David Stratton: A Cinematic Life – BFI London Film Festival Review

Focussing on British born, Aussie film critic, David Stratton, this is a loving tribute to Aussie royalty. In its retelling of Stratton’s career, it provides a welcome journey through Australian film.

This documentary came about when a multi-part television show was being put together, Stories of Australian Cinema. In structuring that television show’s arc, one of its stars, Stratton’s story was shaping to compliment the roll call of famous films.

Director, Sally Aitken brings a new perspective to one of Australia’s favourite sons. In a poignant conversation, Aitken delicately draws parallels between Stratton’s overbearing father and his love of film. Aitken successfully utilises actor testimony and film clips to pull the story together.

Moving to Australia on a working holiday in his early 20s, Stratton was soon involved in the Sydney Film Festival. After becoming director of that same festival, Stratton began to dabble in televised reviews. Stratton became one half of Aussie telly royalty with fellow film critic, Margaret Pomeranz. Their first incarnation, The Movie Show, ran for 20 years. Their second, At the Movies, ended in 2014, after a further 10 successful years.

For 30 years, this iconic duo duelled each other, sometimes with polar opposite film reviews, clashing fashion and cheeky banter. If an Aussie wanted to know which new release was worth their hard earned pay cheque, it was these two you turned to.

Australian box office receipts tend to indicate that Aussie’s aren’t paying to see their own films. However this journey through films will find classics that are rewatched over again. With new and exciting Australian cinema in 2017, this retrospective might encourage you to support Aussie film. Some worth looking out for include Ali’s Wedding, Three Summers, Hounds of Love and Alone in Berlin.

Looking at Stratton’s fascinating life results in an pleasant film journey, a look at the Aussie film industry and its most iconic and fascinating films

Having only ever refused to score one film, Romper Stomper, Stratton now reviews online for an independent cinema.

Nowhere better demonstrates Stratton’s passion for film than his encyclopaedic review catalogue of almost every movie he’s ever seen. Starting at the tender age of around seven, Stratton was writing reviews. The expansive filing system crowds its own room. A true joy, celebrating the power of film.

Erase and Forget – BFI London Film Festival Review

Premiering at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, London Film Festival gets its mitts on Andrea Luka Zimmerman’s documentary, Erase and Forget. Following controversial public figure ‘Bo’ Gritz, one of the America’s Vietnam veterans who was interestingly the man the media claimed who inspired the famous role of Stallone’s Rambo, Erase and Forget certainly captures your attention. Filmed over ten years, Erase and Forget presents a wealth of material and reveals just how contradictory and multifaceted the brainwashed society of a large percentage of America truly is.

The documentary gets stuck in from the get go, focusing on this unusual man who is fascinating in his own right but it’s blatantly obvious that something else is lurking beneath the surface. Through news and media we get a minuscule percentage of what really goes on and if pieces of the truth escape people love to twist them into something they aren’t. Despite being made out to be a hero, with a medal collection to reflect that, Gritz was involved in some pretty scandalous and debatable military operations throughout this career. He also claims to have killed over 400 people, which is incredibly shocking. When paraded in front of the media for so long; good and the bad it seems it was integral to Zimmerman to truly strip back the smile worn for such occasions and reveal what makes this man truly tick.

War takes its toll of everyone, and it seems it has well and truly devoured Gritz whole. As we watch unseen footage of him acting out action sequences from Hollywood actions films that are based on his tales, it becomes deeply disconcerting whilst watching him illustrate interrogation techniques enhancing just how affected he is, not only from his experiences but the disconnection he now feels for the country he fought so hard for. Now this once well sought after officer resides in a caravan away from civilisation in the Nevada desert with nothing but his enormous collection of guns and artillery to keep him company.

Gritz had it hard. Doing what he thought was to be right, fighting for his country having thousands of people cheer for him – only to be made out to be a hero and a villain all at the same time. And ultimately, there is no escaping this when it comes to the media. There is certainly a wealth of resources and material in this 10 year project in the making, albeit it comes across as though Zimmerman choice certain pieces for maximum effect diluting her exploration slightly. Her dedication to the project is astonishing, Gritz’s story is both fascinating and terrifying alongside the inescapable glorification of the military but as the credits roll a resolution is nonexistent.

Erase and Forget provides us with an insight into just how centralised the US government is, not to mention how blinkered most of its population is.

Take what you will from this exploration but always remember the media will only show you want they want you to see.