Author Archives: The Hyphenates

Hell Is For Hyphenates – February 2019

David Caesar joins us to talk the films of Bruno Dumont!

Australian film and television director David Caesar joins Rochelle and Lee for a chat about some of the key new releases from this month, including Steven Soderbergh’s backroom NBA drama High Flying Bird (01:34), Mimi Leder’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic On the Basis of Sex (09:50), Dan Gilroy’s high-art horror-drama Velvet Buzzsaw (17:07), and Barry Jenkins’s dramatic James Baldwin adaptation If Beale Street Could Talk (22:36).

Off the back of Steven Soderbergh’s comments on why making movies on your phone and releasing them onto Netflix may be the future of cinema for certain filmmakers, could this model be the very thing needed to inject life into the Australian film industry? (29:48)

Then, David takes us through the works of his filmmaker of the month, Bruno Dumont. Dumont is a divisive figure, whose films are loved and hated by audiences and critics alike. So how does a filmmaker go from making vérité films dripping with realism to high-concept farces, supernatural comedies, and medieval musicals with head-banging metal solos? We take a deep dive into this fascinating filmography to find out. (40:23)

The Bruno Dumont Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening's viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

L'HUMANITÉ (1999) and CAMILLE CLAUDEL 1915 (2013)

Bruno Dumont's second film, L'Humanité, has a lot in common with his first: there's death and predation in rural northern France, there are incredibly awkward sex scenes, there's even a mysterious vehicle driving manically through the sleepy northern French town. What starts out with all the familiar trappings of a murder mystery tale - a girl has been murdered, and it's up to our protagonist detective to figure out who did it - turns into something far more sedate and low-key. The film won three awards at Cannes, including the Grand Prix, and cemented Dumont as a filmmaker to watch. But despite his recurrent themes, he's not afraid to mix it up, as you'll see when you put on your second film for the evening: Camille Claudel 1915. Almost everything about this film is the inverse of what we'd seen from him up to this point: it's a true story, it's a period film, it features professional actors, he even makes it in the south of France. And yet it's still recognisably Dumont, intimate and intense. Juliette Binoche plays the famed sculptor Claudel during her time in a psychiatric hospital in Neuilly-sur-Marne. The type of gear-shift Dumont takes at this point in his career seems to signal a more experimental and diverse phase, one that seems him eager to explore different genres and themes. Watch these two films back-to-back and you'll be able to match wits with even the most hardened Dumont devotee.

Substitutions: If you can't get or have already seen L'Humanité, seek out La Vie De Jesus (1997). Dumont's debut feature centres on a young man with limited options in life, and the ways in which he takes it out on the world around him. If you can't get or have already seen Camille Claudel 1915, get your hands on Ma Loute (2016). Again teaming with Binoche, Dumont crafts an absurdist comedy more akin to Laurel and Hardy or Jacques Tati than Ken Loach. It's a film worth seeing just to confirm it exists, because if anyone described it to you, you'd doubt it was real.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Bruno Dumont? Then you should track down Hadewijch (2009). The only Dumont film set in a city, Hadewijch follows a young girl whose fanatical devotion to Christ sees her expelled from a nunnery for going too far. Returning to her family in Paris, she finds herself drawn to the teachings of an Islamic extremist. It's a bold film, and one that marks the preoccupation that atheist Dumont has with the effect of all religion.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring David Caesar talking the films of Bruno Dumont, will be released on 28 February 2019.

Our Next Hyphenate David Caesar

Writer, director, and Hi4H February 2019 guest host David Caesar

Our next guest is a prolific Aussie filmmaker who's been working steadily in both film and television for years.

You might know him from his collaborations with Ben Mendelsohn in Australiana comedies Idiot Box (1996), Mullet (2001) and Prime Mover (2009). He also made the period crime comedy Dirty Deeds (2002), featuring Bryan Brown, Toni Collette, John Goodman, Sam Neill, and Sam Worthington, and directed the TV-to-film adaptation Nowhere Boys: The Book of Shadows.

He's been prolific on television, directing episodes of RFDS, Water Rats, All Saints, Miss Fisher's Muder Mysteries, Underbelly, Love Child and many more.

For audiences of a certain generation, he's perhaps most recognisable from his role as one of the judges on Race Around the World, the 1997 ABC series that propelled John Safran to fame. Caesar was, for our money, the first iteration of the quintessentially antagonistic “mean” TV judge, and should really be sent regular royalties from Simon Cowell and all the other imitators.

But forget all that, because David's about to experience his greatest credit to date: that of Hell Is For Hyphenates guest host!

Which filmmaker has he chosen to talk about on the show?

None other than Bruno Dumont!

Dumont has been making feature films since the late 1990s, first known for his gritty rural French dramas La vie de Jésus (1997) and L'humanite (1999), the latter of which won him the Grand Prix at Cannes. He's dipped his toe into existential horror with Twentynine Palms (2003), gone to war in Flandres (2006), and explored the effects of religion in Hadewijch (2009) and Hors Satan (2011).

He often works with nonprofessional actors, but has recently begun collaborating with stars like Juliette Binoche for the period biopic Camille Claudel 1915 (2013) and the high-concept comedy Ma Loute (2016).

Dumont has also worked in TV, his mini-series P'tit Quinquin (2014) becoming a smash hit and prompting him to make the follow-up Coincoin et les z'inhumains (2018), which you should really track down immediately.

He has just wrapped production on a sequel to his 2017 film, Jeanette, l'enfance de Jeanne d'Arc (2017), a musical about Joan of Arc featuring young Joan headbanging to the heavy metal she's also singing. Seriously. It's a trip.

As you can probably tell, Dumont is clearly one of the most interesting filmmakers working today. But what is it about his films that appeals to David so much? Join us on February 28 when we find out!

Our next filmmaker of the month, Bruno Dumont

Russell On Dolan

Handsome, talented, and possessed of an undeniably seductive accent. Yes, it was a pleasure having Stephen on the show, and as a bonus, he wanted to talk about Xavier Dolan, who is also all of those things.

Stephen is passionate about film and never shy of an opinion, which is why we were so eager to finally have him on the show. He joined us to talk about some of the key films of the past month, including Disney's sequel-to-a-classic Mary Poppins Returns, Paolo Sorrentino's fictitious biopic Loro, M Night Shyamalan's superheroic trilogy-capping Glass, and Aussie remake Storm Boy.

We also take a moment to finally, once-and-for-all, no-backsies settle the big Oscars debate: is it empty pageantry that reduces artistic endeavor to a horse race, or are we simply dead inside? Someone will have their minds changed before this nine minute segment is up.

Then, Stephen takes us through the works of Xavier Dolan. He dives into the emotion and artistry that makes Dolan's works so compelling. Sadly, Dolan is a thousand years old and not much to look at, so it's a relief he's good at making movies.

And yeah, sorry about Stephen's mic. We're still not entirely sure what happened there.

Further reading:

Outro music: Tired of America by Rufus Wainwright from Tom at the Farm (2013)

The latest episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Stephen A Russell talking the films of Xavier Dolan, can be heard on Stitcher Smart Radio, subscribed to on iTunes, or downloaded/streamed directly from our website.

Hell Is For Hyphenates – January 2019

Stephen A Russell joins us to talk the films of Xavier Dolan!

Critic and journalist Stephen A Russell joins Rochelle and Lee to chat about some of the key films from this month, including Disney’s sequel-to-a-classic Mary Poppins Returns (01:44), Paolo Sorrentino’s fictitious biopic Loro (07:59), M Night Shyamalan’s superheroic trilogy-capping Glass (13:58), and Aussie remake Storm Boy (21:32).

With the Academy Awards coming up, and the ceremony appearing to be undergoing a number of significant changes, it’s time to open everybody’s favourite can of worms: are we investing way too much in the Oscars, or are some of just cynical and dead inside? (26:21)

Then, Stephen takes us through the career of his filmmaker of the month, Xavier Dolan. At time of recording, the award-winning French-Canadian prodigy has released six feature films, filmed a further two, and is mere weeks away from turning 30. And in addition to writing and directing his films, he also appears in about half of them, every bit the artist in front of the camera as behind. So what is it about Dolan’s films that captivate so many of us? (35:33)

The Xavier Dolan Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening's viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

HEARTBEATS (2010) and MOMMY (2014)

Prolific though Xavier Dolan is, we are (we hope) just at the beginning his career, and only his first six feature films are currently out in the world. This makes a cheat sheet slightly limiting, but not impossible. In fact, there's an argument to be made that watching any two Dolan films would give you a comprehensive understanding of his work and style, so there are really no wrong answers. But we've chosen to kick the evening off with Heartbeats, a drama masquerading as a romcom, about two friends - a straight woman and a gay man - in love with the same bloke. Dolan's sophomore feature is an angsty, unafraid, and very funny work that was the perfect follow-up to his debut, demonstrating a consistency in style, and range in both subject and genre. Follow that up with Mommy, a film set in an alternate version of Canada, in which parents can legally commit troublesome children to hospitals. It follows Die, her son Steve, and their neighbor Kyla, and the unlikely relationship that forms between them as they struggle for some sort of normalcy. If this sounds like your run-of-the-mill dour drama, that's sort-of the point. It's a film that lulls you into thinking it's going to be a brutal domestic watch, then grips you with seductive montages and truly cinematic filmmaking that - tautological though that may be - make this drama soar far beyond what Hitchcock called “photographs of people talking”. It's one film we would urge you to see on the big screen if the opportunity ever arises. Watch these two films back to back, and you'll be left with a proper understanding of why everyone's been raving about Dolan for the past ten years.

Substitutions: If you can't get or have already seen Heartbeats, seek out Tom At the Farm (2013). Like Heartbeats, this film features Dolan in a starring role, and follows city boy Tom is visiting the rural family of his deceased partner, soon finding himself in a strange, abusive, and very mysterious family dynamic. If you can't get or have already seen Mommy, get your hands on I Killed My Mother (2009). Dolan's debut feature is basically the prototype of Mommy, but from the point-of-view of the son instead of the mother. It's a remarkably assured work for anyone, let alone a 19-year-old embarking on his first film.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Xavier Dolan? Then you should track down It's Only the End of the World (2016). This is hardly a forgotten Dolan film, but it's perhaps his most controversial, dividing Dolan fans right down the middle. Some see it as being too far removed from his own voice (it was, like Tom at the Farm, adapted from someone else's work), whereas others consider it to be entirely consistent with the themes and tone of Dolan's previous work. Don't be left out of the debate - watch it now and take a side!

Go Watch Laurence Anyways: As we said earlier, only six films are available, and the method of constructing this cheat sheet meant we ended up leaving out what is arguably Dolan's most acclaimed work. So here's a new category to make sure nobody writes in. Go watch Laurence Anyways.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Stephen A Russell talking the films of Xavier Dolan, will be released on 31 January 2019.

Our Next Hyphenate Stephen A Russell

Writer, critic, and Hi4H January 2019 guest host Stephen A Russell

New year, new us. Or the same old us. Which we're hoping is how you like it, because we have no plans to change. Or do we? You'll have to keep listening to find out.

Enough with the mysterious foreshadowing, because we're kicking off 2019 with Glasgow's finest ever export, Stephen A Russell! Stephen is a writer and critic who has called Melbourne home for more than a decade.

You've likely seen his film writing in SBS Movies, Metro magazine, The New Daily, Fairfax and The Saturday Paper, amongst others. And if you haven't read him, you've certainly heard his dulcet Scottish brogue and rogue snort during his fortnightly movie review spot on queer radio station Joy 94.9 FM, or his occasional cameos on Radio National. And if you've been in Melbourne recently, you may have seen him during one of the many post-film Q&As he's hosted for major distributors and film festivals including MIFF and MQFF.

But all of that is was merely prologue to Stephen's greatest role to date: Hell Is For Hyphenates guest host!

So which filmmaker has Stephen selected to talk about on the show?

None other than Xavier Dolan!

It's been hard to ignore the work of the French-Canadian prodigy whose directorial debut, 2009's I Killed My Mother, was released when he was only 21. The film was critically-acclaimed, premiering at the Cannes Film Festival and winning awards all around the world.

Since then, he's been the most prominent voice in queer cinema, averaging a new film almost every year with Heartbeats (2010), Laurence Anyways (2012), Tom at the Farm (2013), Mommy (2014), and It's Only the End of the World (2016) all receiving rave reviews and cementing Dolan as a dyed-in-the-wool talent.

With The Death and Life of John F Donovan on the verge of release, and Matthias & Maxime wrapped filming, he's clearly got a lot ahead of him. And he's still months off turning 30. That's a lot to process.

But what is it about his films that Stephen loves so much?

Join us on January 31 when we find out!

Our next filmmaker of the month, Xavier Dolan

Hi4H’s 2018 Year In Review

We're going to keep this one uncharacteristically short, because we're all kinda wiped from 2018. And frankly, nobody needs a long read on New Year's Eve. Or New Year’s Day. In fact, regardless of the date you’re reading this, we’re just going to assume you have somewhere to be.

So let's just take a quick moment to look back at the really amazing year we had on Hyphenates. We celebrated our episode number 100 in front of a not-unimpressive crowd at the Melbourne International Film Festival, and we gifted with a nonstop stream of impressive guests who all came by to talk about their love of film.

We had a surprising number of Aussie performer/filmmaker hybrids, with appearances from brilliant actor/directors Daina Reid (The Handmaid’s Tale), Abe Forsythe (Down Under), and Ming-Zhu Hii (Intrusion).

We had a blast with award-winning film and TV director Corrie Chen (Homecoming Queens), critic and Melbourne Cinemateque programmer Eloise Ross, and filmmaker/critic/festival programmer Briony Kidd.

We also Skyped in some incredible American guests, chatting with Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson, Brick star Noah Segan, Queen of Earth filmmaker Alex Ross Perry, and Seven screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker.

Then, for the hell of it, we turned to iconic Aussie horror film Wolf Creek for our big episodes, with writer/director Greg McLean helping us to celebrate our 100th show, and star Cassandra Magrath joining us to see out the year.

And check out the incredible filmmakers we covered in 2018! We dug into the complete filmographies of the names behind some of American cinema's greatest works, looking at everything made by William Friedkin, Alan J Pakula, and Ridley Scott.

We dipped our toe into European cinema with two of the continent's most notable filmmakers, Wim Wenders and Lars Von Trier.

South Korea had a decent showing, as we devoted episodes to the films of Park Chan-wook and Bong Joon-ho.

But it wasn't all dark and moody cinema; we kept things light as we dove into the works of modern comic filmmaker greats Nora Ephron and John Hughes.

We checked out some of cinema's most interesting multi-hyphenates, with editor-turned-director Robert Wise, actor-turned-director Dennis Hopper, and visual artist-turned-director Steve McQueen.

We hope you were entertained, amused, and enlightened by our episodes, and we'd like to thank you all for listening. See you in 2019…

PS: The most anticipated film of 2019 is Martin Scorsese's Silence.

Magrath On Von Trier

It had to happen eventually. Sometimes, a well-known filmmaker is chosen for Hyphenates, and we'll often have no idea which direction the discussion will go. But with directors like Lars Von Trier, you have a pretty solid idea of what kind of discussion is about to take place.

Sure enough, the question of whether he's an empty provocateur or a misunderstood genius is one that forms the backbone to this episode - but we doubt most Von Trier debates are half as entertaining as the one we've had with the brilliant Cassandra Magrath, who was the perfect person to help us see out 2018.

And speaking of seeing out 2018, we also continued our tradition of ending the year with a comparison of our favourite films from said year. Prepare to be completely and utterly shocked, or even just mildly surprised. We'd be happy with mildly surprised.

But before we get to all that, we kick off by looking back at some of the key films of the month, including Alfonso Cuarón’s biographical drama Roma, Yorgos Lanthimos’s acerbic historical comedy The Favourite, Susanne Bier’s sensory apocalyptic thriller Bird Box, and Gaspar Noé’s dance-filled horror Climax.

Further reading:

  • If you're not up to date on Aussie podcasts putting people behind bars, read this, then catch up on Teacher's Pet
  • The story about John C Reilly dropping out of Manderlay can be read here
  • Thanks again to Umbrella Entertainment for giving us an advance copy of Von Trier's The House That Jack Built - keep an eye on their website for news on the release
  • Weirdly enough, the (faked) scene of animal cruelty from that film has been praised by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
  • Here's some more detail on that whole Von Trier/Nazi/Cannes controversy
  • The story behind Lars discovering the shocking identity of his real father (which gives more context to the whole Nazi thing) can be read here
  • If you're wondering why we kept talking about “Dogme 95” without really explaining it (sorry), you can read the manifesto here
  • And if you want to compare them to Soderbergh's rules for 2002's Full Frontal and see if Lee is just playing favourites, you can read his list here
  • If this episode left you hungry for more passionate pro-Von Trier opinions, it's worth checking out this piece by Amy Simmons over at Senses of Cinema

Outro music: Young Americans by David Bowie from Dogville (2003)

The latest episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Cassandra Magrath talking the films of Lars Von Trier, can be heard on Stitcher Smart Radio, subscribed to on iTunes, or downloaded/streamed directly from our website.

Hell Is For Hyphenates – December 2018

Cassandra Magrath joins us to talk the films of Lars Von Trier!

Actor and producer Cassandra Magrath (Wolf Creek, SeaChange, Wentworth) joins Rochelle and Lee to talk about some of the key films from the past month, including Alfonso Cuarón’s biographical drama Roma (01:30), Yorgos Lanthimos’s acerbic historical comedy The Favourite (4:21), Susanne Bier’s sensory apocalyptic thriller Bird Box (08:53), and Gaspar Noé’s dance-filled horror Climax (14:50).

They then compare their favourite films of 2018: how many crossovers and surprises lie within their lists? (23:03)

Then, Cassandra takes us through the works of her filmmaker of the month, Lars Von Trier. The Danish director is best known for brutal, challenging works like Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, Dogville, Antichrist, Melancholia and Nymphomaniac. He’s a controversial, divisive figure equally loved and hated by film fans across the world. So is Von Trier a provocateur who prefers shock tactics to sincerity, or a misunderstood maestro with something to say? (30:07)