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The Witch of Kings Cross

Australian, Documentary, Home, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

Socialite artist Rosaleen Norton shattered 1950s Australian conversative customs with her scandalous paintings that combined explicit nudity with the occult.

Her story has been unveiled by director Sonia Bible through a painstaking seven-year process. Bible self-financed the majority of the film, uncovering rarely seen artwork banned at the time for its subversive content.

Although Norton’s paintings caused consternation within Australia, her undeniable artistic talent was shamefully ignored. The documentary explores the philosophical themes present in her work, such as Carl Jung, as well as worshipping the Pagan God Pan. The tragedy, however, concerns how all cultural institutions refused to showcase any of her work, largely on account of her orgiastic parties and rambunctious lifestyle that drew the ire of newspapers and the wider community.

Given the paucity of resources and information available on the artist, director Sonia Bible films recreated footage in rich black and white that manifests the vivid imagination of Norton. It is also accompanied by choregraphed dance sequences in slow motion, whereby the actors give compelling physical performances that offer insight into Norton’s enigmatic mind.

Understandably, the limited primary knowledge available gives little alternative but to utilise these recreated scenes. Though, at times, it feels like the documentary leans too heavily on filmic flourishes, that it loses a sense of focus. It is also clear that these narrative scenes are filmed in modern-day Australia, with a black and white filter added over the top, which does not always capture the essence of a stultifying 1950s Australia.

At the same time, Norton’s unwavering conviction to follow her creative passions, often at the expense of others, invokes a femme fatale quality about her. A line-up of close acquaintances and art historians supplement the sense of danger Norton elicited in Sydney at the time, describing in detail her fetishes and interests, as well as the broader reactions to her public persona.

The Witch of Kings Cross is a unique story that looks and feels rough but ultimately reveals a fascinating gem of Australian post-war history that was previously consigned to the dustbin of history.

Head to the website for more information.

 

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Dark Whispers: Volume 1

Home, Horror, Review, short film, This Week Leave a Comment

“Horror is a woman’s genre,” author Grady Hendrix opined in his fabulous book, Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ‘70s and ‘80s Horror Fiction, “and it has been all the way back to the oldest horror novel.” The ambitiously titled Dark Whispers: Volume 1 certainly agrees with this notion, offering ten horror stories directed by women (with an eleventh wraparound segment weaving the whole caper together) and the result is a mixed bag but with definite highlights.

Dark Whispers: Volume 1’s thin wraparound yarn is about a woman named Clara (Andrea Demetriades) who has inherited her mum’s Book of Dark Whispers. She cracks the tome to have a squiz, and we’re off to the races. What follows are ten short films that veer wildly in terms of quality, and have no real connective tissue other than they were helmed by women.

Highlights include The Man Who Caught a Mermaid (dir. Kaitlin Tinker) – about a bloke who does what’s on the tin but there’s a great twist, Grillz (dir. Lucy Gouldthorpe) – a very modern take on a vampire tale, The Intruder (dir. Janine Hewitt) – which stars Asher Keddie (Offspring) and features a neatly subverted story, Gloomy Valentine (dir. Isabel Peppard) – a striking stop motion animated work of gothic gloom and Watch Me (dir. Briony Kidd) – a lush mood piece that evokes David Lynch in full-on bizarro mode.

The problem is, these films feel like what they are: a loosely assembled collection of genre shorts stuck together. This gives the entire piece a disjointed feeling that never quite coalesces into a cohesive whole and makes the pacing feel clunky somehow.

The concept of a female-only anthology isn’t new. The superior XX did it back in 2017, and while it’s definitely a creatively laudable exercise, Dark Whispers: Volume 1 doesn’t quite stick the landing. Still, if you find yourself in the mood for a few creepy shorts, and want to support women in the arts, this may provide modest thrills.

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My Dead Ones

Home, Horror, Review, Streaming, This Week Leave a Comment

Student David (Nicholas Prattes) seems to the butt of a lot of jokes in his class. Bespectacled and clinging on to his camcorder like a security blanket, he looks like he wouldn’t hurt a fly. And if Norman Bates has taught us anything, it’s not to trust people who go out of their way not to hurt flies.

Directed by first timer Diego Freitas, My Dead Ones is a Brazilian horror/thriller that, at times, acts like a modern interpretation of Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom.

Seemingly with no family, David’s apathy to his bullies is shown to be a mask when we see him using online fraud to charge an expensive new digital camcorder to one of his tormentor’s bank accounts. Aside from petty theft, when he falls head over heels for his classmate, Jonatas (Andre Hendges), something else seems to awaken in David.

He takes to recording his elderly neighbour, Maria (Neusa Maria Faro) and having had his fill of that, takes her life, before uploading the footage to the Dark Web. Like dancing to WAP on TikTok, David’s crime goes viral and, with his face blurred in the footage, he relishes listening to people talk about his handiwork. Meanwhile, Maria’s death is not the end of the actress’ role and the OAP becomes a spirit guide to the young David, encouraging him to dig into his past and, ultimately, kill more people. Something which David is all too happy to do, whilst balancing his love life with Jonatas.

While the film aims for a dreamlike quality in some scenes, My Dead Ones feels unnecessarily nebulous. Not everything makes sense to begin with and that’s deliberate. The film is clearly leading to a big reveal, with David’s hallucinations interfering with his day to day life. Unfortunately, the film’s slow pacing can have you feeling impatient to skip to the end.

Having someone like David as your protagonist means asking the audience to be a wilful participant to his crimes. David is no Patrick Bateman, and his lack of charm or wit makes for a slightly forgettable killer. Of course, no one is suggesting a serial killer should be someone you want to emulate, but you can feel so indifferent to David, you almost forgive his bullies for breaking his camera at the start of the film.

There’s a lot to like in My Dead Ones, but when the interesting premise about internet fame is pushed to one side in favour of mysterious flashbacks and twisty twists, it leads to a finale that ends on a whimper rather than a bang.

Watch it here on Vimeo

Watch it here on iTunes

Coming soon to Google Play

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