Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Row R at the Embassy

The Embassy is the premier cinema for the Wellington Film Festival. It contains 3 types of seats. There is a block of leather seats which I believe are usually priced higher than others but during the festival are just first come, first served. Around these and back as far as row P are fixed seats that are better class than traditional "flip-up" style seats. From row R back to row V are narrower, traditional "flip-up" style seats. Unfortunately row R has very poor leg room (even Anne felt cramped) due to the change in seat type and in the center block most of the 24-6 seats have broken backs. It is possible that people have broken the backs of the seats because they have been so cramped.

My advice if you are forced book into rows behind row P at the Embassy refuse a seat in row R and choose a row further back. Even row V is better than row R!

Ian's rating: 1/5

A Few Days in September

Early in September 2001 Elliot (Nick Nolte) an American spy, who hasn't been seen for awhile, wants to meet with Orlando, his French daughter, and David, his American step son. He somehow convinces Irene (Juliette Binoche) a French spy and ex-colleague to get the kids (in their early 20s) to the meet in a seedy Paris Hotel. Orlando who was abandoned by her dad when she was ten comes armed with a gun and a scowl. David who is ignorant of his step father's earlier life arrives like an innocent, happy tourist on holiday. William, a neurotic and psychopathic assassin out to kill Elliot turns up and scares Elliot off.

After the failure of the first meet, a second meet is set up in Venice by some banker types (with Arab connections) who have been employing Elliot on the side for his inside info. While kicking their heels in Venice Irene, Orlando and David discuss the differences between the US and the rest of the world (i.e. France) and generally get to know each other.

The ever postponed meeting with Elliot, Elliot's info and the rapidly approaching 11th are the MacGuffins that this film hangs on. The innocent All-American David in close confines with two sexy French women, his sulky younger step sister and the sophisticated, older but still sexy, Irene and on the run from a ruthless, mad assassin provides plenty scope for sexual tension. The phone calls from the poetry reading assassin to his shrink gives some comic relief. The camera work is stylish in two of the most photogenic cities in the world. But I left the film feeling that it had so much potential ... wasted. Plenty of style, but no substance. Such a pity, it could have been a great film.

Anne scanned the credits to see if Irene's glasses and her turtle would get their own listings.

Ian's rating: 2/5
Anne's rating: 3/5

Monday, July 30, 2007

Kissy Kissy

I feel sorry for the actors in this New Zealand film, they spend a lot of time in front of the camera, saying very little and doing even less. I am not sure what message the film makers were trying to get across but the message I took home was that some people are very boring. There were a few lines of interesting dialog and the occasional flashes of interesting interaction between the characters, but mostly it was dull to watch. Anne will be glad she didn't go.

Ian's rating: 0/5


This is the French farce.

Irene is a gold digger (in an earlier century she would have been a courtesan). Jean is a hotel worker, who Irene mistakes for a rich guest. Their one night fling leads to both of them losing their sources of income -- in his case his job and in her case her newly acquired aging fiance. The practical Irene sets off to catch her next sugar daddy and love-sick Jean sets off after Irene and gets in the way. She teaches him an expensive lesson, but he is rescued by rich, middle aged Madelene. He is a novice to this lifestyle and Irene relents and offers some coaching. The pair form a loose coalition to assist each other through the tricky bits of being kept young things.

Jean is played by Gad Elmaleh (The Valet) and Irene by Audrey Tautou (who looks a lot sexier than she did as Amélie in Amélie).

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


This is the third horror movie I've seen at the festival this year, apparently it is already available on DVD, but probably better seen at a cinema. It follows the pattern of a group of people (who don't get on that well -- in this case workmates) who are stuck in the middle of nowhere and are being hunted down and killed gruesomely by homicidal crazies for no obvious reason except to entertain us. It is our job to workout what order people will be bumped off, jump out of our skin and laugh at the right moments.

A sales team for multi-national Palisade Defense is sent on a team building exercise in a Hungarian forest. The coach driver takes fright at a fallen tree, unloads their luggage, turns around and drives off without them. They eventually discover the lodge, which is dilapidated and empty. Poking around they find some old Palisade Defense files written in Russian and start telling each other horror stories about Palisade's murky past. The next morning one member of the team gets his leg caught in a bear trap, and things start to go bad. From here on the film follows formula and we go along for the ride.

Ian's rating: 3/5


In a flip way this could be summed up as "Cute, smart-ass, teenage girl versus the caste system -- and the audience is the winner". This film was the thesis for Rajnesh Domalpalli's master's degree at Columbia University! Let me tell you that my master's thesis isn't a minuscule faction as good as this one! I hope he got a good grade!

The film is about Vanaja who is forced from school to work due to lack of money. From the start she is up front with what she wants (to be a dancer) and she takes advantage of every opportunity to steer her life in that direction. She is pretty, sharp tounged, and, luckily for her, manages to look cute even when sulking. The story concentrates on her so much that she is in every scene. Even though she has a harrowing time (rape, birth, death in the family) the film is (like Vanaja) essentially happy, and she gets to do lots of dancing.

Ian's rating: 5/5
Anne's rating: 2/5

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Night of the Sunflowers

With a bit of trepidation I set off to the Penthouse again (where I earlier watched Wolfsbergen). It was a much fuller house this time and a much better film. The story is of an attempted rape followed by a vigilante attack resulting in the death of the wrong man and subsequent cover up. It is told in six parts each from the point of view of a different person (the would be rapist, the victim's boyfriend, the wrong man, a policeman etc) each brings different motives to their actions, which can look odd or suspicious to the others.

It is a good tense film with each segment posing a different question to keep you hooked (will she be raped? will the cover up succeed? etc).

Ian's rating: 3.5/5

My Best Friend

Every film festival has a French Farce, and this is not it. My Best Friend is a humourous look at the subject of friendship. What is a friend? Who are your friends? How do you make and keep friends? It stars Daniel Auteuil as Francois, a successful Parisian art dealer, the sort of character we are getting used to see him play. He is perhaps more self-absorbed than is usual but is shocked when he is told at a dinner party that no-one will come to his funeral because no-one likes him and that he has no friends because he doesn't care about anyone else. He sets out to prove them wrong, going through several stages: denial, searching, desperation, learning, failure, deception - all providing fruitful opportunities for comedy. His co-star in this journey is a sociable, chatty taxi driver named Bruno (Dany Boon) who takes Francois under his wing to teach him how to be friendly. Sadly, Bruno who gets on well with everyone and is liked by everyone he meets, is equally friendless, which opens up the next can of worms in the journey to become friends with someone. Can you depend on your friends and can they depend on you becomes the acid test in this philosophical comedy.

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

The Devil Came on Horseback

I get the feeling when I hear, see or read about African conflicts that I am hearing about Africans killing Africans for reasons no-one can understand or stop. It is too easy for this view to morph into the idea that Africans are naturally violent and can't get along with each other (may be Americans had the same view of Europeans in 1914-8 and 1939-41 etc). But these pernicious ideas really part of the group of ideas that serve to make us feel superior, blameless and without need to act. The ignorance we have about African conflicts (ditto conflicts in the former USSR) is, in part, due to our general ignorance of those areas of the globe -- how many of us given a map of Africa (or the former USSR) with borders but without names could put the right names to the countries? (Yet we get upset when people don't know about NZ). Additionally the reporting in our media tends to make us more confused. Months can go by between reports. A report on an African conflict is likely to be brief, with little or no background information to give context, some photos or video of victims or men on a ute waving guns, it will be couched in politically correct terms and accompanied by contradictory statements by various parties.

The media isn't entirely to blame. The government of Sudan is keen to keep its war in Darfur (half of the left hand side of Sudan) out of the news. It knows that other governments have little interest in this dry patch of dirt, twice the size and twice the population of New Zealand. Chad and the Central African Republic neighbour Darfur but are far too weak to act and other governments will only act if prodded to by their publics. Hence the strategy to keep out the media, deny genocide, ethnic cleansing and deny funding and fighting alongside their coalition partner the Janjaweed. An ignorant world public (or media) can't prod their respective governments.

So much for the political/sociological rant and onto the film. This documentary is the story of retired US Marine Captain Brian Steidle who applied for a job as team leader in the African Union peace monitoring force in Southern Sudan just east of Darfur. In response to reports of violence the team moves west into Darfur, taking photos, interviewing and writing reports (most of which go no further than A.U. mission H.Q.). They watch Sudanese helicopter gunships leave their bases fully armed and return empty. They catalog weapons (including artillery) "going missing" from Sudanese military base. They photograph helicopter gunships attacking villages, Sudanese soldiers and Janjaweed attacking together. They talk to Janjaweed leaders who candidly describe their relationship with the Sudanese military. The team gets to know the conflict so well that they can predict where attacks will take place -- they are not listened to. Brian is sure that once the U.S. public knows the U.S. military will be on their way. After 6 months in Darfur he is so frustrated he doesn't renew his contract, going home with his copies of his photos and reports.

Back home he realises that reports written by the A.U. monitoring teams have not become public knowledge and he goes to the N.Y. Times. Briefly he becomes a media celebrity and the U.S. Congress recognised that genocide is happening in Darfur. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice politely listens to him and hands him back his photos. Brian learns his lesson in realpolitik, and becomes an activist. He is a committed, driven, brave and frustrated man and the villagers of Darfur need as many of his sort as possible.

Interestingly he went to Rwanda to learn about their genocide, how it was stopped and how the country recovered. But I suspect what he learned won't help, because the Rwandan genocide was stopped by the Tutsi themselves, not by UN, US or AU.

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

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Black Book

Black Book was Friday night's entertainment. We were in the middle of the back row of The Embassy (row V) which has the best leg room of the 6 rows of "bad" seats and the view from there was great. I had a slight feeling of disquiet about the fact that should there be a fire we were bound to burn since it takes forever to get out from that far back, but since the film was good I didn't dwell on this for long.

Black Book is a WWII movie. You might feel that this subject has been done to death (so to speak) but Black Book is a refreshing look at the occupied Netherlands. It's characters include Jews in hiding, the Dutch Resistance, the occupying soldiers and Dutch residents. The principal character is a Jewess (Rachel) who comes out of hiding and works for the resistance. One of her assignments is to seduce the head of the local Gestapo - which she manages to do, but she falls in love with him as well, which makes things complicated. I won't give the rest of the plot away but one of the great things about this film is that the good guys and the bad guys aren't clearly defined. There's double crossing and deceit galore and lots and lots of hidden agendas. Everyone is out for his or herself, obviously, but is also in support of others that you wouldn't necessarily expect. It's a war story and a thriller and a love story and it delivers on all those levels. It will keep you engrossed for all 147 minutes which is a big achievement.

Anne's rating 4/5

I agree with Anne's description. It is a visually gratifying film, the scenes are either filmed in orange tones or grey tones which seems appropriate. Its escapist entertainment rather than realism; with a glamourous portrayal of a grim time (1944/5 Netherlands) where smartly dressed Nazi officers have a posh HQ, a girl on the run is able to come up with several sexy party frocks and the Dutch public looking remarkably well fed considering the famine they were suffering! Perhaps that is why Rachel looks back on her exploits from the distance of 1956 Israel somewhat wistfully.

Ian's rating 5/5

I served the King of England

We went to this Czech film on Wednesday morning, the two evening showings being sold out. The Embassy looked pretty full on Wednesday too - obviously lots of other people were seduced by the extremely positive billing it got in the festival programme. It said "pleasing crowds wherever it goes" and "hugely entertaining" so I had high expectations. And I have to say I was disappointed, not because it was a bad film but because it didn't push any buttons for me, and because I felt I was missing the joke.

The hero is a moderately likeable little chap, always falling on his feet until his imprisonment for collaboration with the Nazis. The film begins with his release from prison and is essentially a retrospective of his life up to that point. He begins his working life as a railway station sausage-stall holder and ends it as a millionaire hotel owner, having learned along the way that rich men can access all the life's pleasures and are always surrounded by pretty girls, which is why he so badly wants to be one. We're left wondering why he chooses an unglamorous German girl to fall for (she won't even consider marrying him until she convinces herself he has some German ancestry and whether there was some particular point to this film - it wasn't funny enough to be escapist entertainment,and didn't really stimulate serious thought either.

Anne's rating 2.5/5
Ian's rating 2/5

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Long Goodbye

Elliott Gould plays a chain-smoking Philip Marlowe living in an L.A. penthouse apartment with his demanding ginger cat and next door to four girls who are topless 24/7 in this 1973 private eye film. The film starts with Marlowe being woken by his cat at 3am wanting to be fed. Marlowe discovers he has no cat food, an improvisation of margarine and egg doesn't work and he sets off to the local 24 hour store (getting an order for 2 boxes of brownie mix from his topless partying neighbours). The store is out of the necessary brand, confronting a store worker he is told that all cat food is the same. Marlow responds asking if the worker has a cat; "No, I've got a girl" is the reply. Back home Marlow, locks the cat out of the kitchen while he transfers the food to an old can. Lets the cat in and makes a show of opening the can, but of course the cat is not fooled and disappears. This scene is just a prelude to the action (and sets up a number of cat jokes later on).

The plot itself starts with an old friend, with a history of gambling and wife beating, shows up at Marlow's place sporting a big bruise on his face and an urgent desire for Marlow to drive him to the Mexican border, because his wife is dead and the police will think he did it. Unable to find Marlow's friend the police and later the extremely vicious hoods he owes money to turn their attention to Marlow; and it is clear that private detectives occupy a very low niche in 1970s society. Between rough ups, Marlow investigates a new case of a missing husband for a woman who's dog also takes a dislike to the private eye. The husband is easily found in the clutches of a strange little doctor. But unsurprisingly the case leads back to his friend and dead wife. The final scene contains a noir twist as Marlow takes out his frustration at the way he is used and treated by everyone he meets.

Elliott Gould and looks disturbingly like Guy Secretan from Green Wing! One of the characters nicknames him Marlboro (he finds a new way to strike a match in every scene). If you are nostalgic for California in the 70s (the cars, the decor, the novelty of yoga and yogurt, the tennis frocks that are so short they make modern tennis outfits look like bridal dresses) and you like a film with humour, violence and plenty of plot twists then go to your video store and try and hunt down "The Long Goodbye".

Ian's rating: 4/5


Maggie Gyllenhaal is very sexy as Sherry Swanson, a parolee whose contempt for rules and shortsighted pursuit of her own wants, without regard for consequences lands her in a continuous stream of trouble. She uses her body and her status as a mother, sister and daughter to try and extricate herself or postpone the trouble, as she tries to stay clean and regain her little daughter. The film ends on an upbeat moment of realisation of the needs of those around her but I left wondering if it is a turn around point or just a hump on the rollercoaster of her life?

Co-staring are Sherry's almost entirely bra-free wardrobe and her Red Indian boyfriend who is unfortunately handicapped by a script writer who couldn't move beyond the obvious stereotype.

Ian's rating 3/5

Death of a President

In October 2007 George W. Bush is assassinated.

This British film follows the events leading up to the assassination and the police investigation afterwards. I didn't know what to expect having only read the Film Festival blurb. May be it would be about America's reaction to another presidential assassination, probably media led popular and political hysteria to overshadow the 11 Sept 2001 reaction. Or perhaps a thriller about how such an assassination would be carried out. In fact half the film is a build up to the assassination, with the tension being provided by a 'big' anti-war/ anti-Bush protest (10-12,000 people seems medium to me) in Chicago where G. W. Bush is scheduled to speak and by our knowledge that the assassination will happen at some point that day. The second half concentrates on the FBI investigation, rounding up the usual suspects (Arabs, protesters, young black men), political interference from newly sworn in President Cheney etc. I can't tell you much more without spoiling the plot twists but ultimately this film is a thriller in an up to date political setting. There are some political messages but if you find them new or challenging, you must have had your head in the sand these last 6 years.

Of all the films I've seen that use 'live' footage mixed with 'staged' footage, this film does it best. If the film could have kept its tension going throughout the whole 93 minutes it may have got a 5/5.

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

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Signal

Another horror film, this time an American splatter movie about a day when TVs, radios, phones etc give out a hypnotic static sound (and pictures on TV), which drives people to kill each other. Often for reasons that seemed rational to the killers at the time. Being a splatter movie they do it messily, often by surprise and occasionally humourously. Everyone thinks that everyone else is crazy and that they are the only sane person left in the city. This paranoia adds to the body count. There are about 8 main characters that are gradually introduced through the film, but with the attrition rate it is unclear who will survive and given that everyone is into killing it is tricky to workout who is 'good'.

If you are into zombie style horror films then this is probably up your alley.

Ian's rating: 2/5


A unknown woman in a distinctive red dress is found drowned in a puddle of water. A detective finds a button at the scene matches one missing from his coat. His finger prints are found at the scene. He gets paranoid that his colleagues suspect him. He catches a glimpse of the dead woman at the scene a couple of days later. Then there is a second drowning murder, which is easily solved and while the suspect is being questioned by police he sees someone who isn't there. From here the detective is more frequently visited by the ghost of the first victim, making him more jumpy and confused. The plot gets even more complicated with a disused mental hospital and a rumour of punishment by holding patients' heads in a bowl of seawater, a third murder and the detective's much younger girlfriend. Just as I thought I had it all sorted the final few scenes threw a bunch of spanners into the works and I am not sure it makes sense or if it is even meant to.

Interestingly many of the dramatic events in the film are preceded by earthquakes. This is a mix of who-done-it, horror and metaphysical puzzle.

Ian's rating: 4/5

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Bad family relationships seem to be a theme running through this film festival (or else through my choice of films). The Home Song Stories, Children, After the Wedding and even These Girls and Red Road are about or include bad family relationships.

This time it is a family that doesn't talk to each other (a subject I'm familiar with). Konraad has decided to die on or about the anniversary of his wife's death and writes to his daughter Maria and granddaughter Sabine to tell them. Both women ignore the letters, which their respective husbands find and get concerned about. Both women stonewall their husbands carry on with their lives. Maria with the silent treatment, work and recovering from secret liposuction and Sabine by brushoffs and anger, work and an affair with her ex. Maria and Sabine are equally unconcerned (in Sabine's case hostile to) Sabine's sister Eva's mental problems and it is left to their husbands to try and deal with that too. Sabine and Otto's elder daughter is into breaking plates (and later chewing glassware) to protest her parent's arguing, while Otto's attempts to help his sister in law ends, predictably, in bed. Meanwhile Maria's dentist husband (who doesn't seem much younger than Konraad) is the only one to go and try to deal with him and original issue of his death wish.

This family clearly love each other but talking, showing emotion and dealing with issues before they become problems is foreign to them. Konraad's death finally brings all the family together but given that at the end of the film they still aren't talking it is not as hopeful a finale as you might think.

The filming is based around long fixed medium and long shots with the actors walking in and out of shot. This coupled with the lack of dialog makes 95 minutes feel like 3+ hours. It more than just makes the point of the film, it hammers it home so hard you feel like you are a living though it like a bad dream you can't wakeup from.

It is probably quite good if you like that sort of thing.

Ian's rating: 1/5

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

After the Wedding

This is the first festival film that Ian and I have gone to together. (You'll see that we've both rated Conversations with my Gardener, but Ian went to that on a different day to me, inspired by my favourable review) . We were squished into row R at the Embassy, which is the first row of bad seats. My seat, R28, was wobbly and defective, and without wishing to sound overly grumpy, so was the film. Too long, too.

The film festival programme said "one of the richest and most satisfying family dramas of the year" and this film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar for 2007. What were they thinking? And what was the director trying to say? This is what happens when a billionaire is dying and decides to play god? This is the weirdest family scenario I can think of, how do you like it? The main characters weren't likeable and their various predicaments didn't inspire sympathy. I thought that Jacob was beautiful and Ian thought that Helene was beautiful so if good-looking actors are all you need you might like it.

What you should do is go and see the movie that actually won the Oscar, The Lives of Others - that's a great film

Anne's rating 2/5. Ian's rating 3/5

These Girls

When I think of girl-gangs I think of LA or South Auckland, but girl gangs live on the streets of Cairo too. They sniff glue, pop pills, smoke pot, fight and talk. They get raped, get pregnant and raise their babies. It is a hard life and the girls stick together for protection against boys, men, the police and families. As one girl is taken home by her father another girl confidently predicts that "she will return before you finish filming".

The filming is mostly done in the evenings and focuses on one gang, led by Tata. Tata is not the biggest girl but is certainly the most aggressive, which is an advantage in the macho environment of Cairo's streets. She boosts her reputation by bragging about her fights and wins the respect of a local boy by rescuing him from the boot of a police car. Even within the gang violence and threats are used in an almost feral way to establish the pecking order. The flip side to the violence is the need these girls have for affection, and it is this perhaps more than the misery of being dirty poor that drives the urge to sniff glue etc. To our advantage these girls talk openly of their histories, their lives and emotions, and philosophise on drugs, rape, respect etc.

Whether you are interested, put-off or couldn't care less about street kids, I recommend this film as a realistic view on street kids. It doesn't moralise, patronise or lecture about the subject. It just lets us see and hear the kids. And did I mention the great scene of them galloping down a frighteningly busy Cairo street on horseback or dancing to music from a local cafe?

Ian's rating: 4/5

Monday, July 23, 2007


I have heard that Iceland is beautiful, but Ragnar Bragason's depiction of Reykjavik is ugly and functional. Then Children isn't a beautiful film. It is could be retitled Sons and Mothers, as the relationships between sons and mothers plays a major part in the film. Its a dark, sombre, realistic, black and white film about disfunctional relationships, particularly between parents and children, and also about lying and hiding the truth. The film is structured as 3 intersecting stories which all finally come together at A & E. A hospital worker solo mother of four children she is too busy to take proper care of, meanwhile living downstairs is a schizophrenic and his lonely mother, and menacing and often beating up virtually everyone he meets is Gardar a local "enforcer" who hates being lied to and is despaired of by his mother.

Unintentionally the director make the point that if it wasn't for the language and the blonde hair you couldn't tell which western city you were in. The cityscapes and the interior shots of shops, schools, buses, cars, apartments and hospitals all look the same. We are living in a McDonalds world.

If you need to get the idea that Iceland is a beautiful place populated by nice people out of your system or if you need to see how easy it is for parent-child relationships to break down then this is the film for you.

Ian's rating: 2.5/5

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Peter O'Toole is a dirty old man - a part he plays remarkably well in Venus, the story of a couple of old actors whose life is upset by the arrival of a teenage girl. One of the two friends, Ian, (a hypochondriac who likes an ordered life) is stressed out by the arrival of his grand niece, but Maurice (Peter O'Toole) immediately "hits" on the bewildered girl, calling her Venus. Jodie Whittaker plays the sullen teenage girl well. Jesse, aka Venus is repulsed, fascinated, confused and flattered by Maurice's attentions and slowly comes out of her sullen, tracksuit- wearing, shell. Maurice is indefatigable, resourceful and smitten, but also gets older and weaker.

Peter O'Toole is obviously the star of the film but the story is not an exercise in showing his skills at seducing a pretty young thing. It's a story of getting old, being disparaged for indulging in previously normal activities, not being capable of doing things any more and finally dying.

Ian’s Rating: 3.5/5

The Home Song Stories

So you think you had a mad, selfish mother, who ruined your life or personality? Meet Rose a glamorous Chinese nightclub singer who is perpetually in need of a man, as seen through the eyes of her little boy. Actually Tom, as an adult, claims that he and his sister turned out quite normal; but it is obvious his mother has left a big chip on his shoulder. At the risk of mixing my metaphors, this film is his chance to scratch it. Despite the standard disclaimer that the film is not based on actual events and people, it is the writer / director's childhood told from his point of view.

The film is the story of Rose who migrates from Hong Kong to Melbourne in 1964 with her two kids, in order to marry Bill. Bill is in the navy and leaves his new wife with his mother and not enough money for Rose's liking. The cultural clash between mother and wife is too great and together with the lack of money and a man means the marriage lasts a week. I suspect that being a solo mum in 60s Australia was hard enough without being Chinese, and emotionally, sexually and financially in need of a man (almost pathologically so) as Rose was. Rose seems doomed to short term relationships with men and the family moves from one man to the next until little Tom becomes attune to the events that signal the start and end of each relationship. Things come to a head when Tom's sister May reaches 17 and jealousy is added to the emotional mix and Rose's mood swings lead to suicide attempts.

The acting of Joan Chen who plays Rose and Joel Lok who plays 10 year old Tom are particularly good and the depiction of 60s Australia is great (you got to love those stubbies). Despite what I have said about it this film has its funny moments.

Ian’s Rating: 4/5

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Tales from Earthsea

This an animated movie from Studio Ghibli who were responsible for Howl's Moving Castle, a highlight of last year's festival. The director is the son of Howl's director; his characters look similar but the landscapes are more like paintings so I was more conscious of the art work. There is a particularly beautiful night sky which looks like a van Gogh painting.

Tales from Earthsea is the third novel in a trilogy for children by Ursula Le Guin, but I wouldn't call this a children's movie. There's excitement aplenty - fire-breathing dragons, wizards, sword fights and storms at sea and there's a great sound track. Christine says it doesn't follow the book especially closely but I doubt that this is important. My major criticism is that the pace was a little slow at times for what's essentially an adventure story.

Anne's rating 3/5.

Conversations with my gardener

A french painter inherits his childhood home in the countryside and returns to live there. He hires assorted tradesmen to help make it liveable, including a gardener to recreate his mother's kitchen garden. The gardener is a retired railway worker and, serendipitously, one of the painter's schoolmates. The film follows the re-creation of their relationship and the lifeblood it infuses into the painter's other relationships and into his painting.

Going to this film is like being part of a really good conversation - its engrossing and entertaining, and it makes you laugh. The two protagonists are likeable and articulate and the dialogue is witty."Can't he get another job?" "Don't you read the papers? Jobs are like tigers - a species facing extinction" or "Is he a bit stupid?" " More than a bit!"

It reminds us that human beings are fallible and that life is short, and that we should cherish the ones near to us while we have them. The big screen experience isn't vital for this movie, so waiting for the DVD would be perfectly reasonable.

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

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tie me up! Tie me down!

A few weeks ago Anne and I watched this Spanish film on DVD at home (rented from Wellington Public Library). The director is Pedro Almodóvar, who has a reputation for unusual films. This film is unusual but not in the Mulholland Drive, what-the-#@*% sort of way. The story telling is conventional, the setting is conventional (modern Spain), and the camera work is conventional. All that is odd is that the main characters are a recently released, but still less-than-sane young handyman Ricky (played with relish by Antonio Banderas) and an ex-porn star and not-entirely-ex-junkie trying to go straight Marina (played by Victoria Abril). Once Ricky has tied Marina up in her own apartment, his less-than-sane view of the world prevails and the sane people around (including us the audience) them become the outsiders trying to enforce our "odd" views of normal behaviour.

In some ways the structure of this film is an old fashioned comedy. We know there should be a happy ending, with boy gets girl. But with obstacles ranging from the good old fashioned : "I'll never love you, ever," to the fact that Ricky is still quite mad, and this thing about tying people up and other criminal behaviour; we are left going for the ride and wondering if it is safe to root for Ricky or Marina while Almodóvar pulls his happy ending out of the hat.

The sex in this film looks remarkably normal (rather than cinematic) and hence quite sexy. Which should be a hint to other film directors!

Ian rating: 4/5

Red Road

This is not the sort of film I would recommend to everybody but if you like to figure out what is going on in a film rather than have it spoon-fed to you, you might find it interesting.

You also need to be comfortable with the Glasgow accent.

The plot is quite simple and basically involves just 2 people. Jackie works for City Eye which runs Glasgow's all seeing CCTV system. One night see catches sight of a guy she recognises. A man she thought was in jail. She starts to make inquiries and to stalk him at first via CCTV and later in person.

Jackie's two sex scenes make an interesting contrast: in the way they are filmed, her apparent enjoyment (or not), her choice of sexual partner and the post-coital activities. The cunnilingus scene is particularly good.

I would rate the film somewhere between "didn't regret going" and "could have waited till it showed on TV".

Ian's rating: 2.5/5

36th Wellington Film Festival

I'm taking a couple weeks off work again to enjoy the Film Festival in 2007.

The films I'm looking forward to are:
  • Eagle vs Shark
  • I Served the King of England
  • Death at a Funeral
  • Black Book
  • My Best Friend
  • Times and Winds
  • Perfect Creature
  • Brand upon the Brain!
  • The Home Song Stories
  • The Bothersome Man
  • Kissy Kissy
  • Drama / Mex
I'm also looking forward to:
  • After the Wedding
  • A Few Days in September
  • The Devil Came on Horseback
  • Death of a President
  • Priceless
  • The Matsugane Potshot Affair
  • Venus
  • Bamako
  • The Boss of it All
  • The Secret Life of Words
  • The Signal
  • The Lost
  • Animation Now!
  • Wolfsbergen
  • Retribution
  • Severance
  • The Night of the Sunflowers
  • Lady Chatterley
  • Inland Empire
  • No Mercy for the Rude
  • Them
  • Romulus, My Father
  • Climates
  • The Journals of Knud Rasmussen
On top of this there are quite a few I am sort of interested in! So I expect to be having a busy two weeks.



Everyone knows someone like Liz.
She's quick with a lie.
Nothing is ever her fault.

What's yours is hers, doesn't matter if it's your necklace or your husband.

For most people these personal traits would spell disaster but when her sister kicks her out and Liz is rescued from the streets by Aiden, a delusional tow-truck driver, she's equipped with the kind of quick wit and survival skill to get inside his head.

Just as well because he's convinced she's his runaway wife, and he's intent on making sure she doesn't leave him again.

How far will Liz go with his fantasy?
Pretty far.
But the line between fantasy and love can be confusing even for Liz.

That is the distributor's blurb. And it sums things up reasonably well, and describes Liz perfectly. She is the grungier version of Suburban Mayhem's Katrina (what does this say about Ozzie sheilas?). Before we can get comfortable with the idea of a "Suburban Mayhem" remake, the film takes a drastic turn and Aiden takes charge. Aiden is also an interesting character, well out of the norm for film characters, if not in real life. Liz and Aiden spend the film struggling for the upper hand over each other as the back story is slowly revealed.

Behind the mind games and the escape thriller story line, there are other things to confront the audience: obsession, personal ethics, sanity, love.

On the downside this film is video quality, which is irritating on the big screen, but would not be noticeable on TV. There also seemed to be a couple of minor plot flaws near the end. But otherwise it is an enjoyable film which will stick in your mind.

World Cinema Showcase 2007

The films I saw at the World Cinema Showcase were:

Pierrepoint -- if you want to over dose on Timothy Spall (3/5)
Black Snake Moan -- if you want to over dose on blues and white trash (4/5)
Hula Girls -- Japanese feel good movie; hula your way out of the coal mine (2.5/5)
Suburban Mayhem -- the girl you wouldn't want living next door, or even in the same suburb! (5/5)
Go for Zucker -- German comedy about Jews!! (3.5/5)
Heartbreak Hotel -- 2 40+ year old Swedish divorcees at a singles bar (2/5)
Little Children -- modern surburban fairytale (for adults) (2.5/5)
Sabah -- belly dancing makes you happy when you have an overbearing brother (2.5/5)
Razzle Dazzle -- funny Ozzie comedy mock-documentary about dance schools and competitions (3.5/5)
Lemming -- a french film that is odder than finding a lemming in your U trap (2/5)

Of these I would recommend:

Suburban Mayhem and Razzle Dazzle as the best of the comedies -- go Australia!
Pierrepoint if you are a Timothy Spall fan
Black Snake Moan if you like blues and a movie that will make you wonder what the heck?

Only Suburban Mayhem is a must see, but nothing I regretted seeing.

Lemming was probably the worst and it wasn't too bad. It was pretty clever in that it probably most of the way through the film before I figured out what was going on. What put me off was that none of the characters really grabbed me.

Little Children also suffered from unlikable characters in an interesting film.