Movies For Everyone

Sophie Henderson in 'Fantail'
Sophie Henderson in ‘Fantail’

Musings from the Film Festival

By Roger Childs 

… we’ve been hard at it all year, watching movies great and small, just so we could identify and provide that special one, or 160, most likely to entertain, edify, exasperate, perplex, astound and delight you. Bill Gosden, Director 2013 New Zealand International Film Festival

The annual New Zealand Film Festival offers a feast of movies both old and new. They come from many countries and range from the outstanding to the outrageous, from short films and cartoons to full length features and documentaries. With 160 films on offer in 2013, there is something for every taste and interest. 

Something for everyone

The programme sections spell out the variety of what’s on offer:

  • Aotearoa, France, World
  • Fresh, Bold, Extreme
  • Incredibly Strange, Inside Stories
  • Artists, Music, Independents 

From small beginnings 

The festival started 42 years ago in the pre video and DVD days as an outgrowth of the film society movement. As the Wellington Film Society was the largest in the country it is not surprising that the capital hosted the first festival. In the years that followed, the festival featured in Auckland and Christchurch and today travels to twelve venues around the nation from Tauranga to Gore.

In the early days, film societies showed mainly foreign films and also classic American, British, Australian and New Zealand movies. The big cinema chains were slow to realise that there was a market for this sort of material. In Wellington only the Paramount in Courtenay Place showed foreign films and it was felt that sub-titles would put off the average movie buff.

We’ve come a long way since then and there are now more than a hundred movie theatres around the country that specialise in this type of film, including our own Shoreline Cinema in Waikanae. 

These days the Film Festival is a showcase of both foreign and New Zealand movies, and many of the offerings

  • get shown later in boutique theatres and some major cinemas  
  • are available from Video and DVD outlets and libraries
  • appear on the Sky Rialto Channel.

A small sample from this year’s festival: all well worth seeing 

  • Antarctica: A Year on Ice ~ Kiwi Anthony Powell is a self taught photographer and filmmaker who has spent over 9 years in Antarctica. Experimenting with cameras in the most extreme weather on the planet and the versatile technique of time-lapse photography, he has put together a wonderful documentary which charts a year in the coldest continent on Earth. 

The focus is mainly on the people who winter over each year and on how they manage their time in the several months of total darkness. Powell produces an fascinating mix of material on the complexities of transport, provisioning and work roles; how people cope over the winter (for example all the international bases share in an Antarctica film festival) and amazing time lapse cinematography on the changing cloud formations, sunlight, ice and winds. 

As Bill Gosden puts it: It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before! 

  • The Best Offer ~ This is a gem from Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore. Readers might remember his wonderful Cinema Paradiso, a film about a boy who was fascinated by the screenings at the local village theatre. The Best Offer is in English and features the versatile Geoffrey Rush in the lead role. His superb characterisation has previously been seen in such roles as the speech therapist in The King’s Speech, the Marquis de Sade in Quills and Australian pianist David Helfgott in Shine.

This time he is brilliant in the role of the arrogant, opinionated but highly knowledgeable art connoisseur and auctioneer, Virgil Oldman. Despite his supreme confidence in matters artistic he is not comfortable with women, so much so that his female companions are hundreds of original portraits spread across the huge walls of a secret room in his sumptuous mansion.

There are intriguing scenes of art auctions where, not surprisingly, things are not always as they seem. Throw in a regular white haired bidder, a mysterious young woman who wants her estate catalogued, a brilliant young mechanic who loves building machines, his girl friend and a dwarf with a photographic memory, and you have a superb range of characters to weave an intricate and constantly changing story.

The Best Offer chisels a complicated intrigue out of an amorphous atmosphere of neurosis, wealth and sophistication. Deborah Young, Hollywood Reporter

  • In the House ~ Germain is a rather bored literature teacher in a French school. When students are asked to write about what they did in the weekend, the parentless Claude produces a piece which has Germain and his wife Jeanne intrigued. Claude has befriended the gormless Rapha to help him with his maths, but has an ulterior motive: getting inside Rapha’s house to observe a “normal” family and especially his classmate’s glamorous mother.

Germain, egged on by Jeanne, who is struggling to make her art gallery profitable, encourages Claude to write more. The boy continues his story, but enigmatically ends each episode with to be continued.

Captivated by the vicarious thrill of it all, the reckless Germain encourages Claude to abuse Rapha’s trust and tease out more revealing stories. (Trevor Johnston Time Out)

This superbly acted black comedy seems certain to end in tears, however you will need to track down In the House to see how it turns out. Fabrice Luchini is impressive as the excitable Germain, Brit Kristen Scott Thomas, once again speaking impeccable French, is well cast as his frustrated wife and Ernst Umhauer carries off the role of the precocious Claude with confidence and skill.