By Don Groves
Philippe Mora’s Absolutely Modern, a comedy about Modernism, muses and the role of sexuality in art, will have its Australian premiere on November 30.
The venue will be the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra, supported by the Jewish Film Foundation of Australia. Mora is in discussions with Australian distributors to set up a commercial cinema release.
The screening continues Mora’s relationship with the NFSA, to which he donated his one-hour, pop art-inspired version of Shakespeare’s Richard III, described as the world’s first internet movie as it was uploaded and shared online in 1996.
A blend of fact and fiction, Absolutely Modern follows Lord Steinway, the “Method” art critic, as he makes a TV show, The End of Civilization, while he focusses on the famous Australian muse, Sunday Reed, and her ménage a trois with her husband John and young protégé Sidney Nolan.
Under their patronage Nolan produced a famous series of Australian paintings based around Ned Kelly. The story takes a dramatic turn when Nolan decides to leave the ménage after 10 years and Steinway’s long lost son Jack turns up.
Mora plays Lord Steinway, with former soccer star Mario Melchiot as Jack, Rena Riffel as Regina Uber Muse, Austen Tayshus as Ern Malley, Brad Wilson as the Faux John Reed, John Apicella as Winston Churchill and John Jack Rodgers as Noel Coward.
The semi-improvised film had its European premiere at the New Horizons festival in Wroclaw, Poland in July, prompting positive reviews. “In Absolutely Modern, Australian director Phillippe Mora tells perhaps one of his most personal stories to date as he examines art and modernism. Mora – who casual fans would most likely know from such films as Communion and cult classic The Return of Captain Invincible – unsurprisingly does not tell the tale with any regard for the norms of convention, narrative and accuracy, “ said Screen Daily’s Laurence Boyce.
“Filmed on a shoestring at various locations across the world, amateur actors and a spirit of ramshackle improvisation, the people who will get the most out of the film will be those who less see it as an actual film and more as a piece of modernist art in itself.
“For all its obscure trappings, there is a genuine heart and soul to the film that is something of passion project for Mora. Having grown up in the thick of the Australian arts scene, Mora knew John & Sunday Reed personally and counted their adopted son Sweeney as one of his best friends as a child. His love for them and desire to tell their complex life story shines through and makes this sometimes strange and DIY affair a worthwhile enterprise.”
Wroclaw critic Piotr Czerkawski hailed the film as “absolutely funny, fresh and thought- provoking. Philippe Mora at his best.”
Fellow critic Adam Kruk opined, “Mora’s films break all conventions, combine different styles and are nearly always saturated with rebellious, surrealistic humor.”
The film was produced by Mora’s Hard Drive Pictures, with cinematography by Dave Gregory, Kristina Ivanova and Bruno Pheasantry. Needle & Associates is selling international rights.
Watch the trailer here: