As the festival starts today I thought I’d better get the round up of this week’s discussion posted for all to see. We basically mused over some of the films that stood out – here is my pick of the selection…but have a look for yourself. There are so many it will be impossible to see them all, so when working out how much money I can afford to spend I usually think about which films are most likely to come back to the cinema on general release, and leave them for then.
(p.s. click on any of the titles and it will take you to the website for further info and screening times)
ANDY WARHOL: A DOCUMENTARY (4 hours and a 15 minute interval!)
Within the first few minutes some extremely grand claims are made – Warhol is the greatest artist of the twentieth century; Warhol changed the world – and the film patiently works towards substantiating those claims. This imposing four-hour portrait could more accurately be entitled ‘Warhol in the Sixties’, as the film spends the vast majority of its running time following its painfully shy, sickly, socially disadvantaged protagonist from his arrival in New York, through his serial exploration of different media (from painting to silkscreening to filmmaking to mixed media happenings), to the Valerie Solanas shooting in 1968.
Fresh from a triumphant Directors’ Fortnight screening at Cannes, Anton Corbijn’s highly anticipated homage to Joy Division singer Ian Curtis- the flawed British rock star who recoiled in the glare of fame – is a rare example of a biopic that lives up to its hype. Control leads us from Curtis’ (Sam Riley) schooldays in Macclesfield in 1973, where the shy Bowie fan daydreamed in class and married his best friend’s girl Deborah (Samantha Morton), up to his suicide, at the age of 23, on the eve of his band’s first American tour.
THIS IS NEW ZEALAND (this film looks awesome and watch out for 2 cheeky wee extras screening before the main feature!)
When Britain joined the Common Market in 1969, New Zealand suddenly had to start promoting itself to the world, in order to develop alternative markets for our goods. One of the ways it did so was to take part in Expo 70, in Osaka, Japan. The star attraction at that event was a revolutionary 20-minute film made by the National Film Unit that introduced viewers to New Zealand in a glorious three-screen (and three-camera) presentation.
EAGLE VS SHARK (i reckon this will be a popular one…)
Infamous for feigning sleep at the Oscars when the nomination for his short film Two Cars, One Night was announced, filmmaker Taika Waititi continues his singular, subversive and glittering career with this deliciously tangy, deadpan feature debut. Starring talented local actors Loren Horsley, who co-wrote the screenplay with Waititi, and long-time collaborator Jemaine Clement, one half of singing duo Flight of the Conchords, Eagle has been described as a romantic version of cult comedy Napoleon Dynamite – except that it’s funnier and way more surreal.
FREEDOM’S FURY (Me, I love anything about swimming… 😉
This fascinating historical documentary takes a seemingly obscure subject – the 1956 Hungarian water polo team – and weaves around it a riveting narrative in which the ideals of the free world are at stake. In late November 1956, the water polo teams from Hungary and the Soviet Union met in an Olympic semi-final that would go down as the bloodiest match in history. (…) Wonderful historical footage shows the sublime athletes in training, swimming with Herculean strength and the grace of ballet dancers. Fifty years later, the two teams meet again for an emotional reunion. Narrated by 1972 US swimming Gold medalist Mark Spitz.
HELVETICA (one for the designer within…)
Is the ubiquitous Helvetica typeface a modernist masterpiece, or the monolithic McDonald’s of graphic design? This sleek and efficient documentary finds plenty of designers willing to argue either way, and their flights of rhetoric supply the film’s colourful punctuation.
Which is more treacherous: to betray your government or to lie to your friends, family and colleagues for more than 40 years?
DEATH OF A PRESIDENT
How would America respond to the assassination of George W. Bush? What would Government agencies do? What would President Cheney do? These are the dark questions posed here by writer/director Gabriel Range. The film, based around that watershed moment in October 2007, is, of course, pure fiction. Yet such is Range’s skill in compiling this eyewitness account, you’d be forgiven for confusing it with reality as he ‘interviews’ key players and cuts them with news footage.
RED ROAD (yippee – i’ve been waiting for this film to come to NZ for almost a year! )
Winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes, Red Road is a bristling, atmospheric thriller that rumbles with intensity. In the squalor of urban Glasgow, Jackie (Kate Dickie) monitors a wall of surveillance cameras placed to protect the residents of an ugly housing project on Red Road. One day she sees Clyde (Tony Curran), a man she thought was in prison. Clearly shocked that he’s free, Jackie begins stalking and insinuates herself into his orbit. What mysterious history do they share and why is Jackie so determined to punish this man? (…) Constructed within the framework of Lars von Trier’s experimental Advance Party Project, Red Road is the first of three films set in Scotland, by three different directors, using the same nine characters and actors. This gritty, surprising and masterfully crafted tale of crime, retribution and forgiveness will be a hard act to follow.
EXILED (this looks pretty cool and slick…)
With the creative wells of John Woo, Ringo Lam and Tsui Hark now all but dried up, Hong Kong film buffs still have the remarkably consistent output of Johnnie To to be excited about. Following the one-two knockout punch of Election and Election 2, To’s Exiled is an exhilaratingly heroic bloodshed throwback that shoves his Leone-crossed-with-Melville visual style to the fore. Nestled in themes of brotherhood, sacrifice and vengeance, the Western-styled plot reunites the gang from To’s previous smash The Mission – Anthony Wong, Francis Ng, Roy Cheung, Lam Suet, Simon Yam – for a bullet-ridden rumble in Macau.