REVIEW: One life of vice

PITTED AGAINST: Brad Pitt stars as Gerry Lane in the zombie movie World War Z.MICHAEL Winterbottom’s study on pornography king Paul Raymond is a fast-paced drama that delves into the personal life of a powerful man with so many riches he could not see his own weaknesses.
Shanghai night field

Based loosely on a biography, Members Only: The Life and Times of Paul Raymond, by Paul Willetts, the movie is full of the business that made Raymond rich and famous: naked women, striptease joints, recreational drugs and the toys of nouveau wealth.

The Look of Love

Steve Coogan (pictured) looks extremely comfortable as Paul Raymond: confident and careless, with no remorse for his personal actions.

The movie tackles Raymond’s troubled love affairs, showing his lack of empathy or genuine love for his female partners.

His tragic relationship with his daughter, Debbie, played forcefully by starlet Imogen Poots, whom he loved dearly but hardly tried to provide with loving parental direction or advice, is the central tenet of the movie.

This movie, which opens the Sydney Travelling Film Festival program in Newcastle tonight, encapsulates the spirit of adventurous filmmaking. While the boob count is so high you stop counting, this movie is not about sex, it’s about the human condition, what drives a person, no matter the cost.

From gore to metaphor

WORLD WAR Z (M)

Stars: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Abigail Hargrove

Director: Marc Forster

Screening: general

Rating: ★★★

Review by SANDRA HALL

ZOMBIES may be mindless but they make great metaphors.

In 1968, when George Romero came up with Night of the Living Dead, the first in his cycle of zombie classics, he drew on Vietnam and the racism in America’s south to create a zombie menace that sprang from the evils within American society. His zombies were not The Other. They were Us.

And to ram the message right home, he made the mob hysteria, whipped up by some of the films’ more zealous zombie hunters, look just as ugly as the zombies themselves.

Romero’s were low-budget efforts but their special effects men delighted the fans by splashing on the blood and gore with a sure hand and an unflinching eye for detail.

World War Z, produced by its star, Brad Pitt, and directed by Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace), is definitely not low-budget.

This time round, the prevailing metaphor – predictably enough – stems from our fears of environmental catastrophe. These zombies are not risen from the dead. They have caught a virus that is likened to SARS and the influenza pandemic of the early 1900s. And they are compelled to pass it on. One bite and you know in 12 seconds if you, too, are about to become ‘‘zombified’’. The less-than-subtle inference to be drawn from this is that we are polluting the planet by over-population and it is retaliating in kind.

Prospects are bleak but we do have Brad. As Gerry Lane, a former UN investigator, he has spent a lot of time taking care of trouble in an assortment of the world’s top hotspots. Now he’s retired. But in the film’s opening scenes, the zombie hordes hit Philadelphia, where he has been living happily with his wife, Karin (Mireille Enos), and their young daughters. They escape only because his former boss has them whisked to safety by helicopter and set down on a US aircraft carrier in the Atlantic. Here, Karin and the girls can stay if Gerry will agree to head a mission aimed at tracking the virus to its cause. First stop is North Korea.

All the while, Forster wisely keeps the zombies in the middle distance, except for a climactic few moments with close-ups cut together so fast that you can’t see much.

The North Korean scenes, which take place at night in a rainstorm, are appropriately depressing. Then it’s on to Jerusalem for something genuinely weird. With an efficiency born of long years of practice, the Israelis have kept themselves safe by walling themselves off. What’s more, they have done wonders for the Arab-Israeli peace process by taking their Palestinian neighbours in with them. All is going well until the zombies – filmed in dazzling long shot – arrange themselves in a pyramid and begin swarming up the stonework.

Next to this, the denouement seems strangely restrained, set in a World Health Organisation laboratory deep in the British countryside. The script abandons large-scale action for some small-scale detective work followed by a series of stealthy manoeuvring through the laboratory’s corridors. In a blockbuster of such magnitude, it’s rare to go out with a sequence aimed at engaging you instead of blasting you out of your seat. And I found it refreshing. SMH