Weekend Herald - Canvas

Something Old ... Something New

Tom Augustine picks out the highlights of this year’s film festival crop


The most wonderful time of year is upon us once again. No, Santa’s not coming down the chimney just yet, but for Kiwi cinephiles the arrival of the New Zealand Internatio­nal Film Festival is its very own festive event. It can be tough to know what’s hot from year to year — and 2019’s selection is particular­ly fantastic. Here are a few highlights from the programme that simply can’t be missed.


These are the latest offerings from major filmmakers around the world — the jewels in any programme’s crown. There are a few truly exciting standouts this year, including French master Claire Denis’ much buzzedabou­t High Life, which is sure to be a fiendish, strange, sci-fi contraptio­n like no other.

Many of the most exciting emerging film-makers of our time are featured in the line-up. Key picks include Under the Silver Lake, the follow-up to director David Robert Mitchell’s brilliant It Follows. Gloriously retro, spooky and sensual imagery can be expected from Peter Strickland (The Duke of Burgundy) in his latest confection In Fabric. Beloved British film-maker Mike Leigh is also featured here with his period drama Peterloo while Olivier Assayas, whose Personal Shopper is one of the finest films of the decade, returns with a far lighter but neverthele­ss fascinatin­g offering in Non-fiction. However, the film I’m perhaps most excited about is Chinese film-maker Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, an audacious, formbendin­g effort that features an extensive interlude in 3D.


These are some insanely enticing titles from Cannes Film Festival, the most prestigiou­s of all fests. This year, the key acquisitio­n is undoubtedl­y festival centrepiec­e Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Celine Sciamma’s acclaimed period romance film that is already being hailed as the film to beat for yearend lists. Brazil’s frightenin­gly pseudo-authoritar­ian regime is tackled head-on in the widely-discussed and divisive Bacurau while Palestinia­n film-maker Elia Suleiman’s It Must Be Heaven promises lighter but still pointed satirical fare. Meanwhile, out of Sundance Film Festival, Lulu Wang’s well-liked The Farewell is a moving and warm portrait of a family saying goodbye to a loved one. The South American Monos will also be highly anticipate­d, a Herzogian heart-of-darkness story that’s drawing comparison­s to Apocalypse Now.


It’s an especially thrilling year for classics with practicall­y every item on the programme a total knockout. Francis Ford Coppola’s newly minted “final cut” of Apocalypse Now, one of the very best films ever made, has to be the most exciting. If you haven’t seen this haunting masterwork, you’ll never get a better chance. Sticking with films in the running for “best of all time”, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev, about a medieval religious painter, is a jaw-dropping Russian blockbuste­r from one of the finest film-makers the world has ever seen.

Then there’s a screening of Koyaanisqa­tsi, the iconic and hallucinat­ory 1983 portrait of a world guided by technology, unparallel­ed in scope. Auckland Philharmon­ia Live Cinema is also back, this time accompanyi­ng Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog, regarded by the master as the first “true” Hitchcock film.


The NZIFF marks the passing of beloved and trailblazi­ng film-maker Agnes Varda with five of her very best films, including Le Bonheur, featuring one of the most fascinatin­g and enthrallin­g erotic scenes ever put to film. Suitable for a year celebratin­g one of the most important of female film-makers, there are several stellar entries from important women. Jennifer Kent’s follow-up to The Babadook, The Nightingal­e, is already infamous as one of the most divisive and hard-to-watch offerings of the year while Darya Zhuk’s Crystal Swan looks to be an under-theradar treat for music lovers. Sophie Hyde’s Animals features Alia Shawkat in an insightful ode to female friendship.


Ant Timpson’s Incredibly Strange section houses some of the world’s weirdest and most hard-toplace films. This year is a bumper crop including Cannes import Deerskin, featuring The Artist’s Jean Dujardin in a deconstruc­tion of masculinit­y that revolves around a very special deerskin jacket. Yann Gonzalez’ Giallo-infused psychodram­a Knife+heart is a particular­ly wild navigation through a world of sex and sin.


This year’s NZIFF line-up is especially documentar­yheavy, with a wide range on offer. One of the most exciting is undoubtedl­y

Amazing Grace, the long-thoughtlos­t document of Aretha

Franklin’s beloved gospel performanc­e that would go on to become one of the best-selling gospel records of all time. This one features some of the most rousing, astonishin­g vocals you will ever hear. Bring a hankie. For Sama looks to be a vitally important, heart-rending portrayal of the Syrian war; Apollo 11 pieces together archival footage of the titular space shuttle’s trip to the moon on expansive 70mm. For my money, a can’t-miss experience will be Hale County, This Morning, This Evening, an impression­istic and powerful portrayal of black life in Alabama — a complex, revelatory feat of documentat­ion. Lastly, for the true-crime lovers out there, Cold Case: Hammarskjo­ld is the kind of twistladen semi-thriller in the mould of The Imposter and

Three Identical Strangers, this time with staggering real-world implicatio­ns.


It wouldn’t be NZIFF without a spotlight on some wonderful new tales from our place. The buzziest title this year is teacher-turned-film-maker Hamish Bennett’s Bellbird adapted from his subtle, moving short Ross and Beth. Early word suggests this will be a kind-hearted, sweet-natured portrait of small-town New Zealand. Following its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, For My Father’s Kingdom is a documentar­y portrait of struggles within Tongan culture, the church and the family unit that will undoubtedl­y pack a punch. As with every year at the festival, there is a great line-up of short films in the NZ’S Best section. This year, director extraordin­aire Jane Campion chose the group, shining a spotlight on young and emerging Kiwi film-makers in an environmen­t where they are often overlooked. The next Campion, Niki Caro or Taika Waititi could be in there, waiting to shine.

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 ??  ?? Robert Pattinson in High Life
Robert Pattinson in High Life
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 ??  ?? 1. Long Day’s Journey into Night.
2. Portrait of a Lady on Fire.
3. The Farewell. 4. Apocalypse Now. 5. Bellbird.
1. Long Day’s Journey into Night. 2. Portrait of a Lady on Fire. 3. The Farewell. 4. Apocalypse Now. 5. Bellbird.
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