Sydney Film Festival 2016

Down under it’s winter at this year’s Sydney Film Festival but the sun is shining on the expectant faces of all the cinephiles who are walking along Market Street towards the grande State Theatre. They have come for this afternoon’s screening of Pedro Almodóvar’s most recent work of art ‘Julieta’. It is a beautiful film. It is beautiful because every scene is a charming palette of colours, playfully reminiscent of a painting by Matisse or Picasso. It is beautiful because of drop-dead gorgeous Adriana Ugarte who portrays the young Julieta with corresponding vogue hairstyles. But beneath the beauty there are heavy and sad themes as it is often the case with Almodóvar’s movies and it is therefore not a film for the lighthearted. So, the cineasts find their way out with damp eyes just in time to sit down for dinner in one of the many trendy restaurants in Surry Hills to eat and discuss.

The next day, amidst the Botanical Gardens, the Art Gallery of New South Wales gives a screening of Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’ – celebrating its fortieth anniversary. The movie will be shown in a theatre deep down in the vaults of the gallery. The way there leads past Julian Rosefeldt’s dramatic Manifesto starring Cate Blanchett and further along past numerous impressionistic paintings. Very intriguing artwork indeed but it must be visited another time because the cosmopolitans have come today for Scorsese and not Monet.

Taxi Driver was a rebellious movie in its time. It did not flinch at the tabus of child prostitution and pornography. The dark and filthy streets of 70s Bronx stand in stark contrast to the sunlit roads of Madrid in ‘Julieta’. A very young Robert De Niro walks on screen constantly reminding you why he belongs to the great. He was just as powerful and convincing in 1976 as he is today. The story of this film develops very slowly – a pace that an audience today would rarely have the patience to watch. Yet the loneliness and the sadness of the character Travis Bickle would not have the same impact on the viewer if the story were told faster. The slow build of frustration and the bloody culmination point at the end are far more powerful this way.

Exiting the Art Gallery the spectators are just in time to see the sunset over the skyline of Sydney’s Central Business District. The clouds are soaked in an orange red colour against a blue sky. It is like waking up from a dream walking out of the cinema and the haunting film stays with you long after the ending. The film’s score sticks in your mind and the taxi ride goes forever on.

Written by Jesse Lieberman

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