Monday, February 20, 2012

Taking the Omnibus to Sydney

I don't tend to like omnibus films. You know the ones, movies like Paris, je t'aime, New York, I Love You, Coffee & Cigarettes... I always tend to find them lacking. Some of the stories are inevitably good, whilst others are inevitably bad and I end up just wishing the good ones had been properly developed into features. Of course, I've never been the biggest fan of short films in general so I'm kind of on the outside looking in when it comes to films of this sort. Still, one I am definitely looking forward to is Sydney Unplugged.

Announced last year by the project's producer, John Polson, the newly retitled feature (it was previously titled Sydney, I Love You to form a brand association) will include short features that "will illustrate the cultural and social landscape behind one of the world's most beloved cities." Some of the initial directors attached was enough to whet one's appetite, but the full list is quite eye-popping. While there will be directorial efforts by big name actors like Russell Crowe, Toni Collette and Anthony LaPaglia, it is the more seasoned auteurs that have me salivating. The name Ray Lawrence will always get me into a cinema after the one-two punch of Lantana in 2001 and Jindabyne in 2006, which I consider two of the finest films this country has ever produced and his involvement makes my interest a certainty. And then how about John Curran who will be returning home after American films The Painted Veil and We Don't Live Here Anymore. The grunge aesthetic of Praise doesn't really fit into the ideal of presenting Sydney as a place of heavenly delights, but it will be exciting to see what he does with his home turf once again. Rachel Ward is a local celebrity in the harbourside suburb of Balmain, and she will be directing a segment that will most assuredly star her husband and local legend, Bryan Brown. Her feature debut several years back, Beautiful Kate, polarised audiences with its harsh take on incest and I had been wondering when she would get to make another film. Meanwhile, David Michôd, fresh from wowing the world with his debut Animal Kingdom, and snagging an Oscar nomination for his star Jacki Weaver in the process, will keep his local vision up for at least a brief while before America surely scoops him up for future projects.

Keiran Darcy-Smith, the actor whose debut feature, Wish You Were Here, premiered at Sundance in January and will be released here later in the year will also contribute a short, as will Ivan Sen (right) who will surely provide one of the more dramatic pieces following Beneath Clouds, Dreamland and last year's Cannes-player Toomelah. Alex Proyas brings with him a bit of directorial star power now that his proposed Paradise Lost feature has been all but axed by the studio, but it's international blow-in Liev Shreiber that rings a few bells of intrigue. How will this American actor, familiar with our shores after filming Wolverine and marrying Sydneysider Naomi Watts, take to directing the city. His last effort in the director's chair was Everything is Illuminated so it's hard to see how that style will be transported into the Sydney Unplugged project.

Filmink reports that the directors will take up their challenges in the second half of the year - or whenever they can find it in their schedule, one presumes - for a 2013 release, but it's nice to see this film has found some actual quality names to go with it. While Paris, je t'aime was stuffed with fabulous names with everyone from Olivier Assayas to the Coen Brothers, Wes Craven to Sylvain Chomet, the New York edition was spectacularly low on names. Especially odd given the people that got their start in New York, I wouldn't have considered Brett Ratner a particularly wise choice. Names like Ray Lawrence, John Curran and Ivan Sen are names that I would actually be clamouring to see new work from, so Sydney Unplugged (still iffy on the name) is one to keep an eye on. The teaser below premiered at Tropfest over the weekend, but given no footage has even been shot yet it's little more than a piece of promo material aimed at officially announcing the project is a go.

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