To Dad With Love

A Tribute to a Beloved Father

Film review: My Cousin Rachel

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“Did she? Didn’t she? Who is to blame?” asks pensive Philip (Sam Claflin), in the prologue of My Cousin Rachel, the latest feature by Roger Michell (Notting Hill), through which this sense of amorphous uncertainty shall resonate to the end. Each time Philip thinks he knows, something or somebody pulls the scenario out of shape. Here, after all, is a film of luscious inscrutability that entices us to probe conscience and ambition.

Philip, an orphan, was raised like a son by his wealthy cousin Ambrose in a large faming estate in 19th-century England, where women were considered dispensable. So, when he receives news his guardian is going to marry their cousin Rachel (Rachel Weisz) in Florence, Philip is ambivalent. Subsequent letters from Ambrose telling of ill-health and torment only intensify his misgivings. And, arriving too late in Italy, in response to a hastily-scribbled message “Come quick!”, the hot-headed 24-year-old vows to exact revenge on the “woman that caused” Ambrose’s death.

Only, that woman turns out to be witty and poised, and Philip is surprised to find himself falling under her beguiling spell. The revelation Rachel is not a beneficiary at all in Ambrose’s will appears also to eradicate any sinister motivations.

Despite the seemingly innocent cinematography (Mike Eley) throughout — there is hardly any sex or cleavage, and save for the face not much bare skin either, for what is a dark and mysterious romantic drama — the movie does involve a great deal of allusions to raw passion. Gifting Rachel an elaborate pearl necklace that belonged to his mother, Philip petulantly says he wants her to wear it every night, which when combined with the older woman’s “Now go to bed like a good boy!” after kissing him on the mouth, carries every stirring of Oepidus complex.

Meanwhile, Rael Jones weaves his richly sensuous sounds (lush woodwinds and rousing piano and strings) through sweeping coastal vistas and tragedy, between alleged poison and voluptuous costumes, as chunks of juicy, red meat are torn inside panelled rooms, and secrets written on scraps of paper are tossed into open fires.

In short order, Philip upon coming of age endows the object of his affection with all that Ambrose had bequeathed to him, defying warnings of “unbridled extravagance” and “limitless appetite”, defying too his own observations of Rachel’s intimacy with “a very old friend”. Even when suspicions are later strengthened, the realisation that all the jewellery he bestowed on her she has returned once again undermines any deduction he — indeed, we — can draw.

Based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier My Cousin Rachel is an impressionist portrait of love and perception and money. But, as indeterminate as when one examines an artwork up close it is, above all, a study of truth and of the human heart.

Theatre review: ODE

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With a rapidly ageing population dementia has become more and more prevalent in our society; over 350,000 Australians are known to live with the debilitating condition. Karen Sibbing’s ODE offers a window into what that is like: drawing from the experience of watching her own grandmother succumb to it, she imagines a world as seen through the eyes of a sufferer. The result is devastating, but tender, bookended with an unmistakable impression of hope.

Lighting, under the skilful direction of co-creator Samara Hersch, turns into a powerful tool. In one — no, two — occasions the theatre is plunged for longer than anybody would be comfortable with into complete darkness, in which feelings of disorientation, of visceral susceptibility, desperation to want to find whatever trace of glow there is, seem to close in on us, like walls, like possibly the mental incapacity.

Near the opening of the 55-minute, one-woman show, the character relates a childhood incident where she witnesses the way her young brother’s wilful act of wandering off in a play-fair and getting lost yielded not punishment but a lollipop from their father. Despite carrying a brooding sense of premonition and whiff of unfairness — spoken in the present tense, perhaps to neutralise the influence of time — the fascinating anecdote conveys the idea of reward from tragedy that is premised on blessing in perspective.

For the rest, though, it is mostly through texture that Sibbing works. Small, intricate, observational details give us a glimpse of surviving with Alzheimer’s: hearing sounds in the head, having an imaginary friend in a toy, wolfing down handfuls of cakes on impulse, enduring bouts of frustration and anguish.

Whilst it is her grandmother whom she is depicting, Sibbing, we realise, has braided into the play her own anxieties of decline and ultimately of herself falling victim to this incurable illness.

The antics are theatrical but in all likelihood very real. A lot appears to happen and at the same time not much at all, like the ever-growing balloon that instead of popping sucks away, loses air, shrivels and limps, because that is probably life when you lose yourself.

Sibbing’s performance is outstanding: brave and heart-clutching and luminous, she embodies without reproach the volatile, vigorous, vulnerable part. The helplessness, as she stares into the distance, urine pouring down from between her legs, tears welling, is enough to make a stone weep.

Is it disconcerting? Yes, most definitely, for it forces us to confront manifestations of an unseen tormentor, so often untold.

Yet, there is a curious air of eerie magic permeating through the piece — amplified when the giant revolving image of a musical-box dancer projected on an opposite wall is the only illumination in the room — a magic none more precious than the gift eventually granted to Oma (grandmother), the gift of imagination, to which this timeless work is ode.

Film review: The Sense of an Ending

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Consummate acting is in overflowing abundance in The Sense of an Ending. With deftness, Jim Broadbent plays Tony, a cantankerous retiree running a small shop that sells vintage cameras, while Charlotte Rampling is the self-assured Veronica, Tony’s first love from university, with whom he becomes reacquainted, decades after an ugly break-up by their former, immature selves. And the young actors portraying them — Billy Howle as the impetuous, book-hungry, sex-hungry Tony, and Freya Mavor, the alluring Veronica — hold their own, along with other performers in that 1960s sepia-photograph-toned milieu.

When Adrian (Joe Alwyn) joined his class at high school, Tony was at once impressed by the quiet boy’s deep and thoughtful intelligence, and quickly absorbed him into his clique. Later, the betrayal Tony felt upon realising the Cambridge-undergraduate friend he had so admired was now going out with his girl could only spill into a bilious tirade of written vitriol, the feeling made more intense by the lengths he believed he himself had to go, to have won Veronica — her body, if not her heart. An earlier bout of radical candour by the girl’s mother (Emily Mortimer) warning Tony about her child had clearly not registered.

The director, Ritesh Batra, in working with a screenplay by Nick Payne, based on Julian Barnes’ Booker-Prize winning novel, draws rich dynamics from unfolding revelations to bring closure to an unresolved pain. The idea of narrator unreliability — arguably, the essence of the book, which is summed up in its best quote, thus: History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation — although repeated on film is not satisfyingly borne out in the cascading drama, that shifts forth and back between present and past.

Batra is aided by cinematographer, Christopher Ross, who has a gift for both lucid, current-moment compositions, and memory-filtered wooziness. But, most of all, he is helped inestimably by his precious crop of cast who live out their characters as if they own the stories. Mortimer, notably, is captured in all her sensuous womanliness, like the faintest scent of rain in a haze of maybe-truths.

At the opening of the movie, Tony relates how he used to think of high school as a holding pen, where the cohort waited to be let out into university, not knowing, of course, that that too was a pen, into the world, itself again another, in much the same way the future flows out in ever-growing circles from events that have transpired, as we remember, or are able to put in words.

Theatre review: The Book of Mormon

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I have noted before that one of the most delicious sounds in theatre is total silence among the audience. But this profanity-rich, joyfully-satirical work — led by an incandescent Ryan Bondy and, following the musical with every company so far, the talented A.J. Holmes —  rocks viewers through the entire running time into waves of raucous laughter.

The Australian Premiere of The Book of Mormon is a flashy and bright-eyed, fleet-footed charmer, glossily-attired and uninhibitedly open. There is not a hint of nuance nor restraint at any time at all to savour and parse.

It is a sensibility, however, that fits the portrait of neophyte Mormon evangelists coming to age in Uganda, where the eager graduates hope to convert poverty-stricken villagers, by way of being shining saviours of their unfound souls.

Despite the missionary centre’s decision to pair him with the bumbling, goofy dork Elder Cunningham (Holmes) and the tragedy of having been despatched to Africa rather than the land of his dreams, DisneyWorld Orlando, morally vain Elder Price (Bondy) is certain of his own gift to do God’s work and bring the Ugandans to eternal salvation. Only, the boys will soon learn the town in their charge is not only destitute, on the brink of famine, afflicted with disease, it is terrorised by a gun-toting warlord, currently on a campaign of mutilating female genitals.

After witnessing with horror the shooting of a civilian, Elder Price, in a crisis of faith, decides he shall pack his bags and leave the mission, after all. And Elder Cunningham, who has always been satisfied as his partner’s shadow, finds himself suddenly responsible for preaching the Book, of which he has never read, a story he now has to make up.

The creation by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, in collaboration with composer and lyricist Robert Lopez, aims to make a loud, emphatic statement about the idiosyncracies of the religion and, perhaps by extension, America’s idealistic superhero complex.

While not exploring what are painfully ripe personal accounts of the two main characters, embodied with verve by the brilliant casts (not to mention that of the repressed homosexual Elder McKinley, played by Rowan Witt) feels like missed opportunities in a show seemingly preoccupied with expressing every theological and behavioural farce perceived in Mormonism, it counts, for me at least, as another tool in the strategy of iconoclasm.

The set by Scott Pask is an impressive abstraction that captures the many layers of story-telling, transporting us without seam to bucolic Uganda from the sanitised Salt Lake City in Utah.  It is a dynamic world — an expansive colour scheme achieved magnificently through Brian Macdevitt’s lighting and Ann Roth’s costumes — populated by bursting spirits engaged in a choreography of boundless energy that tap-dance around the music like a divine couple.

There are songs of (twisted) inspiration, as one would expect, of blasphemy, of course, and, yes, of the heart. Love interest Nabulungi, gorgeously portrayed by our own Zahra Newman, the enchanting daughter of the village chief, turns out to be the catalyst to her people’s baptism. Best remembered for her emotional Sal Tlay Ka Siti, in which she sings of a place halfway across the globe her late mother told her about, she radiates in a supple performance, echoed by her sweet, wide-ranging voice.

Towards the production’s end, the President of the Church, on a visit to the continent, is confronted by the Africans’ dramatisation of their warped interpretation of the doctrine, in much the same way the Mormons in our midst have to, I’d imagine, contend with this irreverent Tony-awards-winning piece that has been a box-office sellout.

Although I know many Mormons must share my (other-times) preference for audience-etiquette, I am also quite confident the makers of this musical will continue to be rewarded at every staging with the very torrents they want.

Film review: Get Out

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Playing out in impoverished interiors and ostentatious exteriors Get Out is a doctor’s scalpel. Powerful and precise and revelatory the disconcerting tale about a romance-turned-nightmare exposes hypocrisy and prejudices bubbling away in black-and-white America beneath the (not-so-quiet) surface.

There are holes riddled all over the plot, sure, but because the film is well-acted and the soundscape (Joshua Adeniji is the sound effects editor) such a stealth weapon you don’t mind a bit of fantasy. The twang of trepidation, in fact, makes you almost grateful for the un-realness.

African-American photographer, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), has been dating Rose (Allison Williams) for a while, and the time has come for him to meet her folks.

At their magnificent country manor, with rambling gardens and smooth lawns, the warmth and hospitality of Dean (Bradley Whitford), a neurosurgeon, and Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener), a psycho-hypnotherapist, seem to reinforce Rose’s earlier attempts to allay Chris’ misgivings about his race. Yet, for all the enthusiasm and liberal-minded talk, the household is served by two black domestic-helpers, whose peculiar behaviour he finds impossible to interpret.

Soon enough, the suave New-Yorker realises he will have to leave the premises come hell or high water, which he does, but not before a great deal of blood has been spilled.

A directorial debut by Jordan Peele, Get Out bewitches with a biting satire about the way white people may abuse their position and exploit the softer nature of others, using indoctrination or outright manipulation to their own advantage.

A horror story — unexpected twists of events betray a strong whiff of Hitchcockian cruelty — the movie pulls no punches on the practice of cherry-picking of the black culture by their fair-skinned counterpart. What is the most unsettling for me, though, is Rose’s sudden and absolute transformation, like land blackened by an everlasting eclipse.

Get Out!” turns out to be a desperate warning rather than an order. And even if it presents perhaps an uneven perspective of a society riven by racial tensions, the portrait of uneasy peace is deftly drawn. Diplomacy, after all, is not what the narrative hankers after; it just wants the surrender of your skull.

Exhibition review: Bill Henson

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Some 10 years ago, Australian photographer Bill Henson was the subject of rolling controversy, with opprobrium upon him cast from household kitchens to houses of Parliament. His use of young pubescent models in attitudes that insinuate sexual imaginings, while accepted as artistic prerogative within the confines of a gallery, met with public outcry when the picture of an almost-naked girl made its way outside the esoteric space on invitation cards.

His latest exhibition features large-scale photographs that examine the themes of nudes and portraits, their relationship with museum exhibits, a fascinating interplay with lush, meditative landscapes braided through it.

Rich and sensuous and graceful the images exude atmosphere in a room so pitch it is as if you’ve been granted privileged access to the artist’s darkroom. When your eyes have adjusted to the low illumination, you begin to begin to notice just how smooth-tender flesh approaches in shade and light to the likeness of fine marble, of which sculptures captured in works selected for display here are made.

A boy leaning forward to pull a thorn from his foot resting on one knee bears uncanny resemblance to the structure of the stone Spinario in a photograph a few photographs along the wall.

By photographing the juxtaposition of great, ancient art inside famous halls with visitors inspecting them, Henson opens up a conversation about whether one may indeed become art through the simple act of observing.boy

In the same way the landscapes on show are studies of twilight — the in-between moments that straddle days — figures in the portraits are in that delicate phase of woman-child or child-man in which they look nearly androgynous. Invariably self-absorbed, preoccupied with internal reveries, heads averted or bowed, limbs hanging, other times strained, young sitters startle with their precocious expressions wedged into the gap between delirium and discomfort, the transitory spell from resistance to surrender.

Bill Henson is not a narrative; it is a mood poem dwelling on an elusive, momentary condition, and a dialogue that explores imagination in all its (im)possibilities.

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Exhibition review: William Eggleston Portraits

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A photographer for more than 50 years William Eggleston is revered as one of the most important artists of the 20th-century in his field.

This, though, has not always been the case. Showcasing the use of colour at a time when black and white alone were considered the stuff of which fine arts was made, Eggleston’s 1976 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York drew some of the vilest reviews. More than that, critiques of the American’s devotion to the mundane, the everyday were swift and merciless. Blatant absence of any attempt on his part to entice the viewer only became fodder for more criticism.

Now, for the first time, over the next few months, at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), we get to experience the Southerner through his portraits, captured mostly during the 1960s and 70s in or around Memphis, Tennessee where he was born.

While the works have obvious contrapuntal rhythms — between colour and black-and-white, between studies of strangers and non-strangers, subjects’ unawareness and awareness — there is a felt sense of drama in every image, lurking inside postures or clothes, within eyes or shadows, however banal on the surface they seem.

In a grainy picture of Eggleston’s mother, for instance, shot with a miniature spy-camera on police-surveillance film, she is caught leaning forward with outstretched legs on bed, wearing life in her nightie, fatigue etched upon the languor. Flaunting bright, bold colours of blue and yellow, all the same, another frame shows an immaculate woman sitting by an empty road, staring straight at the lens, the thick, iron chain wound round a vertical support nearby echoing her austere primness.william eggleston mother

The presentation at the NGV is lush, fetching, and elegant, giving the exhibits room to breathe. It is the inclusion of inscriptions for some displays, and none for others, nevertheless, that build intrigue.

We learn, for example, that Eggleston’s dentist-friend standing nude in his violent bedroom, between crimson walls (perhaps a harbinger for what was to come) that were splattered with graffiti, was later murdered and his body burnt in that house. One cannot help when we afterwards come upon a picture, unaccompanied by any message, but to wonder then about the narrative behind the coiffure and the angular cigarettes, and to muse on willaim eggleston cigarettesthe possible facial expressions and dynamic concealed from inspection.

For all the controversy about his rebellion against convention around colour Eggleston’s talent with light and precision are in fact what distinguishes him. In the famous Untitled c.1975 his one-time regular model Marcia Hare lies on the ground, the lower-half of her floral dress and grass deliberately off-focus to create a dream-like milieu, sharpness gradually progressing up her body until the arm (with a camera) and her head come into stark clarity, an air of abandonment sprawled across her lids and face, above a line of ruby-red buttons running down her chest, like jelly-beans.

As much as an examination of the sitter, a photograph is no less a mirror held up to the artist. The emotional detachment with which Eggleston regards people on the other side of his aperture is most potent where a former girlfriend will forever be remembered for having openly wept.

Part of the Festival of Photography, William Eggleston Portraits is publicised as a social snapshot of  “a time, place, and way of life”. This is true insofar as what can be derived from a telling work in which Eggleston’s uncle is seen standing beside his car, hand in pocket, gazing into the distance, his butler a few meaningful steps behind him, striking the exact same pose. Yet, another encounter — a young man, presumably a supermarket clerk, arrested in profile, pushing a trundle of trolleys, his resolve cast as silhouette on a wall — is not as unfamiliar; after all, some themes (like emotions, like the human condition) are enduring and universal.William Eggleston supermarket clerk

Still, Eggleston does not consider himself a documentarian. Rather, he has said, his interest resides in “democracy”: not one perspective is less or more important than another.

Film review: Moonlight

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In an indelible scene near the opening of Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight nine-year-old Chiron (Alex Hibbert) picks up a broken piece of glass on the floor of a derelict building where he is hiding from a group of bullying boys. As he holds the blood-stained fragment between his fingers, with looming consequences, Juan (Mahershala Ali), a local crack-dealer, who has seen then followed the predatory chase, bursts into the room through a boarded-up window.

Like sunshine upon the dark, lonely corner in which the child has been crouching, Juan coaxes him out with good humour and seeming kindness. Only, we don’t see the drug-boss try to pimp the vulnerable figure, whose wary eyes explain why he does not utter a word; instead, with his girlfriend, Teresa (Janelle Monae), through food and gentle-naturedness, Juan cajoles the boy to finally say his name and take him home.

The way tenderness is shone into a reality of violence and isolation says much about Moonlight, Jenkins’ second feature, based on an unpublished, semi-autobiographical account by Tarell Alvin McCraney.

Segregated into three sections — Little, Chiron, Black — to reflect the nicknames given to the central character, the story follows a young African-American grappling with his identity and his sexuality while growing up in Miami, Florida.

And the protagonist is powerfully embodied by Hibbert, by Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes for each of the respective stage of his life: an adolescent, then a teenager, and an adult in his early 30s.

Moonlight sustains an exquisite balance between the horror and humanity existing in society’s underbelly. The actors wear their roles in superb performances devoid of exaggeration and stereotyping. Like no other film on black, gay America I can recall, it conveys with empathy the anguish suffered because of one’s nature, and the intense fragility of myriad bonds with nuance and discretion.

After their first encounter, Juan, despite hostility from Chiron’s single mother (Naomi Harris) — ironically hooked on cocaine he supplies — keeps up the relationship with the child. Learning to float and to swim in the ocean turns out to be, in effect, a lesson for Chiron from his mentor not only on how to survive in the unpredictable world, but also, more interestingly, to let go and be whom he is amid buffeting waves.

Tormented in school for being ‘soft’, and at home by a parent who resents his presence for getting in the way of her life, Chiron, now 16, in not wanting to bring trouble on the ever-generous Teresa (Juan, unseen, presumed dead) retreats deeper into his misery.

In one of the movie’s sexual sequences, remarkable in its subtlety and taste, filled with longing and reticence and apologies, the lanky introvert discovers his first physical awakening on the beach one night with Kevin (Jharrel Jerome), a childhood friend, who by calling him Black persuades Chiron to accept himself as he is, in a single frame that feels at once liberating and poignant. The sense of deep understanding and sharing is written in the air between their fingers lingering before they part.

Meeting up again after many years, having taken radically different paths, Kevin (played eventually by Andre Holland) is astounded at the gold-plated teeth and rippling muscles and smell of unclean money on the boy he thought he knew well, and Chiron, too, is surprised (if disappointed) at the person he’s all this time tucked away in a special place in his heart.

Yet behind all the awkwardness and ambivalence and artificial fronts, the feelings and magic prove to be very much alive.

“In moonlight black boys look blue,” says a young Kevin (Jaden Piner) early on in this Oscar winner that perceives the raw emotions brought out among blacks (as they do whites and browns and caramels) when no one is watching — although not before sunshine comes and warms up that dark, derelict corner.

Film review: Manchester by the Sea

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Arresting in its stillness, washed either in the liquid colours of sail and sky or in brooding winter greyness, Manchester by the Sea feels in many places like a gallery of photography exhibits. There is not a stir in the clouds nor movement in the waters. Boats moored at the dock appear as if they’ve been nailed to the air.

Set in the Massachusetts town where its small community is as intimate as the anchored skiffs, this poignant story follows Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), a handyman, who while eking out an existence in Quincy, Boston returns home on the sudden death of his brother (Kyle Chandler), to find himself entrusted with the care of a 16-year-old nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges).

Imposed with this unexpected responsibility, Lee is drawn back to confront his own past, in which an excruciating  incident had created the very demons he has been wrestling with inside him ever since.

With grace and control Director Kenneth Lonergan tells in this, his third, feature an unseen emotional narrative, by interspersing flashbacks with present-day realities.

Like his basement apartment looking out on passing feet with three tile-sized windows Lee views the world through the prism of his ineradicable mistake. Affleck, hunched and stone-faced gives his character an inscrutable aloofness — uninterested in women, nor in life — that cracks on occasion into fistfuls of unjustified violence. With a convincing portrayal of somebody clearly intent on coping with new circumstances while all the time defeated in his personal battle, the BAFTA nominee wins hearts by droves.

Hedges, by the same token, wears his part with jaunty talent. Essentially still a child on the cusp of adulthood, Patrick astonishes with his worldly cynicism, is precocious, yet vulnerable. His best times with his uncle are spent fishing on his late father’s boat. When he silently smiles while holding the girlfriend with whom he has just made love after a day sailing in the sea, one wonders about the source of his satisfaction.

And aptly in Lonergan’s creation, men are not the only ones who struggle in their private lives. Here, everybody is flawed and women are just as incapable in their efforts at communication and managing their feelings.

As Lee’s former wife, Randi — a role curiously marginalised — Michelle Williams in grappling with grief and remorse delivers in a performance that is beyond reproach.

With Albinoni’s Adagio weaving through a sparkling screenplay the writing alludes more than once to the way that life, for all it throws at us, brings with it choices as well.

Manchester by the Sea is a film about the true grind of real living where subsequent to turbulent events people often find themselves caught up in an inner swell that rages wildly beneath a quiet surface.

Film review: Jackie

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In a poem Elizabeth Bishop says: the art of losing isn’t hard to master. But it seems the art of making a masterwork on loss may be harder than that. The mystery surrounding Jacqueline Kennedy, particularly her experience immediately following the assassination of her husband, whose broken head she cradled in her lap, has fascinated many for many years.

Here, director Pablo Larrain tells her story with his characteristic blend of melodrama and flourish. Jackie is unflinching, grave, empathetic, even if it anchors itself on a few known facts, and fills in the blanks with brazen imagination.

The American icon, famous for her couture and style, is played by Natalie Portman. It is in Hyannisport, Massachusetts  one week after the tragedy when we first meet her. She receives a journalist, Theodore White (Billy Crudup), through whom she is determined to define The Kennedy Legacy which others have begun to desecrate.

Time spools backward and we encounter her in the recognisable deep-pink suit, with black lapels, elegant beside President Kennedy greeting crowds in Dallas, Texas on the fateful day.

And, as the interview touches on the broadcast tour the First Lady conducted on national television, there is grainy footage of Jackie padding across the White House chambers inducting the country on refurbishments completed under her auspices.

As in his portrayal of poet Pablo Neruda in another biopic, Larrain’s approach is unpredictable: the plot is non-chronological but moves forth and back and farther back and forth into a heady, swirling whole.

Accompanied by the lustrous ache of Mica Levi’s music, scenes are shot in 16mm, and backdrops are wan, as if colours themselves have been washed away by shock. Jackie, however, is consistently cast as a bold, definitive presence, Portman’s lithe physique marking her in red or lime or black, like ink-stamp on onion-paper.

In an affecting sequence, at the end of her long journey alongside the casket back to Washington D.C., that offers a glimpse into Jackie’s rare moments of solitude, her husband’s blood runs off her hair under the shower down her naked back. The dramatisation is at once violent and calm.

Amid the confusion and trauma she is confronted by the harsh reality of having to vacate the premises without delay to make way for the new President.

With astuteness Larrain works in the solace from a handful of loyal supporters, not least Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard) and confidante Nancy (Greta Gerwig).

Yet, the Chilean filmmaker and his screenwriter Noah Oppenheim might have on occasion allowed their artistic licence to stray beyond the bounds of propriety: often one is led to muse upon whether the First Widow is grieving for the death of a spouse or of a lifestyle.

During a conversation her screen-depiction has with the priest (John Hurt, outstanding), Jackie reflects on whether her insistence on a grand funeral is in fact for her own vanity.

Jackie is, nevertheless, a worthy addition to movies of the genre for, if nothing else, Portman’s performance is sterling. Her Jackie is beautiful and brittle, volatile and vulnerable, a double portrait of a woman holding with both hands an illustrious name as she did the name’s ruptured skull. Only, despite her wish for the presidency to be remembered by Camelot — that ‘one brief, shining moment’ — nobody ought to second-guess the character behind the conundrum.

 

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