Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Constant Gardener

Is there no end to the evil perpetrated by drug companies? Once you've seen this film you'll probably think there isn't. And if you feel as I do, that Africa as a continent is doomed due to disease,drought and desperation you probably won't feel differently once you've been to The Constant Gardener. However, although this isn't exactly an uplifting film, it has a truly absorbing plot and it looks just beautiful.The flight to the Sudan passes through amazing landscapes and the miles of rusty rooves in the shanty towns in Nairobi are truly striking.

Ralph Fiennes plays a British Diplomat(Justin) stationed in Kenya. His activist wife Tessa is his antithesis - outspoken where he is reticent, frank to the point of rudeness where he is diplomatic.It seems that Tessa's great interest in life is drug companies and that his is plants.When Tessa is murdered, Justin goes through the traumatic process of uncovering why, and to what lengths the drug companies and the British Government have gone to cover up both the murder and the discoveries that Tessa had made.

Justin's friend Sandy accuses him at one point of being so involved with plants that he doesn't get properly involved with the people or events around him. In the film,life takes such a drastic turn that Justin is forced to remove his attention from gardening to Tessa's concerns and this forces him to confront disturbing possibilities.My only gripe is that he seems too self-contained. I know the British are famous for their stiff upper lips but you'd think the still birth of your first child, your wife's murder or the posthumous discovery of potential infidelity would cause a quiver or two. And how does he manage to face his own death with equanimity or fail to show relief when he learns she hasn't actually been unfaithful? In Ralph Fiennes defence maybe we don't need to see him agonising, because we know he must be in turmoil.

I'm sure you won't be bored watching this film.

Anne's rating 4/5, Ian's rating 3.5/5

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

World of Wearable Art

Rachel pointed out recently that since we had called the blog "films and more" there was scope for writing about things other than films. So I thought I'd write about going to the opening night of the Montana World of Wearable Art Award Show last Friday.All the shows for 2005 are booked out but anyone reading this should definitely put it on the list of things to do next year.

This show has the kind of universal appeal that a fireworks display has because it's so good to look at. It's not a coincidence that its called WOW for short because it has loads of flair and panache and excitement. The costumes are just amazing and the choreography is great. You couldn't not like it - an hour and 45 minutes just whips past.

My favourite part was the bizarre bra section. An Elvis imported from Las Vegas stood on a podium in the centre of the stage and sang several numbers while the models jived. The girl had 3/4 length black trousers to complement their bra) and the guys wore jean with big turnups with theirs. I noticed there wasn't a hairy chest in sight,so they must have waxed - such devotion to duty! The winning bra was a pair of kiwifruit which opened up into a concertina of slices. You can check it (and other winning entries) out at,2106,0a15076a207146,00.html

Other sections were almost as enchanting. The pacifica section began with a volcano, out of which a model erupted and ascended to the ceiling in a swathe of orange silk. Another section had costumes which were designed to be viewed in the ultraviolet lights that lined the stage. There was opera music, pacific music, classical music. There was a troupe of male dancers with billowing red silk skirts and bare chests. There was a section which began with upside-down dancers in what looked like tutus, but turned out to be luminous silver dresses.Models descended from the ceiling and sported amazing tights and hats.It made enchanting viewing and it made me proud that such a creative idea was home-grwon in New Zealand.

Friday night was the actual prize-giving so famous personages (like the PM) handed out the cheques. While this was mildly diverting, I'm sure the show on other nights would be equally worthwhile.

I know this wasn't a film but it rates 5/5 anyway.


Now, we have been to more films lately than the blog would suggest, so it's clearly time to write about some. Wellington had a Middle Eastern festival in early September called the Date Palm Festival and we went several movies. The best one, I think, was Private. This is the story of a Palestinian family (Mum, Dad and five kids) who live on a hill in the West Bank, situated between an Israeli settlement and a refugee camp. Their two-storey house wouldn't win any architectural awards, being an un-preposessing concrete block box but it is a very nice home inside with all mod cons. Dad is a school headmaster and drives the kids to school in the Mercedes everyday.

The Israeli army decide to occupy the family home because of its strategic position and they take over the top floor, while allowing the family the live on the ground floor. At night, they lock the family into the lounge to sleep, and let them out again in the morning. They aren't allowed visitors, but during the day can come and go fairly freely.

The family dynamics in this movie are just great, and so is watching how each family member deals with the situations. Mum (who is alone in the house during the day with half a dozen soldiers overhead) is dying to move out. By contrast, staunch Dad would rather die than move out. Middle son arranges to move in with one of his schoolmates in the refugee camp but his father forbids it. Oldest son toys with planting a grenade in their makeshift garden greenhouse which the Israelis keep demolishing. Oldest daughter argues with her parents about their plan to send her to med school in Germany, because she'd rather "stay and fight" in Palestine. Littlest son is devastatingly cute and he struggles to understand what is going on.

Watching this film really makes you think about the different levels of publicity human rights violations get, depending on where and when in history they take place. There have been dozens of movies which feature anti-semitic atrocities in WWII, but until recently I'd never seen a movie which involved Israelis maltreating Palestinians. So, Private is well-acted, suspenseful and provides food for thought.

Anne's rating 4/5 Ian's rating 4/5

Sunday, August 14, 2005

My Summer of Love

It bugs me that I can’t remember where I first met the plot of "My Summer of Love". It is the standard romantic plot about love between two people from different "worlds", where one character’s "world" is more powerful than the other. This time the setting is modern rural UK and the characters are two teenage girls, say fifteen or sixteen. Both girls come from unusual backgrounds and are alone for the summer. Mona’s parents are dead and she is living in a non-functional pub with her big brother. Tasmin’s parents are effectively absent and her house is miles (literally and figuratively) from its neighbours.

Tasmin is bored and Mona is frustrated. Starting with an accidental meeting, both see each other as a way out, a release. Curiosity leads to play leads to love. As is traditional with passionate infatuation stories the pace is languid, as is darkhaired Tasmin. On the other hand the freckled, red-head Mona (and her brother) are restless, tortured characters repressing a tendency to flash into violence.

Tasmin shows Mona how to see adults as toys to be played with, or at least teased and tormented. Mona’s born again Christian, ex-criminal brother and his Pentecostal congregation, looking and sounding like escapees from "Last of the Summer Wine" but carrying on like a caricature of American TV evangelists with Yorkshire accents seem like an absurdist joke, and provide an unusual backdrop for the action.

The film interplays the power of imagination and irresponsibility of childhood and the possibilities of almost adulthood with the powerlessness of being a child. The passions of first love and the usual clash of "cultures". The story moves into its last act predictably enough, but then throws in a couple of final twists of the knife.

The plot may not be original, but it is well acted by two girls who are more than just eye-candy and beautifully shot in an sunny British countryside that surely only exists in films, novels and tourist brochures. This is a good date movie or possibly girl’s night out movie, though it is not high brow enough to be a "chick-lit" film.

Ian’s rating 4/5
Anne’s rating 3/5

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The 10th District Court: Moments of Trial

"10e Chambre: instants d’audiences" is a French fly-on-the-wall documentary of parts of the proceedings of the 10th District Court in Paris. The quick verdict is that things will go worse for you if you insult parking wardens than if you drink and drive!
What you get to see is excerpts from a stream of trials for 105 minutes and then they roll the credits and you think "but… but… why did they stop there?" It didn’t really seem like an hour and three quarters. Because you don’t get to see the whole of any one trial I can’t say for certain how French District Court trials are held. But the trials seemed to follow this format: There is usually one judge and no jury (but some trials merited three people sitting up front). First the judge sums up the case and then questions the defendant, starting with name and address, but quickly moving to asking about what happened and asking the accused to give their side of the story, which the judge usually questions. Sometimes there is a civil plaintiff (in one case it was the insulted parking warden in another a policeman who had been injured arresting a pickpocket -- but not the tourist who had been pickpocketed!) who gets to say what happened to them and the judge asks them how much damages they want. Then the prosecutor makes a brief statement saying how bad the accused is and how terrible the crime was and finish by asking for a particular punishment. The defence lawyer (or the defendant) gets a turn to give excuses and suggest a lighter sentence (or ask for acquittal). Then the defendant gets sent to wait outside until sentencing at the end of the session.
The crimes are mundane: two drink driving charges, a pick pocket, calling two traffic wardens "bitches", pestering phone calls to an ex-girlfriend, carrying a shotgun in a public place, a silly case of a guy who gets into an argument the day he gets out of jail, a dodgy case of carrying an illegal weapon. The defendants are varied from the inarticulate and incoherent to one that shouts despirately and others that won't shut up, even when it is in their interest. The two middle class defendants seem to get up the judge’s nose much more than the others. The lawyers are for the most part odd, postering creatures, that play a minor part in the proceedings.
At the end of the session the defendants are brought back in and the sentences are read out. Each scene is preceded by a date and time, given that one judge heard all the trials and she was still hearing cases at 3am (and having trouble finding her way through her papers) I wouldn't care to be at the end of her case list!
On the whole this is an unusual view into side of French of life that we are highly unlikely to see otherwise and a glimpse at a justice system that is different to our own and to the fictional anglo-american justice system as we see on film and TV.
Ian’s rating 4/5

Up and Down

Prague may be the trendiest city in eastern Europe, but after seeing "Up and Down" you might want to go to Belgrade or Warsaw instead. The Prague of "Up and Down" is a much nastier place than the nostalgic Prague of director, Jan Hrebejk’s previous films "Cosy Dens" and "Divided We Fall". The main theme this time is racial prejudice. The Czech’s fear the gipsies and both groups are fearful of the new immigrants from further east in Europe and from Asia. Tourists are there to be stolen from and Prague is divided into unofficial racial zones of control.
There is no plot or story in the traditional sense, rather a series of episodes featuring three sets of characters. A football hooligan and his infertile child-mad wife, a sick professor and his broken and far flung family and a gang of criminals. Each set has its own episodes and acts as bystanders in the other episodes.
Ironically Franta, the man who names his cat after his favourite soccer player and cannot adopt a child because of a conviction for hooliganism, is the most sympathetic character, mostly because of his intense loyalty (to his baby stealing wife, his football club, his mates and his job as a security guard). The professor is a more fickle character with a son in Australia, a bitter estranged wife and a younger lover and daughter at home. This leads to host of family secrets and conflicts, that drive most of their episodes. On the other hand we don’t really get to know the criminals as individuals, they just play their part.
Despite the nastiness, the confusing plot lines and host of characters this is a funny film, with lots of set pieces exploring immigration from the point of view of the "natives", the recent immigrants, the not so recent immigrants, those who have left and come back and those passing through.
Ian’s rating 4/5
Anne’s rating 3.5/5

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Hari Om

Hari Om, the second film we saw on Sunday is splendid light entertainment which you could categorize as a road movie or a romantic comedy. It is filmed in Rajastan, which is just beautiful. Camels, monkeys, elephants, the pink is all good-looking and exotic. It's the tale of a frenchwoman on holiday in India with her boyfriend who is there on business. The day they are in Jaipur she gets bored with business and goes sightseeing by motorised rickshaw. She has such a good time she arrives late at the station and misses the sleeper train - the "palace on wheels". So she catches the bus, the bus breaks down and who should come along but the rickshaw driver, fleeing town to escape his gambling debts. So she and the rickshaw driver have some adventures before meeting up with the eventually penitent boyfriend.

The rickshaw driver is the actor who played the wedding planner in Monsoon Wedding. He vies with Gerard Depardieu for the title of biggest nose in show business, which is a bit distracting to begin with, but he does a great job in this film.

Anne's rating 4/5: Ian's rating 4/5

The Queen of Sheba's Pearls

The Queen of Sheba's Pearls was one of three films we saw on Sunday July 31st.I was a bit worried about seeing three films in a row but found it very easy, despite the fact that we had to slum it in row S for all three. Row S has traditional tip-up cinema seats and isn't at all what we've become used to but never mind.

TQOSP is set in England in 1952 and centres around a boy whose mother was killed in 1944 on his eighth birthday. He lives in a huge country vicarage with the vicar (apparently no relation), his great uncle (a funeral director), his maternal grandmother, his father (works in the funeral business), a swedish chap (also works in the funeral business), and his two maiden maternal aunts who appear to be unemployed but who are bonking the vicar and the swedish chap respectively. Anyhow, into this unlikely household arrives a swedish woman who looks exactly like Jack's dead mother. This causes great consternation and rattles a skeleton or two out of some closets but gradually everyone sorts themselves out and lives happily ever after.

It was a moderately absorbing film but I'm not sure what the maker was trying to say or why it took 132 minutes to try and say it. Perhaps he was just trying to capture English people being terribly English and thought this sufficient entertainment in its own right.

Anne's rating 3/5: Ians rating 2.5/5

Friday, August 05, 2005

Life is a miracle

Back in our rightful home in row L, we had a good time watching this movie. It was described by one reviewer as a rom-com but romantic comedy doesn't really capture how mad this off-beat little number is. Once you've watched it you can only conclude that the residents of Bosnia are completely mad. And not just any old mad - heavy-drinking, short-tempered, lets-smash-things-for-fun mad.However, this is a charming film. The Bosnian scenery is just great and is filmed in all seasons. There are fabulous autumn colours, and beautiful snow-clad winter landscapes pink in the setting sun so it is beautiful to look at. There are cute animals - the sandwich-guzzling cat, the lovesick donkey who likes to stand on the railway tracks, the indoor bear, and the bed-loving dog. The humans around whom the story revolves are mad, as I've already mentioned,but quite engaging.

The Hero is Luka who is a Serbian railway engineer. He looks after a little branch railway line and drives a converted car along the tracks. When war breaks out in 1992 his son is called up for military service and becomes a prisoner of war soon afterwards.Luka's wife leaves him for another man, and then Luka falls in love with a Muslim nurse who he is supposed to be keeping as a hostage...........

This film is good-looking escapist entertainment with serious undertones and considers what happens when you fall in love with someone that politics say you shouldn't.

Anne's rating 4/5. Ian's rating 3/5

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


We went to see Birth on the night of Thursday 28th of July, which was the only night we got seriously rained on going to or from the movies in the 2 weeks of the festival. Due to the popularity of this film we were no longer in our home-away-from-home, row L, and were relegated to row P, which has armchair-style seats which aren't leather.However, we didn't suffer too much.

Birth is the story of a woman who is about to marry for the second time when she meets a ten-year-old boy claiming to be the re-incarnation of her first (deceased) husband, and of the impact this has on her, her current relationship, and her family and friends. It is quite well done and fairly absorbing but it lacks the kind of punch that I was hoping for, and that Sixth Sense has. There are a few holes in the plot, and the little boy was particularly uncharismatic, which made the whole scenario a little less convincing than it could have been.I found the soundtrack (dramatic, ballet-score type music) very irritating and I don't usually notice soundtracks. On the plus side, Nicole Kidman's acting was awesome,and the film is probably worth seeing for that alone.

Anne's rating 3.5/5, Ian's rating 3/5

The Ax

Every film festival must have its French farce. This year the slot is filled by the "The Ax", a black comedy about middle age unemployment and the personal and social cost of downsizing. Bruno, tired of the odds against him in each job he applies for, analyses the problem and sets out to improve his chances. Identifying, locating and eliminating his competitors and then similarly creating a vacancy at the company he wants to work for.
José Garcia is the perfect, depressed, unemployed middle manager, father and husband who keeps his unorthodox strategy a secret from his wife and kids. His wife drags him off for counselling but its the son going off the rails that pulls the family back together.
This film is below standard for French comedies at Film Festivals but that still puts it above average compared to comedies on general release. I would rate "The Ax" as on a par with "The Closet".
After seeing this film you may think twice about attaching your photo to your C.V.
Ian’s rating 3.5/5
Anne’s rating 3.5/5
By the way, if you "get" the running gag about lingerie adverts, please explain it to me.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Howl's Moving Castle

Steam trams, airships, Victorian fashion, Flemish architecture, English street signs, colourful uniforms, witches, wizards and everyone speaking Japanese. Obviously we are in the world of Miyazaki Hayao animation.
It is actually more about Sophie the hat-maker than Howl the wizard. Sophie falls foul of the Witch of the Waste, and as is traditional is put under a nasty spell. Howl is a powerful wizard, gradually falling under side-effects of the magic he is using. You can probably guess where this plot is heading, though the knowing doesn’t spoil the ride. There is a rich array of side-kicks, baddies and others to entertain and frighten you along the way, in particular the witch’s gloopious minions and Calcifer the loquacious fire demon and the moving castle itself. Magic is mixed seamlessly with technology, human good and evil contrasted with magical good and evil. A visual feast for both kids and adults coupled with both adult and child messages.
If you want a movie for your kids, that you won’t find boring yourself, or you are an adult who wants something different, or are a closet Walt Disney or Finding Nemo fan or a Japanese anime cultist this is your movie. I think this is the best film of the festival.
We both rate it 5/5

Paradise Now

We went to see Paradise Now on Tuesday night (26th July), and we had seats in our favourite row, row L. Topically, this was a film about suicide bombers but it didn't seem to be a topic Wellingtonians were keen to explore as there were only about 200 people there (the Embassy holds about 700).

Those who stayed away missed a great film! It was shot in Nablus on the West Bank. Two young motor mechanics, Said and Khaled, are chosen to be the heroes on a suicide mission to Tel Aviv and it follows them for the couple of days leading up to the event. It is well-acted and superbly tense and the plot didn't follow the path I was expecting. There are all sorts of great touches - the bomb-maker with no hands; some of the team helpfully eating Khaled's pita bread sandwiches while he's being videoed making his martyr's speech; Said's Mother reading his coffee grounds at breakfast time and saying "you don't appear to have a future".

There were good contrasts too - the huge one between Tel Aviv's well-maintained modernity, and Nablus' ramshackle antiquity; and the philosophical contrast between those characters in the film who believed that violence was the solution to the Israeli occupation and those who didn't.

The ninety minutes flew by, and after the stunning ending the credits rolled in absolute silence. Gradually, everyone picked their jaws up off the floor and filed out.

Anne's rating 5/5; Ian's rating 4/5

Silence explained

We haven't posted anything for awhile, this is not that we haven't been to any films, but that we have been to too many (and our innate laziness). We are going out shortly to see our last 3 films which are on consecutively at the Embassy.

The films yet to review are:
  • Howl's Moving Castle
  • The Ax
  • Paradise Now
  • Up and Down
  • Birth
  • 10th District Court
  • My Summer of Love
  • Life is a Miracle
  • The Queen of Sheba's Pearls
  • Hari Om
  • 36, quai des Orfevres

(The last three on the list being today's films.)

Thursday, July 28, 2005


Yes is a really interesting film. I went for two reasons - firstly because it had Sam Neill in it (see previous comments about favourite actors),and secondly because the dialogue is in rhyming couplets. Sally Potter was the director and wrote the screenplay and the music but I didn't really regard this as a plus because the other films I've seen of hers (Orlando;The Tango Lesson) were pretty wierd.

Yes is definitely the best of the three Sally Potter films I've seen. It's really just the story of an affair and the heroine isn't especially likeable, but the inter-personal dynamics are quite absorbing. The rhyming script worked well, though sometimes I got distracted into imagining how it would look written down - sometimes she used words that didn't actually rhyme but would have looked similar on paper. I think it should have been sub-titled so you could appreciate how they looked as well as how they sounded.

The heroine's cleaning lady (who calls herself a "dirt consultant") provides a running commentary on the characters' lives which is really enjoyable.The ending was a bit kitsch, we thought.

Anne's rating: 3.5/5 Ian's rating 3/5.

Bombon - El Perro

This film was made in Patagonia and is about an illiterate recently-redundant garage attendant(Juan) who gets given a pedigree Argentinian Dogo (Bombon) as a reward for rescuing a damsel in automotive distress. Dogos are supposed to be great fighting dogs, but Bombon is mostly benign and friendly, and attempts to get him to be a stud dog don't go that well either.

Bombon and Juan have assorted low-key adventures, and attempts are made to take advantage of them but they triumph in the end.This was a nice tranquil little film, and marked the beginning of the ever-more intimate relationship Ian and I are having with row L at the Embassy. Row L is the back row of the posh section which has large leather seats. Normally these seats cost $18, so to get them at the film festival price of $14 (or $11 if you're a film society member)is a definite incentive to book early.

My rating: ( for the film) 3/5 .(for the seat) 4.5/5 - could be a little squashier

Monday, July 25, 2005

The weekend film schedule explained

Just in case anyone is confused about where all these films fit in, I thought I'd write an explanatory note. The Zoo was an impromptu expedition on Friday night as we were going to an Indian restaurant with a bunch of other people at 7.30pm. The Zoo started at 6.15pm and was 70 minutes long so we decided it would fill the gap before dinner nicely. And the movie theatre at Te Papa is only a hop, step and jump from the restaurant.

On Saturday I went to Bombon - El Perro in the early afternoon, Ian went to The Man from Laramie at 6.15pm and I went to Three Dollars at 7.00pm. ( so 6.30 is obviously a good time for penguin-spotting).

On Sunday Ian kicked off the day with Shake hands with the Devil at 11.00 am and then we both went to Yes at 4.00pm and Howl's Moving Castle at 6.15pm. We even managed to fit in help-yourself type Chinese dinner in the half hour between the two movies. On the way home at around 8.45pm we spotted 2 more little blue penguins, though these ones were just sitting quietly on their respective rocks.

Three Dollars

Another Australian film which didn't disappoint.Its about an engineer in the public service who has a wife, young daughter and a mortgage and who, at the film's end, has only three dollars in his bank account. The star was David Wenham who vies with Sam Neill for the top spot on my favourite actors list.

The producer and director were both at the screening and they said Three Dollars was intended to be an indictment of Autralia under John Howard. They also said that this was the third film they'd made together with David Wenham in the lead role. We've seen the second of the three (The Bank) which is a great film in which a little guy gets one up on a big corporate. You could say in Three Dollars that the establishment gets back at the little guy.

While there are definitely some laughs, this was a blacker film overall than Look Both Ways. It is certainly life-affirming but not necessarily uplifting.

My rating: 4/5

The movie-going experience last night was enhanced by seeing three little blue penguins on the rocks in front of Frank Kitts Park. The first one was swimming and obligingly hopped out of the water on to the rocks and shook itself while I watched. Further along there were two more penguins who hopped in and out of the water more than once

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Shake hands with the Devil: the jouney of Romeo Dallaire

This film a counterpart to Hotel Rwanda.
I don’t think they teach "how to deal with political masters" at general school. Which might explain why some of the most successful generals were their own political masters. It also may explain why a general whose political masters are a committee of 190+ squabbling countries is likely to fail.
This documentary is the story of Canadian Major General Romeo Dallaire the UN Force Commander in Rwanda during the genocide. He was sent to Rwanda to oversee a peace agreement between the Hutu dominated government (armed and encouraged by France) and the Tutsi rebel forces (the RPF armed and trained by the US). He finds that half the government want peace and half want to continue the war, he finds the Interahamwe (Hutu militia) being trained by the extremists in the government and incited to genocide by the propaganda on the radio, he finds his warning to the UN in New York are ignored. The moderate Rwandan president is assassinated, the moderate ministers and their families are rounded up by the Rwandan army and disappear, the genocide starts. General Dallaire wants to take the initiative to take out the extremist leadership before things get totally out of hand, but is ordered not too. He finds his Belgian soldiers are being targeted by the Hutu, not only because they are the best but because when Belgium was the colonial power in Rwanda they favoured the Tutsi (because of this sort of problem it is not usual UN practise to include a former colonial power in a peace keeping mission). Forced to defend only, General Dallaire finds his force is too small and apart from his Belgian troops not trained well enough for the situation. He is short of food and without medical supplies. Even later he thinks that with more troops he can get control and more troops arrive (2500 of them) but these are not under his command and only stay long enough to extract white people from Rwanda. The Belgians withdraw their troops after 10 are killed.
While the UN did nothing and the US wondered if they could use the word ‘genocide’ 8000 people are killed every day for 100 days, almost certainly the world’s most efficient genocide to date.
The film traces Dallaire’s trip back to Rwanda to give a speech on the 10th anniversary, a trip that allows him to show his wife where he was in 1994 and what happened in each place. It also discusses his alcohol abuse as a reaction to his time in Rwanda and his fight with the Belgian government which accuse him of letting their troops get killed while he regrets that his father fought to free Belgium from the Germans while Belgium troops guarded Belgian colonists exploiting Rwanda during WWII.
The title of the film (and book) refers to Dallaire’s reaction to shaking hands with Hutu extremists though he is clear that he doesn’t believe in the myth that blacks will always kill blacks and it is useless to try and stop them.
The only flaw in the film is that it doesn’t interview anyone from the UN peace keeping mission aside from Dallaire and one of his Canadian colleagues. It would have been interesting to hear the views of the Ghanan, Tunisian, Belgian and Bangladeshi soldiers.
The timing of this film allows one to compare the fuss over the 60th anniversary of the Holocaust and 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre this year with the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide last year and 25th anniversary of the end of Cambodian genocide also last year. It is hard to look past the skin colour of the victims as the main factor in the way we remember and commemorate and react to these events. Romeo Dallaire forces us to ponder his question: "are all humans human, or are some more human than others?"
Ian's rating 4/5

The Man from Laramie

Back to the 1950s for a restored version of The Man from Laramie by Anthony Mann, and staring Jimmy Stewart. There are some unimaginative, cutesy moments and dialog -- mostly involving the female characters. Also one point where a more hard core script writer would have chosen a violent showdown. But aside from these flaws this is a very watchable western. There are hardboiled characters, men who fight first and ask questions later, people with secrets to hide, secrets to uncover, revenge, fatalism, people wrongly accused, plus a dose of moral greyness and some corny harmonica music.
Ian's rating 3/5

The Zoo

Hands up if you know how many zoos there are in the West Bank? Double points if you can name the town it is in. The town of Qalqiliya is one of those real life situations that you would think was impossible if you read about it in a novel. The town with a zoo that is itself a cage, surrounded by a wall (pdf). A situation taylor-made for a documentary maker and kiwi Hayden Campbell takes advantage.

Everyone plays their part. The star is zoo vet Dr Sami Khader, with a variety of animal co-stars, some alive and some, like the teargassed zebras, are stuffed. Dr Sami is almost irrationally happy (though his humour tinged with sarcasm) in the face of the situation that he is in. Other players include the zoo's visitors, truck drivers, and a wide variety of Israeli soldiers from the incomprehensibly obstreperous, the curious, the bored, the macho clown, the defensive, the american-israeli and even a helpful soldier. The film is interspersed with an interview with an Israeli zoo vet friend of Dr Sami.

The story that holds this all together is Dr Sami's trip to Nablus (about 35km away) to pick up a couple of baboons and return to the zoo. It takes 2 days to complete the trip and involves two trucks, an ambulance, a taxi, red tape, subterfuge, numerous cellphone calls, lots of pleading and begging, luck, three languages, and the use of a white man with a video camera to embarrass soldiers into being slightly more accommodating. All in all a well told view of life for 4,000,000 Palestinians.

Ian's rating 4/5
Anne's rating 4/5

Thursday, July 21, 2005


Another romance, another film without Anne. 3-Iron is a South Korean film for people who hate subtitles. Made by a someone who would have been at home in the silent era. Two solitary and hence silent people accidentally meet and fall in love. He tries to live without interacting with people, invisible, taking and giving without asking, self indugent yet caring, a man who likes to do things manually in an automated, throw-away world. She sees his life-style as an escape from hers. Boy meets girl, boy not sure he wants a girl cluttering his life at first, initial happiness is brought to a close by an uncaring outside world. Not an original plot, but one that puts us into the role of love's enemies by exposing the uncaring, paranoid nature of today's society and the anger some people have towards those who thumb their nose at conventional behaviour. Very beautifully presented and showing how much a file-maker can communicate without words.

(I might flinch the next time I see someone pick up a golf club)

Rating 5/5

The Edukators

Anne stayed at home and I went to see this German/Austrian romantic comedy. For some reason I imagined it was a Swedish film and for the first few minutes I thought "I didn't realise that Swedish sounds so much like German" and then the pfennig dropped. In the first half things go OK, the three protagonists are inside their comfort zone and are in control and this is gritty urban love story. Then things go wrong and supprisingly the pace of the film slows down, the setting changes, things become unravelled for the protagonists and much funnier for the audience.

This film is a bit of nostalgia for 1960s radicalism viewed through a sunset coloured lens, quite slow at times but it finishes with a bang which got the audience clapping.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Look at Me

I went to this movie by myself yesterday. Often when I choose to go to movies that aren't chickflicks without Ian they turn out to be tedious. Look Both Ways on Saturday night was an exciting exception to this rule. Look At Me was the rule making a comeback with a vengeance.It was French movie-making at its "let's not let the lack of a riveting plot get in our way" worst. It was populated with grumpy self-obsessed men and women with low self-esteem who are all irritating in the extreme. The film festival programme review has words like "wonderful" and "absolutely riveting" which should have made me suspicious.

Anne's rating 1/5.

Kung Fu Hustle

Ah, the pressure! We're only on day 4 and we're behind with the write-ups already. Kung Fu Hustle is light entertainment. If you haven't been to a Kung Fu movie you need to know that the stunts and special effects are very sophisticated and the dialogue and plot are not. Think Christmas pantomime for their equivalent and you'll have it about right.

Taking a distinctive characteristic and exaggerating it until funny is a standard comic technique for lampooning. Film-making includes many conventions which are ridiculous under a magnifying glass. 'KFH' does for HK martial arts films and the current obsession with CGI what "Last Action Hero" did for American action flicks. It has spectacular stunts. It out-sillies silly. It makes jokes about homosexuals and fat people. It even makes jokes about spectacle wearers which for a movie made in a country with as many myopes as China is amazing.

For pure escapist entertainment you can't go past this film. Best seen on the big screen, we think.

Ian's rating 5/5 Anne's rating 3/5

Monday, July 18, 2005

Look Both Ways

Yesterday I went to Look Both Ways, Ian went to Turtles can Fly and we both went to Kung Fu Hustle.

Look Both Ways is an Australian drama and since I am a big fan of Australian films, I was unsurprised that I liked this one. The theme is the way people deal with the bad things in their lives (death,illness,relationship trouble) but you shouldn't be put off by the threat of too much angst. The three main characters are very likeable despite their neuroses and the script is very funny.It is touching, but not sentimental. Seeing the heroine's imagination in animated form is a nice touch.

The producer and director/writer were both present and did a Q&A session after the film. The writer was asked if she wrote the script with any particular actors in mind and she said that her partner(William McInnes, who was Max Connors on Seachange and is one of the three main characters in the film) was underemployed so she wrote a film for him to be in! She also said they shot the film in Adelaide because the Adelaide film festival paid them $250,000 and they got money from the South Australian Film Commission.

Anne's rating 4/5.

Turtles Can Fly

On the Turkish / Iraqi border, awaiting the US invasion, a bunch of kids in a world short of adults earn money, solve problems, boss each other about, give advice, are parents, fall in love, kill and other adult activities. This is a film of contrasts:
  • the rubbish and mud of the refugee camp against the beauty of the hills and cliffs around them and the bright blue sky above
  • the know it all, satellite dish installing kids practising their english phrases and the technophobic frightened adults
  • villagers verses refugees
  • news from satellites and premonitions from dreams
Amid the fear, landmines, thre is a little humour before the inevitable injuries, deaths and the arrival of the Americans

Ian's rating: 3/5

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Hotel Rwanda

Hotel Rwanda
121 minutes
Canada / UK / Italy / South Africa
Directed by Terry George
Seen by Ian and Anne at the Paramount on 10 July 2005.

Staring Don Cheadle as Paul Rusesabagina the Hutu house manager for a Kigali hotel with Jean Reno in a camio role as his Belgian CEO in Lisbon and Nick Nolte as a Canadian colonel working for the UN.

This is the story of a westernised Rwandan who feels that he is above the Hutu / Tutsi conflict and believes not only that he is equal to white people but also that they view him as an equal. These beliefs are destroyed in 1994 one by one as his white manager flees, the Hutu army and militia (Interahamwe) attack his friends, family and hotel, and his white guests are rescued leaving him to protect 1250 ‘cockroaches’ from his fellow Hutu.

There is a sharp dichotomy between the white people who appear in person (hotel guests, UN officers, aid and church workers and journalists) who are mostly concerned and often working desperately to stop or save people from the genocide and the invisible white people outside Rwanda who are voices on the radio and telephone (diplomats and politicians and by implication the rest of us) who did nothing beyond arguing whether we could use the word genocide or not while 600,000 to 1,000,000 people were being killed based on whether their ID card had "HUTU" or "TUTSI" written on it.

Along with this political message is a survival film with surprisingly little blood or violence and plenty of suspense and tension even though we know what will happen. Between the killing, hiding, bribing, rescue attempts etc an awful lot of alcohol is drunk. It is one thing the UN, Tutsi and Hutu have in common.

I enjoyed the film and would recommend it to anyone who likes tension during a movie and something to think about afterwards.

Ian’s Rating 4/5
Anne's Rating 4/5


Our first festival outing had a definite "ick" factor, which wasn't all to do with the film. The woman next to us kicked over her beer, which she had left on the floor, shortly after she arrived. The usher, who came to mop up the mess, commented cheerfully that she had cleaned up much worse - film patrons seem to have a tendency to vomit, and if its a late night showing, wet their seats. This could make a person resolve only to watch movies on DVD in the comfort of their own homes, but since we've paid for all our tickets we will just have to soldier on, bravely. I'm wondering about suggesting a pocket in the seat in front of you for sick bags and absorbent cloths - and maybe disposable seat covers. Anyhow, back to the film.

Dumplings is not for the faint-hearted, or people who think that cannibalism is not suitable material for a movie. I liked it more than other films that have touched on this topic - for example "Titus" and "The Cook,the thief, his wife and her lover". It had quite a high walk-out rate - about 10 people left during the film. It had definite overtones of the TV programme Fear Factor where the contestants have to eat repulsive things to try and win $100,000 but the characters in the film weren't after money. They wanted less achievable things like fecundity and eternal youth. For a Hong Kong movie it had a remarkably coherent plot, and was a rather sad little story which gave you plenty to think about afterwards.

Anne's rating: 3/5 Ian's rating: 3/5

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Ratings System Explained

Responding to Rachel's request for a rating system, here it is.

5/5 Drop Everything and go! This is a great movie.

4/5. A good movie. Worth the effort of going, and you should tell other people to go.

3/5. Reasonable movie,didn't regret going.

2/5. OK movie. Could have waited until it showed on TV.

1/5. Poor movie. Conscious that there were better ways to spend 2 hours than watching this.

0/5. Terrible movie. Should have stayed at home and cleaned the oven, which would have been more fun.

Intro and Hotel Rwanda

The Wellington film festival opens tonight, and since I'm going to 17 films and Ian is going to 18 (there are 13 movies which we'll be viewing together) I thought we could share our thoughts on the movies in case people are interested, AND give our normal email correspondants something to read while we're too busy watching movies to write to them personally. What's more, I like to think we could be providing handy reference material to our friends and relatives who, due to their child-minding commitments, don't make it out to the movies all that often, and when faced with a trip to the movies or the video-store can't decide what they should watch.

Ian has been in festival training mode for several months by going to the Film Society's weekly offering on Monday nights.Until last Sunday I hadn't been to the movies since the Sercombe and Matheson staff outing to Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy , so to get into the swing of things we went to Hotel Rwanda at the Paramount. The seats there are still dreadful but the movie is to be recommended as long as you don't find the sight of dead bodies too disturbing.The story is engrossing,and the acting convincing.

This evening we're off to Dumplings at the Paramount at 10.15pm. This is from the "that's incredible" section of the festival programme and is directed by someone called Fruit Chan. Man or woman? Don't know. The programme says " Chan has concocted a sneakily spiced banquet for connossieurs of bad taste and political incorrectness". We will keep you posted.