Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Transports Exceptionnels and Shapeshifter - Weekend Outdoor Culture

Sometimes going for a walk can be just a little dull, especially if you've been wherever you're going before. On the other hand, the weather has been so nice lately that its a bit of a pity to stay inside in order to be amused. So the fact that there's been some good entertainment in the great outdoors recently seems noteworthy.

On the last Saturday in February we went to see Transports Exceptionnels,which was a free event in Waitangi Park, part of the International Festival of the Arts. This event has been described as Dance with the Digger and it features two talented Frenchmen -one to dance and one to drive the digger- accompanied by Maria Callas singing Opera. The digger was sourced locally and was particularly shiny and splendid-looking

Philippe Priasso the dancer brought a cat burglar to mind, probably because of the combination of graceful movement and wearing black leather gloves. He hung from the digger bucket in every possible way, he posed on the digger arm, he ran in circles apparently pursued by the digger rotating and lay on the ground in its shadow. It was beautiful, daring and original, and the sun shone while the crowd sat on the grass in a circle and cheered and clapped.Top-notch entertainment and on the walk home we had local youth leaping into the harbour en masse as a bonus.

Last weekend we we went to Shapeshifter which is an outdoor sculpture exhibition that's also part of the Arts Festival. Not free, but the entry fee of $5 is completely reasonable. Most of the exhibition is in Lower Hutt's Civic Gardens and a few things are in the Dowse over the road. Civic Gardens (which we'd never visited before) is nice, with lots of big trees and a somewhat murky stream.

We had a programme which helpfully told us what each work was called and who had done it and how much it cost and then usually some art-speak about the artist's message and inspiration which seems pretty pretentious to a philistine like me but it added to the amusement we derived from the whole outing. The sculpture varied from the completely recognisable (a marble satchel) to quite abstract (twisted strip of metal) and it made for a pleasant stroll with interesting things to look at.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Road

For a change the Wellington Film Society got a scoop on a new film due for general release on 18 March (courtesy of the Paramount). The Road stars Viggo Mortensen as a father protecting his son in a post-apocalyptic world. Post-apocalyptic films are almost genre of their own. Usually they are either a sub-genre of SciFi or Horror, but in this case it is more of a human interest drama.

The lead characters in The Road don't have names, they refer to each other as Papa and Son. The film centres around Viggo Mortensen's character's all consuming goal of keeping his son and himself alive after his wife has committed suicide in despair that civilization will never return and humanity will inevitably starve to death. It is unusually bleak for an American film. Things start badly and you are left in no doubt that they will not get better.
The future is not a nice place and you have to be prepared to put aside niceties to survive, but will that turn you into a bad person?
Father and son are travelling somewhere ("south to the coast") but it doesn't matter as the father knows it is a futile exercise. The question is: how selfish and inhuman do you have to be to survive in a world where they will be no new food? As the father is driven to more and more extreme acts to survive, his distance on the moral spectrum from the cannibals at the other end is getting shorter and shorter, and his son's questions become his conscience. The latter is an interesting device. Which doesn't entirely make sense, given that the boy (a foetus when the catastrophe happened) has never known our pre-apocalyptic society and moral values.

I am in two minds about the ending as to whether it is a cop-out or a useful shock to underline message of the film and possibly undermine the inevitability of the moral journey. Either way iI think it was clumsily done. This may seem vague and hand-wavy but I don't want to give away too much about the ending in case you go and see it.

Like Where the Wild Things Are the plot is a light for a full length feature film but given that this film has to take you on an emotional and moral journey into the despair of its characters it probably needs most of the 11o minutes to get the audience there. The scenery, lighting and weather and other CGI effects all work to get you there. Winter in this film - grey, cold and muddy - is properly miserable.

Viggo Mortensen dominates the film and even Kodi Smit-McPhee (playing his son and constant companion) is effectively in a supporting role. There are cameo roles for Charlize Theron and Robert Duvall - the former representing a romanticised past (i.e. civilization).

Some of the filming was done on the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike which I'd never heard of before, but looks like a useful place for film makers.

Ian's rating 3/5

Please, please me!

Having seen, and enjoyed, Emmanuel Mouret's unconventional Shall We Kiss? last year, with its gauche protagonists bumbling through their slow paced affair. I was keen to see what this actor / writer / director had come up with this time. His innocent and slightly bewildered face makes him an unusual (and non-threatening) actor to play a romantic protagonist. This allows him to address issues that would usually be off limits to more macho male characters.

Please, please me! (Trailer) opens with Jean-Jacques (Emmanuel Mouret) eager for some Saturday morning sex after a busy, sexless week, while his beautiful blonde girlfriend (Frédérique Bel) wants to sleep longer. His clumsy attempts to alternately keep his hands off her and seduce her become increasingly slapstick before morphing into a philosophical discussion on why their relationship is doomed (because lack of sex makes him desperate ... which turns her off). This seguing from one style of comedy to another as we follow Jean-Jacques through 24 hours of what are essentially a sequence of comic (and improbable) encounters with various beautiful women is what this film is about. Along the way there is a tribute to Get Smart with a series of small lifts, secret doors and tunnels, and a Carry On-like scene when he finds himself in a small flat with 4 nightie clad sisters. I may have missed something but there didn't seem much to hold it all together except the gauche and diffident Jean-Jacques.

Of the female co-stars the most memorable is the enigmatic Aneth (Déborah François) - zip expert and maid to the French President's daughter, who says more with her eyes than her mouth.

I have described this film to friends as "Mr Bean does a romantic comedy". But that is harsh comparison as Emmanuel Mouret's character is not as mean as Mr Bean and is more passive than stupid, and there is much more variety in the comedy than in a Rowan Atkinson film. But if you are faced with "Please, please me!" and "Shall We Kiss?" when choosing a DVD to rent, pick the latter.

Ian's rating 2.5/5 Anne's rating 3/5