Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Alexandra Heller-Nicholas is an Australian film critic who has written four books on cult cinema (the latest on Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45, published by Columbia University Press). She is an editor of the film journal Senses of Cinema and a film critic on radio station Triple R in Melbourne with the Plato's Cave programme. She is the winner the 2017 AFIRC (Australian Film Institute’s Research Collection) Research Fellowship, and winner of a 2016 Australian Film Critics Association writing award.


Articles by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas


In The Muck of It: The Films of Ann Turner — Profile by Alexandra Heller Nicholas

Ann Turner - Photo by Kristian Gehradte

Ann Turner – Photo by Kristian Gehradte

I’m sitting in a small private booth at the Australian Mediatheque at Melbourne’s Australian Centre for the Moving Image, waiting while an old 16mm film is being set up on a vintage Steenbeck for viewing. It feels like the end of a pilgrimage, the last of Australian author, screenwriter and director Ann Turner’s films I left have to see: this is her 1981 student short, Flesh on Glass, made during her time at the Swinburne Film School (soon to become the Victorian College of the Arts). Continue reading…

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THE VILLAINESS — Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

the villainess posterThe reputation of South Korean genre film has been growing exponentially as a force to be reckoned with. The Cannes Film Festival has proven a fertile space for the release of the best the country has on offer to Western markets, and following the success of Yeon-Sang-ho’s extraordinary zombie film Train to Busan in 2016, Cannes’ Midnight Screenings this year featured Jung Byung-gil’s high-octane female-centred action movie The Villainess. Starring Kim Ok-bin (most immediately recognisable from her performance in Park Chan-wook’s 2009 film Thirst), The Villainess by some accounts received a four-minute standing ovation when it screened at Cannes, fuelled no doubt as much by admiration for the film itself as it was a sheer biological necessity to release the film’s near-palpable, contagious energy. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT July 2017: Claire McCarthy, Filmmaker, OPHELIA

awfjspotlightsmallsmallclaire mccarthy 2Outside Oz, Australian filmmaker Claire McCarthy is known primarily for her 2009 film The Waiting City, starring Radha Mitchell and Joel Edgerton as a couple in disarray as they travel to India to take delivery of a child they have adopted. But McCarthy’s broader filmography even more forcefully underscores why she is the perfect director for the upcoming Ophelia project, Hamlet retold from the perspective of Shakespeare’s iconically tragic ingenue as played by Daisy Ridley. As Michelle Hannett reported from Cannes in May, the film is one of the most highly anticipated for 2018 release. Continue reading…

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ALWAYS SHINE — Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Always Shine opens with a fourth-wall breaking close-up of a threatened woman in a state of visible distress, begging the off-screen male presence not to hurt her. Moments in, it is revealed the context of this scene is a just-as-confrontational audition where the harassment the woman faces in the script blurs with her treatment by the unseen men behind the camera. Read more>>

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RAW — Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

That ambulances were dispatched to TIFF screenings of the French cannibal film Raw to treat traumatised viewers has become as much a part of the general story of director Julia Ducournau’s rise as the film itself. In person, there’s a certain irony to this: she is surely the least likely person to warrant comparisons to someone like William Castle. Read more>>

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THE FAMILY — Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

In Australia, the very words “The Family” still send tremors through those of a certain generation, associated as they are with two notorious scandals in two different states. In the first instance, it was the name given by the press to a group of pedophile killers in Adelaide who during the late 1970s and early 1980s in particular that linked a number of highly regarded professional men to a series of hideous crimes, including five murders. As of 2016, only one of the murders had been solved, and only one arrest had been made despite the speculated involvement of up to ten others. In Melbourne, however, “The Family” evokes different ghosts: a cult (headed by the beautiful, almost ethereal Anne Hamilton-Byrne), linked to a long list of alleged abuses against its members, including children. Read more>>

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CHEVALIER — Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Like a black comedy feminist Deliverance, Athina Rachel Tsangari finds lying within the cracks of masculine performativity an inherent struggle with the omnipresent ‘threat’ of the feminine. Indulging in a luxury fishing holiday on the Aegean Sea, a casual conversation launches what will become a driving obsession for its six protagonists as they establish the ground rules of “Chevalier”, a game whose winner is collectively decided to be the man who is “the best in general”. Read more>>

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