Tuesday, 13 December 2011
First Look: Guilty Pleasures + Happy Happy
"Every four seconds, a Harlequin Mills & Boon romance novel is sold, somewhere in the world." - Guilty Pleasures
As part of its First Look program, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) presents two films in the lead up to Valentine's Day that look closely at the world of love and romance. From UK director Julie Moggan comes the candid documentary Guilty Pleasures (2-5 February), and from director Anne Sewitsky the award-winning Norweigan film, Happy Happy (Sykt lykkelig) (9 to 12 February).
In Guilty Pleasures, the highly successful world of the Harlequin Mills & Boon publishing empire comes under the spotlight in a wry and heartfelt portrait of modern romance and all its complications. Travelling around the globe to interview her subjects, director Julie Moggan meets five individuals - including three devoted readers - for whom the Mills & Boon franchise plays a pivotal role in their lives. for better or worse.
Over in India, Shumita is losing her patience waiting to be reunited with her husband who's fallen for another woman, while in Japan, modest housewife Hiroko has started daydreaming about her handsome ballroom dancing teacher. Back in the UK, single mum Shirley has found a supportive partner but his mysterious past could threaten their relationship. In the USA, unlucky in love Mills & Boon cover model Stephen is looking for 'the one'. And over in England, unlikely romance novelist Roger - who writes under the pseudonym of Gill Sanderson - is surrounded by women but not making any moves.
Studying anthropology before attending the National Film and Television School in the UK, Moggan began investigating the link between popular culture and people's relationships after realising how much she enjoyed films about everyday life. Mindful of treating her subjects with respect, she told Nisimazine: "I think there is a fine line between laughing at people or with people, and we do laugh at people sometimes. But I think people are funny and it's OK to laugh at [them] sometimes. I hope [Guilty Pleasures] stayed on the right side of that."
Winner of this year's Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival is Happy Happy (Sykt lykkelig). Striking a fine balance between drama, comedy and farce, director Anne Sewitsky gently pulls focus from one character to another to tell four very different stories.
Kaja and her husband Eirik live a quiet life in the Norweigan woods where the challenges of their remote existence are further complicated by marital problems. Despite her passionless marriage, Kaja remains an optimist, and strives to puts her family first. When Elisabeth and Sigve, a seemingly perfect couple with an adopted Ethiopian child move into their small neighbourhood, the four adults strike up a friendship and begin exploring desires that have long been lying dormant.
Submitted by Norway as the country's Best Foreign Language Film at this year's Academy Awards, Happy Happy (Sykt lykkelig) is the debut feature from emerging director Anne Sewitsky, who attended the Norweigan Film School in Lillehammer. With a background in television directing, Sewitsky's previous credits also include the short film Oh My God! (2009).
ACMI Film Programmer Kristy Matheson says, "Love is in the air so what better way to celebrate or commiserate than with two films that offer a genuinely smart and entertaining take on romance."
The First Look season of Guilty Pleasures screens at ACMI in Melbourne from 2 to 5 February, followed by screenings of Happy Happy (Sykt lykkelig) from 9 to 12 February.
Praise for Guilty Pleasures:
".Moggan's film is a feel-good recognition that nobody's perfect, despite the ideal lifestyles we're marketed." - Paul Griffiths, Eye for Film
"Moggan's achievement [is] to give her film real emotional depth, without entirely depriving you of the pleasures of the mismatch between dream and reality." - Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent
Praise for Happy Happy (Sykt lykkelig):
"For all the zaniness, the movie's understanding and insight come in moments so incisive that the sharpness will sting." - Bestsy Sharkey, The Los Angeles Times
"Dispatching a gentle sense of humour throughout, the warmth of Anne Sewitsky's debut drifts in as a welcome breeze." - Stephen Saito, IFC.com
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