Film picks: Maps To The Stars, Stonehearst Asylum and more

The Singapore International Film Festival's closing film,  The Absence Of The Sun (Selamat Pagi, Malam),  is a love letter and a shaken fist directed at Jakarta. -- PHOTO: SGIFF
The Singapore International Film Festival's closing film,  The Absence Of The Sun (Selamat Pagi, Malam),  is a love letter and a shaken fist directed at Jakarta. -- PHOTO: SGIFF

SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

The festival's 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) revolves around 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 Jakarta night, their lives intersect 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 When: Dec 4 - 14 Admission: $25 for opening & closing films, $15 for special presentation films, all others $12. Tickets from Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)


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4TH RENDEZVOUS WITH FRENCH CINEMA

As the allied forces close in on German-occupied Paris in August, 1944, Hitler orders the city's most treasured landmarks, including the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral and the 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 Oscar-winning drama The Tin Drum, 1979), Diplomacy (Diplomatie, 2014, 84 minutes) is one of the highlights of this year's festival, which will screen 16 films and one documentary.

Other high points include the drama Clouds Of Sils Maria (2014, 124 minutes), starring Juliette Binoche, who will attend the film premiere on Dec 5. There will be a retrospective of her films.

Where: The Cathay Cineplex, Shaw Lido, Alliance Francaise de Singapour When: Nov 28 - Dec 7 Admission: $13 at the Cathay Cineplex, $12 other locations Info: Tickets & schedules at www.rendezvouswithfrenchcinema.sg


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MAPS TO THE STARS (R21)

112 minutes

****

What starts as acid satire of the movie industry quickly becomes something weirder and nastier - it is just what you might expect from director David Cronenberg, who lets the punches connect with lightness and grace.

Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), skin marked by burn scars, shows up in Hollywood to pursue her dream of a show business career. Bitter, forgotten actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) yearns for the lead role in a remake of a classic movie that starred her mother.

Dr Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) is a celebrity therapist and father to Benjie (Evan Bird), a former child star just emerged from drug rehabilitation and looking to reboot his career.

Wasikowska deploys her disquieting stare, the one that hints at turmoil within, while Moore shades the pathos of her performance with the perfect amount of maudlin humour.


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STONEHEARST ASYLUM (PG13)

113 minutes

***1/2

Madness, murder and mayhem. These were the stuff of lurid Victorian drama and also of writer Edgar Allan Poe's works. And director Brad Anderson (The Machinist, 2004) does a good job of bringing that melodramatic sensibility to the big screen.

Based on the short story The System Of Doctor Tarr And Professor Fether by Poe, a young doctor named Edward (Jim Sturgess, left with Kate Beckinsale) travels to the bleak and forbidding Stonehearst Asylum around the turn of the 20th century for his apprenticeship. He meets Dr Lamb (Ben Kingsley), the charismatic man in charge, his unsavoury right-hand man Finn (David Thewlis) and the lovely and fragile Eliza Graves (Beckinsale).

And as revelations unfold, sympathies will be swung one way then the other like a boat on choppy water.