Francesca Rudkin

Francesca Rudkin

Over the last 15 years Francesca Rudkin has been working in the media as a film and music reviewer (NZ Herald, Breakfast TV), a television presenter and producer, and voice over artist. Recently, Francesca joined Rialto Channel as their resident blogger, allowing her to indulge in her love of world cinema. Her next challenge is to convince her young children that being a “Cinephile” is a legitimate profession.

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25 Latest News Articles

Interview with Alex Dimitriades for THE PRINCIPAL

Posted on Tuesday 10/4/2016 October, 2016 by Francesca Rudkin

Kicking off on Rialto Channel this month is a new Aussie TV series called The Principal  premiering Tuesday 4th October, 8.30pm.  

It’s a four-part drama series starring award-winning actor Alex Dimitriades (The Slap, Underbelly) as Matt Bashir, a former history teacher and Deputy Principal at a prestigious girls’ school, who is promoted to Principal of a notoriously violent and difficult Sydney school, Boxdale Boys High.

His appointment is a last ditch attempt to save the school from being shut down, although not everyone appreciates his radical approach to reform. Faced with conflict on all fronts, Bashir finds himself professionally and personally challenged; and when a student is found dead on school grounds, all hell breaks loose.

The Principal was created by award-winning producer Ian Collie (Saving Mr Banks, Rake), along with Rachel Turk and Kristen Dunphy, and directed by multi award-winning Kriv Stenders (Red Dog, Boxing Day).

The new crime drama showcases a range of high calibre Australian talent, including AFI nominated Aden Young (Rectify) and AACTA award-winning Mirrah Foulkes (Animal Kingdom, Hawaii Five-0), as well as some fresh Australian talent, including Rahel Romahn (Underbelly, The Combination), Aliki Matangi (Jonah from Tonga), Tyler De Nawi and Thuso Lekwape.

Alex Dimitriades has been busy working on a couple of new projects since filming The Principal, but kindly took the time to chat about this confronting and real series. While it screened a year ago in Australia, people are still talking about the series, so we started off by talking about the public’s reaction.  

Rialto: The series screened in Australia in 2015 – what was the reaction like?

Really strong actually, it seemed to touch a lot of nerves in the right places. It was quite personal for a lot of people, even despite the fact they may not have come up through similar surroundings. It really touched a diverse range of people in a really special way that I hadn’t experienced first-hand like that in some time…it seemed to get a lot of people charged, talking and thinking. That real sense of touching, and really making them feel like they want to talk about it and discuss the issues, is a real win for me.

I suppose being involved to that degree, and with that type of part, social media was a lot to do with that as well and people hitting me up all the time. It was great, but a lot of hard work fielding all that. I lot of people really loved my part, and he was quite an inspirational man and the reaction was awesome. I couldn’t have hoped for better actually.

Rialto: On a boldness scale – how bold do you think the series was for Australian drama?

AD: Now, if someone was to do something like that again, maybe not so much. In June or July 2014, I was in Melbourne doing a show with a theatre company and one day a call came through from my agency; the agency boss wanted to talk about the series, and the director and the producer wanted to meet. She was “it will be really good - just from whose involved.” She told me a little bit about it and at the time I was like, umm, sounds really controversial and I don’t know about this. But I met up with the guys and we chattered and got on incredibly. You really put the trust in these people’s hands when you do something that is of a controversial nature. When it’s you who is the face of it and who will be at the front line of all the discussions, it’s tricky territory, you really are placing trust in those people’s hands.

It did feel very bold but we handled it with the right amount of care, and everything about the production did the controversy justice. So now looking back it doesn’t feel like a big deal, but I remember clearly at the time that feeling when I took that call – oh, I don’t know about this one, we’ll see, we’ll meet up with them and talk, but I can’t really say which way this is going to go.

Rialto: You won a Logie Award for your role – what does that kind of accolade mean to you? 

AD: At the time I wasn’t really fussed so much because I didn’t think I was going to win. I was also in the middle of another shoot and that was quite gruelling and there was a lot of travel involved weekly back and forth from Sydney to Melbourne. I was like, oh, an awards night, do I really care? I’m nominated, thanks, but I’ve been to these things before, I’m not going to win.

Rialto: So you didn’t prepare a speech?

AD: No speech prepared whatsoever. As it drew closer, something was telling me I might actually win. Which was kind of strange but I’m glad I turned up. I actually almost did not go and that’s no word of a lie. But after the fact I was really, really, super proud. It meant a lot more to me after the fact. I’m actually stoked that I have this award because I won a AACTA Award for Best Actor award for The Slap a few years back, and that meant a lot at the time, it’s a different organisation and it has a different type of credibility and in the industry it used to be seen as a little more important, the more serious awards. I have one of each now so that’s great. I underestimated how much a Logie is actually worth. It’s a great award and I finally got one. I use to say all the time, I’m never going to win, I didn’t think I fitted the mould, which is a stupid way to think.

Rialto: What was it like working with director Kriv Stenders – this being his first television series?

AD: It was great. He’s a really funny guy, we had a good time and the relationship was very easy and he’s obviously super smart. By watching the way he works, you can just tell. I’ve worked with directors like him before but no two people are the same in the way that they work, especially when they’re as experienced as that. He was great, always charging forward and kind of crazy and it worked. All the kids loved him and it was a real family affair.

I was a little apprehensive actually when I first went in. I thought, how am I going to handle all these teenage guys? I just imagined all of them to be like me – like, how am I going to be dealing with 50 younger versions of myself? What a nightmare! But they were all very sweet and very patient and respectful and just grateful to be there. They were an awesome bunch, and Kriv was like the funny uncle. He was great with them and they loved him and it was a good experience.

Rialto: Rialto Channel screens the series Rectify as well, but it’s nice to see Aden Young back in an Aussie production – had the two of you worked together before?

AD: Funnily enough we haven’t. He was one of the first actors after starting off, apart from the people in the first ever production I did, on a social level he was one of the first I ever met. He used to be with Claudia Karvan [his The Heartbreak Kid co-star] back in the day. In the early 90’s they were a young, hot film pair. He’s quite intimidating and he hasn’t changed a single bit, he’s definitely an interesting character who is on another level; an individual. But it was great to finally do something. I hadn’t seen him in a very, very long time so I didn’t know what to expect, no, I did know what to expect… he hasn’t changed one single bit and it was a good dynamic between those two characters. I think it worked out well.

Rialto: How did you prepare for the role? 

AD: It’s hard for me to say because you’re unconsciously preparing without even knowing it. I was non-stop thinking about this guy, where he’s coming from, where he’s going. Going on the journey and immersing yourself in it and thinking about that all the time. In terms of actual preparation, I took a visit down to the school where we actually shot, and hung out with the Principal for a day, and just followed him, basically shadowing his movements around the place. Witnessing his interaction with the kids up close and from afar as well, I was a bit of a spy that day. He was really lovely and helpful, and I kind of took a few character cues from him; the way he talks and walks in a particular way kind of stuck with me, I liked it and felt comfortable with it.

That was really beneficial because that’s always a thing, you’re trying to play the truth of the story as much as possible, but little character things like that - there’s always a risk it’s going to seem unacceptable or tacky, or like how much do I do, or how little do I do, so that was a nice additional angle to bring to it. And you know Kriv and I spoke a lot before the production rehearsals and had fun piecing it all together. It’s hard to talk about actually things. Every night you go to bed and that’s what’s on your mind – knowing or unknowingly. Once you’ve got your head around the scripts, it’s part of you, in your blood.

 Rialto: You’ve been acting now for over 20 years – are you still learning?

AD: Absolutely. That’s one of the great parts of this job – you never stop because humans are an interesting bunch, and artists are always serving up new and interesting different stories, so there’s inspiration to be found everywhere. I think it’s just never-ending and you yield to it with age, types of parts reach and find you and it’s an awesome job. I can do this forever. God willing! If I stay healthy and don’t go completely nuts.

Rialto: TV drama globally is in really good state – what’s it like in Australia at the moment?

AD: Pretty good. The job I just finished in Melbourne called Seven Types of Ambiguity is I think possibly one of the strongest things I have been involved with. Which is a big call, but we will wait and see when it comes out. It just felt really right and the talent involved is really super strong, so definitely in a healthy state at least from that point of view. Television is the place - it’s the format.

Rialto: If you could walk onto a film set with one Aussie actor tomorrow – who would it be?

AD: Probably Ben Mendelsohn. He’s just won an Emmy overnight. I’ve known Ben for long time, we’re not mates or anything but I’ve always liked him and always been a fan of his work and as a person as well. He’s a very lovable character and he’s been quite troubled over the years as we all have, it’s never just roses, and so it’s great to see him getting there. Was it about 5 or 6 years ago he did The Place Beyond the Pines with Ryan Gosling, and since then we’ve seen him go in leaps and bounds. It would be great to work together.

Make sure you catch The Principal, Tuesday 4th October at 8.30pm.

Francesca's Weekly Wrap-up

Posted on Monday 10/3/2016 October, 2016 by Francesca Rudkin

Francesca’s Picks for the Week

Posted on Monday 9/26/2016 September, 2016 by Francesca Rudkin

Finishing up Rialto Channel’s Encore Documentary season on Wednesday evenings is You’ve Been Trumped. Like many people, some weeks I just can’t get enough of the US Presidential election, and other weeks I find myself wishing it was all just a reality television show of no consequence. Love him or hate him, Mr Trump has come further than anyone predicted, and caused quite a stir along the way. You’ve Been Trumped is a documentary from 2011 that captures Trump’s campaign to build a controversial golf course on the North East coast of Scotland. This probably won’t come as a shock, but his behavior is appalling.

You’ve Been Trumped  premieres Wednesday 28th September, 8.30pm

Those who watched Donald Trump’s The Apprentice, or his campaign speeches know Trump can work the camera. Take him away from that contrived world though and suddenly Trump’s media moves are revealed for what they are - shallow PR spin. This David and Goliath documentary follows Scottish locals attempting to stop Trump building a golf course on their unique coastal wilderness area.

Director Anthony Baxter, arrested while shooting this film, is just one of the characters in this saga to feel the full force of a powerful multinational company. Environmental concerns and economic benefits are pitted against each other as to why this project should or shouldn’t go ahead, but when the local Scottish people begin to question the project, Trump and his team give us a glimpse of their modus operandi which largely comes down to arrogance, disrespect and bullying. 

James White  premieres Friday 30th September, 8.30pm

The melancholic drama James White is producer Josh Mond’s (Martha Marcy May Marlene) directorial debut. With three short films under his belt, Mond debuted James White at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival where it won the NEXT Audience Award.

The film tells the story of a twenty-something New Yorker James White (Christopher Abbott) who deals with his mother’s terminal illness by retreating further into a self-destructive and hedonistic lifestyle. It’s an intimate, raw and unflinching look at a sensitive young man’s attempt to nurse his mother through the awful final stages of her cancer; a task made all the more difficult by the fact his mother isn’t ready to let go.

It’s a premise that has been explored before, but the performances by Christopher Abbott, and Cynthia Nixon as White’s mother are excellent. Abbott’s nuanced performance allows Mond to capture his character’s pain and suffering through intense close-up shots, and Nixon is unpredictable and utterly convincing as she fades away from us. The film was inspired by Mond’s own experience of losing his mother, but the end result is a collaboration of ideas from various people involved in the project from Nixon through to the film’s cinematographer Mátyás Erdély. Regardless of where the idea came from, there’s no doubt this film captures the pain, mess and sadness of death.

The Sea  premieres Saturday 1st October, 8.30pm

 

Saturday evening’s film also ventures into the theme of death and grieving with an adaptation of John Banville’s Man Booker Prize Winning novel The Sea. Banville wrote the screenplay that Stephen Brown, in his directorial debut, brings to life with subtlety and beauty.  

Even though Banville had nothing to do with the film once he’d handed over the script, he was reportedly thrilled with the finished product which he describes as a “mood piece”. There’s not a huge amount of plot in this yarn that follows Max Morden (Ciaran Hinds), a grieving art historian struggling to deal with his wife’s death, who returns to the Irish seaside resort he visited as a child where his past is as unresolved as his present. Instead we flash back in time as Max nostalgically remembers the summer he became infatuated with a wealthy British family who also came to seaside in the 1950s, and in the present we watch him drink himself into more misery.

Nicely acted, Hinds is also joined by Charlotte Rampling, Natascha McElhone and Rufus Sewell, along with some talented youngsters who handle the material well.


Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance  is an inspiring, warm and entertaining documentary that will charm both horse enthusiasts, and lovers of a great underdog story. The film tells the true story of a group of friends from a former mining village in Wales, who, lead by local barmaid Jan breed a race horse that against all odds, goes on to have a career filled with unexpected highs, and lows. What makes this film stand out from other equine underdog stories, is the focus on the relationship between this horse called Dream Alliance and the people of Cefn Fforest, and the wonderfully engaging manner in which the locals share their story.

The film is directed by Louise Osmond and produced by Judith Dawson, two veteran journalists and documentary filmmakers, who were determined to tell this story. They kindly took the time to have a chat about bringing this story to life on the big screen. 

 

Rialto: How did you come across the story of Dream Alliance and why did it appeal to you?

JD: Louise came across it it was just a scrappy paragraph buried away that caught her eye while she was searching around for an idea she had about the emotional bond race-goers form with the horses they put their money on. It rang a loud bell, she loved it on so many levels and then she called me. This could be something really amazing, its got everything going for it Lou said. My job was to find the people and see whether we could persuade them to meet us. Imagine!!

LO: This story popped up when I was in one of those bleak development periods - also called unemployment! - when none of the ideas youre looking at feel quite right. From the first second, I just loved everything about it. Its about a community that had lost everything, who felt forgotten by the world; its about the irrepressible spirit of a barmaid Jan, who bred the racehorse, and who persuaded others to share her outlandish dream. Its about a defiant and exuberant journey into an elite and exclusive world, and the pride it gave the village to prove themselves the equal of anyone there. Above all, its about the extraordinary bond the characters forged with a beautiful animal that seemed almost like something from a fable; a phoenix rising from the ashes. Waiting to hear if Judith had persuaded them to meet and talk was the most nerve-wracking period of any film I’ve done!

Rialto: Janet, Howard, Brian and other members of the Dream Alliance syndicate are such great, natural storytellers. What were your first impressions of them, and how did they influence your approach to telling this story?

JD: My first contact was with Howard – he was driving and said he couldn’t really talk. We ended our first conversation an hour later. He was magic. When we met Jan and Brian there was absolutely no doubt. Sometimes in close up, stories melt away a little; the more we get to know them and talked about it, the more vivid it became. And they are Welsh – lyrical, articulate and emotionally in touch.

LO: From the first time we met them they were just completely themselves: so funny, so warm, so welcoming. So we just built the film around them. The great gift they gave us was that they could tell the story in such an emotionally honest and powerful way. It’s been a fantastic journey, these last three years, and they are people I hope we will be in touch with until we’re all long in the tooth.


Rialto: Aside from getting the 23 members of the Dream Alliance syndicate on your side, what was the greatest challenge you faced bringing this story to life on screen?

JD: Much more one for Louise then me, but we agreed from the outset that as a past tensestory it had to be told as though it was happening in real time. Thats the true skill of it, which is absolutely down to the brilliance of the director.

LO: Actually it was the reverse! Going into a tiny community - especially one that has had some difficult times - is a delicate thing to pull off.  There was some fear among people in the village, I think, that wed make them look foolish but Judith managed it all with great sensitivity. She found all the extras in the film from the local community, putting up wantednotices in the local working mens clubs and drama groups. I think she knows most of that community by their first name now.

Rialto: Dream Alliances achievements are incredible, but the real heart of this film lies in the relationship between this gutsy horse and the people of Cefn Fforest. Were you aware of the importance of this horse to the locals, or did that aspect of the story reveal itself to you as you got to know the syndicate members?

JD: It took me by surprise initially, but when youre in the village, a tiny struggling place that was until relatively recently surrounded by coal mines and where people had been quite prosperous, it didnt seem at all extraordinary that Dream became a focus of pride. As Jan says, he brought a lot of pleasure to a lot of lives”.

LO: It was a lovely thing that developed as we went along. At first, we thought the real connection with Dream, the horse, would just have come from Jan, Brian and Howard. In fact, because hed grown up on the allotment behind the houses, he was just one of them from the start, he was one of their own. So when he started winning everyone felt involved. Also Jan is a real pied piper - in a good way - she managed to convince those 20 or so people in the syndicate to buy into this totally nutty enterprise with zero chance of success, and for a lot of them that weekly £10 was quite a significant expense. I think the added value for many of them was just that challenge: that it just couldnt be done. Plus, taking on the sport of kings and sticking it to the snobby English racing community gave a great deal of pleasure to many Welsh hearts. 

Rialto: You both often take on the duel role of producer and director on your projects was it hard during Dark Horse sticking to just the one role, or was it a blessing working with someone who understood the process so well?

JD: It was a wonderful collaboration from my point of view Louise had a fantastic vision for the film with which I absolutely agreed, and I just worked as hard as I could to help make it happen.

LO: Judith and I have been friends for a long time, we both worked as journalists and used to be assigned the same jobs for different companies. So it was a huge pleasure to work on a film with someone you can talk really openly and honestly with. Judith is a great foil editorially, she was really almost acting as an executive producer too, giving very helpful notes etc. So we would talk all the time about the film and she would often come into the edit with our fantastic editor Joby Gee. It made the journey a lot of fun.

Rialto: Im sure the folk of Cefn Fforest got their own screening how did they react to the film?

JD: Its always a really nerve-wracking moment to show the film to your contributors but Jan, Brian, Angela and Howard could not have been kinder or more generous. We shouldnt have been surprised because they had been so cooperative and easy throughout but then we worried on the way back to London that even if they hadnt liked it, they were far too well-mannered to say so! We had the UK premiere for the film locally, thanks to our lovely distributors [Picturehouse] and everyone whod been at all connected to it was invited. It was quite a night. Those guys could teach the world how to party!   

LO: The premiere in the village was such a special night. It was the culmination of everyones efforts and because it was entirely cast from the local community - even the animals - almost everyone in the audience was either in it or knew someone that was. I think people loved the chance to live this story a second time round.


Rialto: The film, not surprisingly, won the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary at Sundance Film Festival 2015 was this your first trip to Sundance? What was the experience like?

JD: It was my first trip and it was absolutely brilliant. It was of course a great accolade for our film to be invited its a very friendly and laid-back festival, full of stars of course but more importantly crammed with film fans. It felt very egalitarian. Louise, Joby Gee, our wonderful editor, and I went. We had a ball and the cherry on the icing on the cake was Dark Horse winning the audience award.   

LO: Theres something so inspiring about Sundance. It somewhere Id dreamt of going and it lived up to every expectation. Its very much about creating a community so they organise events so everyone can meet. Youd be chatting to fellow film-makers whod also struggled to get their film made so it kind of reminded you why you fell in love with film-making in the first place. Every film also has one big screening down with local people in Salt Lake City and was so much fun. I was so relieved the story could carry for an American audience, that it felt universal enough. I really hope the same will be true in New Zealand. 

Rialto: When, and why did the two of you set up your own production company, Worlds End Pictures?

JD: Though we havent made that many films together, we share a similar sense about documentary and film and story, and so it felt right to have a space of our own where we can talk about ideas and find ways to develop them. That was about ten years ago.

LO: I think as you get older you realise how important it is to try and work with people whose company you really enjoy and - as Judith says - we both want to make similar kinds of films. We try to gather like-minded people to work with us too, so the long, sometimes hard journey of making films gets to feel more like a great adventure. 

Rialto: Youre both hugely experienced documentary filmmakers, how do you know when youve stumbled on a good idea, and how many of those ideas come to fruition?

JD: Id say you know when your heart beats a little faster and you feel this is a story I would do anything to get the chance to tell. I think, without being melodramatic - there has to be that element of absolute need in it. As with Dark Horse and Louises curiosity about the emotional bond between punters and horses, which took her eventually to Dream, not very many stories come to you fully formed. They need a degree of excavation. And as to the hit rate I dont like to tempt the Gods and it depends on so much. But a good story is a good story. Thats an eternal truth.

LO: It is tough to get these films made and financed and it can be heartbreaking. Right after Dark Horse we were both really passionate about another story. We spent a lot of time with the characters and so wanted it to work, and then events changed politically and internationally and somehow the timing was just wrong for that film at that moment. That was really tough. I still think about it today and maybe its time will still come.

Thank you so much for this Q&A by the way, and we SO hope people enjoy the film in New Zealand as much as we loved making it.

Louise Osmond and Judith Dawson.

Catch Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance on Wednesday 21st September at 8.30pm, only on Rialto Channel. 

Francesca’s Picks for the Week

Posted on Monday 9/19/2016 September, 2016 by

Thought provoking, mature relationship dramas hit Rialto Channel this week with veterans Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay teaming up in British drama 45 Years, and Al Pacino and Holly Hunter co-starring in American drama Manglehorn. All four deliver excellent performances, and it’s a delight watching these veteran actors strut their stuff. Another not quite so mature middle age gentleman also hits the screen this week, as Rake (Tuesday 8.30pm) wraps up its fourth season. Criminal lawyer Cleaver Greene (Richard Roxburgh) might struggle to hold down a relationship of any sort, but there’s plenty of drama in Cleaver’s life – and plenty of laughs to be had too.

Manglehorn premieres Saturday 24th September, 8.30pm

Director David Gordon Green’s Manglehorn is set in Texas, and tells the story of lonely souls. The best thing about this drama, a character piece about a man struggling to deal with his life’s regrets, is that it stars Al Pacino and Holly Hunter. A man left with nothing but frustration and disappointment, Pacino’s Manglehorn is a hard guy to fall for, especially when he takes local bank teller Dawn (Hunter) on their first date, or deals with his estranged son. However, as the film goes on, there’s something about his honesty that keeps you enthralled. And, Hunter, by the way, is superb. 

David Gordon Green began his career as an indie darling making intimate, offbeat dramas such as All the Real Girls or brooding thrillers such as Undertow. In 2008 his career took a turn when he directed stoner flick Pineapple Express, and since then has dabbled in mainstream films such as Your Highness and The Sitter as well as more tortured dramas such as Manglehorn. Green is one of Hollywood’s most unpredictable directors; he’s taken on thrillers, bromances, poetic and intimate meditations on small town life, and more recently political satire with Our Brand in Crisis. Manglehorn might be one of his more challenging pieces, but you’ve got to hand it to the guy, he’s never boring.

45 Years  premieres Sunday 25th September, 8.30pm

 

I love an ambiguous ending; a film not afraid to leave the audience contemplating what might become of its protagonists. Writer-director Andrew Haigh’s relationship drama 45 Years is one of those films, it really gets under your skin.

The film stars Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay as a couple who face an unexpected hurdle in their relationship on the eve of their 45th wedding anniversary. Geoff (Courtney) is informed of the discovery of his first love’s body that has been discovered, frozen and preserved in the icy glaciers of the Swiss Alps where she fell to her death many years ago. This discovery unhinges Kate (Rampling) and Geoff’s relationship as they assess their marriage with unsentimental honesty.

45 Years is a quiet film that takes one event and turns a couple’s life on its head in a completely understandable way. It’s unnerving, genuine, and excellently acted by Rampling and Courtney who provide a masterclass in nuanced acting.

Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans premieres Thursday 22nd September, 8.30pm

 

This documentary by filmmakers Gabriel Clarke and Jon McKenna goes behind the scenes of Steve McQueen’s infamous 1971 film Le Mans, a passion project he championed through his production company Solar Productions. The film briefly touches on his upbringing, and then fast forwards to the making of Le Mans, a troubled production shot in France during an actually Le Mans race. Car accidents off set, affairs, a change of directors, dangerous racing conditions are just a few of the dramas to beset McQueen, but what makes this documentary so compelling, is the access to the never-seen-before large amount of footage shot during the making of the film.

Francesca’s Picks for the Week

Posted on Monday 9/12/2016 September, 2016 by

Variety is the name of the game this week. Car racing enthusiasts and Paul Newman fans will lap up the documentary Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman on Thursday evening. If you’re looking for a truly unique film to immerse yourself in, you can’t go past Matteo Garrone’s exquisite Tale of Tales on Saturday, and if you’re fond of over the top Hammer horrors, then Sunday evening’s Stonehearst Asylum is for you.

Tale of Tales  premieres Saturday 17th September, 8.30pm

 

Inspired by 17th-century Italian fairy tales, filmmaker Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah, Reality) takes us on a luscious, violent, sensual and stylistic dreamlike journey in his first English language film Tale of Tales. Bizarre stories and beautiful settings collide with dark humour and understated performances; this is an odd but strangely compelling film.

The film follows three royals who live in different parts of the same imaginary realm. Queen of Longtrellis (Salma Hayek) sacrifices her husband and eats the heart of a sea monster in order to become pregnant. King of Highhills (Toby Jones) pays more attention to a flea than his own daughter and finds himself alone and bereft when she is married off to a caveman. King of Strongcliff’s (Vincent Cassel) libido gets the better of him as he seduces a local girl only to discover he has been tricked and she is instead an old hag.

These aren’t the kind of fairytales you share with your kids, and anyway, the very specific pacing of the film would probably bore them. However, thanks to the exquisite costumes, music, casting and imaginative art direction, there is plenty for adults to immerse themselves in, as well as a few worthy life lessons to embrace.

Stonehearst Asylum  premieres Sunday 18th September, 8.30pm


 A fabulous cast gets to swing between sanity and madness in this loose adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether. A gothic romantic horror film in the vein of the British Hammer horror films, the film kicks off with the arrival of an earnest young doctor Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess) from Oxford at the eerie and remote Stonehearst Asylum. On his arrival he’s greeted by superintendent Dr. Lamb (Ben Kingsley) who agrees to teach Newgate everything he knows about treating the insane, and Newgate immediately falls for one of the patients, the charming and accomplished Eliza Graves (Kate Beckinsale).

However, not all is as it seems at Stonehearst Asylum, and from here on in, it’s up to the viewer to unravel the mystery. Who is the monster in this story?  The insane or those treating them?

The film also stars David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, and Michael Caine, and is directed by Brad Anderson (The Machinist) who has a knack of pulling together impressive A-list casts. Michael Caine was one of the last names to come on board the project, but he was enticed by the idea of working with Ben Kingsley again – the two hadn’t worked together since the 80’s Without A Clue. Anderson is no stranger to psychological thrillers, and if you look at his body of work, there’s a running theme throughout his film that asks the question, ‘what is madness’? In his first period drama, he attempts to answer it with high-class melodrama.

Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman  premieres Thursday 15th September, 8.30pm

 

Most people think of Paul Newman as a critically acclaimed, Oscar-winning actor, and he is, but his real passion, according to friends and family interviewed in this documentary, was motorcar racing. Paul Newman discovered a love of racing when he was preparing to star in the film Winning. He started driving at an age when many drivers would retire, and went on to become not only a successful driver, but also a team owner. Robert Redford, Jay Leno and Robert Wagner along with racing car legends, fondly recall stories of Newman’s obsession with cars as they shed light on his 35-year driving career.

Francesca’s Picks for the Week

Posted on Monday 9/5/2016 September, 2016 by

Throughout September, Friday nights are dedicated to cool, small American indie films that you wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity to see. This week catch the crowd pleaser Unexpected  and over the coming weeks, keep an eye out for Kristen Wiig in Nasty Baby, and Christopher Abbott in James White.

Unexpected  premieres Friday 9th September, 8.30pm

Unexpected is the sweet story of a teacher Samantha (Cobie Smulders) who accidentally gets pregnant at the same time as one of her students Jasmine (Gail Bean). Their backgrounds and situations couldn’t be more different, but the two bond over pregnancy yoga classes, and Samantha makes it her mission to get Jasmine into college.

Unexpected isn’t going to blow you away, but it’s a smart and relevant piece of storytelling, and a real crowd pleaser. The film, directed and co-written by Kris Swanberg, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, and will resonate with any woman who has had to contemplate the effect of motherhood on their life. The film reminds us that experiences and expectations of motherhood are all different, and there’s no one way of going about it; a white, financially secure, educated, married woman is just as unprepared for motherhood as an African American, financially insecure, single teenager.

Kris Swanberg, who is married to mumblecore filmmaker Joe Swanberg, creates a warm and accessible film in which her lead actors can shine. Smulders’ reminds me a touch of actress Lake Bell, and young actress Gail Bean is superb, marking her as an actress to watch. Unexpected  is a perfectly pleasant way to end the week.

Queen of Earth premieres Saturday 10th September, 8.30pm

 

Queen of Earth is the work of Alex Ross Perry, an exciting young American filmmaker, who is often associated with the mumblecore movement due to the fact he makes films on tiny budgets. However, unlike his mumblecore colleagues who like to improvise off loose ideas, Perry’s scripts are sharp and filled with scripted acidic observations that garner him comparisons to Philip Roth, Whit Stillman or Noah Baumbach.

Queen of Earth stars Elisabeth Moss and Inherent Vice star Katherine Waterston, and both are excellent. Moss plays Catherine, a young woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown after her father dies and her boyfriend leaves her. Her old friend Virginia (Waterston), with whom she has been estranged, takes her to her family’s lake house to recoup and recover, but Catherine’s mental state continues to decline.

Catherine and Virginia’s friendship is horrible; they pride themselves on pushing each other’s buttons and spitting out brutally honest barbs to see how much the other can bear. Turns out quite a bit – and yet it all creates a level of tension and unpredictability that is hard for us to bear.

His latest couple of films, Listen Up Philip and Queen Of Earth have made world premieres at Sundance and the Berlin Film Festival respectively, and even though he’s yet to have a breakthrough moment at the box office, Alex Ross Perry’s work is not to be missed.

Francesca’s Picks for the Week

Posted on Monday 8/29/2016 August, 2016 by

Spring is almost here, and if the Olympics didn’t motivate you to get fit for summer, then maybe Rialto Documentary’s ‘Charismatic Stars in Sport’ series might do the trick. Featuring films that explore the inspirational lives of boxing legends Manny Pacquiao and Muhammad Ali, and weightlifting world champion C.T. Fletcher, the series also looks at Hollywood icons Paul Newman and Steve McQueen’s obsessions with motor racing. If you prefer your games to be of the board game variety, then check out the chess moves in Pawn Sacrifice.

Pawn Sacrifice Premieres Saturday 3rd September, 8.30pm

If you think tennis players throw epic tantrums, or rock stars make ridiculous demands on tour, then meet American chess master and world champion Bobby Fisher (Tobey Maguire). Able to out-tantrum and out-demand the best of them, Fisher is famous for his 1972 battle with Russian Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) in a match up that was just as much a battle between the superpowers as it was a game of chess.

Directed by Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond), Pawn Sacrifice begins by exploring Fisher’s early years. His mother was a communist who refused to tell Bobby who his father was, but encouraged his love of chess by finding him a tutor, Carmine Nigro (Conrad Pla). Fisher became the US champion in his teens, and dedicated his 20’s to becoming the World Champion. By the time he challenges the Soviet Union’s world chess champion Spassky, Fisher has become a publicly paranoid, narcissistic chess genius who spouts forth anti-Semitic propaganda – even though he’s Jewish.

The film features an impressive cast that also includes Peter Sarsgaard, but front and centre is the baby-faced Tobey Maguire as the complex and obsessive Fisher. Maguire goes some way to making this unlikable character affable, however, neither Zwick nor Maguire manage to get to the bottom of what drove Fisher to become so troubled and unreasonable, meaning Fisher remains a bit of an enigma. 

The Grandmaster Premieres Monday 29th August, 8.30pm

Wrapping up a month of Asian film on Rialto World is the Oscar-nominated The Grandmaster, a beautifully shot Hong Kong – Chinese martial arts drama. The main character in director Wong Kar-Wai romantic melodrama is inspired by Ip Man, a master exponent of Wing Chun kung fu who taught Bruce Lee.

Tony Leung (who worked with Kar-Wai on In the Mood For Love) takes on the role of Ip Man, and throughout the film we flit back and forth in time as he travels from southern China’s Guangdong province in the 1930s to Hong Kong in the 1950s, dealing with the Japanese invasion in 1938 and the loss of his wife and children along the way.

The story focuses just as much on Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi), the daughter of Manchurian grandmaster Gong Yutian, who is as talented at kung fu as Ip Man. The two are clearly fascinated with each other, and their fight sequences are beautifully choreographed to appear like set pieces out of a romantic musical.

Filled with spectacular set pieces that capture not just the beauty of the choreography, but of the costumes and settings as well, The Grandmaster is a romantic martial arts film that’s as interested in the small details as it is in the overall impact of its epic visuals. The transitions between places and periods might be a touch confusing at times, but this is a classy and epic tale that will delight fans of the more poetic brand of martial arts films.

London Road  Premieres Sunday 4th September, 8.30pm

London Road is the film adaptation of a successful musical directed by Rufus Norris that played in 2011 at the Cottesloe stage at London’s National Theatre. The stage show featured music by Adam Cork and dialogue and lyrics by the verbatim-theatre pioneer Alecky Blythe. The musical told the story of the 2006 Ipswich serial murders and the effect they had on the inhabitants of London Road. Blythe’s script is based on her own interviews with the locals, the media and the women who worked as prostitutes on London Road, and it makes for compelling viewing.  

The film, also directed by Norris, embraces its musical origins as its actors drift between song and speech. An impressive cast, including Olivia Coleman and Tom Hardy, do a great job of portraying the tension and fear felt by the locals during the ‘Ipswich Ripper’ time. You’ll get more out of this film if you are a fan of the musical genre, but for those of you like me who would happily watch Olivia Coleman sing the phone book, there’s still plenty here to admire.

Francesca’s Picks for the Week

Posted on Monday 8/22/2016 August, 2016 by Francesca Rudkin

An eclectic array of films feature on my pick-list this week; there’s a European WWII period drama starring Kristen Scott Thomas, Michelle Williams and Matthias Schoenaerts, a Scottish rom-com and an American documentary about a reclusive family. Basically there’s plenty to move, charm and fascinate you this week on Rialto Channel!

Suite Française Premieres Saturday 27th August, 8.30pm

 

 

This beautifully shot melodrama is set during the early years of the Nazi occupation of France in World War II. As the Germans rolled through France, their officers were billeted with locals, and Suite Française tells of the love that bloomed between French villager Lucile Angellier (Michelle Williams), and German soldier Bruno von Falk (Matthias Schoenaerts).

The film is an adaption of a novel written by Irène Némirovsky, a French writer of Ukrainian-Jewish origin. Némirovsky died at Auschwitz in 1942, and 60 years later, Némirovsky’s daughter discovered the manuscript for Suite Française inside one of her mother’s journals. Her fictional story of life in France during the war became a best-selling novel and has been adapted for the big screen by British filmmaker Saul Dibb, along with Oscar-nominated screenwriter Matt Charman (Bridge of Spies).

This war story is told from the point of view of those left to deal with the occupation, and it not only captures the compassionate and heroic deeds undertaken, but also how poorly people behaved. Denunciations and collaborations are very much part of Suite Française, as well as controversial love affairs.

Dibb isn’t a fan of working on studio sets so Suite Française was shot on location in Belgium and France. Not only does Dibb believe it provides the actors with a more genuine setting, it also proved to be an emotional process for some of the locals who can still recall the tanks rolling in during WWII.  

The Wolfpack  Premieres Thursday 25th August, 8.30pm

The Wolfpack, directed by Crystal Moselle, premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival where it won the U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize. It tells the story of a family who raised and homeschooled their seven kids inside an apartment on the Lower East Side of New York City. Prevented from leaving their home, the six Angulo brothers and one sister were encouraged to play music and re-enact famous movies to pass the time, until one day, one of the brothers left the apartment to explore the real world.

Moselle, a graduate of New York's School of Visual Arts, discovered the brothers on the street of New York where their waist length hair and Tarantino-inspired outfits caught her attention. They bonded over their love of film, and after learning they’d been kept inside for 14 years, convinced them to let her document their lives.

It’s almost unbelievable that after being locked up by their father, who wanted to protect them from the criminals and drug dealers on the street, that the family would let a film director into their house. It’s clear that Moselle has been very careful as to how she has pieced together this film, and who appears in it. The boy’s younger sister who they describe as ‘special’ is mentally handicapped and barely features, as does their father who quite possibly has mental health issues. Their mother Susanne fronts for the camera, and even though she is concerned about the boy’s safety outside of the house, seems pleased they now have an opportunity to connect with the world.

Obviously psychologists would be fascinated to talk to these boys; there is plenty of confronting and disturbing behavior going on in this family. And yet, Moselle’s film is one of warmth and hope. You can tell she only wants the best for the Angulo brothers, and considering their young ages, that’s a good thing.

Not Another Happy Ending  Premieres Sunday 28th August, 8.30pm

If you’re in the mood for a lighthearted Scottish rom-com then Not Another Happy Ending might just do the trick. A wonderful advertisement for Glasgow, the film flits from stylish shopping districts and offices, to cool apartments and lovely parks. Distracting us from all that Glasgow has to offer is the film’s leading lady, the charming Karen Gillan (Doctor Who, Guardians of the Galaxy).

Gillan plays Jane Lockhart, a writer whose first book (inspired by paternal abandonment) has turned her into an award-winning, best-selling author. But all this success has made her happy, and the one thing Jane can’t do when she’s happy, is write. Desperate to leave her publisher, with whom she had a falling out but is clearly attracted to, Jane tries all sorts of ways to get the creative juices flowing, but still the words fail to come.

Even her hard-up publisher Tom (French actor Stanley Weber) gets in on the act, doing everything he can to make Jane miserable. It makes for a quirky, colorful and upbeat rom-com, albeit one that wears its heart on its sleeve. The script needs tightening up and subplots seem to fade away without coming to anything, but Gillan manages to hold the show together with her klutziness and charisma.

Francesca’s Picks for the Week

Posted on Monday 8/15/2016 August, 2016 by Francesca Rudkin

If the increasing number of 4th places at the Rio Olympics is starting to get you down, step away for a moment and enjoy some drama of a different sort... 

Life  Premieres Saturday 20th August, 8.30pm

Robert Pattinson has tried hard to shake off the heartthrob label since he catapulted to fame as moody vampire Edward Cullen in The Twilight Saga. Making a decisive move away from mainstream young adult melodramas, Pattinson has immersed himself in smaller, indie films working with Canadian director David Cronenberg on several films; Map to the Stars and Cosmopolis.  

In Life he works with Dutch photographer, music video director and filmmaker Anton Corbijn. Corbijn’s fourth feature film, Life tells the real life story about the relationship between James Dean (Dane DeHaan) and photographer Dennis Stock (Pattinson), who captured that iconic photo of the actor in Times Square. The film is set in 1955 just weeks before East of Eden premiered; a film that turned Dean into an overnight sensation. This drama captures Dean’s hesitancy to lose his anonymity, and his loneliness, as well as the power film studios exerted over their stars.

It’s a moody, slow burner and features an excellent performance by Dane DeHaan who also did a great job playing Lucien Carr in Kill Your Darlings. DeHaan presents us with a complex character filled with outsider angst that contrasts with his ambition. Clearly shot on a budget, but Corbijn still manages to replicate on screen the settings of many of Stock’s iconic photographs.

The Source Family  Premieres Thursday 18th August, 8.30pm

This documentary tells the fascinating story of The Source Family, a radical group living a utopian life under the guidance of their spiritual leader Father Yod in California during the 70s.

The film is directed by Jodi Wille and Maria Demopoulous, and is based on the cult-classic book The Source: The Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wa 13, and The Source Family written by The Source Family members Isis Aquarian and Electricity Aquarian.

Father Yod makes for great subject matter. Edward Baker was a teenage weightlifting champion who went on to become a decorated World War II solider and martial arts expert known to have killed two people in California with a karate chop to the neck. He became hugely successful, starting up trendy health food and vegetarian restaurants on Sunset Strip (including one called The Source Family) with money earned from bank heists.

Along with his wife Robyn, the two began offering meditation classes, and The Source Family commune grew from there, taking over a large estate that had at one time been the home of the Chandlers Family, founders of the Los Angeles Times. With an interest in eastern spirituality and communal way of life, Father Yod, as he renamed himself, attracted plenty of curious, beautiful young people to his movement, and for a while The Source Family epitomized the counterculture movement.

That was until Father Yod decided he needed more than one wife, marijuana and LSD became part of daily life, modern day medicine was banned, and members began to see through the promises of lasting enlightenment.

Father Yod’s demise is even more wacky, but like everything else in this documentary, it is dealt with in a fair-minded manner. The archive material is impressive thanks to the involvement of so many members of The Source Family participating in the film. It’s even more interesting to see what these hippies are up to now. 

Haemoo Premieres Monday 15th August, 8.30pm

 

Internationally renowned South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer), produced and co-wrote this feature film, directed by first-time director Shim Sung-bo.

A tense, high seas adventure, Haemoo screened in the prestigious Gala programme at the Toronto International Film Festival, and went on to become South Korea’s candidate for the best foreign-language film category at the 2015 Oscars. Not bad for a relatively unknown director.

The film is set in the late ‘90s amidst the aftermath of the IMF financial crisis of 1997. Facing financial ruin, Captain Kang (Kim Yoon-seok) is convinced to take on an illegal smuggling job transporting Chino-Korean immigrants from China to Korea. With the help of his five crewmen, Kang manages to get the immigrants on board his fishing vessel, but as sea fog (the translation of Haemoo) rolls in, Kang’s mission turns into a nightmare of epic proportions. The less said the better! 

An extraordinary film, Sung-bo manages to throw adventure, romance, action, horror and black comedy at us, and considering the film pretty much takes place on the confines of a fishing vessel is more than competently shot and directed. Something else to bear in mind as Captain Kang spirals towards madness – Haemoo is based on a true event.

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