Film discussion at home:
Wife: “Did I see Maps to the Stars?”
Me: “Julianne Moore on the toilet.”
Wife: “Ah, yes.”
The 2014 International Film Festival wraps this weekend in Christchurch. I made it to just 14. The idea was to try to summarise each on Twitter, in one tweet or two (or three). I wish I had thought to say that the incredible Under the Skin (above) is “Lifeforce meets Morvern Callar”.
Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014): Time has been the subject since Slacker. Now it’s the raw material too. Not just growing up, but ways of being dad.
The Double (Richard Ayoade, 2013). In Enemy, a double is horrifying. Here, weirdly plausible. Incredible post-Brazil design but you lose interest in the story.
Frank (Lenny Abrahamson, 2014). Not sure this outsider band satire ever finds the right tone but a damaged Fassbender in the final minutes is so deeply affecting (Syd Barrett at Abbey Rd, 1975).
Housebound (Gerard Johnstone, 2014). A genuinely funny horror comedy made by the strength of its performances (O’Reilly, te Wiata) and clever plotting, plus one fantastic gore shot. Morgana O’Reilly is new to me but is great as our bipolar sarcastic bogan everywoman.
Into the Void (Margaret Gordon, 2014). I was expecting Ronnie van Hout to be the star of Margaret Gordon’s wry, funny doco about a post-art school underground rock band in Chch, but it’s actually guitarist Jason “prints of darkness” Greig. At the first, so far only, NZFF screening, band and audience came together to watch themselves. It was the closest thing to a genuine buzz at the Chch festival in 2014.
It Follows (David Robert Mitchell, 2014). More than ever, sex is the currency of teen horror. Maika Monroe looks like Laura Palmer. Sequel possibilities are endless.
Jodorowsky’s Dune (Frank Pavich, 2013). Favourite moment: Jodo goes to see Lynch’s Dune and is relieved to learn it’s terrible.The moral is that even unmade films can be influential (w/out the unmade Dune, no Alien?).
Leviathan (Andrei Zvyagintsev, 2014). A kind of modern Russian Job, drowning in vodka, on the edge of the known world. Whales are alive, dead and symbolic.
Locke (Steven Knight, 2013). Male emotion, or the gap between heroism and duty. I hated Bronson but that wasn’t Tom Hardy’s fault. He nails this.
Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg, 2014). Hollywood curses and childhood monsters. Savage entertainment black comedy served ice cold by Cronenberg. With Julianne Moore as a kind of washed-up middle-aged Lohan and my favourite murder of the 2014 NZFF. In its pitilessness, it reminded me more of things like The Brood and Videodrome than any Cronenberg film has in years.
20,000 Days on Earth (Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, 2014). Nick Cave makes a fortress out of his Nick Cave-ness. Or a portrait of the artist as a disciplined professional. Apart from “Jubilee Street”, I didn’t much like Push the Sky Away, but isn’t it good to see Blixa looking so well?
Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2014). Further into Ken Loach territory than the Dardennes have ever gone before with a stunning lead performance by Marion Cotillard as a fragile woman whose need for bravery is making her sick. Question: will people be good when you let them?
Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013). “I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle.” Incredible score, deep immersion, dark-haired Johansson. Best case of genre re-invented as art since, maybe, Drive.Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2014). An intimate epic that offers the rare pleasure of screen conversations that take as long as they need to.