December 10, 2008

Short list

1. It's that time of the year, isn't it? The time of the lists. Usually by about now I need to have worked out a top ten -- for the Listener or, last year, the Lumiere Reader. This year, I've opted not to -- there's been too much pass by that I haven't seen, due largely to the fact that so much of what plays in the mid-year festival in the North Island doesn't make it south. This year, that included The Man From London, Silent Light, Lorna's Silence, Diary of the Dead and My Winnipeg. But I'll happily stretch to a top three: 4 Weeks, 3 Months and 2 Days; The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; There Will Be Blood. The first two came within a very strong World Cinema Showcase line-up in April. And best NZ film seen: Rain of the Children.

2. I was pretty surprised to see, within
this list of NZ music videos, that Ronnie Van Hout directed a clip for The Clean's "Getting Older" in 1982. Presumably he was still at art school in Christchurch when he did this. I think it's Bob Scott (Clean/Bats) in the clip, playing the kind of harried role that RVH would himself play in his short art films a decade or more later, which often ape horror movie language to make points and off-hand jokes about identity, our strangeness to ourselves. In fact, RVH talked about all this during a curiously difficult National Radio interview this week. Why horror, Kathryn Ryan asked.
"The fear of existence, the lack of existence. A lot of horror is about the interior and things that are hidden from us.
"The movie The Thing, they can't tell which is the monster and which is the human being. The monster exactly replicates the human being. For all intents and purposes, it's the same person."
3. Nicole Kidman as box office poison. We were discussing this very thing on Public Address last week. I'm with David Thomson on Birth: it's a film of Kubrickian chill and mystery. Thomson doesn't say it but you have to go back to 2001's horror film The Others to find the last genuine Kidman hit. According to Box Office Mojo, it took $96.5m in the US and $113.4m everywhere else against a budget of just $17m. And like Von Trier's Dogville, it used her cold, prim quality -- possibly something that's stopping audiences from liking her -- to its advantage.