Diet Coke – forced into the open.
In place of any romance, McQueen focuses on the uncomfortably physical relationship between Brandon and his sister. At times moving, at times confronting, theirs is a story of two innocents sullied by – and unable to function in – the adult world. Fassbender and Mulligan evoke the unspoken in a pair of measuredly passionate performances. Neither has yet been better.
Brave and refreshingly frank, this is a remarkable film.
ABC Outland cast
February 8, 9.30pm
The ABC has been poking hard at the comedy envelope lately, if not exactly pushing it. Last
year Laid edged into left-field for some appealingly black comedy (even if the premise struggled to fill its six episodes) and Twentysomething launched a truly memorable comic character (even if it forgot to include much in the way of actual jokes.) With Outland, it has hit on something even better: a comedy that is genuinely hilarious.
The premise – a secret club for gay sci-fi fans – might sound as if it’s working itself into a tiny niche, but there’s broad appeal here. Lead geek Toby Truslove (Laid) is a likeable everyman whose house just happens to be filled with plastic Daleks.
Those in the know will rejoice in background details and genre winks, but the rest of us (OK, the rest of you) can enjoy the snappy banter and comic tangles between a cast of well-crafted characters.
Sharon Van Etten (Inertia)
Fans of the National and Beirut will feel their ears pricked by this third album from Brooklyn’s Sharon Van Etten. Indeed, members of both bands make an appearance to help craft a record of lush-but-frazzled urban folk. There’s a sense throughout of a gathering storm, Van Etten having passed the end of her tether and swung back around in righteous fury. Not that she spares herself from any ire. On broken love song Give Out, she wonders if a self-destructive streak is more responsible for her romantic upset than the man who lured her to the big smoke and then drove her away. These are unsettling, unpretty and uncomfortably honest songs, but beautifully sung.
Listen to the MP3 here.
Indigenous Arts Festival
Federation Square, February 10-12
This week is set for the launch of the inaugural Melbourne Indigenous Arts Festival. The three-day event aims to celebrate a wide selection of traditional and contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.
On the music front, Dan Sultan, Archie Roach and Troy Cassar-Daley will join a diverse bunch of performers taking to the stage at Fed Square. Nearby, ACMI will be hosting theatre events including cabaret, comedy and an encore performance of the acclaimed Coranderrk. Blak Nite Cinema, a free film festival, will screen a mix of past and present classics, including Mad Bastards, Toomelah and The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith. Elsewhere, Aboriginal writers will read, perform and talk about their work.
Listening \ Blanche DuBois, whose poppy third LP launches February 11 at the Toff.
Watching \ Misfits. It has lost its edge (and its star), but this Brit superhero show still has a few surprises left.
Anticipating \ Game of Thrones, Series Two. Forget those Hobbits, this is the only truly compelling fantasy out there.