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robinson in ruins

Preview: 2011 New Zealand Film Festival

By Cinema, Reviews

Despite the shock­ing and inex­plic­able decision to omit Patrick Keiller’s Robinson in Ruins from this year’s Film Festival (a dis­aster applic­able only to me I think) the actu­al line-up is as good as every­one says. At least I think it is from sur­vey­ing about 20 out of the 160+ titles in the pro­gramme – hardly a rep­res­ent­at­ive sample but when most of those 20 bring such joy and only a few land with a dull thud you have to think that the rest of the pro­gramme is sim­il­arly proportioned.

Last year the big Cannes win­ner, Of Gods and Men, was missed by the International Festival, a situ­ation that was remedied at Easter’s World Cinema Showcase. This year, of the big Cannes movies, only Godard’s Film Socialisme is miss­ing in action. The great Swiss icon­o­clast may well have pro­duced his most inter­est­ing work in years but it will take a trip to Amazon to find out for sure. Even the redoubt­able Aro Video are unlikely to take a punt on it without the Festival’s imprimatur.

As usu­al, I asked the help­ful Festival people to point me towards the less likely, the unher­al­ded, the little bat­tle­rs, the kind of film that is eas­ily missed when skim­ming the 80 page pro­gramme. Any fool can tell you that The Tree of Life is going to be inter­est­ing. Capital Times read­ers want more than that.

Firstly music: two doc­u­ment­ar­ies impressed me and they worked so well togeth­er I wish they were a double-feature. Merle Haggard: Learning to Live With Myself is a bio­graphy of the out­law coun­try star as he settles in to an uncom­fort­able old age. Actually old age to Haggard is no less com­fort­able than every oth­er age – I can’t think of a great star less at ease in his own skin.

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By Cinema

Here in New Zealand we can cel­eb­rate the open­ing of the new “climate-controlled haven” for our cine­mat­ic treas­ures, newly con­struc­ted in seis­mic­ally unchal­lenged Plimmerton. This is a good thing.

But in the UK the BFI are in the middle of a strik­ingly sim­il­ar (though scaled rather dif­fer­ently) devel­op­ment in Warwickshire, only their pro­ject is being doc­u­mented by Patrick Keiller. I say again, the great Patrick Keiller has spent four months wan­der­ing around the build­ing site with a cam­era. The BFI are hope­ful that the foot­age “will be edited into a new artist­ic work”.

Patrick Keiller shooting the BFI Film Store project in Warwickshire.

Patrick Keiller shoot­ing the BFI Film Store pro­ject in Warwickshire.

On the sub­ject of Mr. Keiller, I reit­er­ate my hope that his new film Robinson in Ruins will be a centre-piece of this year’s Film Festival.