2012 World Cinema Showcase
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 25th March 2012
This annual selection of top-class international films kicks off in Auckland on 29th March before snaking its way south to end in Christchurch on 9th May. Once again, the team who programme our superb International Film Festival each winter have picked out a choice few to whet our appetites as autumn draws in.
As always, there’s something for everyone. A two-parter documentary about Woody Allen (well, there is a 60-year career to get through); the opportunity to experience the 1981 classic Das Boot on the big screen; and The Swell Season – the documentary story behind the lead characters in the hit movie Once whose on-screen romance was imitated in real life.
Overseas festival followers will be excited to see the Grand Prix winner from Cannes, Once Upon A Time in Anatolia – a slow-burn police procedural with a twist, beautifully shot and languorously told. Ralph Fiennes makes his well-regarded directorial debut with a Shakespeare play that has never yet hit celluloid, also playing the title character in Coriolanus. Not for him Baz Luhrman’s musical trickery or Zeffirelli’s classical rendering – this is a modern day war film with timeless performances articulated in olden day verbiage. It is frequently thrilling and tiring all at once.
Renowned British director Terence Davies returns with only his seventh feature in 25 years, The Deep Blue Sea, which boasts a stunning central performance from Rachel Weisz as a woman caught between her husband and lover. And there is more inter-familial drama in Australian film The Eye of the Storm, with Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis playing the warring children of a caustic Charlotte Rampling.
In 1996 the NZ International Film Festival screened a documentary about the 1993 West Memphismurder of three young boys, allegedly by three Satan-worshiping teenagers. It left audiences chilled and horrified, less at the atrocity of the crime than the apparent miscarriage of justice. In the last 16 years a cause has been mobilised, by film-makers, lawyers and the odd celebrity, and now Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory completes what became a trilogy of films that followed the appeals and the consequent changes in public opinion. Nothing short of gripping and exhilarating, PL3 is a must-see for anyone interested in criminal justice, regardless of whether they know the case or have seen the previous films. With the latest developments as recent as August last year, we are lucky to get such a contemporary take on how film-making really can make a difference to people’s lives.
Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest is an altogether more laid-back affair, returning for a second round after last year’s festival. It’s a fascinating tale of the birth, life and attempted death of a hip-hop group that many say forged the path for all hip-hop to come, and it’s as entertaining as it is informative.
And finally, a shout-out to Anna Paquin’s stunning performance in Margaret, a film six years in the waiting, which is guaranteed to provoke your emotions as much as your thoughts.
Let the games begin.