Only God Forgives - Trailer
Julian, a drug-smuggler in Bangkok sees his life get even more complicated when his mother compels him to find and kill whoever is responsible for his brother's death.PT1M41S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2k5vv 620 349 May 24, 2013
ONLY GOD FORGIVES
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Not yet rated, 90 minutes
STORIES WE TELL
Directed by Sarah Polley
Not yet rated, 108 minutes
A still from 'Only God Forgives'. Photo: Supplied
Ryan Gosling re-teams with the director of Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn, in the violent neon-lit drama Only God Forgives, playing a drugrunner whose brother has been killed in a revenge attack for murdering a 16-year-old Thai prostitute.
Screening to close the Sydney Film Festival's competition, it is a stylised journey into the dangerous Bangkok underworld with Kristin Scott Thomas unrecognisable as acid-tongued Crystal, the American mother of Muay Thai boxing club owner Julian (Gosling) and Billy (Tom Burke).
Only God Forgives came well-credentialed to the competition with Winding Refn's international profile soaring since he won with Bronson in 2009. While beautifully shot - with many shots composed as tableaux of stationary figures - it is a cartoonish riff on the martial arts genre with overtones of Greek tragedy that trades on extreme violence.
A scene from 'Stories we tell'. Photo: Supplied
Characters walk slowly and battle impassively - "wanna fight" says Julian to mysterious police boss Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) - as if in a video game.
The plot has Crystal seeking revenge on Chang, a martial arts expert who brings instant justice to captured criminals with a sword, for ensuring Billy is executed for his crime.
Winding Refn strips back character and dialogue, adding to the video game feel. And while there are hints of Julian's troubling motivations, it is really a film aimed at a cult audience wanting style and visceral thrills.
Much more compelling is Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell, a documentary about her theatrical family.
The Canadian actress and filmmaker's father Michael and late mother Diane were both actors. So is one of her brothers; another is a casting director.
A former child star and political activist, Polley appeared in such films as The Sweet Hereafter, eXistenZ and Dawn of the Dead before successfully turning to writing and directing with two films about women dealing with love, memories and expectations – Away From Her, with Julie Christie as an Alzheimer's patient, and Take This Waltz, with Michelle Williams as a writer struggling in a disappointing marriage.
The vibrant central character this time is Polley's late mother, who is seen in home video footage, photos and re-created scenes.
In a beautifully crafted film screening in the festival's competition for "courageous, audacious and cutting-edge" cinema, Polley builds Stories We Tell around interviews with family members and associates. She appears asking questions and directing her father recording a candid story about married life in a studio.
Much of the film's enjoyment is how it unfolds in surprising ways so it is not fair to reveal too much.
It's enough to say that it is a touching and often funny film that shows Polley's courage in revealing difficult personal information and her talent as a filmmaker.
What could easily have been a self-indulgent family tale is an absorbing documentary about storytelling, role playing and the nature of truth.