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Short Cuts: Generation Wealth, British Film Festival and more

GENERATION WEALTH ★★★|
MA, 106 minutes. Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Saturday, November 3, to Monday, November 19

Photographer and documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield sets herself a fascinating if impossible task with her new film: to dissect the prevalence of excessive money as the defining cultural, psychological, and physical force of this age. She channels the system of the world through former subjects, such as Los Angeles schoolchildren of the early 1990s and aspiring rappers, who’ve had to survive their dislocating arrival to adulthood, and reaches out to exemplars such as a disgraced former German hedge fund tycoon who went to Harvard Business School and made the FBI’s most wanted list. Wealth provides the illusion of social mobility, while altering perceptions including those of Greenfield herself, and the wider she reaches the more fleeting her vision becomes. But even as her framing of interview subjects against their environment is sublime, there’s a calming strand of individual realisation and redemption that sits somewhat awkwardly alongside the broader conclusion of where this delusional excess ends: with desperate inequality and permanent division.

An ultra-wealthy Russian family appear in Lauren Greenfield's documentary <i>Generation Wealth</I>.

An ultra-wealthy Russian family appear in Lauren Greenfield’s documentary Generation Wealth.Credit:Lauren Greenfield

BRITISH FILM FESTIVAL
britishfilmfestival.com.au. Astor Theatre, Palace Balwyn, Brighton Bay, Como, and Westgarth Cinemas, until Wednesday, November 14.

Alongside a Michael Caine tribute (including Alfie, The Italian Job, and documentary My Generation), and a Swinging Sixties retrospective (check Richard Lester’s The Knack… And How to Get It), the program for this year’s British Film Festival includes the London drama The Children Act (★★★, M, 102 minutes). In a standout role that she defines with a nuance that isn’t always scripted, Emma Thompson plays Fiona Maye, a High Court judge specialising in family law, whose dedication to the difficult cases she hears has driven her husband, Jack (Stanley Tucci), to the point of infidelity. A new case introduces her to Adam (Dunkirk‘s Fionn Whitehead), a 17-year-old whose Jehovah’s Witnesses parents are refusing him a life-saving blood transfusion. The two are bonded by Fiona’s intervention, with Ian McEwan’s adaptation of his 2014 novel producing melodramatic circumstances that director Richard Eyre carefully depicts.

FIVE SEASONS: THE GARDENS OF PIET OUDOLF ★★★½
15+, 76 minutes. Australian Centre for the Moving Image, until Tuesday, November 6

“I put plants on a stage and I let them perform,” notes the leading Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf, and this deeply attuned documentary does something similar with the 73-year-old. A pioneer in what’s been called the “New Perennial” movement, Oudolf creates inviting spaces with unexpected species that summon the breadth of the natural world; he’s the antithesis of regimented planting. Director and cinematographer Thomas Piper not only captures the immersive textures and seasonal changes of Oudolf’s work, deploying tracking shots that feel like they’re carried on the breeze, but he draws out the philosophical beliefs behind his subject’s typically Dutch brusqueness. The garden, Oudolf believes, is a distillation of life and death, reduced to a year and demanding that you have the courage to not just admire, but also intervene. Visits to a project in Britain shows the designer at work, while the virtues of his practice are conveyed by his own garden, begun in the early 1980s when he was new to the field, and the flowing reprieve of New York’s now celebrated High Line conversion.

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