After a splendid Wellington Film Festival last year, the New Zealand International Film Festival might be forgiven for putting their feet up and taking it easy but instead they have gone out of their way to produce another basket of goodies to fill the Easter weekend and beyond: the grandly titled World Cinema Showcase.
Arguably the only real difference between their two events now is the scale – and the lack of Embassy big screen – but there is quality all over this year’s Showcase. Like they do at its older – wintrier – sibling audiences are surely tempted to try the “will it come back” lottery but those odds are deteriorating all the time. Indeed, at time of writing one film (Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus) has already been withdrawn from the commercial release schedule and Showcase screenings are the only chance to experience it on the big screen.
As is my wont, though, I asked the Showcase people to feed me previews of the little battlers, the unheralded, the films that are often overlooked by a media demanding big names, headlines and page views. I was given 10 to look at, a couple dropped off as I didn’t feel up to recommending them, but I’ve added two more that I saw (or partially saw) at last year’s Festival. So, here’s ten to watch at Showcase 2012.
Music docos have always been a major component of both Festival and Showcase and several hundred Wellington moviegoers were disappointed when a power cut interrupted the July screening of Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest. They (meaning I) get a chance to see the conclusion of this fascinating portrait of hip-hop pioneers in an uncomfortable middle age. Also dealing with the fallout from success are the folk duo Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, Oscar winners from the 2006 film Once. As The Swell Season, they toured and recorded, trying to ride the wave they were on and keep their relationship intact at the same time. Hansard’s troubled family background and Irglová’s youth conspire against them however and the film of their post-Oscar lives is more about a relationship fizzling out than your usual rock documentary. Which is good because there’s nothing startling about the music.
I don’t know what the French did to be so roundly insulted at the movies this week but I’d advise them to steer clear of Wellington cinemas for a while – perhaps until their film festival gets under way again next year. Firstly, crass action auteur Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil) attempts to reboot a franchise from one of France’s most cherished pieces of literature but then makes The Three Musketeers without a single French person appearing on screen.
Actually, I’m teasing a little as neither the 1993 Charlie Sheen version or the 1973 Oliver Reed one had any significant French involvement, but to populate the latest film with Danes (Mads Mikkelsen), Austrians (Christoph Waltz), Germans (Til Schweiger) and Ukrainians (Milla Jovovich) does seem a bit on the nose.
Due to a parade of wonderful Film Festival screenings your correspondent was only able to get to one of this week’s new releases (and, thanks to the Empire’s failure to open on Sunday morning nearly didn’t make that one) so Glee: the 3D Concert Movie and rom-com Something Borrowed will have to wait until next week’s column. I’m sure you are breathless with anticipation. But this means that Cowboys & Aliens – Jon Favreau’s third comic book adaptation in a row after Iron Man 1 and 2 – gets the full review treatment. Does it deserve it? We shall see.
The scene is frontier New Mexico between the end of the Civil War and the arrival of the railroad. A tiny little town, built for a gold rush that never materialised, is only kept alive because of grumpy Harrison Ford’s cattle business. In the desert outskirts Daniel Craig wakes up with amnesia, a strange metal bracelet and an ability with unarmed combat that soon scores him a horse, a gun and a dog.
It’s clear that there are two kinds of people in the world. There are the people who get Harry Potter (not just get but devour, savour, relish) and then there’s, you know, me.
Over the last six years I have doggedly tried to review the HP franchise as if it was cinema, as if there might be viewers tempted along who hadn’t been exposed to the books and who might reasonably be expecting to watch a film that stands on its own two feet.
Well, to coin a phrase, “it all ends” now. I give up. With Harry Potter, you can’t divorce your response from your expectations. If you loved the books it would appear that you love the films and the less attention the filmmakers pay to unbelievers like me the better you like it.
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.