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The New Movies You Can Watch at Sydney Cinemas From October 14

Head to the flicks to watch a folk-horror gem starring Noomi Rapace, a tense and thoughtful documentary about mountaineering and a French comedy about making perfume.
By Sarah Ward
October 14, 2021
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By Sarah Ward
October 14, 2021
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It has finally happened again, Sydneysiders. The city's projectors remained silent, its theatres bare and the smell of popcorn faded during the city's almost four-month-long lockdown; however, Sydney's picture palaces are now back in business.

When stay-at-home restrictions are in place, no one is ever short on things to watch, of course. In fact, you probably feel like you've streamed every movie ever made over over the last year or so, including new releasesStudio Ghibli's animated fare and Nicolas Cage-starring flicks. But, even if you've spent more time than usual in the past 18 months glued to your small screen, we're betting you just can't wait to sit in a darkened room and soak up the splendour of the bigger version.

Thankfully, plenty of films are hitting cinemas so that you can do just that. And, after checking out the best new movies that you could only see on the big screen when picture palaces reopened, we've now rounded up, watched and reviewed the new movies that have just arrived in theatres this week.

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LAMB

Just over a decade ago, Noomi Rapace was The Girl with the Dragon TattooThe Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, too. After starring in the first film adaptations of Steig Larsson's best-selling Millennium books, the Swedish actor then brought her penchant for simmering ferocity to Alien prequel Prometheus, and to movies as varied as erotic thriller Passion, crime drama The Drop and Australian-shot thriller Angel of Mine. But Lamb might be her best role yet, and best performance. A picture that puts her silent film era-esque features to stunning use, it stares into the soul of a woman not just yearning for her own modest slice of happiness, but willing to do whatever it takes to get it. It also places Rapace opposite a flock of sheep, and has her cradle a baby that straddles both species; however, this Icelandic blend of folk-horror thrills, relationship dramas and even deadpan comedy is as human as it is ovine.

At first, Lamb is all animal. Something rumbles in the movie's misty, mountainside farm setting, spooking the horses. In the sheep barn, where cinematographer Eli Arenson (Hospitality) swaps arresting landscape for a ewe's-eye view, the mood is tense and restless as well. Making his feature debut, filmmaker Valdimar Jóhannsson doesn't overplay his hand early. As entrancing as the movie's visuals prove in all their disquieting stillness, he keeps the film cautious about what's scaring the livestock. But Lamb's expert sound design offers a masterclass in evoking unease from its very first noise, and makes it plain that all that eeriness, anxiety and dripping distress has an unnerving — and tangible — source.

The farm belongs to Rapace's Maria and her partner Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason, A White, White Day), who've thrown themselves into its routines after losing a child. They're a couple that let their taciturn faces do the talking, including with each other, but neither hides their delight when one ewe gives birth to a hybrid they name Ada. Doting and beaming, they take the sheep-child into their home as their own. Its woolly mother stands staring and baa-ing outside their kitchen window, but they're both content in and fiercely protective of their newfound domestic happiness. When Ingvar's ex-pop star brother Pétur (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga) arrives unexpectedly, they don't even dream of hiding their new family idyll — even as he's initially shocked and hardly approving.

Enticing, surreal and starkly unsettling all at once, Lamb also benefits from exceptional animal performances — it won the Cannes Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize for Palm Dog, the prestigious event's awards for best canine acting — and its own savvy. It nabbed Un Certain Regard Prize of Originality at Cannes as well, but the movie's shrewdness isn't limited to its standout concept. Each patient shot that roves over the hillside, peeks through the fog, and soaks in the strain and pressure is just as astute. Each rustle, huff and jangle in the film's soundscape proves the same. Every aesthetic decision paints Lamb in unease and uncertainty, in fact, and lets its lingering gaze towards the steely Rapace, affecting Guðnason and their four-legged co-stars unleash an intense and absurdist pastoral symphony of dread and hope, bleakness and sweetness, and terror and love.

Read our full review.

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THE ALPINIST

Standing atop Yosemite National Park's El Capitan after scaling it alone and without ropes, harnesses or any other safety equipment, Alex Honnold cut a surprisingly subdued figure. As the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo captured, he was obviously ecstatic, but he isn't the type to leap and scream with excitement. So, he smiled blissfully. He also advised the cameras that he was "so delighted". In the opening moments of new doco The Alpinist, however, he is effusive — as enthusiastic as the no-nonsense climbing superstar gets, that is. In a historical clip, he's asked who he's excited about in his very specific extreme sports world. His answer: "this kid Marc-André Leclerc."   

Zipping from the Canadian Rockies to Patagonia, with ample craggy pitstops in-between, The Alpinist tells Leclerc's tale, explaining why someone of Honnold's fame and acclaim sings his praises. Using the Free Solo subject as an entry point is a smart choice by filmmakers Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen — industry veterans themselves, with 2014's Valley Uprising on their shared resume and 2017's The Dawn Wall on Mortimer's — but their climber of focus here would demand attention even without the high-profile endorsement. Indeed, dizzying early shots of him in action almost say all that's needed about his approach to great heights, and his near-preternatural skill in the field. Scaling hard, immovable rock faces is one thing, but Leclerc is seen here clambering up alpine surfaces, conquering glistening yet precarious sheets of ice and snow.

Any shot that features the Canadian twenty-something mountaineering is nothing short of breathtaking. Describing it as 'clambering up' does him a disservice, actually, and downplays The Alpinist's stunning footage as well. Leclerc is just that graceful and intuitive as he reaches higher, seemingly always knowing exactly where to place his hands, feet and axe, all while heading upwards in frighteningly dangerous situations. As Mortimer notes, narrating the documentary and almost-indulgently inserting himself into the story, alpine free soloing is another level of climbing. No shortage of talking-head interviewees also stress this reality. Protective equipment is still absent, but all that ice and snow could melt or fall at any second. In fact, the routes that the obsessive Leclerc finds in his climbs will no longer exist again, and mightn't just moments after he's made his ascent.

Simply charting Leclerc's impressive feats could've been The Alpinist sole remit; Mortimer and Rosen certainly wanted that and, again, the film's hypnotic, vertigo-inducing imagery is just that extraordinary. Some shots peer at the mountains in all their towering glory, letting viewers spot the tiny speck moving amid their majesty in their own time, before zooming in to get a closer look at Leclerc. Other nerve-shattering scenes intimately capture every careful choice, every movement of his limbs and every decision about what to hold on to, inescapably aware that these are sheer life-or-death moments. But The Alpinist isn't the movie its makers initially dreamed of, because Leclerc isn't Honnold or The Dawn Wall's Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson. While affable when posed in front of the camera, he's also silently begrudging, because he'd visibly rather just be doing what he loves in total anonymity instead of talking about it, having it filmed and earning the world's eyes.

Read our full review.

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PERFUMES

Add Perfumes to the lengthy list of odd-couple comedies that bring folks with opposing personalities together, and suddenly, all so that they can learn life lessons, face much-needed realisations and ultimately live better futures. This French feature also hinges upon an only-in-the-movies setup, after a professional "nose" — someone with enhanced olfactory receptors who plies their talents in the fragrance trade — strikes up an unlikely connection with the struggling father that starts working as her chauffeur so that he can eventually win shared custody of his tween daughter.

The key here: sincerity. There's sweetness in writer/director Grégory Magne's (L'air de rien) film, and whimsy, too, but this tale about two lost souls unexpectedly finding commonalities in each other never plays up its quirks. Instead, as penned with heart, helmed with patience, and performed with soul by stars Grégory Montel (Call My Agent!) and Emmanuelle Devos (Violette) as well, Perfumes is like smelling a familiar yet still enticing, comforting and surprising scent. Just as fragrance designer Anne Walberg (Devos) builds aromas out of recognisable ingredients while striving to create something that stands out, this charming movie blends its array of easy-to-spot elements into a pleasingly distinctive cinematic treat.

In the latest French-made or -adjacent feature to include a custody battle of late (see also: Custody and My Zoe), all that Guillaume Favre (Montel) wants is to convince a judge that he can spend every other week with his daughter Léa (Zélie Rixhon, The Ideal Palace). To do so, he needs to radiate stability, something that he starts seeking through his driving job. When he's assigned to ferry Anne between assignments, he's far from impressed by her aloof demeanour or unusual demands. Helping her change the sheets at her hotel isn't in his job description, he notes. But he's also intrigued by her work, which currently involves recreating the specific odour of a cave, masking an unpleasant smell that's infected a leather brand's handbags, and trying to counteract the stench being pumped out by a rural factory — new gigs she's pushed into by her money-motivated agent (Pauline Moulène, Boomerang) after starting out concocting designer perfumes.

Magne's film isn't about narrative surprises, but about emotions. It's also about spending time with two nicely fleshed-out characters who find friendship blossoming despite their initial misapprehensions, and bring out the best in each other as a result. Perfumes wouldn't work if it didn't unfurl with gentle but genuine warmth, if it didn't value attention to detail so highly, and if it didn't have both Devos and Montel as its anchors; however, thankfully they're all a part of this elegant Gallic effort.

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EIFFEL

Speculating on the past, and on the creation of one of the planet's most famous monuments, Eiffel asks a question: why did Gustave Eiffel build the tower that shares his name? That mightn't be the usual query that runs through people's minds as they stare up at the iconic structure; however, competing to win the right to construct it for the Exposition Universelle of 1889 in Paris represented a significant change of opinion for the engineer, after he'd initially turned down the concept when it was suggested to him by his employees. The result of that about-face has left its mark on history, France and the travel itineraries of everyone who has enjoyed a Gallic holiday ever since. Although he'd already achieved fame and acclaim due to his help building the Statue of Liberty, his eponymous tower is the reason the world know's Eiffel's name now, too.

Writer/director Martin Bourboulon (Daddy or Mommy) and his co-scribes Thomas Bidegain (The Sisters Brothers), Martin Brossollet (Détectives), Natalie Carter (Thérèse Desqueyroux) and Caroline Bongrand (Parlez-moi d'amour) posit a reason, and the fact that their film is a romantic drama spells out everything it needs to. Here, Eiffel (Romain Duris, All the Money in the World) decides to assemble the A-shaped mass of wrought-iron lattice because of the woman, Adrienne Bourgès (Emma Mackey, Sex Education), he was set to marry when he was younger, lost touch with after their nuptials were called off, and then sees again just as the Exposition Universelle project is under discussion.

The idea driving Eiffel is simplistic and sentimental, given that it's a film about a man erecting something unmistakably and plainly phallic for love. A biopic, this definitely isn't. But it's to Bourboulon, Duris and Mackey's credit that everything here flickers with enough feeling, even though a behind-the-scenes look at how the Eiffel Tower was built between 1886–89 — including the actual mechanics of assembling its pieces, and also the complex reaction in France at the time — could've easily fuelled an entire movie without a romance layered on top. (Charting someone simply achieving a great feat, such as constructing what was the tallest structure in the world at the time, and what remains one of the most well-known landmarks there is, would've also proven suitably rousing without the extra tugging at heartstrings.)

Turning history into amorous fiction is the path this feature has chosen, however, and Bourboulon wraps it up in handsome period staging and a passionate tone. There's also a soapiness to Eiffel, too, filled as it is with yearning looks, secret trysts and will they, won't they twists. But if it wasn't for Duris, Mackey and their convincing performances — Duris' reliably ability to convey inner conflict with charm, particularly — the film would lean further in that direction. Marrying the origin story of an iconic tower with a grand love story still makes for an awkward and overly melodramatic fit, though.

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WAITING FOR ANYA

Great intentions and great films don't always go hand in hand, with Waiting for Anya the latest example. The World War II-set drama treads a path that everything from Lore and The Book Thief to Jojo Rabbit and When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit already have, exploring the conflict's impact upon young hearts and minds — and jumping, as those four other movies did, from the page to the screen. It contrasts the efforts of a French boy in Vichy France with those of Jewish children trying to stay alive, the former aiding the latter in his small village in the Pyrenees. It's a feature made with the utmost earnestness and sincerity, expectedly given the scenario. And yet, it also makes every obvious and easy choice, diluting any potential emotional impact by happily wallowing in Second World War-themed movie-of-the-week territory.

As adapted by writer/director Ben Cookson (Almost Married) and screenwriter Toby Torlesse (My Dad's Christmas Date) from a book by War Horse author Michael Morpurgo, Waiting for Anya doesn't waste any time in demonstrating its overt approach. In an early scene, shepherd Jo (Noah Schnapp, Stranger Things) tends to his flock when a bear comes a-lumbering. Soon, the Nazis will do the same. The bear couldn't be more heavy-handed a metaphor, especially in a movie that begins with Jewish man Benjamin (Frederick Schmidt, The Alienist) escaping the train to a concentration camp and secreting away his daughter Anya (debutant Dolma Raisson). In a movie that confronts the Holocaust from the outset, and also provides on-screen text explaining the historical situation, that initial animal attack can only play as needlessly blunt.

Jo and Benjamin meet because of that bear, however. And when the teen follows the stranger afterwards, he learns his story. Staying with his mother-in-law (Anjelica Huston, John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum), Benjamin is now doing exactly what the movie's moniker explains, all as other kids make their way to the same farm as a stopover before crossing the mountains to safety in Spain. Jo pledges to help, initially fetching food from the village, and hiding his actions from his mother (Elsa Zylberstein, Selfie) and grandfather (Jean Reno, Da 5 Bloods). But then the Germans arrive, making the situation far more precarious — even if one officer (Thomas Kretschmann, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels) shows uncharacteristic kindness towards Jo.

Yes, Waiting for Anya includes a friendly Nazi among its cliches, which is just one of its many poor decisions. Every character is so thinly written, they could fall over if a bear even looked their way or a stiff mountain breeze swelled up. The cast, all putting in passable performances at best, can't improve the material's sore lack of depth — or its inescapably clumsy dialogue. The choice to speak in accented English proves clunky as well, unsurprisingly, making the film feel like a relic from the 70s or 80s. And although the setting should look gorgeous and scenic, visually the sappy and overstated feature resembles one of the many fictional titles that pop up in other movies and TV shows, typically as parodies (aka the flicks listed on website Nestflix).

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If you're wondering what else is currently screening in cinemas, check out our rundown of new films released in Sydney cinemas when they reopened on October 11.

You can also read our full reviews of a heap of movies currently screening, such as In the HeightsBlack WidowNine DaysSpace Jam: A New Legacy, Old, Jungle Cruise, The Suicide Squad, Free Guy, Respect, The Night House, Candyman, Annette, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Pig, The Killing of Two Lovers, Nitram and A Fire Inside.

Published on October 14, 2021 by Sarah Ward
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