Thursday, July 21, 2011

NZFF '11 So Far....

The NZFF kicked off about a week ago - here's a quick report of what I've seen:

Submarine - I can't fully review this Quirky Coming-of-Age Indie since it's been embargoed so I'm just gonna say it didn't really do it for me and was a bit of deflating way to start off the festival. It does have its ardent fans though.

The Tree of Life - it's been a looong wait for this, and while I can't say regretted seeing this at the Civic, Terrence Malick's latest opus failed to connect with me on most levels. It's as beautiful to look at as they come, and I'm generally a fan of his previous films, but something about The Tree of Life felt off to me, like the work of a director who's too close to his material to see it for what it is: a gigantic mess that only he can make sense of. I had a good nap...

The Last Circus - this nutty, completely over-the-top black comedy from Alex de la Iglesia is nothing like Sam Fuller's The Big Red One as described in the write-up (sorry Ant), though it does share some of the carny wildness of Jodorowsky's Santa Sangre. But Iglesia isn't so much an "artiste" in the sense that Jodorowsky is, he's looser and aesthetically rougher around the edges and more interested in going for our jugular. The last act falls apart - you start caring less and less about the characters - but until then, it's demented pulpy fun.

Take Shelter - if you've seen Bug, you know Michael Shannon really knows how BUG THE HELL OUT. He's the best in the biz at this kinda thing, and in Jeff Nichols' unnerving psychological drama, he's utterly riveting to watch. Performance of the year, maybe. Felt like a horror film to me in the same way Todd Haynes' Safe or Lodge Kerrigan's Clean, Shaven and Keane are: uncompromising, bone-chilling portraits of human anxieties and madness. Loved how restrained Nichols handles all the weird stuff.

Meek's Cutoff - Kelly Reichardt's western is very much in same minimalist, meandering vein as her other films like Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy. Very, very little happens, but the grueling passage of these 19th century settlers sticks with ya as it goes along (and long after too). Beautifully shot in Academy ratio, it's the vibe-out movie I've been waiting for all year. Reichardt sure loves her campfire scenes.

Stray observations/thoughts/complaints about things:
  • There was a big reel change fail at Meek's Cutoff where we could pretty much see the film soundtrack strip slipping out of the gate. Also at the screening: a lady who said "You go, girl!" or "good girl!" when Michelle Williams pulled out a rifle (cringe), and the guy who sat in the very centre front row (the theatre was fairly empty)... what the hell dude. Are you really enjoying the view?
  • What's up with who people who bring books into the theatre to read before the film starts? Is the book so good you can't put it down until after the film? The light's so dim in there you're going to ruin your eyes.
  • I was told off by an usher for walking too loudly down the steps of the Civic in the Stalls area. "Shhh, they can hear you inside", she snapped. Seriously...

1 comment:

  1. It seems like I get the flu EVERY year during festival. Its the combination of sardine seating and the tyranny of winter, I guess. In light of this - I'm usually the guy sitting as far as mathematically possible from every other patron in the theatre. I know I must look like a freak, but I don't care.