The full schedule for the Auckland Film Festival (July 14 - August 3) is now on-line, with bookings opening on Friday and Wellington (July 29 - August 14) to follow suit next Thursday. It's a time for cinephiles to go wild like small children with their own weight in sweets -- including the miserable hangover from far too much of a good thing, far too fast -- and the never-ending battle between enthusiasm, fiscal reality and the impossibility of being in two or more place at the same time flares into life again.
But let's kick things off with an impressionistic Top Ten that I'm sure a good proportion of you will hate, and which will probably be totally different tomorrow. (Terence Malick's Cannes Palme d'Or winner The Tree of Life and Lars von Trier's latest trollish provocation will have their fans and get plenty of ink. Just not from me. Local films will get their own pimp post. Just because.)
3-D UBER ALLES. Has 3-D turned out to be anything more than a gross-inflating gimmick? For every Avatar there's been a dozen others that weren't much chop to begin with, and definitely not improved by a migraine. Still, if anyone can give 3-D artistic legitimacy, Wim Wenders' Pina (a posthumous tribute to avant garde dancer-choreographer Pina Bausch) and Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams (what it says on the box, more or less)
THE FUTURE ISN'T WHAT IT USED TO BE... What self-respecting science fiction fan would pass on a chance to see Fritz Lang's Metropolis as close-to-its-original-glory-as-it's-likely-to-get? Not me.
... BUT AT LEAST THE VAMPIRES DIDN'T SPARKLE. Yes, kiddies, F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu is a blatantly copywrong rip-off of Stoker's Dracula, and it's often dangerous to vegans and the lactose intolerant. But Max Shreck is too busy being an evil mother to sparkle, whinge or wink at the camera. Which forgives all sins -- even if it wasn't the festival's Live Cinema, with the Auckland Philharmonia performing a new score in front of a shiny print from the British Film Institute.
THE MORMON MISSIONARY POSITION AND THE ELUSIVE NATURE OF TRUTH! Welcome back, Errol Morris. Yes, his Oscar winning doco The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara and less-warmly received Standard Operating Procedure are significant films about serious issues. But I've missed the more quirky observer of ordinary madness, and Tabloid sure fits the bill as Morris tells the tale(s) of Joyce McKinney. Who is truly... something else.
ANY NEW FILMS BY LIVE PEOPLE?
- Arietty isn't a new Hayao Miyazaki film but I've get to see a Studio Ghibli production I haven't adored. Director Yonebayashi Hiromasa (aged 37) is the youngest director in the studio's history, but has worked on every one of their films from Princess Mononoke. Like Howl's Moving Castle this is an adaptation of a classic English kid's fantasy novel - this time, Mary Norton's The Borrowers - that tells the tale of the friendship between a 10 year old boy and a girl who's four inches tall.
- You want incredibly strange? Hobo With A Shotgun. Hobo. Shotgun. Rutger Hauer. Cananda used to be such a nice place. (WARNING: Link to film's official site includes extremely NSFW trailer.)
- Space Battleship Yamato The Earth is doomed, what do you do? Retrofit a World War II vintage battleship, snap off a ridonkulous salute and head off to save humanity to the strains of a Steven Tyler power ballard. What were you thinking of?
- I'm a sucker for historical fiction and labyrinthine mysteries, but Raul Ruiz's four and a half hour Mysteries of Lisbon sound like great fun. And an enormous risk. Which is where any good film festival should leave you at least once a year.