Our favourite winter cultural event is just around the corner. The 44th New Zealand Film Festival opens 24 July in Wellington with a pretty good line-up. You may or may not have thought about your plans for this year, but we have a lot of movies previously showcased at the festival in our DVD collection. Borrow them to get into festival mood or to have your own festival on your couch. You can find the titles we have here.
We also asked our cinephile staff to list up their favourite movies from the recent years’ festival. The results are the below. Check them out, too!
Particlefever, The Dark Horse, Locke
Lady from Shanghai – Misunderstood film noir remains an underrated classic in the cannon of writer/director Orson Wells. Less about plot, he concerns himself with the emotional dynamics of character. The story of a dim witted innocent sailor (Wells) caught up in the intrigues of a beautiful femme fatale (a gloriously blonde Rita Hayworth) is almost beside the point. Full of stylish, and innovative cinematography (the aquarium meeting, & specifically the famous ‘Hall-of-mirrors’ shootout’) it’s almost post-modern before anyone invented that term.
A Hijacking – A companion piece to the recent ‘Captain Phillips’ sees the crew of a Danish tanker hijacked & imprisoned in their ship by Somali pirates. The movie focuses on the ship’s cook, anxious to return to his wife & child, and the arrogant CEO of the shipping company (Søren Malling, The Killing), who believes he can negotiate the Pirates demands down, just as he would in any business deal. A tense duel ensues between ‘Omar’ the negotiator for the Pirates & Malling, as time stretches on & conditions worsen for the trapped crew…
You’re Next – Bonkers horror/slasher movie sees a young Aussie woman called Erin accompany her boyfriend to his family reunion at their Missouri vacation house, where his parents have gathered their 4 children & significant others together to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Unbeknownst to all is that their neighbors have been brutally attacked by some crossbow wielding psycho’s wearing animal masks, who soon invade their gathering with lethal intent. Who are they & what is their motive? No matter, as also unbeknownst to all, Aussie girl Erin has had a less than ordinary upbringing and is soon bringing the fight to the invaders…Awesome carnage and dark humor ensue.
Fictionalised (and glamorised) version of the Frank story that works in ninety minutes, but maybe only hints at some of the complexity and oddness of the original as told in various stories and podcasts by Jon Ronson. Still great and Michael Fassbender is Frank.
The Double – Simon is timid, isolated and powerless. Suddenly his doppelganger appears in his life, doing everything Simon does, but better. Simon is horrified when his double begins to take over his life, in every way… This film has some of the best lighting design I’ve ever seen, and the atmosphere it builds is amazing. I also highly recommend Richard Ayoade’s directorial debut Submarine, also an NZIFF selection.
Under the Skin – An alien in the body of a human woman comes to Earth to lure Scottish hitchhikers to their deaths. This film is very abstract, I’ve never seen another constructed in this way. You are taken to a new scene, while you are still pondering heavily what just happened for the next few minutes. It also has loads of gorgeous shots of the Scottish moors – worth watching for the visuals alone!
Why Don’t You Play in Hell? – This is a totally wacky and fun film about a group of (very) amateur filmmakers, hoping to make the best movie in the world, even if it kills them – which it might! Although depending who you ask, this could also be considered a film about a 10-year rivalry between two yakuza clans over a toothpaste commercial. Either way, it is loads of fun (and gore).
Upstream Color – A very abstract film about love, fear, orchids… and pigs. Kris’s life is derailed when she is taken hostage by a thief and made to do things she can’t remember. The experience leaves her lost and fearful, but then she meets Jeff, who has had a similar experience. Together, they set out to reclaim their lives and discover what happened to each of them.
Frances Ha – Frances Ha is a lovely, lovely film about the strength of female friendship. Frances is trying to make her way in the world – she just wants to have an apartment, a job, have fun, but it’s not always simple. However, she will do what it takes to follow her dreams. Directed by Noah Baumbach, a festival favourite who has another film screening at NZIFF this year.
Cutie and the Boxer – A wonderful documentary about a “boxing” painter and his wife, showcasing their lives and work, which you’ve probably never heard of. The film explores how the roles in their 40 year relationship have changed over time, and the ways that this made them stronger together. It is visually stunning, and the work by both artists is beautiful. Very funny too!
2013 – Much ado about nothing, Wadjda
2014 – Snowpiercer, In order of disappearance, Only lovers left alive
Winter Sleep – In a desolate but stunningly beautiful setting in Cappadocia, human egos and prides confront each other. This Bergman-esque compelling drama won the Cannes’ Palme d’Or in 2014 and deservedly so.
Two Days One Night – A tense redundancy drama features ever wonderful Marion Cotillard. Another impeccable movie by Dardenne brothers; the champion of social realist drama.
Under the Skin – Strange but poetic images and equally weird yet effective music are the driving forces of this unconventional sci-fi thriller. This might open up a new horizon of cinema.
The Past – Despite shooting in foreign soil (France) for the first time, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi once again delivers a remarkable family relationship drama. A masterful work.