Em 4 Jay ~ theatre notes

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Em 4 Jay

A slight divagation in normal broadcasting to plug Em 4 Jay, Alkinos Tsilimidos' new film, which opens tonight at the George Cinema in St Kilda. There is a theatre connection - Em 4 Jay is Tsilimidos' film adaptation of Daniel Keene's 1980s play Low (full disclosure: I am married to this Keene fellow, so take the following comments how you please).

It premiered at this year's Melbourne International Film Festival, which is where I got to see why Alkinos has been looking so pleased with himself for the past year. This is a lot more than just another Australian junkie film: it's a haunting parable about sex, money and addiction, but most of all a tragic love story, in the tradition of Romeo and Juliet or Sid & Nancy.

For my money, this is Tsilimidos' best yet: the stripped aesthetic that was hinted at in films like Tom White and Silent Partner - his previous collaborations with Keene - is here fully realised. Performances of an almost unbelievable emotional authenticity from Nick Barkla and Laura Gordon, and film-making so unshowily classy that many people will miss it altogether. This is style that is all substance.

It's guaranteed to be on in the cinemas for about a week, so hurry to see it on the big screen before it disappears. It's worth it.
PS: For another view, aside from Jim Schembri's predictable dribblings, have a look at Nick Prescott's interesting discussion of the recent rash of junkie films in Australian Book Review, in which he comments: "Tsilimidos has drawn raw and edgy performances from young actors Laura Gordon and Nick Barkla, and has generated provocative and haunting results with this unflinchingly graphic film...this is stark, bleak drama, the stuff of the darkest imaginings of Mike Leigh or Ken Loach. Tellingly, though, Tsilimidos opens his film with a shot of the characters’ intertwined hands; despite every devastating thing that occurs throughout the course of the film, the narrative’s emotional centre is made very clear. This is a jarring love story, and it doesn’t provide anything like an uplifting conclusion....while much of that material is deeply confronting, what Tsilimidos is really showing us, in a superbly affecting way, is the inevitability of the film’s bleak conclusion. The moment Jay resorts to violence, we realise that the descent has begun. Em 4 Jay’s concluding images will haunt viewers’ minds and viscera for some time after they have faded from the screen."

Well, that's the film I saw.


Chris Boyd said...

Kewl. Is it George Cinema only ma'am?

Alison Croggon said...

Yep. It is on an impressive national release of, oh, about three screens... fair to say I guess that it won't be to everyone's taste (Alkinos is the sort of director who attracts epithets like "uncompromising" and "maverick") but I think it's a really beautiful film.

Paul Martin said...

I pretty much agree with everything you said, Alison. I think this is Alkinos' finest film and equal to my favorite Australian film - The Boys.

I personally find The Age reviews pretty poor - especially Jim Schembri and Tom Ryan. I mean, five stars for Mission Impossible 2!!!

I liked your comment "so unshowily classy that many people will miss it altogether". Sad, but true. I was at the opening night (to see it for the second time) and by chance, Silent Partner arrived in the mail from Palace that day. I don't think it was up to the standard of Tom White and Em 4 Jay, but interesting nonetheless.

I liked Alkinos' statement that he's not interested in mid-class stories. He's interested in people who have given up on mankind or mankind has given up on them.

I hope that Daniel Keene & Alkinos Tsilimidos continue to collaborate, because based on what they have produced thus far, they should get international recognition like Mike Leigh, Ken Loach or the Dardenne brothers.