The release of Somersault in 2004 announced a major new Australian film talent in the form of Cate Shortland. Emotionally vivid and connected to the Australian landscape in the same uneasy way as Bill Henson's photography, the drama about a teenage girl's flight from home and her sexual awakening launched Abbie Cornish and drew a roiling performance from Sam Worthington that his subsequent blockbusters have only hinted at. Shortland had matched Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career) and Andrew Dominik (Chopper), but there was just one problem: she didn't follow it up.
The Silence, an intriguing television movie for the ABC in 2006, has long been Shortland's only subsequent credit, but her next feature is finally underway for a 2012 release. Adapted from Rachel Seiffert's Booker Prize-nominated novel, The Dark Room, Lore is the story of a 16-year-old girl, Lore (Saskia-Sophie Rosendahl), who in 1945 must escort her four younger siblings across the chaos of a just occupied Germany near the end of World War II following the arrest of her Nazi parents. The period drama's German cast includes Kai-Peter Malina (Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon). Somersault, if you're not familiar with it, screens on SBS One at 11.05pm on Wednesday 4 January.
Wanted: a dignified third act for Harrison Ford's career. The 69-year-old actor, who will forever be associated with Han Solo and Indiana Jones (despite even Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), has not weathered the transition from Hollywood's top leading man to veteran well. Crossing Over, Extraordinary Measures and Morning Glory all failed to show Ford in a good light, while Cowboys & Aliens was very busy and very slight. Two new parts, however, suggest he's at least willing to try different genres.
In 42, Ford will play Branch Rickey, the determined sports executive who broke the colour barrier in American baseball when he signed Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. The drama is written and directed by Brian Helgeland, who is very good at the former (L.A. Confidential, Mystic River) and not so good at the latter (A Knight's Tale, The Sin Eater). In Ender's Game, taken from the celebrated science-fiction novel by Orson Scott Card, Ford will play the commander of a futuristic training school where gifted children are prepared for the space battles against an alien race attacking Earth. It is the classic mentor's role, but the students assembled by director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) include Asa Butterfield (Hugo) and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit).
Michel Hazanavicius's The Artist doesn't open in Australia until February 2 next year, but the highly touted film's leading man, Jean Dujardin, goes from being a silent film star to a spy investigating money laundering in the French romantic thriller Mobius. Dujardin will star opposite Cecile de France (The Kid with a Bike, Hereafter), who plays a currency trader caught up in his investigation. Eric Rochant (The Patriot) directs.