This weekend was marked by two great – and very different – movies. Despite their differences, both films had one common element; they powerfully explored the idea of a sense of place.
Ghost in the Shell was, surprisingly, fabulous. The film is a blazing rush of CG-bling shot in a techno-enhanced Hong Kong. Yau Ma Tei alleyways, Quarry Bay, the Lai Tak Tsuen tower and Aberdeen cemetery appear behind filmy layers of GIF-like holographic billboards and Blade Runner Asia-futurism. Plus: creepy robo-geishas, handsome men, Juliette Binoche appearing in almost a parody of the sci fi blockbuster role her character derided in “Clouds of Sils Maria” and an intelligent script that stayed true to the spirit of the original and made short work of those would decried Scarlett Johansen’s casting as whitewashing (no spoilers!) I saw it twice.
“Wake in Fright” by contrast is an oldie, 1970s “Ozploitation.” A schoolteacher finds himself in the isolated Outback town of Bundayabba (“The Yabba”) and descends there into a circle of alcoholism and degradation. Its classic 1970s Australian cinema in its horror and loathing of the Australian landscape, portrayed as vast, cruel and trapping. As they say though, the past is another country. The Australia of the 1970s – both in the Hellish Yabba and the free-spirited and progressive outlook of the film itself (hello, male nudity!) both now seem like things of the distant past.