Film Picks: Life Itself, Nightcrawler & Singapore International Film Fest

A cinema still from the documentary Life Itself. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE FILM SOCIETY
A cinema still from the documentary Life Itself. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE FILM SOCIETY

ST 20141205 LIFITSELF3 878360m


120 minutes

This widely acclaimed documentary of the hugely influential movie critic, author and journalist Roger Ebert will be screened just twice in cinemas, so book early. Ebert with co-host Gene Siskel gained fame for their movie review show At The Movies, which spawned the signature thumbs up or down rating sytem.

But the film, based on Ebert’s memoirs of the same name published shortly before his death last year from cancer of the thyroid and salivary glands, points to the side of Ebert that could be cranky (his combativeness with Siskel was not a put on) and who was a champion of unpopular work – he backed the now-classic Bonnie And Clyde (1967) when many critics at the time loathed it for its violence.

Director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, 1994) followed Ebert as he went about his business, his tempo never flagging despite massive surgical excavations to his face and jaw. The work is backed up with interviews with friends such as Martin Scorsese and Werner Herzog, showing how one newspaper movie critic, through talent and personality, became a national figure.

Where: Golden Village Suntec City MRT: City Hall/Esplanade When: Dec 20, 7pm & Dec 21, 4.30pm Admission: $13 (public), $9 (Singapore Film Society members) Info: Bookings at the Golden Village box office or go to

ST 20141205 LIFDIP2 878572m


As the allied forces close in on German-occupied Paris in August 1944, Hitler orders that the city's most treasured landmarks, including the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral and Eiffel Tower, be blown up. Two men, a German general bent on carrying out his orders and the Swedish consul, desperate to convince him not to, will decide the fate of the city.

Directed by Volker Schlondorff (The Tin Drum, 1979), the historical drama Diplomacy is a highlight of this year's festival, which will screen 16 films and one documentary across three venues. Other high points include the drama Clouds Of Sils Maria (2014, 124 minutes), starring Juliette Binoche. She will be attending the premiere of the film tonight. There will be a retrospective of the films of the French actress, who also starred in the Hollywood films The English Patient (1996) and Chocolat (2000). This festival will be run in conjunction with the Singapore International Film Festival.

Where: The Cathay, Shaw Lido & Alliance Francaise de Singapour MRT: Dhoby Ghaut/Orchard/Newton When: Till Sun Admission: $13 (The Cathay), $12 (other locations) Info: Tickets & schedules at

ST 20141205 LIFABSENCE 878570m


The closing film is a love letter and a shaken fist directed at Jakarta, the birthplace and home of 34-year-old film-maker Lucky Kuswandi.

In The Absence Of The Sun (Selamat Pagi, Malam, M18, 94 minutes) is about three women – Gia, a young upper- class woman returning after years in New York; Indri, a gym towel girl who yearns to marry into money; and Mrs Surya, a widow who discovers her dead husband’s secret. One steamy Jakarta night, their lives connect in a love hotel. Part mild satire, part melodrama and dripping with social commentary, the feature (Kuswandi’s second) illustrates the contradictions that make up the rich mosaic that is one of Asia’s most populous cities.

Where: Various locations including Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands; The Salon, National Museum of Singapore; Shaw Theatres Lido; The Screening Room, The Arts House; & The Projector, Golden 2 at Golden Mile Tower, Beach Road MRT: Various When: Till Dec 14 Admission: $25 for closing film, $15 for special presentation films, all others $12 Info: Go to or call 6348-5555

For all the stories on the SGIFF, go here

ST 20141205 LIFCRAWLER 878564m


117 minutes


Capitalism and criminality collide in this, a black comic take on the American economy, portrayed here as a system that bleeds citizens dry and spits them out onto the streets. The free market’s docile minion, the news media, also gets a lashing for abetting the system with manufactured fear and outrage. Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a street hood, stealing what he can while hustling for employment in a Los Angeles that has no need for men like him. Seeing a freelance news camera operator in action at a horrific road accident, he decides to also become a “nightcrawler”. He sells footage to station news manager Nina (Renee Russo), a woman trying to prop up ratings in a tough market. Few representations of society gone wrong have the pungent realism of this work, its forward rush of plot, or the nail-biting build-up of suspense.