Category Archives: blogs

Our Next Hyphenates Rhys Graham

Writer, director, and Hi4H March 2019 guest host Rhys Graham

Rhys Graham is a Melbourne-based artist who has worked across drama, documentary, publishing, and photography.

Best known for his work as a filmmaker, Rhys has directed and co-directed shorts, features, documentaries and anthologies, with credits that include Words From the City (2007), Murundak: Songs of Freedom (2011), Galore (2013), and the Tim Winton adaptation The Turning (2013).

His work has earned nominations from the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts, the Australian Directors Guild, the Australian Film Institute, the Berlin International Film Festival, the Tribeca Film Festival, and more.

But naturally all of those achievements will fade into the background as he tackles his greatest challenge to date: Hell Is For Hyphenates guest host!

But which filmmaker has he chosen to talk about on the show?

It’s everyone’s favourite consonant-heavy Polish director, Krzysztof Kieślowski!

Kieślowski is probably best known for his thematic Three Colours trilogy – Blue, White and Red – which examined the three political ideals at the heart of the French Republic: liberty, equality, and fraternity.

But that’s just one corner of his career. Kieślowski made his start in documentaries and social-realist films that often focused on the plight of the working classes.

His interest in thematically-connected dramatic works went far beyond Three Colours. He made the epic Dekalog, a ten-part series that explored each of the ten commandments, and at the time of his death was planning a trilogy called Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, all of which were eventually made by other filmmakers in tribute.

So why did Kieślowski’s works strike such a nerve across international cinema? And what is it about them that so appeals to Rhys?

Join us on March 31 when we find out!

Our next filmmaker of the month, Krzysztof Kieślowski

Caesar On Dumont

As much as we love it when a guest picks a pre-ordained canonical legend – a David Lynch, an Akira Kurosawa, a Martin Scorsese – there’s a lot of value in the left-field choices. Like, say, Bruno Dumont. That was not a name we were expecting to hear when we asked guest David Caesar who he wanted to talk to us about, but it turned out to be one of the more fascinating and eclectic filmographies we’ve ever covered on the show.

Before we get into Dumont, David joins us to look back at some of the key films of the month, including Steven Soderbergh’s basketball business drama High Flying Bird, Mimi Leder’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic On the Basis of Sex, Dan Gilroy’s high-art horror-drama Velvet Buzzsaw, and Barry Jenkins’s adaptation of James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk.

Then, we talk look at some of the interviews Steven Soderbergh has been giving to promote High Flying Bird, and whether or not his approach to streaming distribution could help lift a flailing Australian film industry.

Further reading:

  • We look at Steven Soderbergh’s High Flying Bird this month. If you can’t get enough Soderbergh (and, frankly, who can?) check out our Steven Soderbergh episode
  • Before we reviewed On the Basis of Sex, we looked at the documentary RBG here, in what we’re hoping will be a regular Ruth Bader Ginsburg review slot
  • That episode of the podcast More Perfect that delves into RBG’s approach of precedent-setting anti-sex discrimination cases by defending men, can be heard here
  • The Steven Soderbergh interviews that sparked our middle topic can be read here: Deadline, Indiewire, The Atlantic
  • Is David right about Netflix being US$10 billion in debt? Amazingly, yes
  • Here’s Bruno Dumont in The Guardian discussing the incredible Bernard Pruvost and his facial tics in P’tit Quinquin and Coincoin
  • Yes, Australia lags behind the world in directors making more than one film

And finally, for those who doubt that Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s husband is as handsome as Armie Hammer, here’s a photo of RGB with her beloved:

Kidding. Here they are:

Outro music: Cause I Knew, written by Lisa Hartmann, performed by Lisa Hartmann and Didier Hennuyer, from P’tit Quinquin (2014)

The latest episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring David Caesar talking the films of Bruno Dumont, can be heard on Stitcher Smart Radio, subscribed to on iTunes, or downloaded/streamed directly from our website.

The Bruno Dumont Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

L’HUMANITÉ (1999) and CAMILLE CLAUDEL 1915 (2013)

Bruno Dumont’s second film, L’Humanité, has a lot in common with his first: there’s death and predation in rural northern France, there are incredibly awkward sex scenes, there’s even a mysterious vehicle driving manically through the sleepy northern French town. What starts out with all the familiar trappings of a murder mystery tale – a girl has been murdered, and it’s up to our protagonist detective to figure out who did it – turns into something far more sedate and low-key. The film won three awards at Cannes, including the Grand Prix, and cemented Dumont as a filmmaker to watch. But despite his recurrent themes, he’s not afraid to mix it up, as you’ll see when you put on your second film for the evening: Camille Claudel 1915. Almost everything about this film is the inverse of what we’d seen from him up to this point: it’s a true story, it’s a period film, it features professional actors, he even makes it in the south of France. And yet it’s still recognisably Dumont, intimate and intense. Juliette Binoche plays the famed sculptor Claudel during her time in a psychiatric hospital in Neuilly-sur-Marne. The type of gear-shift Dumont takes at this point in his career seems to signal a more experimental and diverse phase, one that seems him eager to explore different genres and themes. Watch these two films back-to-back and you’ll be able to match wits with even the most hardened Dumont devotee.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen L’Humanité, seek out La Vie De Jesus (1997). Dumont’s debut feature centres on a young man with limited options in life, and the ways in which he takes it out on the world around him. If you can’t get or have already seen Camille Claudel 1915, get your hands on Ma Loute (2016). Again teaming with Binoche, Dumont crafts an absurdist comedy more akin to Laurel and Hardy or Jacques Tati than Ken Loach. It’s a film worth seeing just to confirm it exists, because if anyone described it to you, you’d doubt it was real.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Bruno Dumont? Then you should track down Hadewijch (2009). The only Dumont film set in a city, Hadewijch follows a young girl whose fanatical devotion to Christ sees her expelled from a nunnery for going too far. Returning to her family in Paris, she finds herself drawn to the teachings of an Islamic extremist. It’s a bold film, and one that marks the preoccupation that atheist Dumont has with the effect of all religion.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring David Caesar talking the films of Bruno Dumont, will be released on 28 February 2019.

Our Next Hyphenate David Caesar

Writer, director, and Hi4H February 2019 guest host David Caesar

Our next guest is a prolific Aussie filmmaker who’s been working steadily in both film and television for years.

You might know him from his collaborations with Ben Mendelsohn in Australiana comedies Idiot Box (1996), Mullet (2001) and Prime Mover (2009). He also made the period crime comedy Dirty Deeds (2002), featuring Bryan Brown, Toni Collette, John Goodman, Sam Neill, and Sam Worthington, and directed the TV-to-film adaptation Nowhere Boys: The Book of Shadows.

He’s been prolific on television, directing episodes of RFDS, Water Rats, All Saints, Miss Fisher’s Muder Mysteries, Underbelly, Love Child and many more.

For audiences of a certain generation, he’s perhaps most recognisable from his role as one of the judges on Race Around the World, the 1997 ABC series that propelled John Safran to fame. Caesar was, for our money, the first iteration of the quintessentially antagonistic “mean” TV judge, and should really be sent regular royalties from Simon Cowell and all the other imitators.

But forget all that, because David’s about to experience his greatest credit to date: that of Hell Is For Hyphenates guest host!

Which filmmaker has he chosen to talk about on the show?

None other than Bruno Dumont!

Dumont has been making feature films since the late 1990s, first known for his gritty rural French dramas La vie de Jésus (1997) and L’humanite (1999), the latter of which won him the Grand Prix at Cannes. He’s dipped his toe into existential horror with Twentynine Palms (2003), gone to war in Flandres (2006), and explored the effects of religion in Hadewijch (2009) and Hors Satan (2011).

He often works with nonprofessional actors, but has recently begun collaborating with stars like Juliette Binoche for the period biopic Camille Claudel 1915 (2013) and the high-concept comedy Ma Loute (2016).

Dumont has also worked in TV, his mini-series P’tit Quinquin (2014) becoming a smash hit and prompting him to make the follow-up Coincoin et les z’inhumains (2018), which you should really track down immediately.

He has just wrapped production on a sequel to his 2017 film, Jeanette, l’enfance de Jeanne d’Arc (2017), a musical about Joan of Arc featuring young Joan headbanging to the heavy metal she’s also singing. Seriously. It’s a trip.

As you can probably tell, Dumont is clearly one of the most interesting filmmakers working today. But what is it about his films that appeals to David so much? Join us on February 28 when we find out!

Our next filmmaker of the month, Bruno Dumont

Russell On Dolan

Handsome, talented, and possessed of an undeniably seductive accent. Yes, it was a pleasure having Stephen on the show, and as a bonus, he wanted to talk about Xavier Dolan, who is also all of those things.

Stephen is passionate about film and never shy of an opinion, which is why we were so eager to finally have him on the show. He joined us to talk about some of the key films of the past month, including Disney’s sequel-to-a-classic Mary Poppins Returns, Paolo Sorrentino’s fictitious biopic Loro, M Night Shyamalan’s superheroic trilogy-capping Glass, and Aussie remake Storm Boy.

We also take a moment to finally, once-and-for-all, no-backsies settle the big Oscars debate: is it empty pageantry that reduces artistic endeavor to a horse race, or are we simply dead inside? Someone will have their minds changed before this nine minute segment is up.

Then, Stephen takes us through the works of Xavier Dolan. He dives into the emotion and artistry that makes Dolan’s works so compelling. Sadly, Dolan is a thousand years old and not much to look at, so it’s a relief he’s good at making movies.

And yeah, sorry about Stephen’s mic. We’re still not entirely sure what happened there.

Further reading:

Outro music: Tired of America by Rufus Wainwright from Tom at the Farm (2013)

The latest episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Stephen A Russell talking the films of Xavier Dolan, can be heard on Stitcher Smart Radio, subscribed to on iTunes, or downloaded/streamed directly from our website.

The Xavier Dolan Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

HEARTBEATS (2010) and MOMMY (2014)

Prolific though Xavier Dolan is, we are (we hope) just at the beginning his career, and only his first six feature films are currently out in the world. This makes a cheat sheet slightly limiting, but not impossible. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that watching any two Dolan films would give you a comprehensive understanding of his work and style, so there are really no wrong answers. But we’ve chosen to kick the evening off with Heartbeats, a drama masquerading as a romcom, about two friends – a straight woman and a gay man – in love with the same bloke. Dolan’s sophomore feature is an angsty, unafraid, and very funny work that was the perfect follow-up to his debut, demonstrating a consistency in style, and range in both subject and genre. Follow that up with Mommy, a film set in an alternate version of Canada, in which parents can legally commit troublesome children to hospitals. It follows Die, her son Steve, and their neighbor Kyla, and the unlikely relationship that forms between them as they struggle for some sort of normalcy. If this sounds like your run-of-the-mill dour drama, that’s sort-of the point. It’s a film that lulls you into thinking it’s going to be a brutal domestic watch, then grips you with seductive montages and truly cinematic filmmaking that – tautological though that may be – make this drama soar far beyond what Hitchcock called “photographs of people talking”. It’s one film we would urge you to see on the big screen if the opportunity ever arises. Watch these two films back to back, and you’ll be left with a proper understanding of why everyone’s been raving about Dolan for the past ten years.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Heartbeats, seek out Tom At the Farm (2013). Like Heartbeats, this film features Dolan in a starring role, and follows city boy Tom is visiting the rural family of his deceased partner, soon finding himself in a strange, abusive, and very mysterious family dynamic. If you can’t get or have already seen Mommy, get your hands on I Killed My Mother (2009). Dolan’s debut feature is basically the prototype of Mommy, but from the point-of-view of the son instead of the mother. It’s a remarkably assured work for anyone, let alone a 19-year-old embarking on his first film.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Xavier Dolan? Then you should track down It’s Only the End of the World (2016). This is hardly a forgotten Dolan film, but it’s perhaps his most controversial, dividing Dolan fans right down the middle. Some see it as being too far removed from his own voice (it was, like Tom at the Farm, adapted from someone else’s work), whereas others consider it to be entirely consistent with the themes and tone of Dolan’s previous work. Don’t be left out of the debate – watch it now and take a side!

Go Watch Laurence Anyways: As we said earlier, only six films are available, and the method of constructing this cheat sheet meant we ended up leaving out what is arguably Dolan’s most acclaimed work. So here’s a new category to make sure nobody writes in. Go watch Laurence Anyways.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Stephen A Russell talking the films of Xavier Dolan, will be released on 31 January 2019.

Our Next Hyphenate Stephen A Russell

Writer, critic, and Hi4H January 2019 guest host Stephen A Russell

New year, new us. Or the same old us. Which we’re hoping is how you like it, because we have no plans to change. Or do we? You’ll have to keep listening to find out.

Enough with the mysterious foreshadowing, because we’re kicking off 2019 with Glasgow’s finest ever export, Stephen A Russell! Stephen is a writer and critic who has called Melbourne home for more than a decade.

You’ve likely seen his film writing in SBS Movies, Metro magazine, The New Daily, Fairfax and The Saturday Paper, amongst others. And if you haven’t read him, you’ve certainly heard his dulcet Scottish brogue and rogue snort during his fortnightly movie review spot on queer radio station Joy 94.9 FM, or his occasional cameos on Radio National. And if you’ve been in Melbourne recently, you may have seen him during one of the many post-film Q&As he’s hosted for major distributors and film festivals including MIFF and MQFF.

But all of that is was merely prologue to Stephen’s greatest role to date: Hell Is For Hyphenates guest host!

So which filmmaker has Stephen selected to talk about on the show?

None other than Xavier Dolan!

It’s been hard to ignore the work of the French-Canadian prodigy whose directorial debut, 2009’s I Killed My Mother, was released when he was only 21. The film was critically-acclaimed, premiering at the Cannes Film Festival and winning awards all around the world.

Since then, he’s been the most prominent voice in queer cinema, averaging a new film almost every year with Heartbeats (2010), Laurence Anyways (2012), Tom at the Farm (2013), Mommy (2014), and It’s Only the End of the World (2016) all receiving rave reviews and cementing Dolan as a dyed-in-the-wool talent.

With The Death and Life of John F Donovan on the verge of release, and Matthias & Maxime wrapped filming, he’s clearly got a lot ahead of him. And he’s still months off turning 30. That’s a lot to process.

But what is it about his films that Stephen loves so much?

Join us on January 31 when we find out!

Our next filmmaker of the month, Xavier Dolan

Hi4H’s 2018 Year In Review

We’re going to keep this one uncharacteristically short, because we’re all kinda wiped from 2018. And frankly, nobody needs a long read on New Year’s Eve. Or New Year’s Day. In fact, regardless of the date you’re reading this, we’re just going to assume you have somewhere to be.

So let’s just take a quick moment to look back at the really amazing year we had on Hyphenates. We celebrated our episode number 100 in front of a not-unimpressive crowd at the Melbourne International Film Festival, and we gifted with a nonstop stream of impressive guests who all came by to talk about their love of film.

We had a surprising number of Aussie performer/filmmaker hybrids, with appearances from brilliant actor/directors Daina Reid (The Handmaid’s Tale), Abe Forsythe (Down Under), and Ming-Zhu Hii (Intrusion).

We had a blast with award-winning film and TV director Corrie Chen (Homecoming Queens), critic and Melbourne Cinemateque programmer Eloise Ross, and filmmaker/critic/festival programmer Briony Kidd.

We also Skyped in some incredible American guests, chatting with Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson, Brick star Noah Segan, Queen of Earth filmmaker Alex Ross Perry, and Seven screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker.

Then, for the hell of it, we turned to iconic Aussie horror film Wolf Creek for our big episodes, with writer/director Greg McLean helping us to celebrate our 100th show, and star Cassandra Magrath joining us to see out the year.

And check out the incredible filmmakers we covered in 2018! We dug into the complete filmographies of the names behind some of American cinema’s greatest works, looking at everything made by William Friedkin, Alan J Pakula, and Ridley Scott.

We dipped our toe into European cinema with two of the continent’s most notable filmmakers, Wim Wenders and Lars Von Trier.

South Korea had a decent showing, as we devoted episodes to the films of Park Chan-wook and Bong Joon-ho.

But it wasn’t all dark and moody cinema; we kept things light as we dove into the works of modern comic filmmaker greats Nora Ephron and John Hughes.

We checked out some of cinema’s most interesting multi-hyphenates, with editor-turned-director Robert Wise, actor-turned-director Dennis Hopper, and visual artist-turned-director Steve McQueen.

We hope you were entertained, amused, and enlightened by our episodes, and we’d like to thank you all for listening. See you in 2019…

PS: The most anticipated film of 2019 is Martin Scorsese’s Silence.

Magrath On Von Trier

It had to happen eventually. Sometimes, a well-known filmmaker is chosen for Hyphenates, and we’ll often have no idea which direction the discussion will go. But with directors like Lars Von Trier, you have a pretty solid idea of what kind of discussion is about to take place.

Sure enough, the question of whether he’s an empty provocateur or a misunderstood genius is one that forms the backbone to this episode – but we doubt most Von Trier debates are half as entertaining as the one we’ve had with the brilliant Cassandra Magrath, who was the perfect person to help us see out 2018.

And speaking of seeing out 2018, we also continued our tradition of ending the year with a comparison of our favourite films from said year. Prepare to be completely and utterly shocked, or even just mildly surprised. We’d be happy with mildly surprised.

But before we get to all that, we kick off by looking back at some of the key films of the month, including Alfonso Cuarón’s biographical drama Roma, Yorgos Lanthimos’s acerbic historical comedy The Favourite, Susanne Bier’s sensory apocalyptic thriller Bird Box, and Gaspar Noé’s dance-filled horror Climax.

Further reading:

  • If you’re not up to date on Aussie podcasts putting people behind bars, read this, then catch up on Teacher’s Pet
  • The story about John C Reilly dropping out of Manderlay can be read here
  • Thanks again to Umbrella Entertainment for giving us an advance copy of Von Trier’s The House That Jack Built – keep an eye on their website for news on the release
  • Weirdly enough, the (faked) scene of animal cruelty from that film has been praised by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
  • Here’s some more detail on that whole Von Trier/Nazi/Cannes controversy
  • The story behind Lars discovering the shocking identity of his real father (which gives more context to the whole Nazi thing) can be read here
  • If you’re wondering why we kept talking about “Dogme 95” without really explaining it (sorry), you can read the manifesto here
  • And if you want to compare them to Soderbergh’s rules for 2002’s Full Frontal and see if Lee is just playing favourites, you can read his list here
  • If this episode left you hungry for more passionate pro-Von Trier opinions, it’s worth checking out this piece by Amy Simmons over at Senses of Cinema

Outro music: Young Americans by David Bowie from Dogville (2003)

The latest episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Cassandra Magrath talking the films of Lars Von Trier, can be heard on Stitcher Smart Radio, subscribed to on iTunes, or downloaded/streamed directly from our website.

The Lars Von Trier Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

BREAKING THE WAVES (1996) and MELANCHOLIA (2011)

The work that put Von Trier on the map was 1996’s Breaking the Waves, a film about one woman’s pain exploited by the society around her. Which doesn’t really help distinguish it in the Von Trier oeuvre if we’re being honest. But with a vérité style and a phenomenal performance from Emily Watson, it’s a film that is as intense a watch today as it was 22 years ago. Follow that up with Melancholia, the second part of Von Trier’s cheerfully-titled Depression Trilogy. Lars sinks his legs into proper genre territory, with planetary collision an unlikely yet effective metaphor for depression. Watch these films back-to-back (if you can), and you should have some idea of what drives the Danish Defeatist.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Breaking the Waves, seek out Dancer in the Dark (2000). The bleakest musical you’ll ever see feels is the third part of Von Trier’s Golden Heart Trilogy, because the man is more obsessed with thematic trilogies than Krzysztof Kieślowski. If you can’t get or have already seen Melancholia, get your hands on Antichrist (2009). This story of grief, depression, and the insidious side of nature will make you want to scissor off your private parts faster than you can intone “CHAOS REIGNS”.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Lars Von Trier? Then you should track down Medea (1988). Von Trier made this adaptation for television, and it’s as close as you’ll see to a filmmaker origin story happening in real time. Tackling literature’s ur-woman scorned – as well as the profoundly grim shock of the plot twists – pretty much laid out the path Von Trier would follow for the bulk of his films.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Cassandra Magrath talking the films of Lars Von Trier, will be released on 31 December 2018.