It’s hard to believe that November is here, but it is, and with it comes a whole new selection of films and television series to choose from. Rialto Documentary presents a month of cyber stories, documentaries that closely examine the complications and consequences of being online. Sundance Channel’s brand new television series The Red Road, staring Martin Henderson and Game of Thrones Jason Momoa, kicks off on Tuesday evenings. And Ant Timpson’s Rialto Incredible Strange series continues to challenge and disturb us on Friday evenings.
Here are my picks for the week:
The Queen of Versailles
Starring: David & Jackie Siegel
Directed by: Lauren Greenfield
Screening: Rialto Documentary, Thursday 30th October, 8.30pm
Filmmaker Lauren Greenfield hit the jackpot when she got permission from resort time-share mogul David Siegel and his wife, former beauty queen Jackie Siegel, to follow construction of their 90,000-square-foot mega-mansion, known as Versailles. David, his blond bombshell wife and eight kids, and their extravagant lifestyle, make for compelling viewing. An interesting twist is provided by the global financial crisis, which Greenfield couldn’t have predicted when she began shooting in 2007. When the real estate market collapsed the Siegel’s time-share empire crumbled, and the construction of Versailles was halted. What happened next was a “riches to rags story” as Greenfield discovered her film wasn’t so much an exploration of the relationship between the American dream and owning a house, as an allegory about the over-reaching of America - albeit at the top end of the scale!
Directed by: Drake Doremus
Starring: Guy Pearce and Felicity Jones
Screening: Rialto Selection, Saturday 1st November, 8.30pm
Director Drake Doremus re-unites with his Like Crazy actress Felicity Jones in this low-key, but engaging family drama. Like his previous films Douchebag and Like Crazy, Breathe In screened at the Sundance Film Festival. The film tells the story of a Keith (Pearce), a teacher whose music career was cut short by the arrival of a baby 17 years earlier. Living in upstate New York, Keith’s life is thrown into disarray when a disarmingly talented pianist Sophie (Jones), a British exchange student, comes to live with them for a semester. Just like they did for Like Crazy, Doremus and his co-screenwriter Ben York Jones wrote outlines for each scene, allowing the actors to come up with the dialogue through weeks of rehearsals. Even though there’s a dreamy aspect to the cinematography, the narrative flows naturally and is entirely plausible. It’s not quite as captivating as Like Crazy, but the nuanced performances are worthy of a look.
Starring: Rick Alverson
Directed by: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim & James Murphy
Screening: Rialto Incredibly Strange, Friday 31st October, 8.30pm
If you can get past the opening sequence where a bunch of half naked, paunchy, drunk guys in their mid-thirties dance around a living room in slow motion spitting their drinks at each other, then there’s a small chance you ‘ll get through this experimental comedy written by Rick Alverson, and staring comedy duo Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. Heidecker plays Swanson, an aging hipster who lives on a boat and is waiting for his wealthy father to die. Possibly one of the most unlikeable characters you’ll see on screen, Swanson spends his days pushing the limits of acceptable behavior, offending and abusing as many people as he can, and in the process, challenging the audience to see just how much of this loathsome character we can endure. Shot in a naturalistic, documentary style, The Comedy is a dark and excruciating comedy about modern day malaise that will conjure up a variety of emotions in you. Just as Swanson tries to get a reaction from those he offends around him, The Comedy works very hard to get a reaction from us. The fact this film got a steady walk out rate at it’s first Sundance Film Festival screening means it’s probably succeeded.