Wednesday, July 15, 2009

NZFF: A Lake

As an aficionado of so-called "slow cinema", I'm particularly amused by and grateful for NZFF's new 'In Praise of Slow Cinema' section. It's probably the section most geared towards hardcore-arthouse-with-a-capital-A cinephiles, patient viewers who worship the films of Bela Tarr or Andrei Tarkovsky, and don't mind long, long takes and languorous, lulling pacing. With that in mind, I trotted along to Phillipe Grandrieux's A Lake expecting an austere, beautifully hypnotic entry in the slow cinema canon, and it more than delivered that vibe.

It's a minimally plotted (so minimal, that I hesitate to even use the word 'plotted') tale set in some undefined snowy, woodsy landscape and centering on a handful of characters whose motivations and dynamics are deliberately obscure. There's a little cottage, an epileptic young man named Alexi, his sister, his mum, and then there's the arrival of a stranger, then later the father. Dialogue is sparse, elliptical, rarely revealing much about what's going on. But from the very first shot - the camera shuddering with each breath of Alexi cutting down a tree - it's clear Grandrieux's out to express his vision and ideas solely through means of subjective, experimental audio-visual textures, not standard narrative storytelling.

Two people walked out during the screening I attended, so if you don't know what you're in for, there's a high chance it'll be one of the most painfully boring movie you'll ever see. But If you need something to zone out to at the fest, this hermetic, chilly, intense and deeply atmospeheric work will certainly do the trick.

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