When we meet Texan man’s man Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) at the beginning of Dallas Buyers Club he is a mess – a shocking, disreputable, selfish combination of drunk, thief, womaniser and gambler. He doesn’t look so hot either. Soon after that, during a routine hospital check – routine for Ron is the equivalent of an emergency for the rest of us – we discover why: he has AIDS and, because it is only 1985 he has very little time left to live.
But because the word “ornery” was invented in Texas, Woodroof has no intention of succumbing quietly, even stealing the experimental drug AZT from the hospital stores until he discovers that it is even more toxic than the disease he is afflicted by. A last chance stoned drive to Mexico introduces him to a struck-off doctor (Griffin Dunne) and a cocktail of drugs that could extend his life – and millions of others – if only he could get at them.
There has been much discussion in the circles in which I move about the quantity of films released to local cinemas. Not only are there too many films coming out every week – too many for each one to generate much heat at any rate – but the ones that are coming out aren’t always the right ones. Smaller distributors are pushing everything they have into the system regardless of their potential and some of the majors – with bigger marketing budgets and overheads to worry about – are ditching their arthouse and mid-range titles and pushing them straight to home video.[pullquote]Who says Americans can’t do Shakespeare? Nonsense.[/pullquote]At the same time, multiplex screens are full of big budget commercial gambles, with box office estimates based on local history and the hope that Twilight-like lightning might strike twice. See which ones in the list below fit into which category. (Clue: if your film has no hi-res English language poster available online and your only official website is in Japanese, maybe you can’t really support it in NZ cinemas.)
Benoît Jacquot’s Farewell, My Queen goes behind the scenes of Louis XVI and – more specifically – Marie Antoinette’s court during the dark days of the revolution as the régime tottered and fell. We see these events from the point of view of Her Majesty’s book reader, a young servant played by Léa Seydoux. Initially besotted by the Queen (Diane Kruger), her faith is shaken by the revelations of corruption, waste and – intriguingly – Antoinette’s relationship with the duchesse de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen).
It’s extremely quiet in terms of new releases in cinemas at the moment. The major international distributors are keeping well clear of the overwhelming force that will be The Dark Knight Rises and the indies know that all the arthouse money is going into film festival tickets.
This year – for a change – I’m not booking in advance for anything. There’s so much goodness in the programme – and my faith in serendipity needs a bit of a boost – that I’ll just see what happens to be playing whenever I get a spare moment and then give it a go. With well over 150 individual films and short programmes to choose from I’m sure there’ll always be something on that’s going to challenge and enlighten me.
It helps that, thanks to festival management, I’ve already seen ten of what’s on offer – ten films that might be easy to miss when flicking from one end of the 80 page book to the other. In Rampart, Woody Harrelson finally lays to rest the ghosts of Cheers with a lacerating performance as an LA cop who’s as tormented and corrupted as Harvey Keitel’s legendary Bad Lieutenant. Collaborating once again with writer-director Oren Moverman (the brilliant and under-seen The Messenger), Harrelson plays a character so awful that 108 minutes later you are amazed to find you actually care about him.