Skip to main content

I grew up under the high-heeled jack­boot of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, when post-apocalyptic vis­ions of futur­ist­ic fas­cist dic­tat­or­ships seemed to turn up as reg­u­larly as London buses. Back then we all felt that the world was at risk from the insane plans of a men­tally defi­cient, war-mongering, US pres­id­ent cap­tured by the military-industrial com­plex. Of course, now things are com­pletely dif­fer­ent (ahem) but Children of Men still seems like the product of a bygone era.

20 years into a grey British future: the pop­u­la­tion is sterile and extinc­tion of the human race is inev­it­able. Alcoholic pub­lic ser­vant Clive Owen is per­suaded by ex-girlfriend and freedom-fighter Julianne Moore to trans­port some pre­cious cargo to the coast but her plan (and her team) is soon shred­ded by the forces of reac­tion and Owen is forced to go it alone. There are sev­er­al abso­lutely jaw-dropping set-pieces and I won­der wheth­er the people of Bexhill real­ised what sort of mess was going to be made of their quiet little sea­side town. Never lend any­thing to a film crew!

As usu­al, Owen resembles a plank, this time with five ‘o’ clock shad­ow (thank good­ness he’s not the next Bond) but Michael Caine has fun as an age­ing hippy, grow­ing dope in the coun­try. Children of Men is a highly enter­tain­ing tri­umph of art dir­ec­tion (and First Assistant Direction for that mat­ter) though that dated feel­ing is not helped by the 70’s prog-rock soundtrack (King Crimson!?).

Mark Wahlberg and Greg Kinnear are the two least essen­tial male stars of our era and in Invincible they have come togeth­er in what may be the least essen­tial film of the year. Wahlberg plays reliev­ing teach­er Vince Papale who gets a shot at play­ing foot­ball for his beloved Philadelphia Eagles and Kinnear is the coach who gives him his big chance and that’s all any­one needs to know.

In Borat!, Sacha Baron Cohen con­firms his place as the long-awaited nat­ur­al suc­cessor to Peter Sellers – a com­ic act­or who so com­pletely inhab­ited his char­ac­ters that there was no sign of the real man under­neath. Large amounts of the film are satir­ic­al geni­us but it did­n’t all work for me and I was sur­prised at how many toi­let jokes they seemed to need.

An inter­net pred­at­or gets his come-uppance in Hard Candy, a claus­tro­phobic revenge-thriller fea­tur­ing some of the most uncom­fort­able scenes this review­er has encountered in a while. I’m still try­ing to work out wheth­er it dis­plays a real right­eous anger at the exploit­a­tion of young people or wheth­er it’s just nasty. The lat­ter I fear.

Thoughtful doc­u­ment­ar­ies like Unfolding Florence and 5 Five Days in September used to reg­u­larly turn up on tele­vi­sion on Sunday nights but those days would seem to be long gone. I’m pleased to say 5 Five Days in September is the most joy­ful exper­i­ence I have had in a cinema in years and totally unex­pec­ted. The unas­sum­ing story of the relaunch of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under new music­al dir­ect­or Peter Oundjian turns out to be a com­plete joy and made me want to imme­di­ately sub­scribe to the NZSO (not to men­tion name my first-born son “Yo-Yo”.

Sadly, Unfolding Florence is less suc­cess­ful but then my interest in Sydney wall­pa­per and interi­or design trends dur­ing the 1970’s unac­count­ably seems to have waned in recent years. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

Review prin­ted in Wellington’s Capital Times, 29 November 2006.

Notes on screen­ing con­di­tions: Children of Men was viewed at a media screen­ing in Auckland while on hol­i­day a few weeks ago (Village Sky City, Queen St). It’s quite a rare exper­i­ence for Wellington review­ers, watch­ing films with industry people and I’m not sure it helps. There is some­thing about an audi­ence of civil­ians that gives you per­spect­ive on what view­ing the film might be like for read­ers, I think. Having said that, I saw Invincible in Readings 10 with one oth­er per­son and Hard Candy alone in Rialto 1 so an audi­ence at day­time screen­ings can be a rare lux­ury. The sound in Readings 10 was dis­ap­point­ing – like a tweeter had blown somewhere.

Unfolding Florence played in Penthouse 2 and I would rather the pro­jec­tion­ist had waited until the cred­its had fin­ished before pre­par­ing the mask­ing for the next screen­ing – no auto­ma­tion there. It was also freez­ing cold and draughty and my cof­fee (not for the first time at the Penthouse) was all but undrink­able. Did all this effect the review? Possibly. Five Days in September on Monday was in the Vogue Suite at the Penthouse and the small audi­ence of pen­sion­ers I shared the screen­ing with were a delight. We all looked at each oth­er after­wards as if to acknow­ledge the exper­i­ence. Coffee was fine too.

Borat! was viewed at the Empire in Island Bay whose staff remain a delight to deal with and the screen­ing con­di­tions are (for the time being) unimpeachable.