With more pointless, personal violence in the media than I can quite tolerate, all I can say is, thank god for the film festival. Actually, thank Bill Gosden.
On Sunday night, Lou Reed’s Berlin was the perfect end to the first sunny weekend that wasn’t completely freezing.
Julian Schnabel’s cut away-reveries aren’t to everyone’s taste, but I thought locating all the emotional themes within the body of a SWF gave the film-concert hybrid just the unity it required. Musical highlights abound, but the big surprise was Antony Hegarty (he of the Johnsons website) delivering a sublime vocal counterpoint against the godfather’s more spoken word technique.
The choir, the horns and the band stylistically traversed Lou’s solo career via the one album, from the delicate orchestrations of Transformer to the massive choruses of his wild man live stuff. Rock’n’roll never meant so much.
In Rain of the Children, Vincent Ward weaves a world of Tuhoe context around his post-student documentary, In Spring One Plants Alone. They’re completely opposite films. The new film combines actors, doco interviews, sets, digital effects and Vince-to-camera pieces, revealing all the tragedies and miracles in the wake of the old film’s central characters, Puhi and Nicki. By contrast, the old film was as stripped back, vulnerable and hypnotic as … well … as Vigil, which he made next.
Just two comments on this. First, this kind of tribal history is something we need more of, and the more and the sooner, the better. It’s still too easy to consign New Zealand history to a single story of colonial exploitation. The truth is, it’s lots of stories of exploitation. It’s not until we get into the specifics of these people, on that land, with thisbattle, and thesespecific outcomes, that we can form real opinions about any of it. And In Spring shows, in Nicki and Puhi, a very, very specific outcome.
So it was a revelation to learn in such tragic detail the full meaning of what it meant to be one of the prophet Rua’s chosen ones. In fact, it was a revelation simply to get a portrait of the Old Testament-inspired Rua.
Towards the end, Tama Iti emerges as one Tuhoe who knew Nicki, and was nearby at the time of his death. Without breathing a word of treaties signed or not, guns, flags, buttocks or anti-terror legislation, he nevertheless provided a vital link with more recent chapters of the Tuhoe story, which so fully deserves further exploration.
Secondly, I love all of Ward’s films, even the nutty Hollywood ones. They’re poetic – like Cocteau’s – in a way that few New Zealand films even attempt (exceptions include Florian Habicht and Greg King). That said, looking at the 30-years old In Spring One Plants Alone sutured into a modern, large-scale, fully crewed and resourced project, I couldn’t help feel that to date, his greatest work has been achieved with the greatest risk, and the least resource. In Spring and Vigil are beautiful in a way that is purely, and dedicatedly cinematic. In those films, you feel as if you’re sitting right next to the film maker, right there, behind the lens. In fact, you sort of feel like he’s in your head.
People argue around the baroque magnificence of What Dreams May Come. But I think the loss they really feel is the sheer, honest, intimacy of Ward’s early New Zealand works.
Work and parenthood are limiting further cine fun. Mates have cajoled me into the Ashes of Time Redux wahoo fun powpow! And The Man From London is by my all time favourite Director, Bela Tar. Never heard of him? Your loss.
Also, greatly looking forward to Warwick and Florian’s Rubbings of a Live Man, break a leg fellas, and also a raise of the wrist to Greg and Matt for A Song of Good. If you want to see these films, go see them in the festival. If you’ve never seen Warwick in full flight at one of his own shows, you’ve missed something beautiful, memorable, if not necessarily comprehensible. And if Florian’s rich visual poetry ain’t your thing, there’s always Greg’s visual viscera.