New on Netflix Instant: Murders in 'Snowtown' and on the 'Night Train'
Plus Italian classics, Australian TV, cult oddities, and more
"The Snowtown Murders" (2011), from director Justin Kurzel, fictionalizes the true story of Australia's worst serial killer, John Bunting. "Kurzel aims, with mixed success, to visualize the kind of wilderness that breeds a Bunting," writes MSN film critic Kat Murphy. "Painting, in leached-out color, an environment of such material drear and communal despair that the advent of a merry little serial killer brings perverse life to the party, Kurzel suggests that "Snowtown"'s repressed/oppressed community may have dreamed up their own monster."
"Night Train" (2009), a low budget thriller of three strangers (Danny Glover, Leelee Sobieski and Steve Zahn) on a train and a treasure so enticing that they will kill for it, begins as a rolling "Shallow Grave" and turns into a vaguely continental "Maltese Falcon" in a Twilight Zone winter storm. The CG shots of the train and the cast of foreign characters (including a British police detective) with movie-reference names only adds to the confusion. The ferocity of the characters is fun but the weird mix of crime movie obsession and supernatural possession is B-movie mess.
"Post Mortem" (2010) Pablo Larrain's follow-up to his harrowing "Tony Manero," follows the quiet breakdown of a lonely autopsy scribe in Chile during the 1973 military coup. "With its pale, washed-out colour palette, its eerily slow, almost somnambulist pacing and occasionally bizarre emotional demonstrations, "Post Mortem" is strangely gripping," praises The Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw. Spanish with English subtitles. Reviews here.
Vittorio de Sica's "Shoeshine" (1946), made two years before his legendary "Bicycle Thieves," looks at the poverty and chaos of Italy after the war through the stories of two boys scraping by shining the shoes of American GIs until they are arrested for a petty crime and tossed into prison, where their spirits and souls are ground down. Like the other defining films of the era, it was shot on the streets of postwar Rome with nonprofessional actors and it won an Honorary Academy Award in 1948 (before there was a Foreign Language Film category).
Federico Fellini's "The Clowns" ("I Clowns," 1970) is a first-person exploration / appreciation of the art and culture of clowns made with the usual indulgence of its director. Reviewing the film in 1971, Roger Ebert wrote of this mix of fact and fancy: "This is artful and sometimes very amusing, but it doesn't work as fiction because Fellini is tied to facts, and it doesn't work as documentary because Fellini will not (cannot?) abandon his gift of giving the raw material an artistic shape."
"McLeod's Daughters: Seasons 1-8" (2001-2008), a femme-centered frontier drama set on the Australian outback, begins with half-sisters Claire (Lisa Chappell), an independent country girl, and Tess (Bridie Carter), a vivacious urban woman, reunited when they inherit Drover's Run, a large Australian cattle ranch passed down for generations. The women put aside their differences and assemble an all female workforce to take on the challenges of the land. The hit Australian drama found a stateside following when the American cable channel WE (Women's Entertainment Television) imported it for a successful run.