Friday, July 29, 2016


Dr Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) moves into his 25th floor apartment as a successful man on the way up in life. Three months later he is barbecuing a dog on the balcony. High-Rise attempts to explain this by telling us that our physical environment (the apartment building in this case) affects our behaviour, which in turn determines the structure of our society. This doesn't quite ring true as everyone has arrived in the building with a clearly recognisable place in the British class system, and the building just amplifies that class system to a ridiculous extent. It is like an adult version of Lord of the Flies. As one of the characters puts it: "What has happened when someone can fall from the 39th floor and not a single policeman turns up. Where are the sirens?" ABBA's SOS plays a prominent part in the sound track.

High-Rise is a visual riot of a film, with the apartment building in question surrounded by a sea of 1970s British cars. The building in question is post-war brutalist in and out, though some apartment dwellers have managed to recreate other interiors to try and disguise where they are living.

High-Rise has enough components (interesting premise and characters, amazing visuals, good actors, a risk taking director and a political message) to deliver a great film but it doesn't achieve its potential. Instead of an overarching plot there is an overarching idea and bunch of little sub-plots. Instead we get a surreal mishmash with recognisable bits of the 1970s presented in a (bad) dream like fashion.

Ian's rating 2.5/5


Theeb is a Bedouin boy growing up in the small world of his clan, isolated from elsewhere by desert.
One night two strangers arrive at the camp, a British officer and his Arab guide.  They seek help to find a specific well on the old pilgrim route to Mecca. In accordance with Bedouin courtesy, Theeb's elder brother is assigned to guide the strangers and Theeb tags along. This gives the boy a ring side seat to a small and deadly drama on the fringe of General Allenby's campaign against the Ottoman Empire during World War I and the Arab Revolt.

Seeing the conflict from the point of view of an accidentally involved little boy gives a naive detached view of this aspect of the Great War, that shows the war as a foreign thing (from a Bedouin perspective) and also a glimpse into the perhaps greater changes to the Bedouin economy brought about by modern technology.

This film has been described as a Bedouin western, and given the desert vistas and the gun fight you can see why. But this is very much a child's view of a world he doesn't understand.

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

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Equity is a Wall-Street Drama with men in sharp suits and women in tight black outfits and high heels.Anna Gunn (who I know and love from Breaking Bad) plays an investment banker named Naomi, She manages Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) which involves finding institutional investors for privately held companies that are about to list on the stock exchange in order to guarantee a healthy initial share price. She's a very driven character who is under a slight cloud because the most recent of her IPOs didn't go very well. Her lover (Michael) works in a different part of the same bank, and he mingles socially with hedge-fund high flyers who are always looking for the next tit-bit of insider information.

The film is about the latest IPO, for a social media company called Cachet, Naomi and her underpaid and slightly resentful assistant Erin secure the contract and jet-set about the place looking for investors. Meanwhile, back in New York  Samantha (an old friend of Naomi's who works for the district attorney's office investigating white collar crime) is trying to dig dirt on Naomi's lover and a disaffected Cachet employee is trying to cause some trouble for the company's reputation.

So the action is all very tense and all very Wall Street. There lots of cab-catching, cocktail drinking, meetings in flash offices and watching graphs on computer screens. There's bossing people about and fishing for information. There's betrayal and undermining and each woman ( or man) is out for her or himself.

One of the things the film is trying to tell us is that no woman is an island. You can work hard, and make sure never to talk about your work to the wrong person, and keep all your passwords secure but because you don't work by yourself your co-worker failing to do all those things can cause you a big problem. And so can your customer not liking your manner or your clothes.Clothes did seem quite important. It struck me that on Wall Street men definitely get to wear the more comfortable clothes and that perhaps the next drama needs to feature someone who is both ugly and badly dressed

It was interesting seeing a drama of this kind where most of the major characters were women.   I felt we were being asked to look at the personal cost of this kind of career for women in a way we wouldn't have been asked if the major characters were men.

Equity is as much about the people as it is about the plot, so the viewer has to like the human interest angle. And since the human interest and human interaction is done really well, it's a pretty good watch,

Anne's rating 3.5/5

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Looking for Grace

Grace is a teenager, who steals $13 000 from her parents' safe and runs away from home, leaving a note saying "sorry Mum"  Looking for Grace tells this not-very-complicated story from  five different viewpoints - those of Grace herself, her Mum Denise, her Dad Dan, retired detective Tom and a  truck driver called Bruce.
The description in the film festival programme suggests the film is about her parents enlisting the services of a retired detective and following clues to find their daughter but this credits the film with a great deal more plot than it actually has. Rather than relating the solving of a mystery, Looking for Grace is more an empathetic look at five  individuals. who have somewhat dysfunctional relationships.The writer/director (who was at the screening we went to) said the film has " a very Australian sensibility" and that it would be interesting to see whether New Zealand audiences warmed to it. I'm not sure what very Australian sensibility she meant but I'm guessing that she was referring to the not-very- demonstrative and not-very-communicative nature of the interpersonal relationships.All the characters had major secrets that their nearest and dearest didn't know about - an extra-marital affair, a child from a previous relationship, a business that wasn't financially viable to name just some. The characters, their flaws and their relationships  are conveyed sympathetically and humourously and they're pretty likeable but the film lacks much of a plot and much of a point so it's ultimately frustrating. And we never do find out why Grace's note says "sorry Mum" The trailer is a quick version of the film without the frustrating element.

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

Monday, July 25, 2016

A War

A Danish military outpost gets involved in the local community, as does the Taliban, things get messy and people die. Like Tobias Lindholm’s previous film A Highjacking he keeps parallel story lines running and interlacing, using international phone calls filmed from both ends. One story line in familiar territory (Denmark) and the other in exotic territory (in this case Afghanistan).

While focusing in close on the banalities of his character's lives Tobias Lindholm gets us to identify with people even if their situations are completely foreign to us. This tight focusing on particular characters also clearly divides the cast (and the world) into us and them. He then jerks the curtain aside to expose our own prejudices.

I didn't find this film as tense or as interesting as A Highjacking. The domestic life in Denmark was boring and the message of the film was hammered home with the subtlety of a hammer blow. Who are the NATO soldiers in Afghanistan actually fighting for? Does it work? Who are they trying to protect? What, if anything, is the life of an Afghan civilian worth? But the film was well acted and the characters believable, even if the message is one of despair.

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

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Another Country

David Gulpilil is one of Australia's most famous actors, and certainly its most famous indigenous one. He's the voice of Another Country and while he didn't write the script by himself , the politics and the viewpoint is his. Molly Reynolds and Rolf de Heer  who co-wrote the script and directed and produced the film are so familiar with how he thinks that they were able to convey it easily.

Another Country documents life in David's home town, Ramingining, not just for the sake of documenting but because it epitomises what's wrong with aboriginal communities in Australia and what's wrong with the government's management of the people that live there. It's miles from anywhere and as David says, there are no jobs and there's nothing to do.

One of the bests aspects of the film was the summaries of the differences in culture and ways of thinking between "white mans" and black fellas" culture. For example, he says that rubbish is a foreign concept to indigenous Australians - it's not on their radar and they don't know how to deal with it. Historically, everything they had came from the bush and that's where it all went back to. So a broken spear or a worn out mat was just left in the bush, and since it is all biodegradable, there isn't a problem.

He doesn't offer complete solutions but does think there needs to be consultation between the Australian Government and aboriginal communities. And the results of the consultation shouldn't just be viewed with white values and white eyes. For example, paying white builders to come and build houses may be quicker and more efficient, but it makes the locals feels worthless and doesn't take advantage of one of their great resources,  which is time.

As is often the case after watching a documentary I felt a mixture of hope and sadness. It would be good if it were compulsory viewing for all Australian members of parliament.

Anne's rating 3/5.