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Too late to be more than 50% use­ful to any­one, here’s my World Cinema Showcase preview:

As sum­mer gives way to autumn, and Daylight Saving Time gently releases its grip on our pri­or­it­ies, the first sig­ni­fic­ant film fest­iv­al of the year returns to take up res­id­ence at the Paramount. The World Cinema Showcase is two very tidy weeks of great filmgo­ing, almost as if the grand, winter, Festival has been dis­tilled down to a man­age­able essence.

Within, 33 fea­tures (and one omni­bus col­lec­tion of shorts) com­pete for your atten­tion and, luck­ily, the long Easter week­end allows you take full advant­age. A few of the titles were made avail­able to crit­ics as pre­views, but many more are on my list of films I simply must see on the big screen and, depend­ing on your tastes and interests, noth­ing is un-recommendable.

Carlos Reygadas’ Silent Light is a Mexican mas­ter­piece return­ing from last year’s Festival. A Mennonite fam­ily in a remote part of the coun­try is torn apart by a love affair – rav­ish­ing images com­pete with raw but restrained emo­tion. Equally paint­erly in terms of com­pos­i­tion is Joanna Hogg’s superb Unrelated : a group of self-absorbed English hol­i­day­makers drink, smoke and swear their way around Tuscany, obli­vi­ous to a break­down slowly being endured by one of their number.

2008 Cannes Winner The Class is prob­ably not high on the list of Education Ministry recruit­ment mater­i­als (and yet any teach­ers watch­ing will recog­nise and empath­ise with the hero­ic struggle on screen). A multi-cultural, urb­an school in Paris is the scene of a mod­ern day com­pet­i­tion for the hearts and minds of an ali­en­ated gen­er­a­tion – vital and vivid.

The fol­low­ing films were not pre­viewed but are beck­on­ing me to the front of the queue: Like Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, Jean Claude van Damme rein­vents his stand­ard screen per­sona in JCVD – play­ing him­self the act­or, caught up in a host­age drama. Meta is the word, I think.

There are wel­come returns to the screen for Academy Award win­ning dir­ect­ors Jonathan Demme and Francis Ford Coppola. Demme’s digit­al drama Rachel Getting Married fea­tures Anne Hathaway as Rachel’s sis­ter Kym, on a week­end pass out of rehab, con­fron­ted with tempta­tion and trig­gers in equal measure.

The suc­cess of Coppola’s wine and olive oil busi­ness has allowed the great dir­ect­or to self-fund any pro­ject he feels like – an aston­ish­ing late career bless­ing after years of kow­tow­ing to the stu­dio suits. He’s chosen to make Youth Without Youth, an odd but poten­tially pro­found fable about an eld­erly pro­fess­or who, after being struck by light­ning, begins to grow young­er. Tim Roth stars.

Charlie Kaufman is the most adven­tur­ous screen­writer cur­rently work­ing in American film – you may know him from such films as Adaptation. and Being John Malkovich. His first film as a dir­ect­or is the intel­lec­tu­ally and artist­ic­ally robust Synecdoche, New York. From the pro­nun­ci­ation of its title to its puzz­ling struc­ture, this is a film that chal­lenges and rewards in equal measure.

There are some gems on offer from the doc­u­ment­ary depart­ment, too. If you were lucky enough to see the restored ver­sion of Terence Davies’ 1988 mas­ter­piece Distant Voices, Still Lives in last year’s Showcase, you’ll be thrilled to see that Davies’ new film Of Time and the City (an emo­tion­al por­trait of the Liverpool of his child­hood) is play­ing this year. The fact that Davies has only four fea­tures to his cred­it is an abso­lute scandal.

The main Paramount aud­it­or­i­um is the most music­al cinema in Wellington, so the chance to see, and hear, soul legends like Otis Redding, Booker T & The MGs, Isaac Hayes, etc in the doc­u­ment­ary Respect Yourself should not be missed. I hope it’s played loud.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday, 1 April, 2009.

Update: Of Time and the City is won­der­ful – reminded me of Patrick Keiller’s London, still one of my favour­ite films ever.

One Comment

  • Robyn says:

    Don’t tell any­one, but I’m a secret fan of the craptast­ic oeuvre of Jean Claude Van Damme, so I’m really really excited about JCVD.

    Rule of thumb: the more cre­at­ive con­trol JC has, the more audi­ences will see of his bar­enaked buttocks.