Stars of Neon Bull

6 03 2017

What a strange, strange movie this is. Neon Bull is set, like the other Brazilian movie I watched recently, Aquarius, in the Northeastern state of Pernambuco. And like that movie it is a meandering, understated story – more a character study than a traditional narrative. It offers a documentary-like slice of life view on an outrageously sexy rodeo worker, his friend (or sister or ex-girlfriend?) played by my new favourite actress, Maeve Jinkings, and her pre-teen daughter.



The film doesn’t play by the usual rules of independent cinema. Although the story centres around an itinerant group of cowboys and cowgirls in the parched sertao badlands of the Northeast, don’t expect poverty porn. The film downplays the characters’ lack of economic prosperity to show a (generally) happy family (of sorts) striving gently for their own little dreams – with occasional flashes of surrealist imagery.  Maeve Jinkings dances in a strip club in a horse costume and argues with her stroppy daughter while sweet (and very heterosexual) cowboy Juliano Cezarre dreams of becoming a fashion designer. This is interspersed with many scenes of life on the farm, some dreamy interludes and a pretty noteworthy sex scene.

I’m really not sure what to make of Neon Bull. While watching it, I veered towards being bored several times – as well as confused – but afterwards it has lingered in my mind…and  star Juliano Cezarre exudes cinematic pheromones in every scene. He is simply sexy, even eclipsing  Maeve Jinkings, the wonderfully expressive actress I had originally wanted to see, and star of both Aquarius and Neighbouring Sounds (below).


Here Maeve talks (in Portuguese only) about her role in Neighbouring Sounds:

Age of Aquarius

28 02 2017

Kleber Mendonça Filho’s “Neighbouring Sounds” was a strange, understated tale of deeply submerged injustice played out on the sunny streets of an upper-middle class beach-side suburb of Recife.

The same theme and setting is explored again in “Aquarius.” This time though the director’s trademark light touch, so powerful in his last film, underwhelms. It is all so subtly and slowly unwound that I found myself wondering where the story was in endless scenes of Sonia Braga letting her hair down and listening to 1970s Brazilian records in her lovely oceanside apartment. There are also rambling flashbacks and passing mentions of unexplored plot points, metaphors for cancer and gay sons, flutteringly light social commentary and surprising sex scenes. But what there is not is any sense of tension or excitement, or – in the end – meaning.

It did have one powerful and unexpected side effect though. The boyfriend was inspired to go out and buy a vinyl record player!

China Beach to Neighbouring Sounds

7 02 2017

The US primetime series China Beach, set in Vietnam War-era Danang, which I used to watch as a young teenager for the theme song, which I only later realised was by the Supremes. And below: another strange cinematic echo of Danang. While walking through the beachside streets my boyfriend remarked how much it reminded him of the Brazilian movie “Neighbouring Sounds”, set in Recife, with its beaches like Danang floodlit at night, fringed by palms and pounded by surf, and the same wide sunny streets with uneasy hints of tension between the rich and poor (after all, who had lived here before all these hotels?)

La La Land at the Lido

31 12 2016


I went to see La La Land (which I loved) at the refrbished Lido theatre in Hawthorn, an eight screen arthouse complex above an inner-suburban arcade, complete with rooftop gardens screen and jazz bar.

Tokyo Calling

13 11 2016


In between Macaronesian (look it up) architecture and Southeast Asian food, I also spent the weekend getting into some Japanese film and music. Makoto Shinkai’s anime smash hit “Your Name” opened in the city to packed theatres. Although we arrived to the cinema late (my fault) I still enjoyed the incredible beauty and very Japanese sensibility of the film, about two teenagers who swap bodies in their dreams while a comet makes its way in the skies above…

Also, I discovered the band Wednesday Campanella and in particular, its intriguing frontwoman and recent J-celebrity KOM_I. Intriguing to see a Japanese group with an affinity for dance beats and a very offbeat aesthetic topping the charts.

Beauty isn’t everything…

22 10 2016

With its lingering pauses, jerky dialogue and plotless re-iteration of a rather cliched point (“the fashion industry is, like, mean”) this is not a movie that will please everyone. But, but, but. It is also ravishingly beautiful to look at, and in its spaces and its silences, weirdly hypnotic. The pulsing, insistent electro soundtrack, the wonderful face of Jena Malone and Abbey Lee’s revelatory stick-thin Aussie badass chick villain made it, for me, one of the films of the year.

Wknd report

25 09 2016

After a sunny, productive week of work back in Hong Kong, it was time for a leisurely weekend. I saw my second great Korean zombie movie in as many weeks, and then the next day enjoyed a Saturday breakfast of organic baguette slices at Le Pain Quotidienne, while reading  Knausgaard on my kindle , (as I probably will for weekends to come).


On a whim, I went to an exhibition of conceptual artwork by Cannes Palm d’Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul, held at Quarry Bay’s Parasite art space. The show confirmed that as much as I love both things Thai and arthouse cinema, I don’t quite *get* Apichatpong. The show here consisted largely of projections of ordinary-looking Thais, doing everyday things, slowly, in mundane surrounds. Whatever it was that these were meant to say I missed. There were two pieces that struck me though – a portrait of a reclining dude (which, it turns out, is the director’s real life partner) and finally a darkened room where another image was projected, the naturalistic silhouette of a red dog which wandered and faded, skipping between the different walls.


Gym. The hot press of Mongkok weekend crowds. A few hours of housework and domestic loafing, with the windows thrown open. For dinner, we had good Lebanese food: baba ganoush and pitta bread, and roasted cauliflower.

This was followed by a sunny Sunday of swimming, reading on a dozy cafe terrace overlooking the Pok Fu Lam straits, then the schlockfest of Jaws. All in all, not a bad weekend.